The kaiju movie genre is alive and well nowadays, with big budget films like Godzilla vs. Kong on their way (and intimidating even in LEGO form) and plenty more to follow. It wasn’t that long ago, though, that the genre was seen as a risky one by film studios and was struggling to find a footing.
That all changed when Pacific Rim surged onto the big screens in 2013 to wild acclaim, setting in motion the revival of kaiju movies across the globe. Now, Pacific Rim is due to make its own comeback, with a new 3D animated series heading to Netflix. What better way to prepare for Pacific Rim’s future than by celebrating the true stars of its past: the kaiju.
Onibaba is the kaiju that brought together two of the film’s primary characters – Mako Mori and her adoptive father, Stacker Pentecost. Onibaba’s attack on Tokyo puts a young Mako at risk, but Pentecost and his Jaeger arrive on the scene to save her.
Onibaba went down quickly and wasn’t much of a fighter, so it can’t compete with certain other powerhouses. For bringing these two heroes together, though, it’s worthy of respect.
While none of the kaiju in the Pacific Rim franchise are intended to be cute, Scunner in particular definitely has a face that only a mother could love. Or, in this case, that only an alien bioengineer would love.
Regardless, Scunner was one of the last three kaiju fought at the end of the original Pacific Rim, but sadly offers a much less impressive showing in battle than its counterparts. While Scunner certainly had the raw power to rival the Jaegers on scene, its lack of any real unique attributes or abilities means it only just edges out the actively-battle-avoiding Onibaba.
Ragnarok is the final antagonist of the Tales from the Drift comic series, a prequel covering one of the earliest Jaeger-piloting pairs, Duc and Kaori Jessop. Demonstrating incredible abilities like Jaeger-crushing levels of strength, regenerative limbs, and looking more than a little bit like Mortal Kombat‘s Goro (who intrigued fans for questionable reasons last year), Ragnarok proved a powerful adversary.
The Jessops were eventually able to best the monster, but at the cost of their own lives. Ragnarok’s defeat came at a high cost, reminding readers of the untold losses of the kaiju war preceding the film. As the most memorable of the comic kaiju, Ragnarok shows that there’s plenty to love about the franchise even outside of the films.
7 Obsidian Fury and the Drone Jaegers
While perhaps not as monstrous as the other kaiju, Obsidian Fury and the drone Jaegers from Pacific Rim: Uprising certainly deserve acclaim. When the film introduces these unmanned, autonomous Jaegers, it seems that the traditional two-pilot Jaeger system is due to become obsolete.
The film pulls yet another twist soon after, though, revealing that these unmanned Jaegers are actually powered by preserved kaiju brains. That means these autonomous bots are half-Jaeger, half-kaiju. The fights between them and the manned Jaegers may not have the same robot-versus-monster feel as other battles, keeping them from being as gripping as some of the top kaiju, but they’re still worthy (if a bit unconventional) warriors.
Raiju is another of the climactic “final three” monsters from Pacific Rim and has by far the most interesting design. It has a mostly crocodilian body, but with a striking twist: its face splits open into three glowing sections. Its formidable giant monster designs nets it some extra points (as with some of the most intimidating Gigantamax Pokémon), but its unique movement style gives it another intriguing edge over other kaiju.
While its partners Slattern and Scunner tend to stick to the seafloor, Raiju takes to the ocean like a fish to water. Raiju zips through it, swimming at a lightning-fast speed befitting its name. While the other kaiju focus on raw power, Raiju instead brings speed to the table, attempting to overwhelm the Jaegers with rapid, out-of-nowhere strikes. This can leave it a little lacking when it comes to the former, though.
Knifehead is a kaiju very important to a main character’s backstory. The difference is, Knifehead shows that it can hold its own in combat too. One of the earliest kaiju fight scenes in the film takes place between Knifehead and Gipsy Danger, in which the blade-faced beast is nearly able to best its mechanical adversary.
Gipsy Danger, piloted by Raleigh, is eventually able to take it down, but victory comes at the cost of his brother Yancy’s life. Knifehead sets the stage for Raleigh’s development throughout the rest of the film and so it earns some extra respect among its peers.
While many prior kaiju battles were more like skirmishes, the fight where we’re introduced to Leatherback is the first that really turns into an all-out brawl. Leatherback makes use of not only its brawnier-than-average build, but also a unique ability among the kaiju cast – a biologically-based EMP.
Leatherback’s EMP disables its Jaeger adversaries, allowing it to tear into them freely. This makes for a very effective strategy that gives it the upper hand in battle. Its combination of traits shows that the Precursors are responding to Earth’s strategies, effectively building a Jaeger countermeasure into their latest creation. So, in a way, Leatherback showcases both brains and brawn, earning it high marks overall.
3 The Mega-Kaiju
The final antagonist of Pacific Rim: Uprising, the Mega-Kaiju, is a DNA-altered fusion of three separate kaiju. It towers over the Jaegers, acting as a nigh-unstoppable threat. It’s only with a last-ditch effort that the beast is even able to be defeated at all.
All that power and resilience holds this massive monstrosity back a bit, though. The series’ action works best when the combatants are evenly matched and fighting desperate, cinematic battles. The Mega-Kaiju just shrugs off everything thrown at it, which can be a bit anti-climactic.
Slattern is ultimate force of the original film. This cross-faced creature took part in the final battle to seal the Breach, acting as the most powerful of the three Kaiju defending it. In the movie, it’s given extra prominence on top of that, as the one and only Category V Kaiju (the highest danger ranking given).
Slattern certainly lives up to the ranking, giving Gipsy Danger and Striker Eureka the fight of their lives. It’s a hard-fought battle and one that neither Jaeger walks away from. Fortunately, neither does Slattern, as its body is used to smuggle a primed-to-detonate Gipsy Danger into the Breach. The resulting blast devastates the Precursors, closes the breach and signifies victory for Earth. It’s certainly an impressive showing (Monster Hunter World: Iceborne’s mightiest monsters would cower in fear), but not quite the best.
Otachi is among the most memorable of the kaiju in Pacific Rim. She has it all: a varied and interesting set of abilities, a unique and fun design, one of the best fights in the series, and is responsible for what many consider to be the most incredible moment in Pacific Rim canon – the space sword finisher.
She starts out by providing support for her much bulkier partner, Leatherback, using her acid spray to penetrate the Jaegers’ defenses. Once Leatherback is defeated, she goes on the offensive, unfurling her impressive wings and taking the battle with Gipsy Danger into the nearby city. It’s a fight that sees both combatants pushed to their limits, ending with the striking image of Gipsy Danger slicing Otachi in two high above the Earth. While it’s certainly not realistic, it’s absolutely unforgettable. For all that and more, Otachi earns her top spot among Pacific Rim‘s kaiju. Monster battles have come a long way since Godzilla and King Kong’s first bout back in 1962.