Hideto Ogata is the closest thing Godzilla has to a traditional hero. Nope, he doesn't have superpowers or dress in inappropriately tight spandex. He never directly confronts Godzilla nor does he go a round of fisticuffs with the King of the Monsters. Heck, he's not even rich enough to buy all the high-powered hero toys, a la Batman. He's just a guy, one who works for South Sea Salvage and loves Emiko Yamane.
Then what makes him a hero stand-in?
Well, despite being an average Joe, Ogata has a resolute sense of right and the bravery to back it up.
I Can Be Your Hero (Maybe)
We're first introduced to Ogata's bravery on the way to Odo Island. It's subtle, but notice that he's captaining the ship carrying Yamane, Emiko, and the research team to Odo Island—you know, the place where all the ships have been mysteriously disappearing and their crews violently dying. Yeah, that place. That takes no small amount of guts.
And we see his bravery many other times in the film. When Godzilla first appears, he runs toward the giant creature to defend Emiko by shielding her. Sure, Godzilla doesn't do anything at that time, but it's not like Ogata knew the giant dinosaur planned to peace out. Later, Ogata accompanies Yamane to the military's frontline to inform the soldiers about Godzilla's aversion to spotlights, again running toward the danger to protect someone he cares about.
Yes, we know he can't do much to effectively protect anyone from Godzilla, but it's the thought that counts.
But Ogata's greatest display of bravery comes at the film's finale. To be effective, the Oxygen Destroyer needs to be set off in the ocean, meaning someone needs to bring it down there:
SERIZAWA: Professor, this is the only Oxygen Destroyer I have. For it to be fully effective, it must be released underwater.
OGATA: All right. We'll go down together.
SERIZAWA: No, I can do it alone.
OGATA: You're crazy. I'm not letting a beginner go down there alone. Prepare another suit! Are we clear? You're to follow my instructions.
At this point, Godzilla's aptitude for killing people has been well established, so it's courageous to be heading in the ocean with only a scuba suit for protection. For Serizawa, it's a one-way ticket. Ogata, however, has no plans of dying and risks his life to help his friend.
Ogata is also a very morally centered character. Almost to a fault.
An excellent example of his morality when he argues with Yamane. Yamane believes that Godzilla should be studied, not killed. But Ogata has a different take:
OGATA: But Professor, that's no reason to let such a violent monster run loose. Godzilla is no different from the H-bomb still hanging over Japan's head.
Ogata needs Yamane's blessing to marry Emiko—dude's old fashioned like that—but he also won't lie or stay quiet if he believes something is wrong, so he points out the blind spot in Yamane's feelings.
Then again, there's something to be said for timing.
Also, he loves Emiko and Emiko loves him, but Ogata feels responsible for what this love will mean for Serizawa.
OGATA: We have nothing to be ashamed of, but when I think about Serizawa, I lose my nerve. If not for the war, he wouldn't have lost his eye.
Remember that this movie came out before the advent of online matchmaking, so it's not like a scientist who spends his days in a basement laboratory murdering fish has many dating opportunities.
Because of his relationship with Serizawa, Ogata doesn't want to see his friend hurt, but he also can't deny his feelings for Emiko. This is a place where you can argue that Ogata's moral compass falters as carries on an illicit love affair with Emiko rather than fessing up to Serizawa.
Even so, it's ultimately Ogata's morality that saves Japan from Godzilla's wrath. Seeing the suffering the monster has wrought on the country, Ogata goes to Serizawa to ask for the Oxygen Destroyer. The friends scuffle, and Ogata takes a bad bonk to the bonce, but he refuses to give up:
SERIZAWA: As a scientist—no, as a human being—adding another terrifying weapon to humanity's arsenal is something I can't allow.
OGATA: Then what do we do about the horror before us now? Just let it happen? Only you can save us from this tragedy.
Serizawa relents and decides to use the Oxygen Destroyer to end Godzilla's reign of terror. Well, unless you count the sequels, in which case, um, momentarily postpone the reign of terror? Either way, it's Ogata's decision that spurs Serizawa to do the necessary thing.
So, while Ogata may not be a traditional hero, he's definitely a type of hero. His bravery and moral character don't deliver the killing blow to Godzilla, but he leads other characters down the path that ends in victory for Japan. In a way, his bravery and morals are what take down the beast. Think of him as the casual Friday equivalent of a superhero.