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Top 5 Coolest Kaiju

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Top 5 Coolest Kaiju

Kings of city stomping

By Chuck Francisco     July 08, 2013
Source: Mania.com


Tom Whalen at Stronstuff.net
© Tom Whalen

Editor’s Note: This piece originally appeared as a feature for Pacific Rim. We feel as if it is more than appropriate for this week’s release of Godzilla. Enjoy!

Japanese giant monster movies were as standard a part of my childhood diet as bacon and eggs; which explains not only my shameless glee at every Pacific Rim advertisement, but also my high cholesterol. The mere thought of a rubber suit monster river dancing all over a scale model downtown district gets all of my nostalgia neurons firing. And in the haze of reminiscion which follows, it's often difficult to set order to all of the creatively imagery bursting forth from the speculative atomic horror cinema of Japan. As part of a series designed to get everyone amped up for Guillermo del Toro's attempt at reviving this integral part of monster cinema history, I've plumbed the depths of my Kaiju knowledge; constructing lists which span the breadth of rubber suit and miniature wizardry. First up a profiling of the coolest Kaiju; a list which probably doesn't hold many surprises. What is shocking is how many awesome beasts couldn't make the cut. Before you ask, yes: all mecha and space monster variants were considered for inclusion. I don't discriminate because someone's made of (faux) metal or from outer space; my primary concern is how awesome the spectacle of their majesty is.
 
5. Rodan
One of the earliest and most recognizable Kaiju, Rodan is a massive winged master of the clouds whose design is based on the Pterosaur. Able to attain a speed of mach 1.5 and with a wing span of two hundred meters, from the outset Rodan could level entire cities with the hurricane force winds generated from his wings (and from a powerful breath ability, though that went away after his debut film). The origin film of the same title from 1956 wasn't a parable about the dangers of atomic energy like Godzilla films; instead warning about the dangers of unsafe mining operations and human greed. Rodan was one of the original Kaiju to align with Godzilla as a defender of Earth, doing so for the first time in Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster, cementing a legacy as the most famous of the winged Kaiju.

4. Guiron
Guiron is perhaps the least well known entity to make this list, having appeared in only one film, Gamera vs Guiron. At least his name made the marquee, I suppose. A quadrupedal Kaiju who appears patterned on a canine with shark skin, Guiron's most prominent feature is his massive blade head. The intention was to base his name on the word "guillotine" but due to confusion between r and l at translation his name sounds more suited to construction work. Armed with a blade so sharp that it has the ability to rend Gamera's shell and so polished that it reflects back laser blasts, Guiron is like the faithful guard doggie we all wanted as children but couldn't have due to the ever present danger of decapitation (Space Gyaos learns that lesson for us). If that isn't cool enough, he can also launch shuriken and is owned by sexy (brain eating) space babes. 

3. King Ghidorah
Not only has the golden, three headed space dragon Ghidorah featured in several of the most pivotal Kaiju films to come out of the land of the rising sun, he also typically stands toe to toe with Godzilla, king of the monsters, until the latter flinches then calls for aid. Possessed of a number of breath weapons and capable of generation hurricane strength winds, Ghidorah is all a massive monster who commonly wreaks unparalleled levels of destruction. In his first appearance it takes the combined might of Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan (the three biggest names in rubber monsters of the time) to take him down. For how awesome he is, it turns out he's absurdly susceptible to alien mind control, which he's sauced with again and again in the name of setting the stage for epic monster showdowns. (Mecha King Ghidorah owns too by the way; and he comes with rich Corinthian leather seats and cup holders for seven).

2. King Kong
Yes that King Kong. The great ape which you know and love enjoyed a brief 60's stint as a Kaiju thanks to the wonderful folks at Toho. Gut reactions may include shock and disapproval, but I urge you to stop and consider that this is legitimately a case of the folks behind Godzilla geeking out. They committed to celluloid a hypothetical conversation which until then had only lived in the imagination of children: who would win in a fight between Godzilla and King Kong? True, in his original form Kong is vastly dwarfed by Japan's finest. To make this a fair fight the king of Skull island is adjusted to roughly the same height as Godzilla for King Kong vs Godzilla, and he remained that way for his second Toho film King Kong Escapes (where he faces off against Mechani-Kong!). These films also mark the first time Kong appeared in color. Bonus.

