Episode 56: Shin Godzilla, GMK, and Japanese Nationalism

Staying on Shin Godzilla-related content, I give my opinion on the popular article “Shin Godzilla vs. GMK: The Battle Over Japanese Nationalism”. It’s not 1947 anymore, and Japan has shown the world how good of a country it can be. At the end of the day, the Japanese should make their own decisions about their constitution and if they should grow their military. East Asia is a very dangerous place right now, and the US and Japan have many things in common. I believe these two movies are not opposites – they are two sides of the same patriotic coin.

Link to the article: http://www.godzilla-movies.com/news/shin-godzilla-vs-gmk-the-battle-over-japanese-nationalism



Welcome back to Kaijuvision. I’m Brian Scherschel. I’m going to continue with Shin Godzilla-related content. As I’ve been interested in politics and history since I was 7 years old, this has always been my interest and my specialty. So as they say on YouTube, let’s get right into it.

In this episode I’m going to address an article called “Shin Godzilla and GMK: The Battle Over Japanese Nationalism”, which was written by Gman in 2017. It’s about how Shin Godzilla is supposedly nationalist propaganda, but in reality, this article itself reads like propaganda. Propaganda is information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular cause or point of view.

I’ll start by saying that I have a master’s in public administration with a concentration in comparative and international affairs from the best public administration school in the country. It’s ranked higher than the Kennedy School of Government. I have read a great deal about Japanese nationalism, and I’ve covered over 50 topics on Kaijuvision, so this is not really a new topic for me. I’ve never addressed an article like this on the show before, but I am now because the Godzilla and the kaiju community is really missing a lot of perspective on this topic in particular. Fans of Godzilla and kaiju deserve to hear updated information to be able to make good decisions. There are others in the community who have it right by disagreeing with the conventional wisdom. It’s not that hard to understand, it’s just that people have been getting outdated information for so long, and it’s time to move forward.

When I released my “Politics of Shin Godzilla” episode, I came up against only a little bit of push-back. The feedback was largely positive. Most of the negative responses were hilarious to me, calling me Fox News and a populist, among other things. They called Shin Godzilla Japanese militarist nationalist propaganda, and the “Triumph of the Will” of Godzilla movies, which is a comparison to the Nazi regime’s propaganda. I think the criticisms of Shin Godzilla have been so over the top. One person said I didn’t mention GMK from 2001 and pretended to have this sort of “gotcha” moment. I don’t think he listened to anything I said in the video either, but maybe he did. But when he mentioned that, he reminded me of this article about GMK and Shin Godzilla.

So getting into the article, right out of the gate, it sets up GMK and Shin Godzilla as opposing political forces. It says how GMK represents Japan’s pacifist ideals and Shin Godzilla represents right-wing nationalism. So here’s why this is a false setup from the outset: Both movies are patriotic. They’re two sides of the same coin. Patriotism is faith in one’s homeland: political, historical, cultural, ethnic, and patriotism is defensive, inward-thinking, and fulfilled. Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power and promoting national identity, culture, language, race, religion, and political goals, and nationalism is offensive, outwards, and power hungry. There’s nothing in GMK or Shin Godzilla about how the rest of the world needs to be more Japanese, and the military in neither movie is ever used offensively against another nation or people.

Setting up these two movies as diametrically opposed to each other depends on looking at Japan through a heavily-biased American lens. This goes back to the era immediately after World War II. Back then, we wrote the Japanese constitution, in which Article 9 denounces the right of belligerency of the state and renounces the right of Japan to use military force to resolve conflicts. It was 73 years ago that America wrote this constitution, which is a pretty long time ago, when Japan was a much different place. Japan has a whole new set of arguably more challenging problems now. But this mentality that “the US won the war, and Japan has to do what we say forever” is growing outdated more every year. How many years will it take before we recognize that Japan has proven itself to be worthy of more independence and autonomy? This also relates to the heavy-handed American foreign policy that has been around for a long time. I think when you’re from America, it’s easy to take it for granted that America has a tendency to smother its allies. And while this article was written in 2017, it really comes from a foreign policy era that is more in tune with 2008 or 2009.

