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‘Ōru kaijū dai shingeki (All monsters attack!): The regional and transnational exploitation of the kaijū eiga’

Rawle, Steven ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7908-8249 (2018) ‘Ōru kaijū dai shingeki (All monsters attack!): The regional and transnational exploitation of the kaijū eiga’. In: Provencher, Ken and Dillon, Mike, (eds.) Exploiting East Asian cinemas. Global exploitation cinemas . London, Bloomsbury, pp. 32-56

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The co-optation of the word kaijū in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim (2013) has been partly responsible in resurrecting global interest in the cult genre of the kaijū eiga (literally, monster movie). With the second American version of Gojira following in 2014, the genre has returned to the global gaze, although without the camp and irony that marked its reception through much of the latter part of the twentieth century.
This chapter will explore the regional and transnational exploitation of the kaijū eiga, within south east Asia and in a transnational context. The genre is most associated with Tōhō, the studio behind Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Atragon, Dogora and Space Amoeba (a cycle of films closely associated with director Honda Ishirō and effects supervisor Tsuburaya Eiji). While Inuhiko Yomota has shown that the films are rooted in a specifically Japanese vision, Tōhō exploited western material as the series developed, in the influence of King Kong (and the subsequent suitmation sequels made in Japan) as well as the films built on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (Frankenstein vs. Baragon, 1965 and War of the Gargantuas, 1966). Subsequently, the chapter will consider the highly repetitive and derivative exploitative cycle of kaijū films produced by other studios during the Showa period, such as Daikyojū Gappa (NIkkatsu), Uchū Daikaijū Girara (Shochiku), Gamera (Daiei), and Daimajin (also Daiei). As well as the genre’s exploitation in Japan, it had a strong influence on a regional transnational level, in South Korea (Yongary and Wangmagwi), Hong Kong (the King Kong rip-off The Might Peking Man), and North Korea (the infamous Pulgasari (1985), directed by the kidnapped Shin Sang-ok). The films tended to share a core set of themes regarding threats to nation, and a growing focus on children as the 1960s moved into the 1970s.
Finally, the chapter will examine the transnational circulation of the kaijū eiga, arguing that the exploitation of these films (often by companies such as American International Pictures) was regularly marked by camp and irony, particularly due to the practices of dubbing and editing, which frequently produced quite different versions from those in their native countries. Although the original Gojira (1954) has become canonised as a classic of 1950s atomic age science fiction, the rest of the genre has tended toward a low cultural reception – the Gamera films were a recurring presence on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. While it is yet to be seen if the more recent co-optation of the genre by American cinema will recuperate this reputation or further enshrine it in subcultural terms, this chapter concludes that the exploitation of the kaijū eiga has cast a strong influence locally, regionally and globally, although its reputation differs significantly around the globe.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Films
School/Department: School of the Arts
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/1847

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