Godzilla: Through the Ages
by Joshua Reynolds (Guest Editorial Overseen by Joshua Sudomerski)
December 14, 2016
Blog
 

Spanning a legacy of over 60 years, Godzilla has seen just as many changes to his design as he has seen movie appearances. From the most subtle details on the suits to the Japanese namings and meanings behind them, Godzilla: Through the Ages will take an in-depth look at the many iterations of the famous monster.

Showa: Shodai-Goji (1954) - Gyakushu-Goji (1955) - King-Goji (1962) - Mosu-Goji (1964) - Daisenso-Goji (1965) - Musuko-Goji (1967) - Soshingeki-Goji (1968) - Megaro-Goji (1973)
Heisei & TriStar: 84-Goji (1984) - Bio-Goji (1989) - Ghido-Goji (1991) - Bato-Goji (1992) - Rado-Goji (1993) - Moge-Goji (1994) - Desu-Goji (1995)

Showa Series (1954-1975)

Shodai-Goji

Shodai-Goji
Godzilla (1954)

Godzilla's ray animated  
Godzilla's white ray animated

The original. The 1954 classic and the one that started it all. Ironically, the very first Godzilla suit featured a good number of attributes that didn’t stick all that long with the character’s over all design. Starting with its head, Shodai-Goji’s face was a lot more horror-oriented than what would follow throughout the golden age and the rest of the Showa era. Godzilla’s ears were distinct, as were his fangs. His arms were short and boney and his body bulky with a mixture of fat and muscle. Godzilla’s tail was short and his spines extremely jagged and uneven. The suit also featured only one main row of spines with two adjacent rows of much smaller ones on opposite sides. His tail also ended with a point, something that would change in future designs of the monster. The number of toes this Godzilla had does differ, however. Canonically, the character had four. However, a handful of publicity shots do show this Godzilla with only three toes.

  Godzilla's mist breath  
Godzilla's atomic breath as a mist

While the film was in black in white, Godzilla’s suit color was actually brown opposed to the charcoal gray that the fans have come to know and love. This is the biggest attribute that didn’t stick, with all future (colorized) versions (except the first of the millennium versions) of the character being black/gray. Unlike most future designs, there were a few other means to portray this version of the character, including a hand puppet that had much larger eyes compared to the suit.

For Godzilla’s beam, it was primarily a white, misty affect opposed to an animated blast. However, he did use one animated beam during his raid on Tokyo.

The name for this suit comes from the Japanese words of “Shodai”, meaning “first generation” and “Goji”, stemming from the Japanese name of the monster “Gojira.”


 

Gyakushu-Goji

Gyakushu-Goji
Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

Gyakushu-Goji's suit flexibility  
The flexibility of the Gyakushu-Goji suit

To non-fans and newcomers to the fandom, the 1955 Godzilla suit could appear to be a slightly modified 1954 suit. However, there are some great differences. Starting with its body, Gyakushu-Goji is far slimmer than its predecessor. This was done to allow easier movement for Haruo Nakajima during action shots, namely the climatic battles with Anguirus. The arms of this suit are more well proportioned to the rest of the body, giving the suit greater range. The head, while obviously based on the first’s design, is more thinned out, sometimes giving it a more “compressed” look. The head kept the previous ears and large fangs, but also increased the overall size of the teeth.

  Godzilla's misty atomic breath  
Godzilla's misty atomic breath

Godzilla’s trademark atomic breath was realized in both mist and animated form almost equally here in this film, with close-ups using the misty breath and longer range shots animating a white beam from its jaws.

The name for this suit comes from the Japanese word for counterattack, that being “gyakushū” followed by “Goji.”

