This video essay focuses on the ways in which Shin Godzilla returns the franchise to its Japanese origins after a 12 year absence of Japanese made Godzilla films. Released in 2016, Shin Godzilla was created in the aftermath of Gareth Edwards’ 2014 film Godzilla, which entirely relocated the narrative and the character from its Japanese origins to its new found American home. Due to the success of the 2014 American entry into the franchise, Godzilla’s position as a national icon was temporarily lost. While William Tsutsui attributes the continued success of Godzilla to “the ever shifting metaphor behind (it)” the metaphorical nature of Godzilla appears to be largely lost within the American context. The big budget Hollywood versions of Godzilla forgo what Barak Kushner describes in reference to the original, its ability to act “like a social catharsis, aiding individuals in venting their long-repressed fears.” Instead these modern interpretations seem to focus on action and spectacle. While this is still clearly present in Shin Godzilla, it is not foregrounded in quite the same way, due to the extensive political scenes that make up a bulk of the films run time.
In this video essay I posit that Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s 2016 film does more than simply return the narrative to Japan, despite the fact that the film clearly stresses its Japanese location constantly. The film is a clear satire on Japanese politics, offering a return to the initially political nature of Honda’s 1954 film that is missing from the American offering to the Godzilla canon. I also posit that the film offers an entirely unique representation of the character of Godzilla, while reclaiming much of what made it meaningful in its original context, such as its response to national tragedy. The version of the kaiju present within this film is unlike any other, offering a uniquely terrifying display of a character many have come to know as a hero.
It is within Shin Godzilla’s national pride, and its wholly unique characterization of a well-known character, that I argue the film shines above the Legendary Pictures Godzilla films. It uses a knowledge of Godzilla’s past to set up a well informed and creatively open future for the franchise. The visual and narrative improvements over the previous Japanese installments in the franchise show how the cultural place of Godzilla has changed in the years between 1954 and 2016, and even between 2004 and 2016. Shin Godzilla has set out how Godzilla should be, using its past and Japan’s present to return Godzilla to its position as a Japanese cultural icon, functioning similarly to Honda’s social catharsis film from 1954 but in response to the tragedies of the modern time. The film uses the interactions between this understanding of the past, and awareness of the present, to offer up a new formula for kaiju movies, a deeply political artifact that can instill fear, grief, hope and joy throughout one film.
Kushner, Barak, “Gojira as Japan’s First Postwar Media Event”, in William Tsutsui and Michiko Ito (ed.), In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 44
Tsutsui, William, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of the Monsters (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); quoted in Nathaniel J. Dominy and Ryan Calsbeek, “A Movie Monster Evolves, Fed by Fear”, Science Vol. 364, Issue. 6443 (31 May 2019) pp. 840-841.
 William Tsutsui, Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of the Monsters (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004); quoted in Nathaniel J. Dominy and Ryan Calsbeek, “A Movie Monster Evolves, Fed by Fear”, Science Vol. 364, Issue. 6443 (31 May 2019) pp. 840-841.
 Barak Kushner, “Gojira as Japan’s First Postwar Media Event”, in William Tsutsui and Michiko Ito (ed.), In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 44