The article doesn’t take into account really any large-scale changes in East Asia going from 2010 to 2017, so it’s ignoring the elephant in the room, which is China’s expansionist policy in the South China Sea and the increase of tension regarding the Senkaku Islands dispute. Indeed, this article talks some about Japanese history and Japanese politics, and it mentions North Korea, but at no point does the article mention China with regards to the national security threat it presents to both the US and Japan. And by 2017, we’d already had seven to nine years of Chinese aggression and willful disregard for international law. Maybe the author knows about China but just doesn’t think it’s that important in this discussion, but it is because it’s a really huge blind spot in this article to not mention something like this.

Next, the article talks about Nippon Kaigi, which is a nationalist group in Japanese politics. There aren’t very many members, only 38,000, but they do have a lot of influence. It’s a very conservative group. I don’t agree with their historical revisionism, the war crimes denial, or minimizing the comfort women issue. If you want to learn more about these issues, check out episode 4 of Kaijuvision. The topic is the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.

Next I’ll talk about GMK. A significant part of GMK is about how the Japanese people shouldn’t forget the past because otherwise they’re doomed to repeat it. People in the movie seem to have forgotten about the past and most seem to believe that the Self-Defense Forces defeated Godzilla and not Dr. Serizawa and his oxygen destroyer. The main idea in GMK is that Godzilla represents the spirits of the dead from the war, meaning the Japanese, Chinese, Americans, and so on. The author of the article declares GMK an anti-nationalist movie, and that it enshrines the idea of a defensive military that is best when it doesn’t have to fight at all. GMK might not be a nationalist movie but it is still a patriotic one. It thinks within the borders of Japan. It’s thinking inwards. It instills an allegiance of the Japanese people to the land and the ideals of Japan. The guardian monsters represent the connection between the Japanese people and their homeland.

While the movie should be commended for not wanting history to be forgotten, the defenders of GMK forget something important. While it is great when a military doesn’t have to be used, it can and should be able to adjust to a quickly-changing security environment in East Asia. In other words, it should evolve as the threat matrix evolves. It never stays the same, either. GMK was made in 2000 or so, and released in 2001, not long after North Korea tested missiles that went over Japan. So the military should still hopefully not have to be used, but it should be able to respond to threats in a proportional manner. Even in 2001, East Asia was rapidly becoming a much more dangerous place compared to back at the end of World War II. So, sure, have a defensive military, but it should be able to perform the job it might have to do one day. Having a strong enough military to deter conflict is a very important part of keeping the peace, just as having too weak of a military invites potential conflict. And wanting to have a stronger defensive capability is not in and of itself militaristic or nationalistic – it’s a prudent measure to take in order to deter conflict and save lives. What’s the point of a defensive military if it can’t adequately defend against anything?

Now, here’s the very important part of what I have to say about this article. Once the article starts up on Shin Godzilla, things start to get weird. It reads, “Shin Godzilla proposes the country should become stronger to defend itself from foreign threats and national crisis.” What is the reader supposed to think upon reading that? Like, “Oh, the horror”? I didn’t think that. The East Asia of 2015 is a very different place than the East Asia of 2000. Beginning in 2010 and 2011, China built military bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea, claimed the entire South China Sea as their exclusive territorial waters, and heavily built up their military might and started using it against their neighbors. And when the region becomes a more dangerous place, yes, Japan should ensure that they’re able to defend themselves proportionally to meet that larger threat. But this article didn’t tell us that important information. That new information may change your mind about the need for Japan to deal with the new security environment.