 


 

King-Goji

King-Goji
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)

King-Goji in color  
King-Goji: Godzilla realized in color for the first time

Named aptly for Godzilla’s battle with King Kong, the King-Goji suit has become a fan favorite of the franchise. This suit returned the large, mountainous size of Godzilla from the first opposed to the thinner design from Godzilla Raids Again (1955). Being Godzilla’s first foray into color, moviegoers were greeted with a color scheme for the monster king that nobody saw coming: charcoal gray, going against nearly all previous poster artwork for the previous films (showing him green) and the original color for the 1954 suit. Godzilla’s large size came with more changes that would stick in the long run, at least for the next twelve years.

Godzilla’s toes now had only three toes opposed to four. Godzilla’s ears were missing, as well as his large fangs. While Godzilla’s spines were still multi-pointed, they weren’t as sharp and jagged as previous incarnations. Additionally, the smaller rows adorning the main row were starting to become larger. Finally, Godzilla’s tail also ended in a rounded tip, a trait that would stick for the character up until the monster’s return in the millennium era.

  Godzilla's iconic blue atomic breath  
Godzilla's iconic blue atomic breath

Overall, the King-Goji’s design was very frog-ish with a wide but short snout and rounded brows. Its tail had become both longer and thicker compared to both previous suit designs. Additionally, while Godzilla kept his better proportioned arms and hands, each finger now had a much larger claw. Godzilla’s eyes were also constantly locked in a position in which it appeared to be looking up.

For the first time in the franchise, Godzilla’s beam was mostly rendered entirely by hand-made animation, giving it a translucent, blue color opposed to the white fire seen in previous films or the red beam from poster art. There are a few shots of Godzilla using his beam and it being done in a mist form, however the mist has been tinted blue to match the animated breath attack.

The King-Goji name stems from the legendary monster he fought in 1962, King Kong.


 

Mosu-Goji

Mosu-Goji
Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Top: Head A (MvG); Bottom: Head B (GtTHM)  
Top: Head A (MvG)
Bottom: Head B (GtTHM)

Godzilla’s appearance in 1964 was a change from the extremely bulky King-Goji suit used two years prior. Godzilla again thinned down and the design itself lost the frog-like appearance. Godzilla’s spines were still irregular and kept with just one primary row and appeared very much like King-Goji's costume. Godzilla did retain his three toes and four fingers, a change the prior suit brought about and would keep a staple all the way up to 1984. Probably the most ironic thing about this design is its snout. Do to a mishap behind the scenes, Godzilla’s snout was damaged and caused its upper jaw to wobble uncontrollably during shooting, giving it an almost canine-like muzzle appearance. This same suit was used less than a year later for the release of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), but with a replaced head that corrected the jaw issue and elongated its tongue.

  Godzilla's atomic breath (1964)  
Godzilla's atomic breath as seen in Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

For Godzilla’s beam, it used a mixture of animation and mist. For its first appearance against Mothra, Godzilla’s beam was primarily animated and translucent blue much like it was in 1962. It kept this same look in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) when it was animated, but it was brought to life via mist more so than animation when used. This would be the last time Godzilla’s breath weapon would be done via a live action mist spray.

Mosu-Goji’s name originates by combining the word “Mosu”, a shortened version of the Japanese name for Mothra: Mosura and “Goji.”


 

Daisenso-Goji

Daisenso-Goji
Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965), Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966)

Top: Head A (1965); Bottom: Head B (1966)  
Top: Head A (1965)
Bottom: Head B (1966)

For Godzilla’s rematch with King Ghidorah in 1965, another suit was crafted by the capable hands of Eiji Tsuburaya. This Godzilla design was far more reptilian than the last. Godzilla was also starting to gain a bit more of a “cute” design as the series began to aim toward a younger audience. It was a tad bit more padded compared to the Mosu-Goji design, giving it a bit of a “fluffy” appearance. Godzilla’s claws had also become duller, a trait that would stick up until Godzilla’s revival in the Heisei era. Godzilla’s jaws had become more rounded and his teeth needle-like. The center row of spines was larger with the surrounding rows returning to their much smaller size.

For Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), the suit required a new head due to the previous one being combined with the Mosu-Goji suit to become the monster Jirass in an episode of the 1966 TV series Ultraman. A nearly identical prop was crafted, but with slightly different eyes. This design is sometimes referenced as Nankai-Goji.

  Godzilla's atomic breath (1965)  
Godzilla's atomic breath as seen in Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

For Godzilla’s beam, it gained a much more streamlined appearance and added a bit of a white wash to it. This white wash was increased even more so for the following film and would become a common affect of the beam for the rest of the franchise.

This design would see future life in water scenes for Son of Godzilla (1967) and Destroy All Monsters (1968), along with the scene in Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) where Hedorah traps Godzilla in a pool of toxic sludge.

The name for the suit comes from the Japanese word for “Great War”, that being “Daisensō.” Its secondary name originates from the Japanese word for “South Seas”: “Nankai.”


 

Musuko-Goji

Musuko-Goji
Son of Godzilla (1967)

Side profile of Musuko-Goji  
Side profile of Musuko-Goji

For Son of Godzilla (1967), a new suit was made to look more like an adult version of Godzilla’s newly created son Minilla. This suit returned the very angular, jagged, and uneven spines not seen since Godzilla Raids Again in 1955. The spines were also a different color, becoming a tan color opposed to the silvery color of previous designs. Godzilla was extremely large and bulky, looking more fat than muscular. Godzilla’s eyes were now larger and his snout, while still rounded, was shorter and sunken in with bigger nostrils. His neck was longer and Godzilla's general image made to look more “fatherly” to fit his role in the movie.

  Godzilla's atomic breath  
Godzilla's atomic breath

This design would prove to be one of the most unpopular designs by far. However, it would see use again in 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan for water sequences of the character.

For this design’s breath attack, it remained relatively unchanged.

The “Musuko” part of this design’s name stems from the Japanese word for “Son.”


 

Soshingeki-Goji

Soshingeki-Goji
Destroy All Monsters (1968), All Monsters Attack (1969), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Side profile of Soshingeki-Goji  
Side profile of Soshingeki-Goji

One of the most popular Godzilla suits of the later half of the Showa era, the Soshingeki-Goji design fully embraced its new, younger target audience. Godzilla was far more anthropomorphic than before. The neck became longer compared to older suits and the brow line far more pronounced. The spines remained very rounded with only one prominent row. The suit kept the same three toe pattern as previous suits with a very human-proportionate body. The muzzle remained rounded with a line of needle-like teeth behind its lips. For the first time in the series, a new color was added to Godzilla, though one rarely noticed. The underside of this Godzilla’s tail was colored a dull brown opposed to the charcoal color of the rest of its body.

Additionally, this suit was easily one of the most flexible suits in the entire franchise, allowing Godzilla to perform more human-like fighting styles and movement, only really rivaled by the 1955 suit and the following suit from 1973 to 1975.

  Godzilla's atomic breath (1971)  
Godzilla's atomic breath as seen in Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)

This suit proved to be extremely popular for Toho, having chosen to revive it for All Monsters Attack (1969), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). By 1972’s entry, the suit was starting to show massive signs of wear and tear. This would eventually result in another suit being crafted for the following entry in the franchise.

Godzilla’s beam remained rather unchanged from the previous design and was rendered entirely by hand-drawn animation. However, come 1971, Godzilla’s beam developed a “ridged” edge, almost as if slowly turning into a flame. Some shots of it also returned it to a bit of a misty appearance, despite being drawn by hand.

The name for the suit is derived from “sōshingeki”, Japanese for “attack of the marching monsters.”


 

Megaro-Goji

Megaro-Goji
Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), Zone Fighter, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Godzilla's appearance in 1974  
Godzilla's appearance in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

With the Godzilla series going strong and the previous suit suffering from vast wear and tear, a new suit was quickly ordered for the next film, Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). It was reported that this suit was the fastest constructed of them all, taking less than a week in fact. It retained a lot of the features of the previous incarnation, including human proportions, a single row of rounded spines, and a rounded jaw. However, this Godzilla’s muzzle was larger and “fatter” compared to the previous. The brow line was also a lot bigger and the eyes the biggest of all designs and had the ability to move. Additionally, the underside of the tail was returned to a dull gray in color. This same suit would get used again in the monster’s handful of appearances in Toho’s 1973 TV show Zone Fighter.

