armor mothra

The Kolor of Kaiju: Part 1

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 culture.

King of the Monsters

Eat a breath mint, dude.

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 second color.

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 again.

Gentle Giant

*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 White trait.

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.

Godzilla, 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.

Flappy Bird

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 its way.

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.

Intergalactic Planetary

Remember when 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 races.

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.

*BONUS* The Star-Crossed Lovers

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. Lovebugs? Lovebugs.

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 Crumble

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 on.

So, I really don't understand why it's so hard for some people to grasp that there are NO RETURNING TOHO KAIJU IN GODZILLA BESIDES GODZILLA.

The monsters in this film are as follows:

  • Godzilla
  • Hokmuto
  • Femuto

Come on people get your shit together. Here is a list of all the kaiju who will not be appearing:

  • Anguirus

  • Snowman

  • Meganulon

  • Rodan

  • Moguera

  • Varan

  • Orochi

  • Vampire Plant

  • Mothra

  • Maguma

  • Giant Lizard

  • Oodako Giant Octopus

  • King Kong (Toho)

  • Matango

  • Manda

  • Dogora

  • King Ghidorah

  • Frankenstein

  • Baragon

  • Gaira

  • Sanda

  • Ebirah

  • Mechani-Kong

  • Gorosaurus

  • Giant Sea Serpent

  • Kamacuras Gimantis

  • Minilla Minya

  • Kumonga Spiega

  • Gabara

  • Maneater

  • Gezora

  • Ganimes

  • Kamoebas

  • Hedorah

  • Gigan

  • Jet Jaguar

  • Megalon

  • Mechagodzilla

  • King Caesar

  • Titanosaurus

  • Shockirus

  • Biollante

  • Dorats

  • Godzillasaurus

  • Mecha-King Ghidorah

  • Battra

  • Godzilla Junior

  • Fire Rodan

  • Mechagodzilla 2 Super-Mechagodzilla

  • SpaceGodzilla

  • Kumasogami

  • Kaishin Muba

  • Amano Shiratori

  • Utsuno Ikusogami

  • Destoroyah

  • Fairy (Fairy Mothra)

  • Garu

  • Desghidorah

  • Mothra Leo

  • Ghogo

  • Dagahra Dagarla

  • Barem

  • Rainbow Mothra

  • Aqua Mothra

  • Primitive Mothra

  • Armor Mothra

  • Eternal Mothra

  • Zilla (Toho)

  • Baby Zillas

  • Orga

  • Meganula

  • Megaguirus

  • Kiryu

  • Monster X

  • Keizer Ghidorah Monster X II