Monster Island (The Mythology of Godzilla)

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A new American version of Godzilla is coming out on May 16, and I can’t be more excited!  Despite past Americanized versions of big G being horrendous, this one looks to be pretty awesome.  It’s directed by Gareth Edwards, who did a thoughtful movie about monsters and aliens a few years back that, tho a bit threadbare, was enjoyable.
The thing that has really intrigued me is that there will be other monsters in this new movie besides Godzilla.  A look at the latest trailor reveals a fairly Mothra looking creature flying, however we have been told that Godzilla is the only Toho Studios monster to appear in this outing (tho there have also been reports that the Mothra Twins have been spotted in it).  One new monster is named Muto, and is very slick looking and space-agy (more like a Gamera enemy, really), and I assume the other is the flying monster seen in the trailors.  Only time will tell if this new Godzilla movie and his new enemies will be any good (here’s to hoping), but I wanted to take this time to focus on some of Godzilla’s past monster friends and enemies in the mythos of Toho Studios.

I’m going to skip most of the bigger monsters most people know such as Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, and Ghidorah, and focus on some of the lesser-known monsters.  I’m also only concentrating on the Showa era mythology (IE: Godzilla movies from 1954 (Gojira) to 1975 (Terror of Mechagodzilla).

King Caesar
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The Legend of the Shisa is an Okinawan story about a king who summoned a monster who looked like a hybrid between and lion and a dog to defeat a sea serpent.  Many Japanese decorations use the image of the Shisa as a good luck charm to protect their household.  Toho was inspired by the story of the Shisa to create King Caesar (also known as King Shisa and King Seesar) for their 1974 film Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (also known as Godzilla Vs. the Bionic Monster and, after the producers of the Six Million Dollar Man threatened to sue, Godzilla Vs. the Cosmic Monster).
King Caesar is the protector of the Azumi family, and could be awakened by a mystical song.  He arose to help Godzilla defeat Mechagodzilla.


Gigan
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Gigan is a cyborg created by the Nebula M aliens (who turn out to be giant cockroaches).  He is one of Godzilla’s most vicious foes, and has a buzzsaw on his stomach and hooks for hands.  The aliens use him in conjunction with King Ghidorah to destroy human civilization and colonize the earth in 1972’s Godzilla Vs. Gigan (tho they are defeated by Godzilla and Anguirus).  He returns in Godzilla Vs. Megalon to fight Godzilla and Jet Jaguar, but doesn’t return again until some of the newer Toho Godzilla films.

Gabara
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Gabara only appeared in one single Godzilla film- All Monsters Attack! (1969), which is unique in that it is unclear if he even exists, because the entire movie is a dream.  Ichiro is a boy who is routinely bullied and daydreams about living on Monster Island and being friends with Godzilla’s son Minilla.  Minilla is also tormented by a bully, the cat-like Gabara (who can channel electricity through his hands).  Despite being one of the worst Godzilla films (even tho it was directed by Ishiro Honda himself), Gabara is one of the coolest kaiju, probably inspired by a Japanese monster of folklore called an Oni (kind of a trollish type of creature).  I wish he’d appeared in more Godzilla films.

Anguirus
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Also known as Angilas, he is the second monster to ever appear in a Godzilla film (after Godzilla himself), in Godzilla Raids Again (aka Gigantis the Fire Monster) (1955).  He is a mutated ankylosaurus who gets his start fighting Godzilla.  He later helps Godzilla fight other monsters such as Gigan and King Ghidorah.He is also the only monster shown talking to Godzilla in a language humans can understand (in a word balloon in the original Japanese version, and in an English overdub in the English version). 

Megalon
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Megalon is another monster who only appeared in one Godzilla film, Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973), in which a colony of undersea dwellers (called the Seatopians) summon him to attack the surface dwellers of Earth for disrupting their lives with nuclear testing.  Megalon is an insect-like monster with a lot of powers, including the ability to shoot beams from his antennae and spit explosive bombs out of his mouth.  He and Gigan are eventually defeated by Godzilla and the giant robot Jet Jaguar.

Manda
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Manda is a gigantic dragon-esque sea serpent who actually did not get his start in a Godzilla film.  Atragon (which was also put out by Toho studios and directed by Ishiro Honda) was a very Jules Verne influenced film about a submarine (named Atrigon).  Manda appeared in it, but was later brought into the Godzilla fold when he attacks London in 1968’s Destroy All Monsters.  He’s had brief appearances in a couple of Godzilla films since then.

Varan
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Varan also got his start in a non-Godzilla movie, Varan, the Unbelievable (1958). In it, he is a god worshiped by a mountain village.  He attacks Tokyo (of course) but is dispatched.  He shows up again in Destroy All Monsters helping to fight King Ghidorah, and it is revealed he lives on Monster Island with the other kaiju.  He also appeared in a lot of Godzilla video games.

This leaves out a few more less popular monsters such as Minilla (Godzilla’s son), Titanosaurus (a water-dwelling dinosaur-like monster with a tail that could create powerful winds), Hedorah (aka the Smog Monster), Baragon (who also got his start in a different Toho series than Godzilla), and the various giant insects, arachnids, and animals  that Godzilla has fought over the years.  But the above are some of the most interesting and my favorites of Godzilla’s lesser-known rogues gallery.
I read an interview with Gareth Edwards that says that if this new Godzilla film is popular, he wants to do a new version of Destroy All Monsters! next, which would be awesome.  Here’s to Godzilla being back on the big screen!
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