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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Portraying the Horrors of Nuclear Weapons Testing and the Hubris of Man

[From January Issue 2012]

DVD cover. 97 minutes. 4,725 yen
「ゴジラ<昭和29年度作品>」
DVD発売中 ¥4,725(税込) 発売・販売元:東宝

 

Godzilla (Directed by HONDA Ishiro)

Produced and released in 1954, “Godzilla” is now the most well-known monster movie in the world. When it was released in the U.S.A., France, Italy and other countries, it became a huge hit. Up until now 30 Godzilla movies have been produced. In 1988 a Hollywood remake of “Godzilla” was made and another U.S. version is currently being made.

The year the movie was released is also known as the fateful year in which U.S. forces carried out nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll; during that time the crew of a Japanese fishing boat was exposed to radiation. With this news in the public consciousness, the movie contained a strong message against H-bomb testing. One of the other notable features of the movie is the hand-made feel of the pre-CGI production techniques which utilized an actor wearing a Godzilla suit, model buildings and vehicles.

The movie begins by showing ships sinking one after another out on the open sea in the Pacific. At first the cause of these incidents is unknown. A survivor, who manages to return home to his island, speaks of being exposed to flames from a gigantic fire-breathing monster. Except for an old man who feels that this might be the legendary sea monster Godzilla, people do not believe the survivor’s story. The old man warns that the monster sometimes comes on shore to feed on livestock and people.

Just after this, Godzilla, standing more than 50 meters tall, arrives on the shores of the island and begins destroying homes and attacking people. The government promptly sends a team to the island to investigate. Right after biologist YAMANE Kyouhei and his staff detect radiation coming from a giant footprint, Godzilla again rises out of the sea. When the press corps, which has accompanied the team to the island, report back on these events, people are terrified to hear of the existence of Godzilla.

Yamane speculates that this is a monster from the age of dinosaurs that has been living at the bottom of the sea and that the repeated H-bomb tests have expelled it from its lair. He insists that they should study the monster without killing it. Just then, Godzilla arrives in Tokyo. When the giant beast walks, the earth rumbles. Buildings and railroads are stomped on and crushed. Many human lives are lost. Godzilla swings his tail and continues his path of destruction. He breathes fire and reduces large areas to burnt out ruins.

While depth charges and guns are no match for Godzilla, the final weapon they try is the “oxygen destroyer.” This was accidentally invented by SERIZAWA Daisuke, Yamane’s assistant. The weapon releases a chemical in the water which de-oxidizes the water, thus killing marine life. Serizawa, who is worried about the weapon being misused in the same way as nuclear power, burns the blueprints. To make sure he kills Godzilla, he dons a diving suit and goes underwater with the chemical weapon himself.

Affected by the chemical, Godzilla howls and sinks to the bottom of the sea. In order to erase the blueprints from his mind, Serizawa cuts the umbilical cord and the oxygen tube of his diving suit. Though they’ve seen the last of Godzilla, people can’t rejoice. They say a silent prayer for Serizawa, who sacrificed his life. 


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