Trauma Lizard.

I thought Shin Godzilla (2016) would be my favourite Godzilla film. Directed by the amazing duo Hideaki Anno (creator of Evangelion) and Shinji Higuchi (A titan of the kaiju genre, oh and he also was a massive part of making Evangelion with Anno and is the namesake of the sad boy in the robot.)

That assumption was crushed 12/13/23 at 8pm as Godzilla Minus 1 came to its final act.

I still love Shin Godzilla. It’s just now one of the best Godzilla movies instead of the best. It’s pretty camp, just like the other Shin” revival movies: Shin Ultraman (2022) and Shin Kamen Rider (2023). Which is a huge appeal of Godzilla. It’s a big laser breathing lizard.GODZILLA (1954) was camp out of necessity. It was a guy in a big rubber suit kicking over cardboard buildings. The ethos was still there. It was still a profound story about the pain of a nation. Just kinda campy.

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Godzilla Minus 1 left its tent at home.

The story itself is grounded. Far too often, Godzilla films forgo the human aspect. Sometimes this works for its advantage. Honestly, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2024) had far too many humans and distracted from Kong’s journey.1 Meanwhile Minus One handled the themes of survivor’s guilt and the government doesn’t care about its citizens with elegance and grace.

Godzilla Minus one tackles a cultural problem I don’t feel qualified to talk about: Kamakazi Pilots. Briefly, Japan used of suicide attacks against the allied forces during World War II. It also stems from State Shinto, a Meije era rule borrowing from Shintoism, a nature religion, and focused on Japan’s Emporer as being a Divine being. It was taught that dying for the Imperial family and Japan you would be come Eire (guardian spirits). Kamakazi, translating to Divine Wind, was just one aspect of this.

The movie makes it pretty clear just how ingrained it was to die for the state. Shikishima was tasked with being a kamikazi pilot but deserted at the last minute. Instead, landing on a small island claiming a major issue with his plane. Tochibana, a technician on the island, goes over the plane and finds nothing wrong. However, Tochibana says he understands why Shikishima made the decision. It seems like Tachibana will keep Shikishima’s secret.

The island is later attacked by Godzilla and Shikishima fails to use his plane during the attack, leading to a massacre only Tachibana and Shikishima survive. Tachibana despises him, saying it’s his fault everyone died.

Soon after the war ends and Shikishima returns to decimated Tokyo. His neighbor and family friend puts it together that Shikishima was a kamikazi pilot and berates saying it’s his fault japan lost the war and her son is dead. That maybe if Shikishima had done his job her son would still be alive.

Shikishima carries this guilt throughout the whole film and is a driving wedge between not only himself but Oishi (his girlfriend) and the rest of the cast. It’s also his driving motivation to once again take up the kamikazi attack against Godzilla as it rages through japan. However, during the run of the film, Shikishima is constantly told he should go on living, even by those who hated him. The final fight against the monster hangs not on the question of if Japan can beat Godzilla but if Shikishima can forgive himself.

What do you mean the movie only costed $15 Million?

Godzilla Minus 1 was directed by Takashi Yamazaki, a Japanese film titan in his own right. His speciality being in VFX should surprise no one if you’ve seen Minus One. In fact, it was what most people were talking about. How could this movie achieve so much when our Hollywood films, with 10 times the budget, achieve so little? I’m quite late to the party, as I had originally drafted this right after I saw Minus One. Then let it sit on the back burner. Then forgot about. Then saw Godzilla vs Kong (2024) and remembered I like talking about movies.

I’m going to try not to get to bogged down in the details because this will turn into an essay about the right to unionize, but yes the movie costed $12 million USD and its most talked about aspect is the CGI looking better than the other $300 Million dollar films being released this year like The Marvels, Quantumania, and of course The Flash. Which, yeah, looked terrible:

Muschietti had to clarify why the scenes look that way, specifying _“…we are in the perspective of the Flash. Everything is distorted in terms of lights and textures… It was part of the design, so if it looks a little weird to you, that was intended.” -

There’s a lot that goes into the inflated costs or your typical Marvel Studios production. They don’t shoot with completed scripts, they do a lot of reshoots, they pay a lot of money to big name actors, and they overly rely on CGI for their sets. Sure, a big green or blue room doesn’t sound expensive with what you can accomplish, but it gets worse when you throw in the hourly rate of now the hundreds of people to make a real product. Also, it’s impossible to know how much a Hollywood film costs or makes. It’s called Hollywood accounting and is its own bag of worms, but basically certain costs are tabulated and sometimes a government kick back or two for your military hero film doesn’t get recorded. All in the attempt to make it look like your movie was a box office success

I’ll speculate the Godzilla Minus 1 likely had its own production woes require some reshoots and some changes. No production is going to be perfect. That’s just movies, baby. I’ll also speculate the movie didn’t have to go through changes at every step due to some form of direction. Yamazaki specializes in VFX and has a lot of directing experience. He wrote the screenplay then had all of covid to rewrite it. (we’ll get to how immaculate this screenplay is). And the rest of production seemed to be wrapped in just 4 months, leaving a year for post production.

This all isn’t to say Japan has an amazingly unique film industry. That stars aligned for Godizilla Minus One The lead actors of Godzilla Minus One: Ryunosuke Kamiki (playing Kōichi Shikishima) and Minami Hamabe (playing Noriko Ōishi) have an insane filmography that would rival many of Hollywood’s biggest actors, yet their paycheck is a fraction of what US stars get paid. (Robert Downey Jr. took home around 5 shin Godzilla’s after his tenor with Marvel Studios). Again, this isn’t about who and what should be making money. It’s a point of contention I have that most people don’t know how film is made. There’s a massive issue of over worked studios getting little pay in Japan along with the US. The cracks have long been showing2 the major film franchises movies are run terriblyh. From the Disney star wars trilogy, having no creative vision across the films, the over all tanking of every Disney films that came out in 2023 and the continued tanking of the DC films franchise.

What was the secret sauce of Minus 1? A tight script and a tighter production. Takacahi Yamazaki had worked on the script over the course of probably three full years during the pandemic. If not more. He also has a lot of experience in leading a VFX team. Just look at his filmography, where most of his films are nominated if not winning in the best VFX categories.

The Ending

I usually roll my eyes at sequel bait, but I think Minus One does it justice by keeping it with the themes of the movie. After Kōichi Shikishima’s valiant efforts and taking up the will to survive, he discovers that Noriko Ōishi In fact survived the harrowing attack from Godzilla but remains scared of the incident. A brutal reminder of the Hiroshima bombs scaring and the more metaphorical scaring of the Japanese nation. However, it doesn’t exactly resemble the typical scaring you would see from such atrocities. In fact, it almost resembles the kimono scaring, where the intense light of the bomb scared people’s clothing patterns into their skin.

Takashi Yamazaki later confirmed at Godzilla Fest in Osaka that the scaring was in fact Godzilla’s regenerating cells, aka G-Cells.


  1. Expect a review of it soon… ish↩︎

  2. Check out this article for how wrong Marvel ran its tv department alone: Daredevil Hits Reset Button as Marvel Overhauls Its TV Buisness↩︎

Posted on June 12, 2024

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