Shōwa Era Kaiju Movies

I’m not gonna have anything to add to my original reviews for some of these, so for those I’ll just toss in a comment just so you know I watched them again.

Godzilla (1954)

Look, I’M not making these horny, they literally made his radioactive feet a major plot point. What am I supposed to do with that????

(S-Rank)

Godzilla Raids Again

Google thinks this thing’s runtime is 2 hours and 40 minutes for some reason, and it’s actually 80 minutes, but when you watch it it really feels like Google has it right.

(C-Rank)

Rodan (1956)

Handguns are useless. Send men immediately.”

The thirst is real.

(B-Rank)

Mothra (1961)

This still rules.

(S-Rank)

King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)

I already did a serious review of this one that got pretty in depth about what worked, what didn’t work, and what was hella racist. So today I’m just gonna swing for the fences, and come out with a truly blasphemous opinion for a kaiju movie fan.

Godzilla vs. Kong is better.

No, I’m not counting the wide disparity of special effects against this one. (In point of fact, I drastically prefer miniatures and guys in suits to the CGI orgies we get today, and that’s why I will always be more excited for a new Toho Godzilla than a new Legendary Godzilla. Aside from the fact that they’re just better.) Yes, I am fully aware (and have written on it in the past) that this is the movie where they started figuring out how to make Godzilla sequels and that really matters.

No, the reason the new one is better is because Godzilla fucking won.

Yes, okay, there was all that bullshit that happened afterwards with King Kong being the one to singled-pawedly defeat Mechagodzilla. I get it. But Godzilla STOMPED Kong, and that MATTERS. Anyone who thinks a stupid giant monkey is anything but a training dummy for the King of the Monsters is fooling themselves.

I might be exaggerating a little here, honestly. This is an extremely good Godzilla sequel, and like I already said it is where they really started figuring out how to make these. The rest of the series probably wouldn’t exist in its current form if it weren’t for this one. I just fucking loved seeing Godzilla wipe the floor with Kong in one fight, then just literally stomp him into the ground in the second one after it looked like it was gonna be more even.

The main thing Godzilla vs Kong was missing from this was the part where they transported Kong by helicopter-assisted balloons. Oh, also the part where he broke the Japanese parliament building with his butt,

Godzilla is the undisputed King of the Monsters, and deserves to be treated as such. And this isn’t like bullshit human monarchs who are just inbred parasites with a laundry list of genocides and enslavement to answer for. This is the freaking apex predator to end all apex predators we’re talking about. The strongest being on the planet. So powerful he might as well be a god to us.

Long live the King.

(A-Rank)

Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

I’m really glad Mothra was Godzilla’s last opponent before his face turn. She’s such a great foil for him when he’s a heel, but I really do prefer him as a face. (Yes, we’re just straight up using wrestling terminology here. It fits.)

This was my favorite Godzilla movie for a minute and it’s still not impossible to see why, but it’s slid down into the “great but not perfect” tier lately. It’s still superb. I’m glad they decided to have Godzilla become a hero after this one, though, because I’m just about tired of seeing my boy get his ass kicked.

(A-Rank)

Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

Big step down from Mothra vs. Godzilla. Kinda all over the place and leans way too heavily into The Silly, and it doesn’t get bailed out by the final fight at all. All it truly has going for it is Mothra talking Godzilla and Rodan into doing a double face turn and fighting Ghidorah with her. And being willing to throw herself into battle against him herself if they won’t help, despite knowing it was a losing cause. What a great character moment for her.

Also uh, psst, I’ve never loved Ghidorah terribly much. Yeah. Sorry. He’s at least utilized much more effectively in Invasion of Astro-Monster.

(B-Rank)

Gamera, the Giant Monster

I love me some Gamera but his first movie is just kind of okay, and I remember feeling that way about a lot of the Shōwa era Gameras, but I’m super open to having my mind changed! I do enjoy the symmetry of Gamera being launched into space at the end and the next Godzilla movie being Invasion of Astro-Monster. I know that was probably completely unintentional on both studios’ parts, but it’s still pretty cute.

