When Monsters Attack

“A moonsault is harder than you think, especially when wearing a 30 pound rubber suit…”

Take a handful of superhero shows, and add the insanity of professional wrestling. Over-cook until viewer’s brains liquefy. Add Japanese commentary and cardboard buildings to taste. Stir. Welcome to the world of Kaiju Big Battel.

What is Kaiju Big Battel? Well, “Kaiju” means mysterious beast in Japanese. For a fuller answer, TC went to the web-site, where this very question was posed. And the answer? “Look out! Danger Can Happen! Kaiju have the many monsters which are making destruction the whole city! Also in the fair fight, the referee Justice keeping Dr.Cube from throw building at the mighty Silver Potato! See bizarre wrestling matches between gigantic absurd monsters! Watch Tokyo-style monster movie erupt into real life performance-art lunacy!...”

At this point, TC decided to give up on the fuller answer thing, and go lie down in a darkened room for a bit. On our return, we headed for David Borden, the commercial monster of the Kaiju empire. Fortunately, he was inhabiting a concurrent dimension…

What is Kaiju Big Battel?

We Are Monsters! Kaiju Big Battel is a Boston based monster/wrestling performance and media group which stages elaborately bizarre wrestling matches and other events featuring hand-built Japanese-style monsters. The “battels” are a ludicrous pop-culture hybrid of American pro-wrestling, Japanese monster mayhem, and B-movie antics. To fund monster creation and metropolitan destruction, Kaiju Big Battel produces and distributes its own merchandise including videos, trading cards, lunch boxes and a whole lot of other cool but useless, limited edition collectibles. Visit www.kaiju.com. for more information.

Why do you do this? Are you all entirely mad?
We are a bunch of (slightly mad) people who never grew up, and would rather play fight than get real 9-5 jobs.

Where did the original idea come from?
There was no one original idea, it just evolved into what it is over time. Still, the beginning of Kaiju Big Battel was to make a short video of two monsters fighting to the death in a cityscape – like an Ultraman battle. Then someone asked if we wanted to do a live performance, so we accepted the offer, added two more monsters, and a Japanese narrator just for the hell of it. It took on a life of its own after that.

The first show was on Halloween Night, 1994. What was the audience reaction to it like?
People ate it up. Perhaps they were a little liquored, but they were cheering and screaming. Still, they thought we were crazy for wearing the suits because it was 100 degrees in the space, and we were having the time of our lives, fighting in the midst of a cardboard mini-metropolis for control of the jack-o-lantern full of Halloween goodies.

“Some of the wrestlers were fond of smashing fluorescent lights over each other, but that’s no longer allowed.”

How often do you do events, and what decides where and when?
We do events whenever we get offers to perform. We do smaller events in addition to the wrestling tournaments, In the past we’ve hosted dance nights, competed in triathlons, played soccer games. The larger wrestling events take place every couple of months.

What are the people behind Kaiju like?
It’s a diverse crowd made up of wrestling fanatics, video game geeks, monster collectors, and the like. Currently, there are about 13 members, most of them graduates of the School of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Who creates the amazing costumes?
Rand Borden is the head monster maker. Sometimes others come up with costumes. But, for the most part he probably made about 90% of the Kaijus.

It looks a little dangerous: has anyone ever been injured?
Oh yes, plenty of injuries: a broken heel, two concussions, a dislocated knee, bruised ribs, to name a few. One guy even got light bulb glass stuck in his behind. Some of the wrestlers were fond of smashing fluorescent lights over each other, but that’s no longer allowed. Mama Kaiju says so.

What kind of people come to your shows?
Drunk people. College kids, lots of art students and indie/punk rockers, monster fans, toy geeks and wrestling fanatics. Younger kids too, with their parents, of course. Some sober people too. We often perform in conjunction with live bands, so there are usually a lot of rock and rollers at the shows.

Is there any serious point, or is simply a bit of fun?
Its serious entertainment on our behalf and a lot of fun for the audience (so they tell us).

Are the routines rehearsed or entirely ad-lib?
Both, about half and half. They are rehearsed but then what happens on the stage usually doesn’t end up matching the script. Sometimes, the wrestlers get too tired and decide to die early. The ad-lib stuff usually makes the battels so entertaining.

