In the Showa Gamera movies (i.e. the ones from the 60′s and 70′s), Gyaos was essentially what you’d get if Dracula was a kaiju. A nocturnal monster, Gyaos lived in a massive cave, preyed directly upon humans, could heal from any wound if given time, and was lured by the scent of blood. Gyaos was also weakened by sunlight, like many film vampires are. While Gamera’s other foes were similarly outlandish and strange, something about Gyaos stuck out. The vampiric monster was just a bit creepier than Gamera’s other enemies. Even though Gyaos wasn’t the only man-eater in the bunch, the way it preyed on humans was a bit more personal than the other monsters. Combine it with the dark, vampiric imagery conjured by Gyaos’s habitat, behavior, and physiology and you get a kaiju that’s a scary in a very unique way.
This is probably why Gyaos was brought back for the 90′s revival of the Gamera series. While many of Gyaos’s vampiric qualities were either dialed back or dropped entirely, she remained as vile and vicious a foe as ever. Gamera: Guardian of the Universe portrayed Gyaos as an explicit cannibal, showing the mangled and partially devoured carcasses of her siblings when humans explored her lair. The flying monster was also a dedicated maneater, and spends much of the movie’s runtime pursuing humans with an outright malevolent hunger. There’s something primeval about the terror inspired by the sight of a monstrous flying creature hunting down human beings – especially when that creature is so preposterously large that the act itself couldn’t provide it true sustenance. Gyaos isn’t a maneater out of necessity, but rather for sport.
The threat of Gyaos is compounded by the fact that she can reproduce asexually, allowing the voracious predator to easily dominate the world if she isn’t stopped. Sequels would show swarms of juvenile Gyaoses, which prove to be every bit the nightmare you’d expect a flock of man-eating flying reptiles the size of blue whales would be. The 90′s Gamera movies draw a direct parallel between this aspect of the Gyaos horde and mankind. Gyaos and her kin are the result of an ancient human civilization’s attempt to genetically engineer a perfect organism. They succeeded too well, and proved to be so destructive and gluttonous that the same civilization had to make Gamera to wipe them out. The only reason Gyaoses come back from their near-extinction is that pollution caused by humanity has awoken them from dormancy – they are, essentially, every negative byproduct of humanity’s dominance of the planet. They’re the monsterfication of overpopulation, unsustainable consumption, pollution, and wanton greed and gluttony. Gyaos are the monsters our dark side aspires to be – and we’re only still around because our good sides can make Gameras to fight them.
With a vile personality and reputation, a variety of substantial thematic bases, and a very dynamic and memorable design, Gyaos is more than iconic enough to serve as Gamera’s arch foe. There’s a reason this monster has been featured in every Gamera movie series so far – and I for one look forward to being menaced by her again in future films.