For about as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of
giant monster movies. In my earliest memory, I’m sitting on the floor watching
a copy of Godzilla vs. Megalon I
rented from the video store (You parents will tell you about those one day,
kiddos.) Kaiju films reared me in a world that quickly moved online to the
World Wide Web, a haven where fans like me could connect over what was largely
an esoteric genre in America.
Today I wanted to tap into this seemingly ancient part of
my nerdom and begin what will be quite a long series that looks at the color
identities of various giant monsters.
While many studios have touched the genre in the last
century, few have embraced it and influenced on a grander scale than Toho,
Japan’s largest production company. Their creations are global icons that have
become synonyms for the genre, the industry, and Japan itself. I feel it would
only be appropriate to begin this series with a look at the kaiju known as
Toho’s “Big Five,” their most popular creations that have survived decades of
King of the
Eat a breath mint,
There is no argument; Godzilla is the iconiest icon of
all kaiju films. Starring in more than thirty films, multiple television
series, video games, toys, collectibles, art, parody, and on and on and on,
Godzilla is the core of the genre and obviously the first monster to deal with.
But what is Godzilla actually about?
In most appearances, Godzilla holds fast to his origins
as a primal force awoken by nuclear weapons. He is nature’s retaliation against
the technological hubris of humanity. An unstoppable behemoth of destruction
impervious to harm. At his core, Godzilla is as Green as it gets (Ironically,
he’s almost never literally green, but gray.) He even boasts one of Green’s
core mechanics, regeneration.
Godzilla is also a sea monster, however, so I could see a
flavor reason to make him Blue too. Blue shares the largest creatures in the
game with Green, so it’s not that much of a stretch to push him into this
Here’s the thing: you don’t headline moves for over sixty
years and keep everything the same. As Godzilla’s popularity surged with
children, Toho started to turn the character into more of a superhero than a
vengeful menace. From the late ‘60s through the ‘70s, Godzilla took a more
Green/White role as a defender of the earth. Such a role was also used in
cartoon series as well.
Modern interpretations of Godzilla push him back towards
the nuclear menace role, but he’s still occasionally an antihero that ends up
saving the world from a worse monster. With a new Japanese film released next
month and Legendary Pictures with plans for an entire Godzilla franchise over
the next few years, I’m sure the character will be reimagined in new ways once
*angry moth noises*
Almost as recognizable as Godzilla is Mothra, the
incredible insect that starred in her own film before duking it out with
Godzilla (and later becoming his friend). Despite all her various incarnations,
Mothra has changed very little as a character over the years. No matter what
film you’re watching, Mothra is a guardian of peace.
Guardian roles tend to fall into White, which is where
Mothra ends up. She’s all about fighting bad guys and protecting the people of
Infant Island in her first film. Mothra later gets Godzilla and Rodan to work
together to fight against the evil King Ghidorah; forming alliances is another
Many of Mothra’s powers are also White. She’s willing to
sacrifice herself in order to defeat the enemy, a classic martyr move that
White likes. Her signature attack involves shedding her scales to disable
Godzilla and stall for time. Classic White tapper. In Godzilla vs. Mothra, these scales are even reflective, bouncing
Godzilla’s beam back into his own face.
Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (hereafter
referred to as GMK) brought a different spin on this guardian role.
While Mothra still embodies many of these White traits, she’s also a nature
guardian. That pushes her into Green/White territory.
And then there’s the Rebirth
of Mothra trilogy, which just has to be different than any other Mothra
canon. Momma Mothra dies and we watch the baby, Mothra Leo, grow up into a
formidable force to be reckoned with. His powers in the first film may stray
into Green/White, given his ability to almost instantly regrow huge swaths of
woodland. Transformations abound! Aqua Mothra and Lightspeed Mothra from the
sequels tap into Blue flavor as well. Armor Mothra and Eternal Mothra seem to
go back to the classic mono-White.
The real eldritch moon!?
Another monster with a solo films before joining the
Godzilla franchise, Rodan is a gigantic pterosaur that can fly at supersonic
speeds and unleash mighty sonic booms against those unlucky enough to get in
Like Godzilla, the Rodans (yes, the original film has a
double dose of titular terror) were reawakened through humanity’s impact on the
environment. This time, however, coal mining is to blame. The Rodans, a mating
pair, erupt from the mine and wreak havoc on populated areas. Green is at it
once again, punishing humans for their treatment of nature.
Despite their Green motives, however, the Rodans tend to
use Red means. They are supersonic fliers (Flying + haste is a trait usually
seen on Dragons and Phoenixes.) The tragic end of the film solidifies the
Rodans as Red/Green characters. Attacked at their volcanic nest, one of the
Rodan’s falls to its death in a lava flow. Deciding not to live without its
mate, the other Rodan sacrifices itself by diving into the lava too. Such love
is the embodiment of Red sacrifice.
Like Godzilla, Rodan eventually became one of the good
kaiju, defending the Earth from other monsters. That shift in the character
pushes it to Red/White (White goal with Red means).
Rodan’s later appearances in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1993) and Godzilla: Final Wars lack both the environmental allegory and the
guardianship, leaving Rodan as a mono-Red character. Fitting for his ‘90s
incarnation, who takes the name “Fire Rodan” after developing a heat ray
similar to Godzilla’s.
Ghidorah shot Godzilla in the crotch? Classy.
