A photo essay of classic Japanese movie monsters.

Where Western movies used animated clay figures, the Japanese used men in costumes on miniature cityscapes. Some of those cityscapes were elaborate and beautiful.

Godzilla is drawn from Japan’s lived experience at the receiving end of a nuclear bomb attack. The texture of his skin is based on the scars carried by Hiroshima survivors. Godzilla is also based on the Shinto god of destruction, “which Godzilla B-movie maker Shogo Tomiyama says operates not in service of humankind, but rather the laws of nature. ‘He totally destroys everything and then there is a rebirth,’ he says, ‘Something new and fresh can begin.” Godzilla isn’t good or bad. It just exists.