By 1974, the suit was called into action again. However, the head went through several changes to become less friendly in appearance. The mouth and eyes were reduced in size, removing a lot of the “muppet” look it had originally. Additionally, the eyes lost the ability to move around. For Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975, the head was modified even more to make it even less friendly in appearance, with the brow line coming down even more and the mouth slimming down.

  Godzilla's atomic breath (1975)  
Godzilla's atomic breath as seen in Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)

Godzilla’s beam was rendered entirely in hand-made animation and was a translucent blue in color with almost fiery appearance on the edges, matching the previous designs while removing most of the white.

The suit name originates from the name of the monster’s 1973 adversary: Megalon.



Heisei Series (1984-1995) & TriStar (1998)

84-Goji

84-Goji
The Return of Godzilla (1984)

84-Goji snarling  
84-Goji snarling

Almost a decade after the last entry in the outstanding franchise, Godzilla made a ferocious return in 1984. Ignoring all past films except for the very first, the movie returned Godzilla to his roots of a walking abomination and metaphor for the atomic bomb. Gone was Godzilla’s friendly appearance and returned was his nightmarish visage updated for a new generation. Godzilla remained charcoal in color, but almost every other aspect was changed to reflect this new personality. Godzilla was far larger in size than before, having gained much more muscle mass. He was portrayed at eighty meters in height, thirty more than the last films.

  Face of 84-Goji  
Face of 84-Goji with upward eyes

This design returned aspects of Godzilla that hadn’t been seen since 1955. Godzilla’s tiny ears returned along with prominent fangs. His dorsal spines were sharper in appearance and he now had three rows of them running down his back, with the largest of them now at the base of the spine, just above the tail (the first and only design with this trait). Godzilla’s eyes were constantly in an upward look, almost mirroring the eyes of the 1962 design. For the first time in the series, Godzilla’s lips were able to curl, enabling this design to snarl. The mouth was short and filled with many pointed, dagger-like teeth. Godzilla’s toe count returned to four, another aspect that hadn’t been seen since 1955’s design and something that would remain with the character for the rest of the franchise.

Unlike the previous suits, this Godzilla design was exceptionally bulky and returned the character to a walking mountain of flesh. This made it extremely stiff in movement and much slower, no longer allowing the actor inside to perform the crazy stunts of the 1970’s Godzilla designs.

Godzilla's atomic breath  
Godzilla's atomic breath

Godzilla’s beam in this film remained blue and rendered in animation. However, the fiery edges of the previous ones were replaced with a smoother look and a much brighter, white interior appearance. Additionally, this movie introduced a drastically different roar that would carry over for the next several films before returning to a more traditional (but still modified) sound for the monster.

The name for this suit originates from the year 1984, the year the movie was made and the revival of the iconic movie monster.


 

Bio-Goji

Bio-Goji
Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

Spines of Bio-Goji  
Spines of Bio-Goji

Five years after Godzilla’s tremendous return, Toho brought the monster back from his seeming death for Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). With this new movie came a completely new design that would become the standard for the rest of the series until the 1998 American remake. This suit design took several elements from the previous while introducing a slew of new things that had never been done before.

He remained charcoal gray in color, tiny ears, four toes and fingers, and overall menacing design. However, now Godzilla’s face had feline features and two rows of sharp teeth (he did retain the larger fangs, but they were shorter than the previous design’s). These features would only become even more enhanced in future designs. Godzilla’s brown eyes were enlarged and gave the reptilian monster a far more mammalian gaze. This went along with a more feline appearance for Godzilla’s face, including a tiger-like nose and tongue. Additionally, Godzilla could still curl his lips to snarl.

