Character Analysis: 5
Date: 6/10/07

Godzilla's first ally, and Toho's third kaiju, Rodan has always been one of the more recognized characters in the long running Godzilla franchise. Able to stand as an equal to Godzilla in the mid-1960's, the creature was considered one of Toho's "major four" along with King Ghidorah and Mothra.

Cutaway view of Rodan

Despite the character's popularity, though, the creature was more or less cast aside during the 1970's. This move ended up being fairly detrimental to the character's appeal, as by the time the series was rebooted in the following decade Mechagodzilla had surpassed him as a fan favorite. An event that likely led to his role in the Heisei series as more of a pushover, as he was dispatched by both of the title characters in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) without a great deal of trouble. The beast's stint on Godzilla Island (1997), though, was a surprising return to glory for the character, as he took on a starring role alongside Godzilla and Mothra against a variety of opponents. However, by 2004, for Godzilla: Final Wars, the character once again found itself greatly outclassed, as Godzilla easily defeated him along with Anguirus and King Caesar.

In his prime, though, Rodan was a force to be reckoned with in the Showa series. Although his powers are fairly mundane compared to some of the lavish abilities introduced from the monsters of the 1970's, the airborne kaiju was more than able to hold his own using his keen intellect and extraordinary endurance.

Now before diving into the meat of the article, it always pays to look underneath the skin to see if anything out of the ordinary might present itself. For Rodan, though, nothing below his tough exterior really stands out. We can see that his chest spikes are supported by his ribcage, although that's not really unusual. One thing that is rather odd about the character, although not directly related to its interior, is the change of its wings. For whatever reason, the character's wingspan increased to 150 meters for Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965). This represents a 30 meter growth over the wingspan in the previous film, yet how did this happen? The common theory is that Rodan was still growing; in fact, it's about the only theory one can credit this with, seeing as how, by all accounts, it seems to be the same creature from the previous movie. The bizarre aspect of this, though, is that the creature's weight remained the same despite the wing growth. The cutaway view does show that the wing muscles are located, primarly, closest to the body, so it possible that this extra growth was largely made up of light bone and thin layers of skin, although one would expect even something like that to account for a slight shift in weight. Regardless, it's definitely one of the more peculiar aspects of the character.

Rodan in flight

Although best remembered for the sonic booms he left in his wake, Rodan is, sadly, a fairly slow flyer compared to many of his brethren. In the Showa series, the winged monster was able to fly at speeds of mach 1.5, an impressive feat at the time as the monster was easily able to outrun the slower jets in his feature film. As technology improved, though, that trait became much less impressive, to the point where today there are numerous attack jets that could outpace Rodan. Not surprisingly, as the Showa series continued onward, Toho began to ramp up the flight speeds of their new characters, allowing Mothra and King Ghidorah to each fly at mach 3, twice as fast as Rodan. This trend continued, with Jet Jaguar being able to fly at mach 3.5 and Mechagodzilla at mach 5, until Rodan was left near the bottom of the flight speed tier. In fact, about one of the only kaiju Toho created in the Showa series that could be outrun by the winged monster would be Hedorah, who flew at mach 1.

Rodan exposed to an Atomic Ray

Surprisingly, given its appearance, Rodan's most remarkable trait was its ability to withstand a variety of attacks with hardly any adverse effect. Beyond the normal physical blows that most of the monsters tend to be able to endure, Rodan was also able to shrug off a number of projectiles as well.

The first of these was Godzilla's atomic ray, which Rodan withstood at point blank range. The oral weapon had next to no effect on the aerial monster, who simply shook his head when struck by the beam three times.

Fending off Gravity Bolts

The second of these projectiles was King Ghidorah's gravity beams. In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Rodan did everything in his power to avoid the three-headed dragon's projectile weapon, effectively using the surrounding terrain to avoid the beams. For Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965), though, the creature was less fortunate, as the battleground offered no such protection. Rodan, however, proved more than capable of withstanding the blows. In fact, Ghidorah racked the beams across the monster's wings numerous times, yet Rodan was able to stay airborne during the entire attack. This is an amazing feat, considering that these very same beams were able to effortlessly toss around the 10,000 ton Mothra Larva.

Rodan carrying Godzilla

Although much slower than many of the monsters that came after him, Rodan was different from many of his aerial "kin" with respects to his rather immense strength. The most notable example of this was the monster's fondness for carrying Godzilla, either as a means of fighting the monster or trying to develop a new strategy to beat a common foe. As expected, this did hamper the creature's flight capabilities considerably, yet Rodan was able to carry its load for not only a great distance, but also to an incredible altitude.

Rodan lifting Mothra

An easy aspect of the character to overlook, Rodan proved, again and again, to be a rather effective strategist, at least by kaiju standards. It was Rodan, for example, who devised the plan to lift Mothra in order to wrap up King Ghidorah's heads, while, as previously mentioned, the winged beast was also able to utilize the terrain in order to avoid being struck by the space demon's projectiles in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964).

Ramming into King Ghidorah

The creature, primarily while fighting off King Ghidorah, also developed some rather radical and surprising tactics. A prime example of this is after King Ghidorah begins to pursue the airborne monster, closing the gap between the two, before Rodan suddenly does a 180 degree turn and slams directly into the space demon, sending the two plummeting to the Earth.

Final Thoughts:
In closing, it's easy to focus on the creature's speed, due to how effectively this was displayed in his introductory film, Rodan (1956); however, Rodan's strongest traits actually are found in other areas, as the creature proved to be a formidable kaiju against its rivals despite a seeming lack of powers.