What grades did you have in school? (and did you learn by the 1-5 grading system?)
I honestly don’t remember. I had decent grades, the only subject I ever failed was, uh.. horse.. knowledge? I don’t know, horse stuff, but only because of one test on parasites and diseases :P
Other than that I passed everything, and no we had IG (fail), G (pass), VG (well done) and MVG (very well done). I hovered in the G-VG for maths, sports, history and religion areas with a few MVG in languages (english/swedish) and science I think.
A Japanese perspective on imagery in Mothra vs Godzilla
Great job on the podcast, guys, I just recently started listening as I am midway through my own non-chronological run through the bulk of Godzilla films. I was glad to see you both enjoyed Mothra vs Godzilla as much as I did. It is one of the very best in my opinion also. I just wanted to add a little wrinkle from my Japanese cultural background that might not be obvious but might make MvG that much more poignant to the non-Japanese observer.
Two points to make, really…
One: The scene when the kindergarten/primary school teacher is fleeing Godzilla with the pupils to the other side of the island.
This scene, needless to say, is incredibly affecting just on the surface of it. The scene sells the high stakes - losing innocent children to the monster (rather than just greedy/stupid fishermen and their homes) and the manic desperation of the headmaster ashore on the mainland. However, in addition to that, some cultural background makes this scene even more chilling. By way of explanation, first, indulge me a short paragraph of history.
During WWII, Japan’s battlefront with the US was mainly aerial bombing of strategic targets, and the main ground warfare avenues were in Japan’s imperial conquests, the Pacific islands, famously Guadalcanal in the Solomons. The only time US-Japanese forces clashed on either country’s home turf was in the closing stages of the war when American forces reached Okinawa. For the first time civilians were forced to reckon with a physical enemy presence in their towns and homes, and the self-sacrificing, brainwashed nature of contemporary Japanese society would manifest in unimaginably awful incidents.
You can Google “Okinawa children mass suicides” for details (Reuters, The Guardian, NY Times have covered it), but in a nutshell, the military would hand out two grenades to classroom teachers to use when cornered - one to throw at the enemy, and the other to commit suicide instead of being taken alive. On small islands like in the Okinawa archipelago, there’s only so far you can run before the enemy catches you.
Of course, the Godzilla movies are no stranger to stoic death (the family in the 1954 original accepting their fate at the mercy of Godzilla so that they could meet their deceased father comes to mind) but the mechanics of this scene really stand out to me as the product of deliberate, conscious choices:
• The fact that the scene plays out on an island, with the mainlanders unable to offer support to the women and children - an obvious reference to Okinawa’s physical separation from mainland Japan
• The children, crying as their female teachers console them, are forced to grow up before their time, being made to “march” over a steep hill to get to the far side of the island
• Godzilla, the embodiment of atomic might (wielded by the United States over Hiroshima & Nagasaki in the context of WWII) is the force of doom
• The children and teachers hide in a cave on a sandy beach - in popular culture, the child and infant suicides from WWII are often depicted taking place in hiding spots at the edges of islands - usually stone cliffs and coastal caves
Even without straying from the text of the film, the scene is an emotionally wrenching one, but with the added historical and cultural background (women and children in peril at a coastal cave), the effect is a bone-chilling pathos and dread.
(sorry if that got a bit heavy!) Now for the second point, which I swear will be shorter…
Two: the Japan-specificity of the criticism of (a) theme park construction and (b) over-development of coastlines.
As you’re doubtless aware, in the immediate post-war period following the rewriting of the new demilitarised constitution in 1947, Japan experienced high economic growth, basically from the 1950s through the 1980s. This included wholesale embrace of American pop cultural entertainment-business products such as the movie studio system, Disney and Warner mascot characters, and theme parks.
Even today, Japanese theme parks and extreme rides rank highly in international lists of extreme rides, and Tokyo Disneyland was the first Disneyland in Asia, even before Hong Kong or Singapore, international playgrounds of the Asian affluent. I appreciate you touched on the criticism of capitalism, but I might just add that theme parks are particularly central to Japanese society as an affordable entertainment venue.
Lastly, I’m not sure if you’ve been to Japan, but many coastlines are covered in concrete “tetrapods” as a measure against coastal erosion and tsunamis. These sorts of large-scale, concrete-heavy (in many cases) white elephant projects in rural areas came under intense criticism, especially in the 1990s, as it was revealed that many projects had been fronts for yakuza-related local government corruption. It was also in the 1990s that many opulent theme parks that had sprung up in economically unviable situations in the 1960s through the 1980s went out of business and decayed (the inevitable hangover from three decades of heady development).
The principled messaging of Mothra vs Godzilla, and its optimistic depiction of the idea that the press could influence the people for good, should be commended, especially with a view to how specifically Japanese the major social-economic problems raised in the film are.
Anyway, sorry about the long message. Keep up the good work! Loving the podcast.
“I’ve been killing trees for 25 years […], but I never brought one back from the grave before. I did, Becky! Momma’s gonna build her first damn Frankentree. I’m gonna call my little creation the Lazarus Vector. Maybe it’ll bring the old gal’s career back from the dead as well.”