Godzilla overtakes city with local author's help


Special to the Journal-World

Kansas University history professor Bill Tsutsui displays a portion of his Godzilla collection. Tsutsui's new book, "Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters," was inspired by his love of the 50-year-old irradiated lizard.

After stomping his way through Japan and onto the silver screen 50 years ago, Godzilla is taking over Lawrence with the help of Bill Tsutsui.

Tsutsui, a self-proclaimed Godzilla aficionado and associate professor of history at Kansas University, combined his love of the saurian giant and history to write "Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters."

Tsutsui will read excerpts from his book and discuss key concepts at a lecture 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.

Tsutsui's book explores how Godzilla infiltrated households across the world and why everyone can relate to the popular Japanese icon. Tsutsui also provides a look at how the original film "Gojira" was created and how the 26 films that followed have changed through the years.

Godzilla fans can find many aspects of the films to admire, Tsutsui said. He said people generally enjoyed watching a big monster terrorize a city. And while the film's comical bad dubbing and special effects draw laughs from an audience, Tsutsui said serious themes also could be uncovered.

Past Event

Discussion of "Godzilla on My Mind" by KU professor of Asian history William Tsutsui

  • Monday, October 18, 2004, 7 p.m.
  • Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont St., Lawrence
  • All ages / Free


The original 1954 film reflected widespread fear of nuclear destruction during H-bomb testing and Japan's state of uneasiness after World War II.

"During the Cold War, Japan was caught between the United States and Russia," he said. "The monster was a symbol of the forces that were looming over Japan."

As Japan grew economically and gained more confidence in the world, Godzilla reflected those positive changes, and the brooding monster became Japan's friend and defender.

Personally, Tsutsui said the Godzilla movies reminded him of his childhood as a Japanese-American growing up in a small Texas town with few other Asians. Godzilla was a positive role model for Tsutsui.

"It gave me a way to relate to my Japanese heritage, to be proud of Japan," he said.

Even though Monday's lecture will be Tsutsui's first in Lawrence, he has delivered similar lectures in states such as Alaska, Washington and Tennessee.

"Sometimes you get really hard-core Godzilla fans who will ask really detailed questions about a particular movie," he said. "I don't know every detail about every movie. I just enjoy them."

Tsutsui's style of combining facts with personal anecdotes makes his lectures enjoyable for any audience, said Randi Hacker, outreach coordinator at the Center for East Asian Studies. Hacker is helping Tsutsui organize an international Godzilla conference and film festival set for Oct. 28-30.

"His book is just like he speaks," Hacker said. "You walk away feeling like you were entertained but like you learned something, too."

For 30 years, Tsutsui's love for Godzilla has grown with his collection of movies, toys and memorabilia.

"My wife won't let me keep any of my Godzilla stuff in the house," Tsutsui said. "She thinks it's ugly."

Tsutsui now receives gifts from students and colleagues who know of his passion. Students returning from study abroad trips in Japan brought him Godzilla lighters and rare posters to place in his KU office.

And he takes it all.

"My collection really started growing," he said. "Now it's out of control."


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