Godzilla retained three rows of spines, but the largest of which were now located in the center of his back opposed to the bottom. The outer rows were also increased in size to nearly match the center. Additionally, the spines were now able to flash with interior light when charging his beam, giving them a much more realistic appearance.

  Godzilla's atomic ray  
Godzilla's atomic ray

Godzilla kept his highly bulky body, but wasn’t nearly as “fat” in appearance as the previous one, appearing as if more muscular with a longer neck, smaller head, and larger chest muscles.

The beam of Bio-Goji was completely animated and appeared white with a faint blue hue to the outsides of it.

The name for the design stems from the monster Godzilla faces in the 1989 outing: Biollante.

It should be noted that some of the confusion regarding the Bio-Goji suit being used for the next film could stem from the fact that one of the suits was cut up to be used for the water sequences in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).


 

Ghido-Goji

Ghido-Goji
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)

Godzilla's atomic ray  
Godzilla's atomic ray

Often confused for a simple retooling of the previous design, 1991’s Ghido-Goji suit was very similar in a lot of ways. It used the same molds used to craft the previous design, but did change the head. The new head was larger than the previous one and neck shorter. However, virtually everything else was nearly identical.

Godzilla’s beam changed to make the blue much more apparent compared to the previous rendition. However, this movie did start the trend of giving Godzilla’s beam spirals for special attacks. This was seen when Godzilla unleashes the attack that decapitates King Ghidorah’s central neck.

  Godzilla using the Spiral Breath  
Godzilla using the Spiral Breath

The name for this design stems from King Ghidorah, Godzilla’s arch nemesis that he battles in the 1991 film for the first time one-on-one.

An interesting side story for the design is that one of the two suits crafted for the film was stolen shortly following the end of production. After a widely reported investigation, the suit was eventually found and returned to Toho before work began on the next outing in the franchise.

One of the two suits would be recycled into parts to be used for the underwater and volcanic scenes of the next film in the franchise: Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992).


 

Bato-Goji

Bato-Goji
Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)

Face of Bato-Goji  
Face of Bato-Goji

Keeping with the standard design that began in 1989, the Bato-Goji design did decide to slim the monster up a tad. The thighs weren’t as large and the monster was all around sleeker in appearance while still retaining some of the bulk that had become a staple for the character since his resurgence in The Return of Godzilla (1984). The face retained the feline appearance of the previous ones, but the eye color changed from brown to gold. Godzilla still kept his dual row of teeth, tiger-like nose, tiny ears, and everything else that had become known as the stereotypical “Heisei Godzilla”. However, compared to the last designs, this Godzilla’s skull wasn’t as pointy and the forehead flat instead of rounded. Godzilla’s snout was also a bit thinner compared to the previous designs.

A new trait that was added to this design was an internal component that allowed Godzilla’s head to move up and down on its own.

  Godzilla's atomic ray  
Godzilla's atomic ray

For the first time since the Showa era, Godzilla’s original roar made a comeback for this movie albeit with a more modern sound.

Godzilla’s beam became even bluer in color with the interior white also starting to show a blue tint.

The origins for this design’s name stems from the Japanese name for Battra: Batora, Godzilla’s secondary adversary in the film.


 

Rado-Goji

Rado-Goji
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Monster Planet of Godzilla

Side view of Rado-Goji  
Side view of Rado-Goji

Very similar in appearance to the previous costume design, 1993’s Rado-Goji did make some subtle changes to the character. The monster was a bit more streamlined, losing a bit of the bulk in the shoulders and thighs. This gave the creature the appearance of having smaller limbs than the previous ones in the Heisei era. The spines remained extremely large with three rows going down the back, the largest of which still in the center. The creature’s face remained relatively unchanged, but the eyes were changed to a more golden color. The costume retained the internal mechanisms that allowed the head to pivot separately from the body.

