King of Monsters

With the class coming to an end soon, I would like to take this time to write about something near and dear to my heart, the weird and sometimes city destroying monsters known as kaiju.

Kaiju is a term meaning “strange beast” and was popularized in America when the movie Pacific Rim was released, featuring many different monsters who were all designed to destroy the human race.  Although this film by Guillermo Del Toro is not Japanese, it is clear to see that it takes a lot of influence from Japan.  Kaiju fighting giant mecha screams anime origins, and in my opinion, it did a good job blending Japanese themes with Western cinema.

A much more famous kaiju though, the King of Monsters, is Godzilla.  When it comes to kaiju, Godzilla will always win in my heart, and it is the real reason I wanted to write about kaiju.

Known as Gojira, this poster comes from its movie debut in 1954

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaiju#/media/File:Gojira_1954_poster_3.jpg

One of  the reasons I love Godzilla so much is because as a child I could use the films to bond with my older brother.  Being six years apart, movies like Godzilla were a perfect middle ground for things to watch that we could both appreciate.  So right of the bat, I’m definitely a little sentimental about the big monster.  The real reason I’m bringing Godzilla up today though, is the symbolism involved.

To put it simply, Godzilla was made as a commentary on nuclear weapons.  Being a city destroying monster with a signature power called “atomic breath” this allegory makes complete sense.  The attacks against japan in WWII with the use of atomic bombs was key inspiration, especially with scene destroying Tokyo.  Further and lesser known inspiration came from a much smaller incident though, that still caused immense fear and uncertainty.

The Daigo Fukuryu Maru fishing boat (Lucky Dragon 5) was getting further and further away from its point of origin, in desperate search for more fish.  in the process of doing this, the ship and her crew came close to the Bikini Atoll nuclear test site where a thermonuclear bomb was being detonated.  Due to the fishing boat’s accidental close proximity, the crew experienced a large dose of radiation, along with the fish they had caught.  After getting back to Japan they were rushed to local hospitals, showing heavy signs of radiation sickness.  At the same time, there fish had somehow been accidentally offloaded, and accidentally sold.  All but two tuna were found, likely having been consumed.  The sick fisherman and the chance of consuming irradiated fish caused a mass panic, and it was suggested not to consume from the ocean for a while due to these tests.  This confusion and terror from nuclear weapons fed the modern myth of Godzilla and helped create the most famous kaiju today.

This historical background makes Godzilla an important character in media, and shows how stories are adapted to show modern issues in the world.  With over 30 films based on Godzilla, and the resent reboots involving the 2014 American Godzilla film, and a 2016 Japanese Godzilla film (using the Fukushima meltdown as a major plot point), Godzilla shows no sign of going away.

-Will Sarros, Group Naga

Sources-

Swenson, Tommy. “Lucky Dragon 5 And The Terrifying Truth That Inspired GODZILLA.” Birth.Movies.Death. N.p., 28 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 Jan. 2017.