Speaking of which, I really wish we got a Godzilla vs. Gamera at some point. Maybe sometime in the future? I know it would take a lot to make happen but it would be so awesome. Here’s hoping.

(B-Rank)

Invasion of Astro-Monster

Yep, this one still rules.

Despite the absence of my beloved Mothra, Godzilla (with Rodan) vs. Ghidorah II is drastically better than Godzilla (with Mothra & Rodan) vs. Ghidorah I, yes I’m still acting like these are wrestling matches leave me alone.

One of the reasons I am fully justified in considering these things wrestling matches is that they got WAY better when the monsters start moving and acting with more personality and dramatic purpose. I love Godzilla’s silly dancing and over-eager charging and punching. He seems so much more confident and swaggering here. And it makes such a huge difference.

Also this is the first one with UFOs/aliens and I love all the dumb UFO/alien stuff in these movies! And I know part of that is the space race was starting to really heat up and I still just love the unbridled optimism of space exploration. And space in general.

… tl;dr, I’m gay for space and gay for Godzilla. Of course I like this one.

(A-Rank)

Gamera vs. Barugon

“Gamera immediately became aware of Barugon’s rainbow and rushed across the skies to Osaka to find it.”

Okay so the thing is this movie actually predated the association of queer people and rainbows. But the thing about that is I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Like I’m gonna pass up Gamera LITERALLY BEING THIRSTY FOR BARUGON’S RAINBOW on some technicality??? Get outta here with that shit. THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT GAY MONSTERS WHO ARE GAY FOR EACH OTHER.

So yeah, Gamera gets back from outer space shortly before some new dumbass twink who thinks he’s hot shit named Barugon shows up. The twink uses rainbows to blow up tanks and cop cars, and his blood is purple. He is extremely gay. And Gamera is EXTREMELY into it.

Thing is, Barugon is a bratty dumbass and thinks he should be on top. Gamera takes one look at this obvious bottom and is like “uh, yeah, SURE” but unfortunately underestimates him and actually loses his first fight with him. Barugon, in a typical act of theater kid melodrama, freezes Gamera solid, flips him onto his back, and steps on him to assert his dominance. Kinda embarrassing for Gamera tbh.

“I’m the only person in my village who has seen him and his terrible rainbow. I used to ask my elders about the rainbow and how terrible it was.”

With Gamera out of the picture for the moment, Barugon goes on an adorable rampage. Some boring human stuff happens, the worst of which includes Japanese actors in blackface pretending to be native islanders and one of those islanders being essentially gifted to the protagonist as a love interest. Yay.

“Is modern science totally ineffective against these monsters?”

Anyway, their plan to defeat Barugon is literally to distract him with shiny objects so add ADHD to the list of queer stereotypes our good boy fulfills. He’s so good. I’m proud of him.

“Barugon has met his master.”

Ultimately, though, Gamera shows back up and saves the day by bullying the heck out of this bratty twink and dunking him in a lake. Order is restored. And hopefully the two kaiju live happily ever after.

(A-Rank)

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep

(CW: Allusions to kink dynamics)

I really didn’t like this one the first time I saw it!! It was the English version, but I didn’t notice any huge differences in the Japanese version? Maybe I was just in a better mood this time?

The surfing music still seemed silly, but silly doesn’t always mean out of place. This was a delightfully ridiculous movie and in that context it’s not out of place at all. No, this movie doesn’t compare favorably to Ishiro Honda’s epics, but that’s also not what it’s trying to be! It’s trying to be joyfully goofy and it’s succeeding!

I love the continuity of having Infant Islanders playing a major role! And Daiyo gets more agency than any Infant Islander ever has aside from the Fairy Twins. And my girl Mothra gets to go on a rescue mission again! And my boy Godzilla is battle horny when she shows up so he tries to get her to fight him and she’s like “Babe! NO! I got serious stuff to do” and smacks him around a little because she does love him but that’s it. Yknow, I was today years old when I realized that Godzilla is the bottom in that relationship, but now I’m kinda mad I never realized it before. Of COURSE Mothra’s the top.

