Godzilla Minus One has become one of the most acclaimed Godzilla movies ever made.
Retaining its original Japanese language format has been crucial to its success.
English dubs have been part of the Godzilla experience for English-speaking audiences, but Godzilla Minus One has eschewed an English-language dub.
Godzilla Minus One has become one of the most acclaimed Godzilla movies ever made, and its success highlights how crucial retaining its original Japanese language format has been to its success. Directed by Takashi Yamazaki, Godzilla Minus One takes place in 1947, with Japan still reeling from the nation’s defeat in World War II. Like many Godzilla films of the past, the reptilian behemoth emerges seemingly out of nowhere to terrorize Japan. However, unlike most Japanese Godzilla films, Godzilla Minus One has eschewed an English-language dub for its release in the Western world, and this is far from an arbitrary choice.
Going all the way back to the original 1954 film Godzilla, English dubs have been part and parcel of the Godzilla experience for kaiju lovers in the English-speaking world (especially before DVD and streaming came along with multiple language options.) The cheesiness inherent to English dubbing added a lot of unintentional humor and campiness to the average Godzilla film, with character’s lips not matching their dialogue and the dialogue itself often tweaked in translation to sound more Americanized rather than a literal translation. However, in contrast to English dubbing acting as the lowest common denominator for Western audiences entering the Godzilla universe, the centrality of Japanese culture is baked into Godzilla Minus One more than almost any other Godzilla film.
The time period Godzilla Minus One is set in alone makes an English dub a non-starter for it. The culture shock of the two nuclear strikes in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is at the heart of Minus One’s story, Japan as both a culture and a nation having to rebuild from the ground up after being subject to the most powerful weapon ever built by human hands. Moreover, the fall of Hirohito as both Japan’s Emperor and as a divine figurehead left Japan at a cultural crossroads after the nation’s formal surrender that officially ended World War II. With all of these real-world events in its backdrop, Godzilla Minus One adds even more destruction and devastation into the mix with a 300-foot-tall lizard arriving in Tokyo with all of that fresh in Japan’s collective consciousness.
Godzilla as a character emerged out of the cultural zeitgeist of post-World War II Japan, Godzilla essentially framed as a personification of sorts to the nuclear devastation Japan experienced in 1945. Minus One’s version of Godzilla makes the towering lizard one of the most vicious versions of the character ever seen on film, the movie’s version of Godzilla shown to be indifferent at best to the humans unlucky enough to be caught in his path, but Minus One takes it even further with its extremely souped-up version of Godzilla’s signature power, atomic breath. Compared to past movies where Godzilla’s atomic breath has devastating but still contained effects on buildings and other kaiju, his atomic breath in Minus One has the exact same effect as a nuclear warhead of being able to wipe out an entire city. With that kind of portrayal of Godzilla as its centerpiece, Godzilla Minus One would have lost its entire essence with an English dub.
One aspect of Godzilla Minus One that has received considerable praise is the movie’s human drama and it characters, an anomaly in Godzilla movies where the humans typically don’t have much function other than to flee in terror from Godzilla and other kaiju. In contrast, Minus One makes survivor’s guilt into a major theme of its story, with its kamikaze pilot Kōichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) haunted by his failure to stop Godzilla’s first attack in the movie’s opening and genuinely striving for redemption by defeating the monster for both his family and his people. With both Shikishima’s character arc and Minus One’s story so steeped in the mindset of post-war Japan, an English-dub simply could not do either element of the film justice. In a very real way, Godzilla Minus One is as much about the culture of Japan as it is about Godzilla. For that, Japanese as the movie’s default language in its global release was always an absolute must.
Godzilla Minus One
Post war Japan is at its lowest point when a new crisis emerges in the form of a giant monster, baptized in the horrific power of the atomic bomb.
Brad Curran is a dedicated writer from the United States with a love of all things nerdy. Brad’s interests range from action and martial arts flicks to superhero movies from both the DC and Marvel universes, to horror movies and sci-fi epics, with all of his interests united by his innate love of adventure.
Since 2013, Brad has brought his deep love for and experience with martial arts to his work with Kung Fu Kingdom, where he has covered everything from movies and TV to training and interviews with stars likes Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White, Tony Jaa, Jackie Chan, Joe Taslim, and Shannon Lee, to name just a few. Brad also expanded his career in entertainment journalism in his work with as a features writer for Screen Rant, where Brad brought his skill as on a range of topics like superheroes, the Avatar: The Last Airbender franchise, and the history making story of the Snyder Cut. Brad also utilized his skill as an interviewer to his work with Screen Rant, where his interview resume includes big stars like Frank Grillo, Gerard Butler, Dante Basco, Janet Varney, Annette O’Toole, Dolph Lundgren, and many others.
Most importantly of all, Brad also considers Raul Julia’s M. Bison to be the most quotable movie character of all time, bar none.