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Godzilla and Postwar Japan

UCLA International Institute
Tuesday January 27, 2009

In this 2005 gem, William M. Tsutsui (Univ. of Kansas) explores the role of the Godzilla film series in popular culture. Despite Godzilla’s remarkable public presence, it is surprising, Professor Tsutsui observed, “how little scholarly attention this giant radiation-breathing reptile has received, either in Japan or in the West.” Donald Ritche, whom Tsutsui described as “the dean of American film critics of Japan,” once damned Japanese cinema as “‘a plethora of nudity, teenage heroes, science-fiction monsters, animated cartoons, and pictures about cute animals.’” Only a handful of scholarly essays on Godzilla have appeared, and few “have attempted to contextualize the film historically.” In his talk, Tsutsui set out to correct that: “I would argue,” he declared, “. . . that the Godzilla films can provide us valuable insights into Japanese culture since World War II.”

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Comments

  1. Tuesday February 3, 2009 • Steve Hall##commenter_says##

    I’m wondering if the Godzilla series is as important to the younger generation as it may be for the older generation. I have many Japanese friends here in America under the age of 40 and none of them have even seen the movie. When I ask them about growing up watching Godzilla they look at me as if I were crazy and they seem somewhat offended that I would even suggest it. The themes of nuclear war and anti-Americanism may be lost to them now.

  2. Tuesday February 3, 2009Kjeld Duits##commenter_says##

    I noticed in the mid-90s that WWII did not play a role at all anymore in the consciousness of people aged about 25 and under. These people are indeed now in their 30s. I have always seen it as the reason for the enormous boom and creativity in Japanese street fashion and their ability to appreciate and use aspects of traditional Japanese culture. They were for example the generation that made it fashionable again to wear yukata and kimono.

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