(B-Rank)

Gamera vs. Gyaos

(CW: Kinky thirst)

Gyaos’s suit is ADORABLE, omg. They tried. I hear he’s a lot of people’s favorite Gamera antagonist so I have to imagine he’s better later. But in this one, like, DANG.

On the other hand, there’s a vore scene with him BASICALLY IMMEDIATELY, and you get a POV shot of his maw and yeah I got extremely turned on because of course I did. Which was really embarrassing when we finally got an establishing shot of him and I was like “… wait, did I just get really turned on imagining being vored by the dorkiest looking kaiju ever???” (Yes. Yes I did. I regret nothing.)

I’m not the biggest fan of the gore of Gyaos’s laser beams almost slicing off some of Gamera’s limbs but I am pretty into how awful the effects look. It’s disarming and frankly kinda charming.

The human story is kinda whatever. Some land developers are trying to get a village to sell their houses so they can build a freeway. They’re kinda portrayed as the good guys in that situation so not the most class conscious thing ever but oh well. I didn’t love it, but it mostly doesn’t add to or detract from the proceedings.

(B-Rank)

Son of Godzilla

Oh. Right. We’re up to this part of the series.

I mean, this is still worlds better than All Monsters Attack, but that’s not exactly a high bar to clear.

I don’t have any great desire to dump on this movie so let’s just get through these and get back to the good stuff.

(C-Rank)

King Kong Escapes

It’s about as good a King Kong movie as anyone could make on the budget Honda was given, and with Rankin/Bass demanding that it adhere to material from a television show no one cared about. Kinda hard to believe Mechani-Kong pre-dated Mechagodzilla by over five years.

The one thing I would’ve maybe liked to see done differently is spending more time with the kaiju and less with the humans (though this wasn’t the worst human plot in a kaiju movie), especially considering most of the brunt of the bad special effects was anything where they tried to show both humans and kaiju doing things on screen at the same time. Plus, kaiju are just better than humans. Even when they’re just a dumb giant monkey.

(C-Rank)

Gamera vs. Viras

Yeah, it reuses a lot of footage from previous entries in the series due to budget constraints, but I don’t care. I love the child protagonists, I love the dumb UFO and dumb aliens that are just Japanese dudes with glowing eyes (until, spoilers, their heads pop off and reveal they were squid people all along). It might not be the best kaiju movie ever or anything, but this movie is delightful.

(B-Rank)

Destroy All Monsters

I’m pretty glad this didn’t end up being the last Shōwa Era Godzilla movie, but I do appreciate the movie we got out of them thinking it might be. They really went for it, didn’t they?

Also Ghidorah just getting totally stomped by the combined might of all the other monsters towards the end of this is pretty easily my favorite Ghidorah fight ever. (And yes, the parts where that stomping was literal rather than figurative made me horny, shut up.)

(A-Rank)

Gamera vs. Guiron

“Let’s make the Earth a great place to live, without war, and traffic accidents.”

Not one of the better ones, but this series at least has a very solid identity that it sticks to, and that goes a long way. There are plenty of delightfully silly moments in Gamera’s fight with Guiron, and Guiron’s ridiculous design is a thing of beauty (knife head!!). And it doesn’t drag or overstay its welcome or anything, it just feels like there’s a dimension missing. Like it’s maybe a slightly better kaiju fight away from being drastically better. Still, it’s perfectly fun just the way it is.

(C-Rank)

All Monsters Attack

This is pretty easily the worst Godzilla movie, and not even just because half of the movie is clips from Son of Godzilla and Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. I genuinely think the connective tissue that holds this glorified clipshow together is much worse. It’s all the child protagonist’s dream, and Minilla is human-sized and can talk for some reason, and the human child learns to stand up to his bullies but then literally becomes a bully??? And it’s totally played for laughs??? And the whole thing is just weird and bad and low-effort. Seriously, this is just awful. At least it’s short.

(D-Rank)

Gamera vs. Jiger

I appreciate how much of this was kaiju fighting, and the fights themselves didn’t suck. Overall I wish more kaiju movies had this structure. The kaiju-to-human ratio was tilted very decisively in the kaijus’ favor which is always what I’m looking for. Unfortunately I just didn’t love Jiger’s design, and I would really have preferred less Gamera torture porn.

