Really sad to hear about Nakajima. I was lucky enough to see him in person at G-Fest in 2008; he was a really pleasant and friendly guy. I think I’ve still got the copy of G-Fan he signed back at home somewhere.
That was right about the time I was really learning more about the Godzilla series and actively seeking out the movies I hadn’t seen before; I’d been a fan since I was 5 or 6, but after the original film was released on DVD in America, I was really fascinated by all the information in the extras and became much more interested in the series and its history. Even back then, Nakajima’s performances had a really strong personality that immediately stood out to me - even though I’d only just learned who he was, his Godzilla had this distinctive swagger that was unmistakable and really compelling. The fact that he accomplished that under conditions in which most people would probably struggle to stand just makes it even more remarkable.
Nakajima made Godzilla something really special, and as sad as this is, I’m glad he was able to see it become such an enduring part of popular culture in Japan and around the world, and that he received the recognition he deserved while he was still alive. His work meant a lot to all of us, and as long as Godzilla is still around, he’ll always be remembered.