There Goes Tokyo! A Celebration of Kaiju Eiga
 Michael E. Grant
Language: English Release: 2013
Publisher: Self-published / Amazon Digital Services (Kindle)
Pages: 344
Genre: Non-fiction ISBN: 0615896464

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Nicholas Driscoll

Giant monsters have often been wedded with humorous intent, often with dubious results. A number of giant monster movies have been produced with parody as primary aim (Big Man Japan, Death Kappa, and The Monster X Strikes Back/Attack the G8 Summit immediately come to mind), though even the Godzilla and Gamera films have not been averse to humorous scenes such as a sudden Godzilla jig or Gamera gymnastics. I love to laugh at Godzilla's antics, and some of the dumbest kaiju films are my favorites for that reason. Outright mockery of monster and genre films, too, has become a past time for many, and occasionally some folks have endeavored to make a buck out of the practice (see Mystery Science Theater 3000, Cinematic Titanic, etc). For the less ambitious, though, the "funny movie review" genre also exists, in which movie geeks gleefully partake in a literary equivalent of whipping the local moron for public entertainment. Much fun can be eked from such texts, which often derive much of their entertainment value from… well, sadism. It's funny to read of the suffering of the reviewer as they recall the trials of sitting through steaming cinematic sewage such as, say, Gunhed (1989). These movie reviews can be great fun, and some enterprising individuals have made entire online shows based around the concept (one of my friends is an enthusiastic consumer of the genre and his current favorite reviewer of this sort is Phelous, who has his own website). Best of all, these reviews all tend to be free. Anybody can write them and share the laughs. There are dozens of websites and thousands upon thousands of these humorous reviews, some of which are written by really knowledgeable film geeks, often with exhausting detail (see the older reviews from the Agony Booth).

Then there's There Goes Tokyo!: A Celebration of Kaiju Eiga. Essentially what we have here is a collection of funny movie reviews packaged together in one place, complete with the sort of errors you would likely find in most online free movie reviews—except here Michael E. Grant actually expects his readers to pay for his writing. And therein lies the problem. When an exchange of money is involved, most consumers expect a higher quality product compared to the free version—and rightfully so. But, while Grant does include some humorous "statistics" about each movie, often similar details can be found in many free reviews. It's not that There Goes Tokyo! is a really terrible book—it is actually quite funny in places. It's just that the genre already has a glut of free material, which renders Grant's work unnecessary.

Still, for those who are interested, let's examine what Grant has put together in his book. Grant is a self-confessed kaiju-lover from childhood and watched most of the Showa Toho kaiju films growing up. He takes advantage of the widespread nostalgia for these films by revisiting "all the Showa kaiju films" and reviewing the American versions, along with a selection of American monster flicks at the end. I have "all the Showa kaiju films" in quotation marks because he doesn't really fulfill that promise in the text. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he doesn't include Gorath (1962), since the American version excised the rampaging walrus, but he also skips Atragon (1963) and The Mysterians (1957) which both feature giant monster threats of a sort. Even more surprisingly, he skips Varan (1958) and Space Amoeba (1970), since those films had prominent roles for their oversized monster stars. Nevertheless, props to Grant for including reviews of gems such as King Kong Escapes (1967) and The War of the Gargantuas (1966), since they are a bit more obscure in America compared to the exploits of our beloved gorilla whale. (For what it's worth, Grant also doesn't review The Return of Godzilla (1984), despite that film's release technically falling within the Showa era.)

The format for Grant's reviews includes an extended plot synopsis with humorous commentary, "final thoughts" that often sum up his childhood views of the movie compared to his current opinions, a break down according to three arbitrary "kaiju rules" that determine the final score, and a "kaiju list," which includes a checklist of silly facts, quotes, and evaluations, such as "moral message" and accuracy of the title. To be fair, Grant can be pretty funny, and he often has some especially amusing comments aimed at the American co-stars that often appear in these movies. Frankly, old kaiju films are filled with silly stuff that makes for great fodder for humorous commentary. The kaiju lists also appeals to the OCD side of my character, and they are fun to skim through.

On the other hand, there is plenty to complain about for the picky readers. As previously mentioned, there are the usual grammatical errata that are often found in unprofessional writing. Fans of Anguirus (like me) will quickly tire of Grant's skewering and mockery of the monster. Sometimes Grant gets plot details wrong, particularly in his rundown of King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962). Curiously, despite being a self-proclaimed fan of kaiju films, he apparently has never seen the Japanese versions of any of them. He never cites sources. His review of the original 1933 King Kong is almost completely unfunny, probably because he thought he should respect the movie. I grew weary of some of his sex jokes, too, but mileage varies—Grant usually doesn't get very crude.

Still, There Goes Tokyo! is probably the best humorous kaiju book I have read, though that isn't exactly high praise given some of the garbage published in the past (Godzilla Discovers America, anyone?). Further, Grant's book is a fairly pleasant read, and is much better than its immediate current competition as well: another Kindle book called Titans of Toho, which has more reviews but grossly inferior writing. But why buy a book of fairly funny movie reviews when so many hilarious monster and genre movie reviews are already available free online? (One of my favorite sites for such reviews was StompTokyo, though their site is a mess now.) There Goes Tokyo! is actually pretty cheap at only $2.99 on Kindle, but, all considered, I would rather laugh with my three bucks still in my pocket. That said, I really wish Grant the best, and hope that he keeps writing and honing his craft. Maybe in a few years he will publish another kaiju book, and perhaps, for that book, I might really join in the celebration.