(C-Rank)

Space Amoeba (1970)

“Even if a man’s cells are taken over, he has his soul.”

Not gonna lie I was picturing something like the giant amoeba from that one Star Trek episode attacking a city, not glowy space stuff turning a squid, a crab, and a turtle into giant monsters. But that’s our lot! And I enjoyed it for what it is, it’s engaging enough for the most part, but yeah. I often don’t love kaiju movies where the kaiju’s entire deal is that it’s just a giant monster that destroys things. I prefer a bit more character and personality in my giant stompy boys.

(C-Rank)

Gamera vs. Zigra

“We owe it to the dolphins!”

… alright, hear me out.

Gamera is in top form here. By which I mean he’s a MASSIVE DORK and I’m here for it. His enemies are aliens that keep grandiosely demanding the total surrender of humanity and who fly around in a ship whose roof looks like gumballs and whose kaiju is a swordfish shark thing? And their whole deal is summed up in a line that’s literally something like “you humans live on the land and eat things from the sea, we live in the sea and eat things from the land!” and it’s kind of laughably straightforward (and also a little horny depending on your kinks, just sayin), so uh yeah.

And some of the science in this is hilarious levels of “THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS! THAT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!” Very much “this is terrible… I love it” kind of territory.

Yeah, the human story is basically a giant commercial for Seaworld. And yeah, Seaworld sucks. (Zoos and aquariums in general suck, tbh.) But still. A theme park commercial is… far from the least interesting human story in a kaiju movie? And there’s a MOON BASE! And something called a moon jeep. You can’t expect me to not like this!!

There’s also a lady who walks around hypnotizing people, but at first it kind of looks like she just intimidates them into submission by glaring at them? And honestly I’m here for it.

I did briefly get very excited that it seemed like the movie was hinting at the orcas getting in on the kaiju fighting action, but alas it wasn’t to be. Still, though! This was very silly and I loved it. And the fights had more gore than I like, but they were also very silly and you kind of need kaiju fights to be either epic or silly, and while I prefer epic because it has a higher ceiling, I’ll still take silly!

(B-Rank)

Godzilla vs. Hedorah

(CW: Thirst)

I remembered not really loving this one the first time I saw it, and I definitely liked it slightly better this time around but it’s still not really my cup of kaiju.

My biggest and most obvious complaint is that the soundtrack in this one is just awful? Like. Wow. I’m not even really entirely sure what they were going for.

I do remember one of my big problems with it the first time was what I found to be a ponderous pace, and dreary visuals. But it’s worth noting that my first viewing came amid my first, much hastier marathon of Godzilla movies where I think at one point I was easily watching 3 or 4 of them a day. Given more time to properly appreciate this as an individual movie, I’ll actually allow that the at times almost oppressive tone actually fits the larger themes of the movie extremely well. But, you know, shockingly the one that’s thematically about oppressive smog and pollution didn’t fare well when marathoning the otherwise largely vibrant series.

Of course, this is one of those “environmentalist” movies that doesn’t actually analyze the root problem at all (it’s capitalism), and those always end up blaming “humanity” or whatever and end up being very misanthropic and don’t actually do anything to help, but oh whale. Kinda par for the course.

Lastly, uh, yeah. This movie is very horny? Like, at one point Hedorah drops Godzilla in a pit and then fills the pit up with toxic sludge? And there’s all kinds of people getting slimed? And Godzilla gets slimed a bunch of times? And… yeah. Pollution is kinda kinky. Who knew.

(C-Rank)

Godzilla vs. Gigan

Absolutely one of the sillier entries and I love it. This is how you do silly kaiju movies. And it goes to show that silly doesn’t need to mean low-effort! The human characters’ story is completely integrated into the kaiju story, the fights are good (though they have more gore than my taste), the aliens are kinda hilarious, and Godzilla and Angurius are adorkable boyfriends!! It’s not one of the best or most legendary entries into the series, but damn it, this is how you do a sillier kaiju sequel!!

(B-Rank)

Godzilla vs. Megalon

This one is good! Come at me haters!

