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Godzilla: The Soul of Japan Explores the Politics of Monsters

by  in Movie News Comment
Godzilla: The Soul of Japan Explores the Politics of Monsters

KaptainKristian, aka Kristian Williams, has debuted a fascinating new video that explores the history of Godzilla, focusing on American edits to the 1954 Japanese original “Gojira.”

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Directed by Ishirō Honda with special effects by Eiji Tsuburaya, “Gojira” “gave form to [a] persistent fear of nuclear destruction, a fear that was still very much alive in Japan” – and, Williams argues, made “one of the boldest political statements ever put to film.”

He walks through many of Honda and Tsuburaya’s political and aesthetic choices, and reveals how changes and reshoots by the American distributor remove almost all of the political context and poignancy. He includes scene-by-scene comparisons and insights into the design of Godzilla himself.

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As Williams summarizes, the original was “a product of and a response to oppression and tragedy and censorship, and what [the American] version did was censor the oppression, trivialize the tragedy and introduce an American perspective to an experience that is very specifically Japanese without understanding it. The film was designed to be a nuclear allegory, so when it’s stripped of its message, all that’s left is a dinosaur stomping on buildings.”

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