If Godzilla has an arch-nemesis, it’s the space dragon,
King Ghidorah. An alien menace that destroys planets for fun, King Ghidorah has
faced off against Godzilla more than any other foe.
Big dragon that spits lightning? We’re already frontloading
the Red identity of King Ghidorah. His wanton sense of destruction also seems
to align with Red as well. Is Ghidorah Black in his original appearance also? I
don’t think so. He doesn’t stick around on the planets he destroys nor does he
seem to have any desire to conquer them as a new leader. Destruction is the
only goal here. See spells like Obliterate and Worldfire to understand this
attitude in Red. Some kaiju just want to watch the world burn. It’s probably this
lack of ambition that lead to King Ghidorah’s enslavement by multiple alien
Things changed for King Ghidorah in the ‘90s, as he was
no longer an alien. Instead, King Ghidorah was created by time travelers who
brought genetically engineered creatures to the site of the atomic bombings
that created Godzilla. Instead of Godzilla being created from a leftover
dinosaur, King Ghidorah was born. The monster was controlled by the time
travelers in order to destroy Japan. When Ghidorah broke out of that control,
however, we saw the same chaotic destruction and willpower from his earlier
incarnation. Still Red.
But then the barely-alive corpse is rebuilt hundreds of
years in the future. The cyborg is imbued with time-traveling abilities and
sent back to combat the new, larger Godzilla that has been created with modern
nuclear weapons. Mecha King Ghidorah keeps the lighting-spewing dragonosity of
the monster while showing off a very Blue-aligned technological side.
Things change one again in GMK, as King Ghidorah is now a good guy.
Yeah. Weird. Lightning attacks and being a dragon still put him in Red, but his
role as a guardian kaiju definitely adds another color. In the film, he’s a
nature guardian protecting Japan (the dirt, not the country) from the terrible
power of Godzilla (AKA humanity’s hubris). Like Mothra, this puts a Green spin
on the character.
Speaking of Mothra, Ghidorah also shows up in the Rebirth of Mothra
trilogy. Desghidorah in the first film feeds off natural energy and unleashing
deadly pyromantic attacks. This is the Black/Red look for the character. Grand
King Ghidorah in the third film is back to the classic lightning beams, but
also feeds on the life force of children. Once again, this incarnation of
Ghidorah is Black/Red.
Tired of Ghidorah yet?
He makes one final appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars
(ha) as Keizer Ghidorah, the final form of the mysterious Monster X. We see a
Black/Red character once again, as this Ghidorah has a vampiric bite that
nearly drains Godzilla of all his energy. Keizer Ghidorah is also the ace-in-the-hole
for an alien race looking to conquer Earth, finally exhibiting the Black side
that the original King Ghidorah lacked.
Big bada boom.
While Mechani-Kong did the robotic duplicate thing first,
history has been kinder to Mechagodzilla. The machine has seen three different
incarnations, one in each era of Godzilla storytelling.
The original Mechagodzilla was built in the ‘70s by the
Simians, an ape-like race of aliens looking to relocate as their planet drifts
into a black hole. A technological terror, Mechagodzilla first parades around
with fake skin to look like the real Godzilla. Only after encountering the true
king does the alien menace reveal their weapon. Deception and destruction are
the tools in Mechagodzilla’s arsenal, solidifying it as a Blue/Black monster.
Mechagodzilla returns in the ‘90s as a product of a
United Nations effort to stop Godzilla once and for all. It boasts synthetic
diamond armor that absorbs Godzilla’s heat ray and fires it back at him.
Classic White move, which aligns with the robot’s mission of protecting
civilization. No longer a vessel of conquest, Mechagodzilla is a military
machine built with science and hope. The forethought and sophistication of the
robot make it a White/Blue character.
Finally there’s Kiryu, the codename given to the
Mechagodzilla built in the ‘00s. This time it’s built on the skeleton of the
original Godzilla, utilizing a DNA communication process to give the robot a
fighting style similar to the monster it’s replicating. Technology usurps
nature in a White/Blue machine once again, which even boasts an ice-flavored
weapon called the Absolute Zero Cannon. The Green vs. Blue conflict of nature
vs. nurture is put on display in the film, as Kiryu constantly ignores its
commands and goes on a Godzilla-esque rampage of its own (triggered by Godzilla’s
roar). In the end, the skeleton within Kiryu wins command of the being,
becoming a Bant character that grabs Godzilla and drags him down to the inky
depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Plutonium: the way
into every woman’s heart.
While Legendary Pictures’s Godzilla is still in somewhat recent memory (and because this
section will be quick), I guess I’ll be nice and touch on these lovebirds.
Like Godzilla, the Muto are prehistoric monsters that
feed on radioactivity. Awoken by mining activity, they quickly adapted to
modern life by feeding on nuclear energy. They wanna make some babies too,
since that what animals do. Eat, bang, repeat. Since the Muto are basically
just wild animals, they’re squarely in Green. And I do mean squarely; look at
all those angles!
Get Ready to
You may already have begun to identity a few character
tropes arising from today’s article. One is the prehistoric monster awoken by
humanity’s hubris, a trope that existed long before Gojira was released in 1954. The ‘60s and ‘70s saw a rise in the
alien foe in Japanese kaiju films, another trope that has been popular in the
genre. As I continue this series, you’ll see these patterns consistently
influencing the films of every country from every era. You’ll even see a few
more pop up.
Until next time, planeswalkers, try not to get stepped