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Godzilla is the most popular example of a kaijū
Monsters are tragic beings. They are born too tall, too strong, too heavy. They are not evil by choice. That is their tragedy. They do not attack people because they want to, but because of their size and strength, mankind has no other choice but to defend himself. After several stories such as this, people end up having a kind of affection for the monsters. They end up caring about them.

Ishiro Honda

Kaiju (怪獣 or 怪獸,   kaijū), also sometimes romanized kaijyu and kaizyu, is a Japanese word that literally means "strange beast" and is usually translated as "monster" in English. Traditionally, kaijū can refer to any sort of strange creature, but in recent times the word has become associated with a genre of tokusatsu entertainment, specifically Japanese cinema that involved giant monsters. The most powerful kaiju are at times deliberately referred to as daikaiju (大怪獣,   daikaijū), the prefix dai- emphasizing great power or status, and is usually translated as "giant monster." The word entered mainstream English following its usage in the 2013 Legendary Pictures film Pacific Rim, although English-speaking Godzilla fans had been using it for decades prior.

Concept[edit | edit source]

Kaiju are typically modeled after conventional animals, mythological creatures, and sometimes even plants; though, there are more exotic examples. Chōjin Sentai Jetman features monsters based on traffic lights, faucets, and tomatoes; Kamen Rider Super-1 includes a whole army of monsters based on household objects such as umbrellas and utility ladders. While the term kaiju is used in the West to describe monsters from tokusatsu and Japanese folklore, monsters like vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein's Monster, mummies and zombies could fall into this category (Frankenstein's Monster was once a daikaiju in the film Frankenstein vs. Baragon, which was produced by Toho). Kaiju are sometimes depicted as minions serving a greater evil. Some kaiju are elite warriors which serve as the right-hand man to the greater villain and are destroyed by the heroic forces. Others have a neutral alignment, only seeking to destroy buildings and other structures. During the early eras of tokusatsu, "heroic" monsters were seen in daikaiju eiga films, and it wasn't until later when television tokusatsu productions began using kaiju which aided the hero, saved civilians, or demonstrated some kind of complex personality. These kaiju adopted many classic monster traits, appearing as the "misunderstood creature."

Variations[edit | edit source]

Over the years, film studios have introduced monster characters who, while still considered kaiju, may be referred to by a unique title, usually either beginning with the kanji 怪 (kai) or ending in a long "u" in the same vein as kaijū. These include:

  • Kaijū (海獣), literally "Sea Beast" - a title homophonous with kaiju proposed for Godzilla and later used by the Giant Sea Serpent
  • Bōryū (暴龍), literally "Fierce Dragon" - a title used by Anguirus in contrast to Godzilla
  • Kaichō (怪鳥), literally "Monster Bird" - a title used by Rodan, the Giant Condor, Rhamphorhynchus, and La Carcagne
  • Kaichū (怪虫), literally "Monster Insect" - a title used by the Meganulon
  • Makuryū (膜竜), literally "Membrane Dragon" - a title used by Varan
  • Kaima (怪魔), literally "Monster Demon" - a title used by the Giant Octopus
  • Kairyū (怪竜), literally "Monster Dragon" - a title used by Manda
  • Kyoryū (巨竜), literally "Giant Dragon" - another title used by Manda
  • Gunjū (群獣), literally "Horde Beast" - a title proposed for the scrapped Nezura
  • Kyojū (巨獣), literally "Giant Beast" - a title used by the Gappas and Giant Rats
  • Akujū (悪獣), literally "Evil Beast" - a title used by Guiron
  • Gattaijū (合体獣), literally "Combined Beast" - a title used by the Griffon
  • Majū (魔獣), literally "Demon Beast" - a title used by Jiger, Battra and Desghidorah
  • Kyōjū (恐獣), literally "Terror Beast" - the title used by the monsters in Zone Fighter and Super Fleet Sazer-X
  • Kiseijū (寄生獣), literally "Parasitic Beast" - a title used by Shockirus
  • Hakaijū (破壊獣), literally "Destruction Beast" - another title used by Battra
  • Sentōjū (戦闘獣), literally "Combat Beast" - a title used by SpaceGodzilla
  • Shinjū (神獣), literally "Divine Beast" - a title used by Fairy Mothra
  • Idenshijū (遺伝子獣), literally "Genetic Beast" - a title used by the Gyaos
  • Makaijū (魔海獣), literally "Demon Sea Beast" - a title used by Dagahra
  • Densetsujū (伝説獣), literally "Legendary Beast" - a title used by Ghogo
  • Shugojinjū (守護神獣), literally "Guardian Beast" - a title used by the Primitive Mothra
  • Shōryū (翔竜), literally "Flying Dragon" - a title used by Megaguirus
  • Seijū (聖獣), literally "Holy Beast" - the title held by the Guardian Monsters
  • Kaijū (禍威獣), literally "Destructive Power Beast" - a designation homophonous with kaiju used for the monsters in Shin Ultraman

"Kaiju" may also be substituted for existing Japanese terms such as kaibutsu (怪物), translating to "monster" and used for Varan as well as the Xiliens' designations "Monster Zero," "Monster Zero-One" and "Monster Zero-Two" for King Ghidorah, Godzilla, and Rodan, respectively; seibutsu (生物), translating to "creature" or "organism" and used for monsters such as the Matango, the Giant Rats and Zedus as well as in the designation kyodai seibutsu (巨大生物, lit. "giant creature") for the creature resembling Godzilla in GMK, Gaira in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Shin Godzilla, and Godzilla Aquatilis; and kyōryū (恐竜), translating to "dinosaur" and used for kaiju who are more dinosaurian in nature, such as Gorosaurus, Titanosaurus and the Godzillasaurus. Furthermore, bakemono (化け物), a term for a type of yōkai that literally means "a thing that changes" and is often translated as "ghost," is used for Godzilla in The Return of Godzilla.

In Godzilla: The Series[edit | edit source]

Main article: Godzilla: The Series.

The kaiju in the show are referred to as "mutations".

In the MonsterVerse[edit | edit source]

Main article: Titan.

In the films of Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse, kaiju are referred to in English as Titans. According to Michael Dougherty, director of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, "Titan" is a translation of "kaiju" and the terms are synonymous and interchangeable,[1] as supported by the Japanese dub's use of "kaiju" in reference to the Titans. The organization Monarch classifies unidentified Titans as Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms (MUTOs) before they receive official designations from Monarch and are denoted as Titans.[2] The two MUTOs which fought Godzilla in 2014, however, never receive names of their own outside of the generic "MUTO" designation.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

This is a list of references for Kaiju. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]


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