In the 1954 kaiju masterpiece film Gojira, Akira Ifukube composed Prayer for Peace. At this point in the story, Godzilla just finished destroying Tokyo and returned to the cold depths of the sea. Our protagonists were broken and overwhelmed by the hideous devastation. All Japan could seem to do was mourn the tragic loss of life. But then the nation’s children rekindled their hope by calling for peace, and, in many respects, it spurred our protagonists into action. Ultimately, Japan ended Godzilla’s rampage, but it came at a terrible price.

Gojira’s ending was tragically bittersweet because the children’s prayers for peace were never answered. That may have seemed like a foregone conclusion. Something had to be done. A radioactive monster was on the loose, breathing atomic fire like a mythological dragon. Something had to be done!

Only that same kind of thinking was precisely what spurred Godzilla into attacking Japan in the first place. Even now, not many fans know that before he became the King of the Monsters, Godzilla lived peacefully underwater with his family. But hydrogen bomb tests killed them and scarred Godzilla for life. Gojira had many victims—and Godzilla was chief among them.

After losing his family and being consumed by unfathomable amounts of pain, Godzilla violently lashed out. Godzilla’s grief was the catalyst for so many more tragedies like it. And it was all preventable, which makes it even more tragic.

Although, in fairness, it’s not like the humans knew the truth either. A few didn’t even want to kill Godzilla. But what if they answered the children’s call for peace? What would’ve happened if they saw Godzilla as less of a monster and more like a misunderstood sentient creature afflicted with trauma? What if we—Human and Godzilla alike—answered the Prayer for Peace?

That is a rite of passage we must take together.

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