Seven years ago, Japan endured the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 20 suffering mass casualties and destruction. It is the day I will never forget. Today, Japan is still grappling with the aftermath and continues to face the existential threat the lies within the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant that melted down hours after the tsunami. Five years later, with the resurgence of Godzilla and the release of Shin Godzilla I got the Godzilla that I needed, that is, a metaphor and cathartic experience that helps me grapple with that day.
It was in the wake of 311 that I discovered the meaning of Godzilla. I was lying on my bed in Nagoya watching Gojira (1954) when I realized the metaphor Godzilla was and is and continues to be until this day. The meaning of Godzilla is skin deep, lying right on its skin and immediately under its skin. In 1954, Godzilla represented the victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Godzilla’s skin is a reminder of the scared bodies of bomb victims. His breath is the atomic radiation that scorched those cities. In those days Godzilla was a man in a monster suit. And this should remind us that Godzilla is the embodiment of the harm and violence humans do to humans.
Fast forward to the release of Shin Godzilla in 2016. Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi created a Godzilla that represents the victims of the 311 earthquake and tsunami and the man-made disaster of Fukushima nuclear plant. The evolution of Shin Godzilla’s form is like the unfolding events of 311. The failure of the Japanese government to stop Godzilla’s march is like the mishandling of the crisis and the spread of radiation from the nuclear radiation into Tokyo. Shin Godzilla’s fifth form reveals human like creatures conjuring the memories of the victims swallowed by the tsunami.
So on this day we remember Japan and the challenges it continues to face. When we watch Godzilla we must remember Godzilla is more than just a monster. Godzilla is the memory of victims.