The Art of Japanese Monsters Book Review.

I was disappointed with a Kaiju book earlier in the month, but found this book right next to it on the shelf and decided to give both a try. This soon to be out of print coffee table size tome is exactly what I was looking for. A celebration of all the giant beasts and all that they destroy.

My only complaint about this book is that the copy I read came from the library. I want this. I want to study it for future content. Let it guide me to new movies. Take it out and casually flip through on a rainy day. Owning this is currently not in the budget, but hopefully one day.

What is available is nearly every poster and lobby card ever made featuring all the heroes and villains of atomic energy and nearby animals. Starting with Gojira and including posters for the American cut. All the way up to the new Gamera series and Godzilla: Final Wars. Every page looks like a boy’s room who has yet to discover girls. Each turn unveils an image never previously known. If Forest J Ackerman was still alive to read this book even he would exclaim, “I’ve never seen that before! I need to buy it.”

Throughout the book every Kaiju film is represented in chronological order. There is a brief write up of the film and how the distribution rights worked out around the world. Then all the posters of said movie known to exist are showcased across the following pages. It is fascinating to see who or what becomes the focus in each poster and how that changes based on the country or even the year. Much of the confusion for early Godzilla fans searching for bootleg copies of movies with multiple titles are clarified as marketing decisions. From taking Godzilla’s name off the title, thinking he wouldn’t sell; to putting King Kong’s name in, believing he would sell tickets despite not appearing in the movie.

 

The marketing was best shown in the above image. Rodan was originally distributed by RKO and later by DCA. Look at the subtle but leading differences in the two posters. The RKO one sounds classy. Jules Verne. Cast of thousands. In color. This sounds like a nice family friendly outing. Grab your pearls and I’ll put on a tie.

Then the DCA one is nothing but drive in movie terror. The Flying Monster! “Super Sonic Hell Creature”. I think that’s a Rob Zombie song. Even the colors are slightly changed but enough that the DCA on the right appears more menacing. That poster seems like nothing but trash and you are not allowed to go see it young man, now go to your room!

I have shelves full of DVDs featuring Godzilla, Gamera, and all their friends; but still there were movies in here that I had no knowledge of. I’ll be adding these titles to my searches and hopefully stumble across them. Half Human looks delightfully absurd. Warning from Space warrants a bigger article looking at the influence it had on comic books. The lost video of John Belushi dressed as Godzilla introducing Godzilla vs. Megalon on NBC. Or, if anyone can point me in the direction of the little known Japanese TV show, yes TV show, Godzilla Island, I’ll be eternally grateful.

Plus the images are pure joy. Not overly sexual. Not overly gory or violent. Just big crazy looking monsters tearing cities apart and battling other monsters. It’s been said that kids become drawn to monsters at a young age because they dream of having that power. Of being bigger than everyone else. Not having to listen to authority. Eating whatever they want and staying up all night. Kaiju gives them that fantasy and also something “scary” but in a safe way. Reading through this book gives the same level of joy to any and all stunted adults.

 

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