Godzilla movies are known for their professors. There are the good professors and there are the bad professors. There was Dr. Daisuke Serizawa and then there was Professor Goro Maki. As of now they both serve as bookends to the Godzilla filmography. Shin Godzilla brought a new incarnation of Godzilla and with that another professor. These two have striking similarities and differences. I don’t yet know the intentions of directors Anno Hideaki and Shinji Higuchi when it comes to the similarities and differences between the two professors but let’s explore briefly.
Both are scientists and study aquatic life.
Both are scared by their past.
Both are isolated mysterious figures.
Both carry shame and dishonor.
Both are shaped by nuclear science.
Both have secrets and were weary of authorities.
Both are sought after.
Both board boats and die in the sea.
Both save Japan and the world.
Serizawa appears throughout the film. Maki does not.
Serizawa wants to be left alone. Maki was alone but wanted to be heard.
Serizawa laments the use of his research. Maki desires his research to be appreciated.
Serizawa dies at the end. Maki dies at the beginning.
Serizawa sacrifices himself. Maki commits suicide.
Serizawa conceals his research. Maki reveals his research.
Serizawa dies in honor. Maki dies in shame.
Serizawa dies to destroy Godzilla. Maki takes his life to draw attention to Godzilla.
As I reflect on these two men I want to know more about them. I believe both are inextricable bound to their monsters and their deaths were not in vain. But there are important differences between their deaths. Dr. Serizawa burns his research and in delivering his Oxygen Destroyer to Godzilla, he sacrifices his life so that the world would no longer have access to him and his work. Before Professor Maki takes his life, he left behind his research with the message, “I did as I like. Do as you like,” leaving the government authorities to decide to heed his work and warning or not.
Another important difference between their deaths lies in their relationship to Godzilla. Serizawa dies at the end of the film. Maki’s death marks the beginning of the film. Serizawa provides the solution to Godzilla’s defeat at the end. Maki provides the solution to Shin Godzilla’s defeat at the beginning. Serizawa’s death would not be described as suicide. Maki’s death was by suicide. Serizawa is in no way physically connected to Godzilla. But this is not the case with Maki. Maki may have been ingested by Shin Godzilla in Tokyo Bay. This may account for the humanoid figures that emerge from Godzilla’s tail at the close of the film. The directors seem to connect Goro Maki and the tail of Godzilla. Immediately after Rando Yaguchi ponders, “So what did he do in the end?”, the camera pans up Godzilla’s tail when what appears to be a jaw drops hinting that from there Maki will rise again. (Thank you, fb friend Brandon Dee, for pointing this out!) “End” is the operative word. In the end, Maki emerged from Godzilla’s tail as a new humanoid species suggesting his DNA is part of Shin Godzilla and its subsequent evolution. The evolution of the weapon of mass destruction ended with Serizawa, but the evolution of the ultimate monster Godzilla began with Maki.
I want to suggest that Dr Serizawa’s death was a sacrifice but Maki’s death was that of a scapegoat. I will leave this for the reader to ponder. In both cases Japan and the world have been changed by Godzilla and nervously anticipate the appearance of another. The meaning of both Shodai and Shin Godzilla are tied to the tale of these two mysterious doctors.