Tomoyuki Tanaka's Godzilla

Tanaka’s Godzilla

A Necessary Monster


Today, I decided to name the MyKaiju Blog. Going forward it will be called MyKaiju Tracks. Years ago when I was dreaming up my Godzilla newsletter I called it Godzilla Traxs. It’s a simple idea that Godzilla leaves his footprints and tracks behind as he did on Odo Island after his first appearance. Last year to kickoff Godzilla’s 70th Anniversary I searched and found the filming location of Odo Island. It was my way of returning to Godzilla’s roots. This is what Godzilla Minus One has done so well. Over the years Godzilla goes through transformations of character and nature from a foreboding warning to adults to a friendly ally to children. In doing so, moviegoers forgot the original meaning and message of Godzilla. And sometimes the movies don’t help and further obscure and bury the creator’s intention. And honestly, I believe we move on and away from this identity too quickly and failing what favorite monster in ways they lead to his birth in the first place. I was reminded who Godzilla is when translating the words of Godzilla’s creator Tomoyuki Tanaka in his book, Godzilla 1985 東宝SF特撮映画シリーズ Vol. 1 (Toho Publishing Department 東宝 出版事業室, 1/15/1985).

Godzilla 1985 東宝SF特撮映画シリーズ Vol. 1
Godzilla 1985 東宝SF特撮映画シリーズ Vol. 1

In the introduction, he wrote:「人類の憎しみあいが強まれば強まるほど、ゴジラは巨大化し、パワーアップして現れるのだ。」“The stronger the hatred between humans become, the bigger and more powerful Godzilla becomes.” For Tanaka human behavior is not simply exemplified in Godzilla but is the cause. Godzilla is a monster born out of human hatred for one another. The stronger our hatred for each other, the bigger and more powerful Godzilla. We should pause and think more deeply about the message of Godzilla. Godzilla is a mirror reflecting back our hatred and violence back to ourselves. We might be entertained by kaiju battles and want the most savage violent battles, but what does that say about us—our nature and choices. Did we learn the lesson that Tanaka is teaching us through his monster?

Godzilla 1954 and 1984 movie posters
Godzilla 1954 and 1984 movie posters

Then in his final remarks, he leaves readers a choice:「神が、おごれる人類に警告のためにつかわした”聖獣”としてのゴジラが、この世に現れなくてすむには、二つの道がある。」“There are two ways to prevent Godzilla from appearing in this world as a “sacred beast” sent by God to warn the proud human race.” For Tanaka, Godzilla is sacred and divine, in that, he sent by God. The idea of a monstrous beast sent from God is an ancient idea. Godzilla is the H-bomb monster born from the atomic bombs of World War II and hydrogen bomb testing in the Bikini Atoll. He returns to Japan with thunderous footsteps, spewing radioactive fire, leveling Tokyo, and leaving war-like destruction in his wake. Tanaka’s Godzilla is Director Takashi Yamazaki’s in Godzilla Minus One that exemplifies the potency of the warning that is Godzilla. We become possessed by our desires stealing what belongs to others. Our arrogance and confidence in our military might is palpable in all aspects of societal life. But we have started down the road toward human annihilation. Our future is so precarious, forecasting more death and suffering. Our demise is our own fault. Godzilla is more than entertainment. Godzilla is a warning. Like myths, monsters and metaphors before him, Godzilla was sent by God.

Tomoyuki Tanaka and Godzilla 1984 maquette
Tomoyuki Tanaka and Godzilla 1984 maquette (Source: Wikizilla)

For Tanaka there are only two choices:「ひとつは、核を盛大に爆発させて人類が自らを滅すこと、もうひとつは、平和への道をさぐること。どちらが王道かは、自明である。」“One is for humanity to destroy itself by detonating a nuclear weapon, and the other is to find a way to peace. It is obvious which one is the royal road.” The former is unthinkable but seems inevitable. The latter seems improbable and impossible. Although it is the only course of action, Tanaka’s royal road, the pain and discomfort to our egos that it brings is imagined to be unbearable and impossible to endure than the certain doom of the former. After watching Godzilla Minus One, don’t leave the theater without Tanaka’s Godzilla.

Hero image by Japanese Illustrator Noriyoshi Ohrai