Tag Archives: Shin Godzilla

Luke Brown — ‘Shin Godzilla: The Return of a King’

Video Essay:

Creator’s Statement:

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)”[1] 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.”[2] 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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

The Practice of Film Criticism Podcast: Luke Brown and Lily Edwardes-Hill on Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016)

Luke Brown and Lily Edwardes-Hill get together for a stimulating exploration of Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno & Shinji Higuchi, 2016), the first Japanese Godzilla film since 2004, and a considerable financial and critical success: it was made for 15 million and grossed 78 million whilst also winning the equivalent of Japan’s Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. The podcast discusses how it differs from the American Godzilla films; how it may be seen as a response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster. The conversation explores how the film fits into the Godzilla canon and how it departs from it, arguing that narratively it mainly shrugs off the canon but nonetheless cites it with visual references and particularly through its use of music. Luke and Lily discuss the meaning of the film’s title in Japanese and why the English translation was ultimately rejected as a title for international release. Luke argues that it is a film about Tokyo and about Japan and that in this iteration there is a return to Japan as a place and as a people with, ultimately, a belief in the establishment and the ability of the people to deal with disasters; a film that is very aware of Godzilla’s past and present and also that of Japan, one with unique attributes, but also exhibiting a return to themes of climate change and nuclear technologies missing in a lot of recent reiterations of the character. There is, of course, also a discussion of CGI, models, etc. A podcast worth listening to, and you may do so here:

José Arroyo

Luke Brown on Shin Godzilla (

Shin Godzilla Review

by Luke Brown


From a terrifying metaphor for unspeakable horrors, to a friendly protector, to an undead embodiment of the souls lost at war, Godzilla has gone through many iterations in its lifespan. Shin Godzilla redefines the character once again, shaping Godzilla into an unstoppable force of nature. Unlike other versions, this Godzilla does not act out of pre-determined thought, but rather animalistic instinct. Shin Godzilla (Hideaki Anno, Japan, 2016) returns to the roots of the characterization of Godzilla, the creature being mutated due to radiation, however, in a modern world this takes the shape of radioactive waste dumped into Tokyo Bay rather than nuclear weapons testing. Not only does this function to update the character to represent more topical, modern-day fears, but also reclaims a back-story seemingly lost amongst the many adaptations. There are scenes throughout the film that directly mirror news footage of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, that took place in 2011. Once again these scenes function to reclaim the identity that Godzilla originally had: a monstrous, physical representation of the horrors that have beset Japan.

While the film functions as a national catharsis, it also functions as a scathing indictment of the countries government. There are numerous scenes throughout the film that display the comical levels of bureaucracy present in Japanese government, meetings adjourning only for all the present parties to move to another room to begin a different meeting, a ludicrous amount of people needing to give permission for action to be taken. It is clear that Hideaki Anno, the films writer and one of its directors, has very little faith in the government’s ability to aid its own citizens, which was one of the greatest critiques of the nation following the previously mentioned disasters in 2011.

Shin Godzilla may, at first, appear to be a dire, mournful film, but it is also quite clearly one full of hope and national pride. When the shackles of bureaucracy are shed, the Japanese people unite in order to find a way to save their country from further destruction, just as was seen in Godzilla (1954). The film has a clear pride in Japan’s ability to rise up after even the most devastating events have occurred, and it’s people’s ability to repair that which has been destroyed.

Shin Godzilla is not only interesting for its narrative, however, but the visual effects that are present in the film warrant note as well. While the American’s had, at the time of release, already released two Godzilla films utilising computer graphics, Shin Godzilla is the first Japanese film in the franchise to create an entirely CGI Godzilla. While miniatures are still used throughout the film, the King of the Monsters himself is created through motion capture and CGI, the tradition of men in rubber suits done away with entirely. Shin Godzilla both updates and reclaims the character in ways that are reminiscent of its past, while being aware of Japan’s present, ushering in a new era of Japanese Godzilla films.


Luke Brown