Do you know what Japanese people think of it all?
They think we’re crazy. Our Japanese friends have told us that such a thing would never happen in Japan, because it’s too active and way too insane in the ring, but they love the costumes and the live battles

How does the spectacular range of merchandising fit in?
It’s both financially and aesthetically important. The merchandise pays for all the costumes and covers all the pragmatic concerns like postage, phone bills, event posters and the like. We’re moving into a new studio/office space and the goods will pay for that too (hopefully). We like to have fun – some of the merchandise, like the Hell Monkey Hot Sauce, is made for spoof purposes only. Didn’t expect people to buy it, but they do: the Hot as Hell flavor is the most popular.

“We all want our own action figures and personalised matching head and wrist bands.”

We thought we would stop after the trading cards, but that’s not the case – we all want our own action figures and personalised matching head and wrist bands! I’m not entirely sure what we enjoy more, making monsters or making monster merchandise. Everything is made in-house except the T-shirts and the video manufacturing. Fortunately, we have access to lots of equipment, like off-set presses, silk-screen facilities, video editing equipment and we love to play around with it all.

We try to make the products and/or the packaging entertaining. Lately, we have been putting a lot more effort into the packaging. As a matter of fact, lately we’ve been putting a lot more effort in the merchandise in general. We’re really intent on improving the quality of the merchandise. Every time we do something, whether it be putting on an event or making new trading cards, we try to “one-up” it from the last effort.

Still, in the future we want to churn out more ridiculous products, like Dino Kang steaks (basically a rubber coated piece of foam in the shape of a large steak, with a Kaiju Big Battel logo on it). The more I think of it, we seem to make most of the products for our own enjoyment. I suppose we should start paying a little more attention to what our fans want, but they seem to like what we like.

What next for Kaiju?
Better, faster, stronger. We have the technology – we just have to figure out how to use it. Currently in the works, we’re bringing Kaiju Big Battel out of Boston and into every TV den in the world. World Monster domination would be best. Still, we’ll settle for a cartoon, pay per view wrestling matches and a few movies.

We all want to smash cities and wrestle for a living. But until the big deals come, we’re working on revamping the Kaiju web site, complete with quick time videos, computer games, and other fun nonsense, as well as producing another video that focuses more on plots and more sophisticated wrestling – we’ve been practising on the mats. A moonsault is harder than you think, especially when wearing a 30 pound rubber suit…

Kaiju Big Battel: Best Fights
30 min, $15 from www.kaiju.com

…in which a bunch of guys and gals, obsessed equally with Japanese monster movies and professional wrestling, dress up in extremely silly costumes, and hit each other over the head with cardboard buildings for half an hour. So why am I laughing? Why do I have a near-irrepressible urge to buy the Kaiju lunch-box? And – God help me – why am I contemplating coming up with my own silly costume, flying to Boston, and joining in? And all this at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon, without so much as a beer to hand. It must be some kind of viral madness.

The basic principle will be familiar to fans of Godzilla, Mothra and their buddies: Japanese monsters, duking it out. Except in Kaiju, it’s in a wrestling ring, decorated with miniature buildings to be stomped, thrown around or used as weapons, depending on mood. Oh, and these monsters are things like Dust Bunny (with his special attack, the Hide Behind Furniture Hop), Existentialist Automaton and Astro Turufu – who is green, and covered in plastic grass. Think about it.

It was Turufu’s appearance that finally toppled me over from bemusement to amusement, and I began to appreciate the wry introductions for each combatant, the doubtful veracity of the on-screen captions (one bout supposedly took place in “Attica Prison, September 1971”) and the music, unashamedly nicked from Japanese TV series and movies. There are even adverts for monster-endorsed products like Hell Monkey Hot Sauce – which you can now actually purchase through the Kaiju web-site.

You certainly can’t deny the effort involved, with the costumes taking up to seven months to make, and round about twenty monsters in the roster at any one time. Part of the delight is, it’s pitched just right: the concept of Atomic Cannon, a giant camera beast, may seem excessively ludicrous, yet I’ve seen precisely that on a Japanese show. [And it wasn’t the worst: I think the monster bus was more insane. Or perhaps the 60-foot, sailor-suited schoolgirl. I’m not kidding.] Given these, is a “Tropical Fruit Grudge Match” really too bizarre to grasp?

The audience reaction at Kaiju events seems to mirror mine, ranging from bafflement to hysterical laughter, and make no mistake, this is the sort of tape you’ll find either gut-clenchingly funny or totally unamusing. But trust me on one thing: you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen a foam-rubber sandwich (armed with a club, for reasons I leave you to work out) attacking an oversized tin of chicken soup.