Nukes and Waves: Godzilla and the Vulnerability of Japan

Peter Wynn Kirby at the New York Times Opinionator blog compares tragedies past and present in Japan with monster movies of the 1950s.

As the great saurian beast emerges from Tokyo Bay to lay waste to the capital in 1954’s ‘Gojira’ (‘Godzilla’), the resulting explosions, dead bodies and flood of refugees evoked dire scenes from the final days of the war, images still seared in the memories of Japanese viewers. Far from the heavily edited and jingoistic, shoot’em-up, stomp’em-down flick that moviegoers saw in the United States, Japanese audiences reportedly watched ‘Gojira’ in somber silence, broken by periodic weeping.

It’s heartbreaking stuff, especially with the shocking images of tsunami devastation so fresh in our minds. Japanese artists have long turned tragedy into great art, from Kurosawa’s Ikiru to anime classics Barefoot Gen (contains disturbing images) and Grave of the Fireflies, drawing some comfort out of unthinkable horror.

Perhaps this sentiment offers little solace when so many have lost their lives, their homes, and so many more are still missing, but artists challenge their fellow citizens to face their fears and reach catharsis.

Matt London is an author and filmmaker who lives in New York City. He is a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop, as well as a columnist for, Fantasy Magazine, Lightspeed, and Realms of Fantasy. His fiction is out right this second in the anthology The Living Dead 2. Follow him on Twitter.


Subscribe to this thread