Alongside Superman and Mickey Mouse, Godzilla is one of the most famous fictional characters in history. He has been featured in movies, books, TV shows, and games, and has come to be known as the “King of the Monsters.” This beast from the ocean was actually created by a Japanese soldier, who similarly faced a different type of beast from the sea.
Godzilla is usually depicted as a towering reptilian sea monster that is fueled by radiation. The monster was awoken by nuclear radiation and often behaves like a force of nature unconcerned with human quarrels. Godzilla started out as a fearsome adversary to humanity, but over time has been shown to be capable of allying with humans and assisting them against a common enemy.
At the time of his creation atomic power had recently been unleashed on Japan, and Godzilla in many ways is a metaphor of the unbelievable power of nature and the atom. Others believe Godzilla represents the United States, which was awoken from its slumber and devastated Japan from the sea.
Ishiro Honda was one of Godzilla’s co-creators. He was born in Japan on 7 May 1911 and by the 1930s was an up-and-coming film director, working under famous director Kajiro Yamamoto. However in 1934 Honda received a draft notice from the military, being called into duty in early 1935.
The following year his commanding officer staged a failed coup against the government. Although Honda wasn’t personally involved in the coup, he and his regiment were sent away as they were considered dangerous and untrustworthy.
In 1939 he participated in Japan’s invasion of China, although he is often regarded to be a relatively reluctant member of the military. In 1944 he was meant to serve in the Philippines, but he missed his boat and as a result remained in China, where the war was a lot less vicious for the Japanese compared to the Pacific Theater. In total, he spent six years at war over three tours.
Between his tours, he would pursue his pre-war love for movies, although he noted that most films produced in Japan mainly served as propaganda.
During his service, Honda reportedly held no dislikes for the Chinese and treated them fairly, but in 1945 he was captured by Chinese troops. He was imprisoned in China for the next year, where he would come to learn about Japan’s surrender and the devastating atomic bombings.
When he returned to Japan he visited Hiroshima, one of the two cities that were attacked by atomic bombs. He eventually moved back into his work on the big screen where he was known to film shoots among the ruins and rubble of Japanese cities.
After directing a number of projects, Honda received the opportunity to direct a new film called Gojira. The movie was to feature a giant monster and themes that targeted the nation’s then-current fears of atomic weapons.
This monster would become Godzilla.
Some people scoffed at the idea as they deemed it silly and unworthy of attention, but when it was released in 1954 the film was a smash-hit, setting numerous records and sparking the longest movie franchise in history. Even internationally the movie was a massive success.
Honda’s first-hand experiences of war and his open condemnation of Japan’s wartime leaders and decisions helped the film become a truly captivating spectacle.
After this film’s success, he carried on in the movie-making business and contributed to the creation of the kaiju genre and other popular characters like Mothra and Rodan. He passed away in 1993 at the age of 81 after a long and successful career making movies.