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Godzilla (Japanese: ゴジラ Hepburn: Gojira?) (/ɡɒdˈzɪlə/; [ɡoꜜdʑiɽa] ( listen)) is a fictional giant monster originating from a series of tokusatsu films of the same name from Japan. It first appeared in Ishirō Honda's 1954 film Godzilla. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon, appearing in numerous media including video games, novels, comic books, television shows, 29 films produced by Toho and two Hollywood films. The character is commonly alluded by the epithet "King of the Monsters"; a phrase first used in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, the Americanized version of Honda's original 1954 film.
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 an antihero 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. With the end of the Cold War, several post-1984 Godzilla films shifted the character's portrayal as a symbol of nuclear weapons to that of modern Japan's forgetfulness over its imperial past, natural disasters and the overall human condition.
In the various stories it has appeared in, Godzilla has been featured alongside many supporting characters. It has faced human opponents such as the JSDF, and other giant monsters, from recurring characters like King Ghidorah, Gigan and Mechagodzilla to one-shot characters like Biollante, Destoroyah and theMUTOs. Godzilla is also shown to have allies, such as Mothra, Rodan and Anguirus (though these characters were initially portrayed as Godzilla's rivals), and offspring, such as Minilla and Godzilla Junior. Godzilla has even fought against fictional characters from other franchises in crossover media, such as RKO Pictures/Universal Studios movie monster King Kong and Marvel Comics characters S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Fantastic Four.
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 its size, power and aquatic origin. One popular story is that "Gojira" was actually the nickname of a corpulent stagehand at Toho Studio. Kimi Honda, the widow of the director, dismissed this in a 1998 BBC documentary devoted to Godzilla, "The backstage boys at Toho loved to joke around with tall stories".
Godzilla's name was written in ateji as Gojira (呉爾羅?), where the kanji are used for phonetic value and not for meaning. The Japanese pronunciation of the name is [ɡodʑiɽa] ( listen); the Anglicized form is /ɡɒdˈzɪlə/, with the first syllable pronounced like the word "god", and the rest rhyming with "gorilla". In theHepburn romanization system, Godzilla's name is rendered as "Gojira", whereas in the Kunrei romanization system it is rendered as "Gozira".
During the development of the American version of Godzilla Raids Again (1955), Godzilla's name was changed to "Gigantis", a move initiated by producer Paul Schreibman, who wanted to create a character distinct from Godzilla.
Within the context of the Japanese films, Godzilla's exact origins vary, but it is generally depicted as an enormous, violent, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation. 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 aTyrannosaurus, 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 survivors in Hiroshima. The basic design has a reptilian visage, a robust build, an upright posture, a long tail and rows of serrated fins along the back. In the original film, the fins were added for purely aesthetic purposes, in order to further differentiate Godzilla from any other living or extinct creature. Godzilla is sometimes depicted as green in comics, cartoons and movie posters, but the costumes used in the movies were usually painted charcoal grey with bone-white dorsal fins up until the film Godzilla 2000.
Godzilla's signature weapon is its "atomic breath," a nuclear blast that it generates inside of its body and unleashes from its jaws in the form of a blue or red radioactive heat ray. 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 possess 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 can breathe underwater, and is described in the original film by the character Dr. Yamane as a transitional form between a marine and a terrestrial reptile. Godzilla is shown to have great vitality: it is immune to conventional weaponry thanks to its rugged hide and ability to regenerate, and as a result of surviving a nuclear explosion, it cannot be destroyed by anything less powerful. 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.
Godzilla's allegiance and motivations have changed from film to film to suit the needs of the story. Although Godzilla does not like humans, it will fight alongside humanity against common threats. However, it makes no special effort to protect human life or property and will turn against its human allies on a whim. It is not motivated to attack by predatory instinct: it doesn't eat people, and instead sustains itself on radiation and an omnivorous diet. When inquired if Godzilla was "good or bad", producer Shogo Tomiyama likened it to a Shinto "God of Destruction" which lacks moral agency and cannot be held to human standards of good and evil. "He totally destroys everything and then there is a rebirth. Something new and fresh can begin."
In the original Japanese films, Godzilla and all the other monsters are referred to with gender-neutral pronouns equivalent to "it", while in the English dubbed versions, Godzilla is explicitly described as a male, such as in the title of Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. The creature in the 1998 Godzilla film was depicted laying eggs throughparthenogenesis.
Godzilla has a distinctive disyllabic roar (transcribed in several comics as Skreeeonk!), which was created by composer Akira Ifukube, who produced the sound by rubbing a pine-tar-resin-coated glove along the string of a contrabass and then slowing down the playback. In the American version of Godzilla Raids Again (1955) entitled Gigantis the Fire Monster, Godzilla's iconic roar was substituted with that of the monster Anguirus. From The Return of Godzilla (1984) to Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Godzilla was given a deeper and more threatening-sounding roar than in previous films, though this change was reverted from Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) onwards. For the 2014 American film, sound editors Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl refused to disclose the source of the sounds used for their Godzilla's roar.Aadahl described the two syllables of the roar as representing two different emotional reactions, with the first expressing fury, and the second conveying the character's soul.
Godzilla's size is inconsistent, changing from film to film and even from scene to scene for the sake of artistic license. The miniature sets and costumes were typically built at a 1⁄25– 1⁄50 scale and filmed at 240 frames per second, to create the illusion of great size. In the original 1954 film, Godzilla was scaled to be 50 m (164 ft) tall. This was done so Godzilla could just peer over the largest buildings in Tokyo at the time. In the 1956 American version, Godzilla is estimated to be 121.9 m (400 ft) tall, because producer Joseph E. Levine felt that 50 m didn't sound "powerful enough". As the series progressed Toho would rescale the character, eventually making Godzilla as tall as 100 m (328 ft). This was so that it wouldn't be dwarfed by the newer bigger buildings in Tokyo's skyline such as the 242.9-meter-tall (797 ft)Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which Godzilla destroyed in the film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). Supplementary information such as character profiles would also depict Godzilla as weighing between 20,000 and 60,000 metric tons (22,000 and 66,000 short tons). In the American film Godzilla (2014) from Legendary Pictures, Godzilla was scaled to be 108.2 m (355 ft) and weighing 90,000 metric tons (99,000 short tons), making it the largest film version to that time. Director Gareth Edwards wanted Godzilla "to be so big as to be seen from anywhere in the city, but not too big that he couldn’t be obscured". The producers of Shin Godzilla made that film's version of Godzilla even taller than the Legendary version, at 118.5 m (389 ft).
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