The Godzilla franchise has had a large influence and impact on not only Japanese viewers, culture, and history, but American and other western countries as well. Owned and created by Toho Co.Ltd, Godzilla is recognized as the world’s longest continuously running movie franchise with 35 films, 32 of which were produced by Toho and three produced by Hollywood. This paper will examine and analyze two Godzilla movies, the original Japanese movie Gojira released in 1954, and Shin Godzilla released in 2016, and their significance in context to Japanese and western culture and history.
Both Gojira and Shin Godzilla represent and symbolize the effects that destruction, and nuclear weaponry and technology have had on individuals and nations as a whole, as well as political and social undertones which were relevant to their time of release. And although Godzilla from first glace is seen merely as just a monster movie, it is clearly evident that these two films are truly about human tragedy and how individuals deal with this tragedy, while featuring a monster.
Gojira, is the original Japanese Godzilla movie directed by Ishiro Honda and released in 1954 by Toho. Honda created Godzilla as a response to nuclear technology and destruction, and as a symbolism of the effects and devastation that the atomic bombings had on the ordinary citizens of Japan. The director also reveals political unrest and controversy during the post war time period of Japan in his film, as well as the strained relationship between the United States and Japan. The two countries relationship is depicted clearly through Gojira since he is a representation and mirrors America’s nuclear weaponry which demolished and devastated Japan. Due to this, there are subtle anti-American tones which can be seen throughout the movie.
It can be seen from the start that Honda immediately bases the film off of the beginning of nuclear technology’s presence and effects on the Japanese nation in relation to “the lucky dragon no 5”. “Lucky dragon no 5” was a tuna trawler with Japanese fisherman abroad which was effected by the Bikini Atoll tests, and this is clearly reenacted at the beginning of Gojira. The film starts off with an idyllic scene, where fisherman are relaxing on a trawler while playing instruments when suddenly there is a thunderous boom and a bright flash of light which resembles similarly to “pika don” or flash bang which occurred when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during world war 2. From the start of the movie we can see a presence of nuclear weapons and it’s destruction on Japanese individuals .
Destruction, tragedy and reference to nuclear weaponry through the use of Gojira can be seen all throughout the film. Honda was definitely not afraid of featuring graphic scenes involving the effects of Gojira’s atomic nuclear breathe and destruction, and how it negatively effected the Japanese nation. This was done so in order to show viewers the reality of what the victims of the bombings and nuclear fall out endured during world war 2.
The destruction of Gojira’s atomic breathe which symbolizes nuclear fall out and the atomic bombings displays its horrifying effects after the monster attacks Tokyo, leaving behind what is only seen as annihilation of the city and a “sea of fire”. The demolished city and “sea of fire” is similar to what occurred after the bombings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The horrifying and damaging effects of the war is also displayed in the film through the over crowded hospitals, large amount of causalities, faces of corpses, patients screaming in pain, lost loved ones and orphaned children crying for their mothers.
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