The article briefly summarizes the 3/11 disaster, and then reads “The entire scenario is a jumping point for Shin Godzilla’s true dialog. Many fans seem to view the film as an allegory to Fukushima, but that’s not quite the goal”, which is strengthening Japan’s military. I almost have to laugh here because the article acts like this is a sinister goal that is masterfully hidden by this expertly-done propaganda that fools everyone but them. I think it’s pretty obvious that the movie touches on this topic where parts of the constitution are splashed onto the screen and the characters are trying to find out how many hoops they have to jump through to be able to defend themselves. This isn’t lost on most American audiences by my experience. I think it is very telling that a stronger Japan is viewed in this article as a sinister thing. The article goes onto criticize Prime Minister Abe’s move to reinterpret Article 9, which that occurred in 2014. This move allows Japan to be able to defend the US should the US get in a military conflict in East Asia. Again, I guess the article thinks the reader should recoil in terror, but I view this interpretation as a prudent measure considering how things are so volatile and unpredictable in the region.

He goes on to write that Abe and Nippon Kaigi feel the constitution is illegitimate for being influenced and “imposed” by an American agenda. Well, it was imposed, that’s a fact. The article mentions that Abe magnified the North Korea threat in order to increase US-Japan security cooperation. I don’t know that Prime Minster Abe needs to amplify any threats to Japan at this point to get anything done considering how difficult things are over there. This would also be the place for the author to mention China, but he shockingly ignores the elephant in the room.

Now the part about the tanks, this astonished me. The article states, “Ishiro Honda’s 1950s to 60s depiction of demoralized tanks retreating from a lost battle is nowhere to be found.” What? Yes there are. They’re at exactly 57:58 into the movie. I saw them with my own eyes. Tanks are destroyed by Shin Godzilla, tanks are wildly retreating, one of the tanks is buried under a bridge as its trying to escape. Like, did we watch the same movie? It’s right there, it’s right there in the movie. He’s using this supposed lack of retreating tanks to imply how the military is filled with more pride, when in actuality, they’re retreating in tanks just like an Ishiro Honda Godzilla movie. I’m not sure what the movie was supposed to do with these tanks that they didn’t do already in order to satisfy how this looks like an Ishiro Honda movie. I really don’t.

Another problematic sentence reads, “Where as GMK’s Admiral Tachibana found honor in peace, the JSDF in Shin Godzilla is proud to be deployed for their country.” That’s making it far too simple I’m afraid. I think the self-defense forces in both movies are proud to be deployed for their country AND find honor in peace just as most other military forces around the world are. It’s normal for the military to have more than one emotion at one time. So are the Japanese not supposed to have any faith or pride in their country’s military – in perpetuity? I don’t see much evidence in Shin Godzilla pointing to the JSDF having all the pride that this article implies that they have.

The most shocking material in the article is in the conclusion. And by “shocking”, I mean that Japanese people reading this article are the ones who would be shocked by it the most. The article reads, “The question is, which image should the Japanese people heed?” What he means the GMK version or the Shin version, since the article implies they’re so opposed to each other. It reads, “There’s a beating heart at the bottom of Tokyo Bay warning Japan to take responsibility for their past, and a tail-splitting amalgam of frozen humanoid beasts inspiring them to become a stronger, independent nation…It should go without saying.” Full stop. What? “It should go without saying”? Obviously he’s saying take responsibility for their past. But who does this? So you’re creating a binary false choice completely divorced from reality. You’re presenting them with an ultimatum essentially, and you’re saying “do as you’re told.” So it’s okay for Japan to be this anime wonderland, and a tributary state of the US, but they shouldn’t get any funny ideas like doing more to defend themselves, which is the right of most other nations? This article in fact plays into everything Nippon Kaigi wants to argue against. Here’s an American telling them that their destiny is not their choice, presenting them with an ultimatum, telling them they can’t become stronger, can’t become more independent, saying they have no choice and to do what they’re told. It should be up to Japan to make these kinds of decisions. They’re a United States ally, but this article treats them like World War II just ended last year. As if elected leaders of the US haven’t told the Japanese that they fought bravely in the war. Japan is the first line of defense against China and North Korea, and this article demands that Japan abandons the very idea of building up its defenses against more than one clear and present danger. Denying Japan the right to become stronger puts them and us at a disadvantage. And why can’t Japan take responsibility for their past AND become stronger and more independent? Why is it this odd, binary, false choice – one or the other? The right answer is both. Both of these movies are patriotic. Neither is nationalistic or militaristic. There will be no more Japan if they can’t defend themselves. But I just can’t with the way that Shin Godzilla is just jammed into this anti-nationalist and, at times, almost imperialist argument. The Japanese public isn’t supportive of an offensive military anyways. As of right now, Japan has one aircraft carrier. They depend on us for their defense, and they pay us about 2 billion dollars a year for that.

