Introduction to my final paper on explorations of the cultural and urban design connections of Godzilla in Tokyo.
History shows again and again
How nature points out the folly of man.
Go, go, Godzilla!
Blue Oyster Cult
Godzilla is likely among the most famous of fictional characters every created. It’s name needs no introduction to a people around the world, regardless if that person has seen a Godzilla film or not. The character is celebrated, mocked, lampooned, imitated and studied in media across all spectra, and it has spawned a franchise of creative works spanning film, television, books, comics, manga, video games, music, amusement rides, food and even merchandise. The name Godzilla itself has become a word in the Oxford dictionary, and the term -zilla a suffix used to denote a massive version of something. It’s become a symbol of Japan and frequently used to succinctly represent Japanese culture in a single icon.
The core of the creative franchise are the 29 Japanese produced Godzilla films and 3 (and counting) American films. Beginning in 1954 they range from horrific visions of destruction and allegory for nuclear weapons to B-grade family sci-fi action films. Godzilla itself is regularly redesigned or substantially different from film to film, even growing more than twice as large over the course of the series.
Godzilla’s most common ‘stomping’ ground is the city of Tokyo and its surroundings, and the city is as much a character in the films as the creature itself. It provides a backdrop that is a slice of reality within the film series, portraying the urban fabric of the metropolis in a frequently accurate and detailed way. Specific major landmarks and structures are featured, but so are smaller neighbourhoods, bridges, rail networks, infrastructure and day-to-day realities of life in Tokyo. With the frequency of films released it becomes possible to see Tokyo change as much as Godzilla has overtime. The city has grown up along with the creature and has become as much a part of its skyline as Tokyo Tower.
Its with this in mind that you can begin to see how Godzilla has influenced the urban fabric of Tokyo in very real ways, and now Tokyo has influenced the character of Godzilla in the films. Also why Godzilla has come to be a representation and celebrated citizen of Tokyo and Japan itself.