Killer Kaiju Monster: Strange Beasts of Japanese Film by Ivan Vartanian (2009)
Killer Kaiju Monsters is a slightly eccentric title and I had a hard time figuring out just what it was trying to be; an experiment in design or an authoritative text about Japanese monster movies? Vartanian devotes a large chunk of the book to mini-monster bios which discuss various Japanese film monsters (primarily monsters from the Godzilla series, Gamera doesn’t get a lot of love here) and their respective filmographies. The writing of the monster biographies is passable, but the factual information offered up about the films is lackluster. Budding Godzilla fans who want to know learn more about the franchise would be better served with William Tsutsui’s Godzilla: On My Mind or even the slightly dated Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star by Steve Ryfle. It’s not that the writing in Killer Kaiju is awful, it’s just that what it has to say about the Godzilla films has already been said by other sources, and these other sources have already relayed this information is a more resouceful and comprehensive fashion. Where Killer Kaiju does succed though, is in its design. The back cover states that the author’s background lies in art, photography, and design and this should become clear as soon as you crack open the book. The book is jam-packed with both full color and black and white movie stills and posters, as well as numerous photos of vinyl kaiju toys and full-page reproductions of paintings inspired by kaiju films. Actually, it’s when the book switches gears and starts discussing pop art inspired by Japanese monster films that things get really interesting and I wish they would have stuck with this topic all the way through.
As it is though, Killer Kaiju Monsters remains a stellar piece of eye-candy and a mediocre read. While the title is too small to be considered a coffee table book, prospective buyers should treat it as such. It’s not the type of title you’ll want to read cover to cover, but it’s fun to keep around and flip through when you need a quick shot of visual inspiration.
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