Manga: Battle History of Godzilla vs. Mothra


Battle History of Godzilla vs. Mothra

Japanese Comic Title

[Gojira VS Mosura Kessenshi]


Shinichi Sekizawa, Shinichiro Nakamura, Takehiko Fukunaga, Yoshie Hotta


Kimimaro Yoshida, Humio Hisamatsu, Mitsuyoshi Sonoda
Kimimaro Yoshida, Humio Hisamatsu, Mitsuyoshi Sonoda
Bamboo Comics


Yuji Kaida



Vampire Plant
Vampire Plant

Aliens, SDF & Misc.



By: Nicholas Driscoll

For better or worse, making monster movies with the technical restraints of the 1960s was always something of a compromised affair. You can’t depict every monster blow and blast when you have to worry about the integrity of the suits and the set-up of the shot, and as charming and wonderful as suitmation effects undoubtedly are (I love them myself), placing a sweaty man in a heavy latex suit does tend to restrict movement and thus limit the kinds of combat shots which are possible.

Manga, on the other hand, does not have those same limitations—as long as the artist can draw it, the farthest stretches of the imagination are the limit so far as action and staging are concerned. In some ways, a manga adaptation of a movie might be closer to the original vision of the screenwriter than the movie itself was—and may sometimes retain aspects of the screenplay which were dropped from the film for budgetary reasons or due to time restraints. Which isn’t to say that manga does not have its own limitations and length constraints due to publishing deals—though some story changes may also be due to the differences of audience between the manga magazines and the often wider audience that attends the cinema.

For all those reasons and more, reading old adaptations of Toho monster films is really fascinating. I greatly enjoyed reading Battle History of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, with its adaptations of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Destroy All Monsters (1968), and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). It turns out Battle History of Godzilla vs. Mothra was equally fascinating, if not more so, with some very surprising story changes to some of the manga adaptations, and the addition of a few short essays in Japanese as well. The movies adapted this time were the original Mothra (1961), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966).

Manga: Battle History of Godzilla vs. Mothra
Clark Nelson uses his hypnosis abilities, which apparently stem from his tie.

The Mothra manga is perhaps the most interesting of the whole lot, considering some very peculiar and very extreme deviations from the film. Some of the changes even warrant the addition of side-notes to the comic itself, such as how in the comic the evil country that represents Russia and America is called Roshirica instead of Rolisica. But a more dramatic change is that given to the character of Shinji Chujo, in the manga called Shinji Nakajou... who is now basically a super-heroic detective/unbeatable warrior-child. Something along the lines of Detective Conan, but with more giant monsters. Throughout the story, Shinji is dashing about, tricking baddies, bossing adults around, or otherwise kicking the collective hinders of everyone else in the story. Clark Nelson is another surprising change. No longer merely a scheming jackass with a plan to exploit native women, now he also has what amounts to a supernatural ability to hypnotize people. Drawn by Kimimaro Yoshida (apparently this was one of his first manga), the art looks like an imitation of Osamu Tezuka, with lots of roly-poly characters and wild action—at one point, the journalist Fukuda physically bites the coat of a reluctant interviewee in order to restrain him for an interview. The character work is very simplistic, the natives look like cavemen, the detail is mostly absent—but Mothra looks appropriately threatening and more darkly insect-like without the softer final design from the movie. Curiously, the adaptation included in this collection is one of two done by Yoshida, both published in Shonen magazine one month apart. The one included here is called Giant Monster Mothra, and the other, shorter one—published a month later, and titled simply Mothra—tells basically the same story even more abbreviated. These manga adaptations were later reprinted in the Godzilla DVD collectors box sets issued in 2016.

The Mothra vs. Godzilla adaptation was put together by frequent kaiju manga adapter Humio Hisamatsu, who also did the manga adaptations of Gorath (1962), Ultraseven, Mirror Man and more. Hisamatsu’s style is more dynamic than Yoshida’s, with frequent large splash panels and a wide variety of panel layouts. The fights between the Godzilla (looking like a villainous generic theropod) and Mothra (looking closer to her movie counterpart) also showcase more physicality than the movie would have allowed, including a memorable sequence in which the two Mothra larvae (which look like huge white grubs) battle Godzilla like a pair of Graboids, bursting from the ground and pounding the so-called kaiju king. This adaptation is fairly short, but very memorable.

