Godzilla battles the JSDF in a publicity photo for his debut movie
|Species||Amphibious Sea Monster|
|First appearance:||Godzilla (1954)|
|Latest appearance:||Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)|
|Created by:||Tomoyuki Tanaka, Ishiro Honda, Eiji Tsubaraya, Akira Watanabe|
|Height:||50–100 meters (164–328 feet)|
|Portrayed by:||Shōwa Series:
Godzilla (ゴジラ Gojira ) (//; [ɡoꜜdʑiɽa] ( listen)) is a kaiju (Japanese giant monster), first appearing in Ishirō Honda's 1954 film Godzilla. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd.. The monster has appeared in numerous other media incarnations including video games, novels, comic books, and television series. A 1998 American reimagining was produced and a second American version is currently undergoing principal photography. He is commonly referred to as the King of the Monsters.
With the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident still fresh in the Japanese consciousness, Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. As the film series expanded, some stories took on less serious undertones portraying Godzilla as a hero while other plots still portrayed Godzilla as a destructive monster; sometimes the lesser of two threats who plays the defender by default but is still a danger to humanity.
Gojira (ゴジラ) is a portmanteau of the Japanese words: gorira (ゴリラ?, "gorilla"), and kujira (鯨（クジラ）?, "whale"), which is fitting because in one planning stage, Godzilla was described as "a cross between a gorilla and a whale", alluding to his size, power and aquatic origin. One popular story is that "Gojira" was actually the nickname of a corpulent stagehand at Toho Studio. The story has not been verified, however, and, in the nearly sixty years since the film's original release, no one claiming to be the rumored employee has ever stepped forward nor have any photographs ever surfaced. Kimi Honda (the widow of Ishiro Honda) always suspected that the man never existed as she mentioned in a 1998 interview, "The backstage boys at Toho loved to joke around with tall stories".
Godzilla's name was written in man'yōgana as Gojira (呉爾羅?), where the kanji are used for phonetic value and not for meaning. Many Japanese books on Godzilla have referenced this curious fact, including B Media Books Special: Gojira Gahô, published by Take-Shobo in three different editions (1993, 1998, and 1999).
The Japanese pronunciation of the name is [ɡodʑiɽa] ( listen); the Anglicized form is //, with the first syllable pronounced like the word "god", and the rest rhyming with "gorilla". When Godzilla was created, Japanese-to-English transliteration was less familiar, so it is possible that the kana representing the second syllable was misinterpreted as [dzi]. In the Hepburn romanization system, Godzilla's name would have been rendered as "Gojira", whereas in the Kunrei romanization system it would have been rendered as "Gozira".
Character overview and development
Although the specific details of Godzilla's appearance have varied slightly over the years, the overall impression has remained consistent. Inspired by the fictional Rhedosaurus created by animator Ray Harryhausen for the film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Godzilla's iconic character design was conceived as that of an amphibious reptilian monster based around the loose concept of a dinosaur with an erect standing posture, scaly skin, an anthropomorphic torso with muscular arms, spikes on its back and tail, and a furrowed brow. Art director Akira Watanabe combined attributes of a Tyrannosaurus, an Iguanodon, a Stegosaurus and an alligator to form a sort of blended chimera, inspired by illustrations from an issue of Life magazine. To emphasise the monster's relationship with the atomic bomb, its skin texture was inspired by the keloid scars seen on Hiroshima's survivors. Godzilla's appearance has traditionally been portrayed in the films by an actor wearing a latex costume, though the character has also been rendered in animatronic, stop-motion and computer-generated form. Godzilla has a distinctive roar, which was created by composer Akira Ifukube, who produced the sound by rubbing a resin coated glove along the string of a contrabass and then slowing down the playback. The original costume was painted brown, though Godzilla has also been depicted as black, grey or green.
Godzilla's gender has been a subject of confusion for English-speaking audiences. In the original Japanese films, Godzilla and all the other monsters are referred to with gender-neutral pronouns such as "it", while in the English dubs, Godzilla is explicitly described as a male, such as in the title of the English dub of the original film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. The confusion over Godzilla's gender likely stems from the 1998 Hollywood remake, in which the titular character (subsequently known as Zilla) was shown laying eggs.
Within the context of the films, Godzilla's exact origins vary, but it is generally depicted as an enormous, violent, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. Godzilla's signature weapon is its atomic breath, a concentrated stream of blue or red radioactive fire that is unleashed from its jaws while its dorsal fins glow. Toho’s special effects department has used various techniques to render the breath, from physical gas-powered flames to hand-drawn or computer-generated fire. Godzilla is shown to posess immense physical strength and muscularity. Haruo Nakajima, the actor who played Godzilla in the original films, was a black belt in Judo and used his expertise to choreograph the battle sequences. Godzilla is described in the original film by the character Dr. Yamane as being a transitional form between a marine and a terrestrial reptile, capable of breathing underwater. Godzilla is immune to conventional weaponry thanks to its rugged hide and ability to regenerate. Various films, television shows, comics and games have depicted Godzilla with additional powers such as an atomic pulse, magnetism, precognition, fireballs, an electric bite, superhuman speed, eye beams and even flight.
Throughout the various stories it is featured in, Godzilla has fought many opponents, such as the JSDF, recurring enemies like King Ghidorah, Gigan and Mechagodzilla, and one-shot characters like Megalon, Biollante and Megaguirus. Godzilla is also shown to have allies, such as Mothra, Rodan and Anguirus (though these characters were initially portrayed as Godzilla's rivals), and children, such as Minilla. Godzilla has even fought against fictional characters from other franchises in crossover media, such as King Kong and the Fantastic Four.
Film, television and printed media appearances
Godzilla is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide and remains an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. Godzilla’s vaguely humanoid appearance and strained, lumbering movements endeared it to Japanese audiences, who could relate to Godzilla as a sympathetic character despite its wrathful nature. Audiences respond positively to the character because it acts out of rage and self-preservation and shows where science and technology can go wrong. Godzilla has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States, as well as an allegory of nuclear weapons in general. The earlier Godzilla films, especially the original, portrayed Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears that many Japanese held about the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of recurrence.
As the series progressed, so did Godzilla, changing into a less destructive and more heroic character as the films became geared towards children. Since then, the character has fallen somewhere in the middle, sometimes portrayed as a protector of the world from external threats and other times as a bringer of destruction. Godzilla remains one of the greatest fictional heroes in the history of film, and is also the second of only three fictional characters to have won the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award, which was awarded in 1996. Godzilla was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004 to celebrate the premiere of the character's 50th anniversary film, Godzilla: Final Wars. 
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society christened a vessel Gojira. Its purpose is to target and harass Japanese whalers in defense of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Gojira was renamed MV Brigitte Bardot in May 2011 after complaints of copyright infringement by the owners of the "Gojira" copyright.
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