  Godzilla's Spiral Fire Ray  
Godzilla's Spiral Fire Ray

Godzilla’s beam didn’t appear as bright as the last film’s, appearing a bit lighter in hue with a white center that filled out more. This film also did give Godzilla his first crimson beam, that being the Spiral Fire Ray. Outside of Godzilla’s appearances in the old Hanna Barbara cartoons and Marvel comics, this would mark the monster’s first use of a non-blue/white colored breath weapon.

The name for this suit stems from Godzilla’s flying co-star, Rodan, whose Japanese name can be translated as “Radon.”

After the film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), the Rado-Goji costume would see use for the Monster Planet of Godzilla “ride” in 1994 and then limited use in the following film, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994), where Godzilla is in the water and would also be modified to be used in water scenes for Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), only given the glowing look the monster had acquired for the film.


 

Moge-Goji

Moge-Goji
Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

Side view of Moge-Goji  
Side view of Moge-Goji

For 1994’s Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, yet another suit was crafted for the King of the Monsters’ latest adventure. Like those before it, it kept the key elements of the Heisei design while making small, subtle changes here and there. The most obvious changes came in the form of the returning bulk to its thighs, shoulders, and arms enlarging their look from the previous suit. The eyes of this design were enlarged a tad, giving Godzilla a less menacing appearance for a role in which he was playing more of a heroic role than the previous entries of the era. A new mechanism was added to the costume that allowed Godzilla to look side to side as well.

  Godzilla's Spiral Fire Ray  
Godzilla's Spiral Fire Ray

Once again, Godzilla’s beam looked a tad different in this outing, gaining numerous white streaks within the blue instead of one solid streak. Additionally, his newest attack, the Spiral Fire Ray which had been introduced in the previous film, returned for this one’s finale with a similar appearance.

Moge-Goji’s name originates from Moguera, Godzilla’s robotic co-star in the film.



 

Desu-Goji

Desu-Goji
Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

Desu-Goji's burning patches  
Desu-Goji's burning patches

For Godzilla’s final film in the iconic Heisei era of the franchise, Toho decided to officially kill the character. To do this, the King of the Monsters underwent a drastic change known as “Meltdown.” Instead of crafting a brand new suit entirely, the previous suit was heavily modified into Desu-Goji. Segments of the suit’s body were stripped and replaced by translucent material with hundreds of small light bulbs underneath to give the monster the desired glow that indicated his approaching death. While the basic body shape and facial features remained the same, everything was given a fiery red appearance, down to his eyes and claws which became orange in color. For the first time in the franchise’s history, Godzilla’s spines became orange.

  Spines of Desu-Goji  
Spines of Desu-Goji

A common mistake made by fans is thinking that the spines turned red/orange all the way down to the tip of the tail. The glow ended just at the base of the tail and the tiny spines that run along the lengthy tail were actually the standard gray/whitish color per the rest of the Heisei suits.

Hidden vents and tubes were placed across Godzilla’s body to constantly emit vast amounts of steam as he approached his doom as well, something that has never been done before or since this version of the monster.

Desu-Goji's red atomic ray  
Desu-Goji's red atomic ray

Another new milestone for the franchise history is that Desu-Goji’s beam became a constant crimson in color. Fans often mistake this beam as the same one used in the finales against Mechagodzilla and SpaceGodzilla, but closer inspection pinpoints to this beam just being a red/orange/yellow variant without the spirals that were used to obliterate his previous opponents (except during the film’s opening when Godzilla attacks Hong Kong). When Godzilla finally enters his final scenes, his breath attack begins to mirror the attacks used at the end of the previous two films and his beam gains the spirals. New effects were also added at this point, including his spines melting and energy being released as his body broke down.

Desu-Goji’s name originates from the Japanese name for Destoroyah which is “Desutoroia.”

It should be noted that the final scene of this film showcases Godzilla Junior having matured into a brand new Godzilla. For this brief moment, the Desu-Goji suit was again utilized but the glowing effects turned off, giving it the appearance of a traditional Godzilla design of the era.


 

To be continued...