Yeah, I know it has a bunch of reused footage. Yeah, I know a sizable contingent of the fandom hate Jet Jaguar. Yeah, I know Seatopia is silly. I also don’t caaaaaaare.

Look, I don’t want every kaiju film to be like this! It probably doesn’t even crack my top 20. But it’s good, damn it! Relax and enjoy the sillier kaiju movies!

(B-Rank)

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

The sequence where Mechagodzilla is disguised as Godzilla and attacks Tokyo, fights Angurius, and eventually the real Godzilla is one of my favorite sequences of the entire series. It’s just such a great concept, and it’s great to see Angurius get some love in (sadly) his last major appearance to date.

The aliens being essentially Planet of the Apes aliens under their disguises rules and I wish we got more of them not in disguise. Oh well. I also love how aliens in this series are always basically Bond villains, in this case including a ridiculous death trap.

King Caesar is a bottom tier kaiju, but it’s at least cool that he moves fast? At least it differentiates him a bit And I also appreciate the Okinawan priestess lady singing basically straight up a love song to him to summon him??? More humans blatantly thirsty for kaiju in these movies please.

(B-Rank)

Terror of Mechagodzilla

Ishirō Honda returned for what would prove to be the last of the Shōwa era Godzilla films, finishing what he started and giving us a film that has a lot more going on than a cursory examination might reveal.

First and foremost what we have here is a direct sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. And that’s not a direction these films often go? So that’s immediately interesting. I do appreciate the kind of storytelling breathing room this gives Honda. He doesn’t have to waste any time establishing who the aliens are and what they want, just a little dialogue and some shots of the damaged Mechagodzilla. (Which is just cool, honestly.)

When comparing the two movies, I don’t think there’s anything nearly as cool as the disguised Mechagodzilla’s reveal in this one, but the movie as a whole just feels tighter and more serious. Not overly serious, though, don’t worry. Just the right amount. And perhaps relatedly, Godzilla himself has so much more gravitas. And I didn’t even realize how much I was missing that until it was back.

The other most obvious difference between this and its immediate predecessor is King Caesar being replaced by Titanosaurus and YEAH there’s really no contest there. King Caesar was… fine, I guess. Titanosaurus is my son and I love him.

This is also a continuation (and culmination) of a now 15 film franchise, 8 of which Honda himself directed. The character scarcely resembles the nightmarish avatar of destruction he was when Honda first brought him to life. Indeed, he is at this point the protagonist of the series, something that would’ve been unthinkable in 1954.

I don’t think they knew this would be the last film of the Shōwa era, else Honda probably would’ve pulled out all the stops and brought back the Mothras and Anguriuses and Rodans of the world, even if only for cameos, to give our boy a proper sendoff. But I think this was a fine note to end on, including Godzilla literally swimmimg off into the sunset.

Long live the King.

(A-Rank)

Gamera: Super Monster

It had me until the ending.

Yes, I know it’s a glorified clip show. Yes, I know the parts that aren’t a glorified clip show are blatantly aping Star Wars and Superman. Yes, I know the new footage of Gamera is awful.

Yes, I know this is basically the same movie as All Monsters Attack, which I have made no secret that I absolutely loathe. But you know what? This is a bearable version of All Monsters Attack!!! Hell, in spite of everything working against it, I genuinely like it!

I’m sorry, I guess I just have too much joy in my heart, but taking a Gamera clip show and putting a framing narrative around it with literal magical girls (one of whom is played by a professional wrestler??? and I am just all kinds of gay for her??? and she just knocks this character out of the park I love her so much I would die for her) and a kitbashed Star Destroyer. And in spite of all the words I just said the framing narrative is still way more coherent than the one in All Monsters Attack!!! Seriously!!!

But, yeah, the ending was seriously bullshit. A one-two punch of “redeemed evil character heroically sacrificing herself in a blatantly pointless way” and “we literally killed Gamera lol.” No. Nope. No thanks. None of that, please.

At least the space women appear to have adopted the little boy. It’s not enough to make up for the rest of the ending, but yeah. Nice wish fulfillment there.

(B-Rank)

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