Godzilla is famous the world over, but the film has an extra special place in the hearts of the Japanese. This big beastie speaks to the nation, and they've been listening for more than 60 years, amounting to roughly 30 films. But how did a B-rated monster flick strike such a resounding chord?
Godzilla was originally released in 1954, a trying time in the nation's history. Less than a decade after the nuclear bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a mere two years after the end of the U.S. occupation, Japan was trying to reinterpret what it meant to be Japanese.
Enter Godzilla. An allegory for nuclear weapons, Godzilla provided the opportunity for the Japanese to revisit its recent and tragic history and to posit a new path forward for the second half of the 20th century.
Oh, and later films would have Godzilla battle other giant monsters in royal rumbles scaled up to apocalyptic proportions. And what's not to love about that, right?
Questions About Visions of Japan
- Do you think it is possible for Godzilla to be as effective in anti-nuclear weapon message to non-Japanese audiences? Why or why not?
- Now, imagine Godzilla made by an American studio for a Western audience. How would it be different? The same?
- The film mentions several other countries, but no one from those countries appear in the film. Why do you suppose this is?
Chew on This
Godzilla's skin was designed to look like it was burned, a reference to the keloid scars of victims who suffered similar wounds at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese word for keloid victim is hibakusha, literally "those who were bombed" (Source)
Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo includes the destruction of several of the city's landmarks, including the Wako department store and the National Diet Building. This brought it home even more to Japanese audiences.