Monday, March 15, 2010

Symbols are very powerful, and can reach the very bottom of your soul.

I happened to see a clip from the old Godzilla series yesterday ("Mothra vs. Godzilla"). Originally, the film was released in 1964, when I was 2. I remember seeing the film in a theatre just before I entered the primary school. It must have been one of the re-runs.

Godzilla appeared to be something of primordial brutality when I watched it as a kid. The way the monster was depicted, it was clear that there was no way of establishing a means of communication with it. Of course, as the Godzilla theme developed over many films, the monster "evolved" to display some comical features. It even played baseball in a film co-featuring some sea monsters. In the beginning, however, Godzilla was portrayed as a leviathan moving about on its own instincts, where nothing is negotiable. And it is in this primitive context that Godzilla impressed the young child.

As many point out, Godzilla has something to do with the collective trauma of the Japanese people in the post-war era, especially as regards the atomic weapons.

It is interesting to consider, even as I was not aware of the detailed history of my mother land in the years preceding my birth, I was somehow unconsciously affected by the implications, in the reception of the way Godzilla was portrayed when it destroyed the landscapes of contemporary Japan. Symbols are very powerful, and can reach the very bottom of your soul without knowing it.



砂山鉄夫(Tetsu Sunayama) said...

We family went to the hot spring nearby yesterday. I chatted with my son, the elementary school boy,on his favorite characters on the digital games. I almost didn't know them. I asked him, " Do you know Godzilla?" He said,"Yes,of course!" Wow, Godzilla is eternity.

However,he didn't know the song I sang unconsciously,then.


Your letter formed dialoge on the magazine was profound and amazing!

Yuzu said...

Your impression of Godzilla is very similar to me.
I have a brother who is younger than me, so when he started to watch Godzilla, I saw him first.
I go out to Godzilla naturally.
I think that Godzilla has very similar feeling of human and the bottom sadness in the earth. I was sure he can become a hero.

Anonymous said...

I believe artistic expressions in Japan have mostly been about "symbolizations". My view is that we tend to steer clear from trying to portray an object or a concept in precise and realistic detail and rather prefer to create a symbol which can collectively represent everything we consider to be existent but abstract. Such an example is Godzilla, as was Testuwan Atom (Astro Boy). While I imagine our true trauma to have derived not only from what we have experienced as war victims but also what we have experienced as the "fanatic" assailants, it is unfortunate that much of our literature and movies have tended to focus on the former only. It may well be that the lack of any symbolization of our "other experience" from the war signifies how we are yet to confront our true trauma and are trying to find peace by reminding ourselves only about the past as war victims, perhaps trying to convince ourselves that nothing else had actually happened. Is this about shame? Then it must be about courage. Whatever the case may be, to me our situation stands in stark contrast to how Hollywood continues to confront Vietnam and other traumas from their American history to this day and nonetheless make such movies successful. I consider silence and oblivion to be critical sins, representing a denial of what humans should be all about. Having said that, I am uncomfortable with the fact that many who have experienced going to war are now leaving us without sharing their true memories from the war, either in artistic or narrative format.