1. Godzilla
Who did you expect to find here, Gamera? Dude's full of turtle meat. There's a reason Godzilla is called the King of the Monsters and it isn't because of his amazingly minty-fresh atomic breath. This star of almost 30 films, and innumerable comics, novels, and cartoon television series, has irrevocably become enmeshed in our pop culture sensibilities. Excising him would prove more impossible than containing his wanton destruction. He isn't the fastest Kaiju, nor the strongest, most heavily armed or armored, but Godzilla's got heart to spare. Even before becoming the premiere giant monster protector of the Earth, this lizard refused to give up or be stopped. Watching the earliest of his films, it's interesting to observe the process of his transformation from frightening destructor to beloved protector in the eyes of the human characters. Hail to the king, baby.

Who is your favorite Kaiju and who is their most epic opponent? 

Come back tomorrow as I start a flame war by chronicling the five lamest Kaiju!

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous  Colonial Theatre  in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 35
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karas1 7/8/2013 4:40:59 AM

King Ghidorah rocks and is definitely my favorite giant monster.

marcd30319 7/8/2013 6:14:14 AM

 Guiron - the ginsu knife of Kaiju monsters!

monkeyfoot 7/8/2013 6:36:58 AM

I enjoyed so many of these films as a kid. Great Saturday afternoon fun! Great kid arguments, too. Just like who would win between Superman and the Hulk, there were discussions over who should have won between Kong and the King. Now I know they had different endings for American and Japanese audiences but was still disappointed that Godzilla lost when we watched the movie on TV.

goldeneyez 7/8/2013 6:43:06 AM

You must really hate Gamera, considering the diss and the fact that you included a monster that he fought and beat Godzilla should definitely be No. 1, but Gamera should be on the list somewhere.  How a giant turtle that jumps into the air and flys by shooting fire & spinning isn't a greater spectacle than a giant ape is beyond me.  King Ghidorah always kind of looked weird to me because he didn't have any arms.

DarthBob 7/8/2013 7:12:00 AM

Best non-Godzilla, Gamera or Ultraman kaiju is Sharktopus

CyanideRush 7/8/2013 7:45:19 AM

 I don't hate Gamera, Goldeneyes. The turtle meat thing is a reference to the Gamera song from MST3K. But I also don't find him that awesome.

goirish83 7/8/2013 9:22:13 AM

Great list, would have had Gamera in there instead of Rodan.  Mecha-Godzilla (any one of the 3 or 4 versions since the early 70's) was always a favorite.

BRING ON PACIFIC RIM !!!!

mike10 7/8/2013 9:31:30 AM

I would have had Gamera instead of Guiron. Gamera was awesome. 

CaptAmerica04 7/8/2013 10:16:51 AM

 I agree with mike10 - Gamera was cooler than Guiron.

But the king is definitely Godzilla.

blankczech 7/8/2013 10:57:40 AM

 The giant Japanese monsters were part of my childhood too...but I always thought they were cheesy.  At the same time I was running off to see things like Godzilla, Rodan or Hammer's Curse of Frankenstein at the Saturday Matinee (for a quarter) I  was watching all the classic Universal Horror films on television (Shock Theatre out of NYC) and reading Famous Monsters of Filmland religiously. 

Needless to say the smaller creatures from the Universal (or Hammer) movies were a lot more frightening to me as a child because I could imagine them lurking in the shadows outside, sneaking into my home, or hiding under my bed or in my closet. The big hokey Japanese Monsters never looked realistic to me...didn't really seem particularly interested  in killing humans, you could hear them coming from a mile away and they spent most of their time wrecking cities ( and I lived in the suburbs).  Add to that the prevailing opinion during the time period, that everything exported from Japan to the States was an inferior quality rip-off (boy, has that changed).

Still...I did watch all the movies you speak of...and I agree with those who think Gamera should be on the list instead of Guiron (or at least higher on the list than Guiron).  My personal favorite - Mechagodzilla

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