If you think I’m wrong about any of this, please be sure to let me know your opinion. I graduated from the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Bloomington with a concentration in comparative and international affairs. I love to talk about issues like this, and I think discussions about Japan enrich the overall level of dialogue, whether you’re a Godzilla fan or not. Have a wonderful rest of your day, stay safe, and thanks so much for listening.

If you’d like to send some feedback, I’d love to hear from you. The e-mail address is feedback@kaijuvision.com. You can also follow the podcast on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Kaijuvision Radio is available on Kaijuvision.com, YouTube, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Blubrry, TuneIn, and Podcast Addict. I’m Brian Scherschel, and this is KVR, Kaijuvision Radio. And I will see you next time.

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Episode 55: The Politics of Shin Godzilla

The final word on the politics of Shin Godzilla, from the podcast that covered it best. Is Shin Godzilla a “nationalist” movie? As an international affairs graduate of the best public policy school in the country, I can say that it is not nationalistic. It’s patriotic. The 3/11 Disaster (Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Meltdowns) had a big influence on the movie. Godzilla effectively IS the 3/11 disaster. If it was nationalistic, I wouldn’t like it as much. Watch me tell you what every fan should know about this incredible movie. I cover the satire, the realism, and much more! This is my first episode recorded on video, but you can still listen to the audio version just like every previous episode.



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Regarding Our Groundbreaking Shin Godzilla Episode

By Brian Scherschel

Some reviews so far about our revolutionary Shin Godzilla episode:

Kyoei Toshi (one of our Patrons) (via Twitter): “Not only the best examination of Shin in English, but the single best podcast episode dealing with Godzilla ever done. These guys have done an incredible amount of preparation and research for their series on the Godzilla films, and it shows in the finished product. Well done!”

Geek Devotions (via Facebook): “Check out Kaijuvision Radio’s review of ‘Shin Godzilla’. It’s probably the most comprehensive and informative discussion on the film that we’ve had the opportunity to listen to. These guys did a great job breaking down the film!”

Ben Avery (host of the podcasts Strangers and Alien & Welcome to Level Seven): “Great job with ‘Shin Godzilla’. I did find it interesting that you seemed to be arguing with invisible people who didn’t like it. I kept saying, ‘I know! I agree!’ I’m just not part of the online fandom. Whenever you talked about fan response I found it very interesting.”

We expect this episode to significantly change how Shin Godzilla is discussed in the American fandom.

In our incredible, groundbreaking season finale episode on this film, we challenge some of the conventional wisdom in the American fandom about the movie’s politics. We are of the opinion that this movie is not nationalist propaganda. Patriotic, yes. Nationalistic, no. Militaristic, no.

We wholeheartedly embrace a Godzilla that changes over time, just as it always has. Since Shin Godzilla is about the here and now, we explain the situation Japan is in right now, and the challenges they face. Because of marketing (“Cool Japan”) and the exaggerated power that nostalgia has, we say in plain English just why we’re seeing these political issues in the movie.

Shin Godzilla is not all that different from many other movies in the series. It fits into current events and stays relevant. It helps people work through trauma. It channels the public’s outrage. It expresses the Japanese national spirit. Using only the military fails. There are many more reasons.