Manga: Battle History of Godzilla vs. Mothra
Ryota bravely clambers around Godzilla's head in order to tie a wire about his noggin in the Ebirah, Horror of the Deep adaptation.

The final adaptation is Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, and it is by far the longest, taking up well over half of the entire manga volume. Of the three adaptations, it is probably my least favorite, although the artwork and storytelling from Mitsuyoshi Sonoda (known for sports manga such as Red-Blooded Eleven) are the most detailed of the three. Eschewing the dance competition of the film, the manga starts with our heroes Ryota, Nitta, and Yoshimura aboard a boat, searching for Yata, this time apparently as a cooperative team and not just a bunch of schmucks thrown in together. However, our heroes aren’t very recognizable from the film. Ryota is more or less the same, brave and driven to find his brother—but Nitta is now an utter buffoon with a ridiculously over the top Osakan accent, and he is possibly a homosexual (given how he moons over Yoshimura). Yoshimura meanwhile is a massively muscular he-man. There are numerous, mostly minor story differences from the film—such as a group of natives being whipped until they fall into the sea to be eaten by Ebirah (instead of escaping from the Red Bamboo and jumping on a boat to meet the same end in the film), another scene showing Yoshimura ripping apart a fence and using a huge post to bludgeon charging guards, and a sequence in which the protagonists use a radio to trick a group of soldiers in an armored truck to drive off a cliff. The discovery of Godzilla plays out rather differently too. Ryota and crew find Godzilla when Nitta kicks the wall with his bare foot, then due to his antics they discover Godzilla is sleeping right amongst them! Later, Ryota actually climbs on Godzilla’s head in order to tie the wire around his noggin to wake him with the power of the storm. In another change, this time the nuclear bomb countdown is started by the Red Bamboo commander as well—not by some random dying scientist. Perhaps most surprising, Godzilla does not escape the island before the bomb blows—though neither does the explosion kill him. Like Hisamatsu’s adaptation, Sonoda’s uses a wide variety of panel sizes to underscore the size of the monsters, including a huge double splash page for Ebirah’s grand entrance, as well as several full-page splashes depicting Godzilla and the giant shrimp doing battle. Overall, the comic is definitely worth a read for fans—I just wish they retained the giant condor!

Along with the manga, the volume includes a couple short essays, both of which contain some fine nuggets for kaiju lovers. The first is just a page long and is titled, “One More ‘Mothra’s Song’” and is about a Japanese version of the iconic Mothra melody released in 1971, written by Kouji Yuki (a pen-name) and sung by Sachiko Matsumura. The other essay, titled something like “Explanation of the 99 Mysteries of Mothra,” is about six pages long and explores some pretty dang interesting topics—such as the origins of Mothra and the Shobijin! The movie never really explains where Mothra and the tiny twins come from—we are just left to assume that the radiation on the island mutated them. However, according to this short essay, the original short story upon which the Mothra screenplay was based included a more elaborate explanation of the origins of the world’s most famous enormous moth. That serialized novel, known as The Luminous Fairies and Mothra and written by Shinichiro Nakamura, Takehiko Fukunaga, and Yoshie Hotta, apparently describes the origins of the universe as created by a male god named Ajima. Ajima created the sea, sky, and land, at which point presumably he got a bit lonely and tore himself in half, creating the goddess Ajiko. Ajiko created the sun, and together Ajima and Ajiko gave birth to a huge egg (Mothra, of course). Ajiko later gave birth to humankind and lots of smaller eggs, but when the smaller eggs gave forth lots and lots of moths that just flew hither and yon, Ajima lost it and destroyed his own body. Ajiko, understandably upset and sad at the loss of her husband, went to the giant egg and separated herself into four pieces, which became the four fairies in the original story. (Mind you, my Japanese is not perfect, but I believe that is what was described in the essay.)  Frankly, all of this really makes me want to read the original! (Strangely, for those who are wondering, I did not see a name attached to either of the short essays.)

Frankly, I love these old manga! Although the adaptations are often woefully short and thus usually present wildly abbreviated versions of the stories, nevertheless the classic art is a real treat, the changes to the stories are often surprising and bizarre, and the entire experience of reading the books is just straight-up fun (other than struggling through understanding some of the Japanese). Compared to Battle History of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the Mothra volume has far fewer manga, but the essays add enormously to the interest of the volume, and the overall package is a kaiju lover’s dream. For those with a taste for the Showa films, this classic volume is highly recommended.