Of Love and Monsters: Probing the Psychology of our Strange Fascination with Kaiju

Is it in man’s nature to be unable to resist loving those who destroy him?

This is about love and destruction. But if you’re looking to read about conventional romantic relationships, go and search for it on a different blog. This post has nothing to with that, but it has everything to do with an unconventional endearment, an unusual fondness, a strange fascination. It has everything to do with humans and has everything to do with Kaiju.

BeFunky_null_5.jpgKaiju is a strange monster who comes to wreak havoc on humans and flatten cities with its monstrous size, power and appetite for aggression without any discrimination and for reasons not fully known. After reading that description of Kaiju, you must be thinking, “Why in the world of monsters are you using words like endearment, fondness and love?” Yes, I hear you loud and clear. But no, I am not mistaken. I am really using those affectionate words and I am talking about monsters, serious monsters.

As the name implies, Kaiju originated in Japan but just as Anime and Manga have become major fixtures in Pop culture, people all over the world became acquainted with Kaijus and the whole TV and movie genre which involved these gigantic beasts. For many of us, our childhood was filled with Kaijus. We grew up watching tv series like Ultraman, Super Sentai and Power Rangers and pleaded too many times to our parents to buy us Kaiju action figures. In the internet world, many websites are solely dedicated to Kaiju characters and there is no shortage of merchants selling Kaiju merchandises online.

But why? Why are we so fond of Kaiju? Why do we have such fondness with fictional creatures that represent the ultimate threat to our existence?

BeFunky_atom-bomb-explosion.jpgTo answer this question, it would be smart to begin with Kaiju’s place of origin — Japan. Kaiju first appeared in the movie Godzilla in 1954, a time when memories of the horrible experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Nuclear bombings are still uncomfortably fresh. Seeing everything from a socio-historical perspective of the Japanese people, Kaiju creatures were probably their way of dealing with what happened. The giant beasts, much like the nuclear bombings, cause destruction of almost unimaginable expanse. Like the bombings, Godzilla seemed to have come out of nowhere and without warning, flattened cities and killed many people. Creating Kaiju characters is probably the only way that the Japanese people can come to terms with the magnitude of the loss and destruction they suffered without inciting any further conflict.

BeFunky_hydra_kaiju.jpgBut many fans of the Kaiju genre would probably bring forth the argument that gigantic monstrous characters have already existed in the form of Hydra, Chimera, Cronus and many more in Greek mythology, and that was way before Godzilla appeared. This is a valid and excellent observation and it makes us think that Kaiju is rooted as well on things other than the Japanese historical experience. So probably our fascination with these giant beasts is actually more universal than cultural.

Stories which involve Kaiju characters seem to follow a general plot and usually set in an urban area. The story will reach a climax when the monster comes and crush, scorch or eat everything he sees until the hero comes and fight the kaiju and either drive it away or kill it with his laser-equipped weapon. The same plot resembles the human race experience and Kaiju characters, the manner which they come out and destroy, are much like the natural or huge man-made disasters. The setting is always a city because it is where everything happens and where the human race has created and build things, and where there is the biggest potential for destruction. Probably it is our collective subconscious desire for retribution, redemption and deliverance. Our worries about our own mortality and the temporariness of everything manifest themselves. Our subconscious guilt for replacing the natural environment with man-made cities manifests in our penchant to see a Kaiju destroying a city. However, in the end we still desire forgiveness and being saved from ultimate demise and that is why we need Ultraman or the Power Rangers to stop the Kaiju.

BeFunky_kaijuvsjaeger.jpgAs our level of understanding and awareness of our own existence increase, we also now see Kaiju characters having more moral and psychological depth. They are now getting more human characteristics like guilt and the capacity to transform from being the ultimate bad guy to a good guy.

Our fondness for these monstrous agents of destruction are rooted in our experience, may it be cultural or universal as a human race. It speaks of our guilt, fears, desires, morals and dreams. However horrible and terrifying the Kaiju characters are, they are a part of the human experience, and that explains our unusual interest.

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