A guest lecture by Hiroshi Yoshioka, Kyoto University
Like many other gigantic monsters which appeared in popular films or TV series in post war Japan, Godzilla has evoked mixed feelings of fear, awe, or even sympathy among viewers. Sometimes understood as a symbol of the destructive power of nuclear energy, sometimes associated with the souls of the war-dead in the Pacific War, in later works Godzilla defends the earth against an evil invasion from space or nature against its enemies. While we observe political thinking in Japan as comparatively reserved or suppressed in education and social life, we find uncounscious and transformed ‘thinkings’ related to serious issues such as war, mass destruction, nuclear power, and the fate of humanity in popular media texts. And they are less obvious and powerful in recent, more sophisticated narratives such as the animated movies by Studio Ghibli than in the crude and confused, sometimes controversial films of the 1950s and 60s. In this lecture I will focus on Godzilla(s), from the original film in 1954 to the latest interpretations in the 2010s, and attempt to outline how and why this particular monster has survived and altered itself in our mind and imagination, over more than 60 years.
Hiroshi Yoshioka is a professor of aesthetics and art theory, a freelance curator, editor and artist. He has taught at Kyoto University, IAMAS (Institute of Advanced Media Arts and Sciences) and other universities in Japan.