If we had received a heavily edited version of Shin Godzilla in America and then had to wait 30+ years for it to be released, fans would have been furious. However, the result of this is that the politics came through completely unfiltered. If we had to wait decades until seeing the political elements of the movie, the political messages would be dulled by the passage of time. This time around, we get the full impact, so it’s natural that some Americans would have a reaction to what they see.

Since Hideki Anno made this movie, and since it deals with complex issues, we should not mistake meditating on issues the same thing as endorsing positions. We don’t endorse any positions either, but we do explain what’s going on in the film with all of these issues. There is also a lot of satire in this movie right up against a lot of realism. We sort all of that out. I explain all of the bureaucratic elements of the movie because it’s such an important part of the movie. We then comprehensively examine the events of 3/11/2011 and its aftermath better than anyone in the Godzilla podcasting community. We link the timeline of the disasters to the events in the film as they unfold.

Anyone who’s in the American Godzilla fandom needs to hear what we have to say in this episode. I have a background in comparative politics and international affairs, and our perspective on the movie from that angle is impressive. It’s totally worth listening to.

You can listen to this amazing episode here.

Episode 37: Shin Godzilla (2016) (2011 Great East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami/Fukushima Meltdowns)

At last, it is time. Fasten your seat belts, kaiju fans.  It’s like this movie was made for Kaijuvision Radio.  Just as I was planning a podcast emphasizing the connection between the Godzilla franchise and international affairs, this masterpiece was delivered to me on a silver platter.  This episode is our masterpiece.  After our film description, part two is my opinion on the big picture of this incredible movie.  Part three is a detailed chronological rundown of the film, and we will tie it to the events of 3/11.  Our related topics are the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdowns.

This episode is dedicated to the victims of the 3/11 disaster, Plant Manager Masao Yoshida, the Fukushima 50, the U.S. service members who participated in Operation Tomodachi, U.S. Forces Japan, and the JSDF.

We’d like to send a shout-out to our patron Kyoei Toshi and Sean Stiff for pledging at the Kaiju Visionary level.  Thank you for your support!  We really appreciate it.


Introduction: 0:00 – 2:42

Part 1 – Film Description: 2:42 – 9:02

Part 2 – Opinion of the Big Picture: 9:02 – 1:04:45

Part 3 – Chronological Rundown: 1:04:45 – 3:10:52

Closing: 3:10:52 – End


“The Big Picture” written by Brian Scherschel

Host: Brian Scherschel

Co-Host: Nathan Marchand

Editor: Brian Scherschel

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Lucky Dragon No. 5: Still an Anti-Nuclear Symbol

The Lucky Dragon No. 5 today. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia).

Every Godzilla fan knows the story of the Lucky Dragon No. 5 (Daigo Fukuryu Maru). It was a fishing vessel that was exposed to nuclear fallout from the Castle Bravo test. While it was outside the predicted danger zone, the H-bomb detonated by the U.S. on the Bikini Atoll was far more powerful than expected, and on March 1, 1954, the 23-man crew of the ship were contaminated by the radiation. All of them suffered radiation poisoning and one died.

This event was fresh on the minds of the creative team at Toho working on Gojira. It’s why the film opens with a scene of a fishing vessel being destroyed by a blinding flash, which turns out later to have been Godzilla, and why it was implied that Godzilla was awakened and mutated by American H-bomb tests.

The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun was recently granted a rare chance to tour the inside of the now 70-year-old ship, which was decommissioned in 1967 and later moved in 1976 to the Yumenoshima district of Tokyo’s Koto Ward and preserved in a museum in the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall. They took several photos and 360-degree images of the boat. You can view them here.

To this day, the ship remains a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan. Along with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, this was one of the most potent and palpable examples of the “nuclear curse” on Japan. It was a demoralizing blow to the Japanese psyche, which was suffering other repercussions from nuclear tests at the time, such as contaminated fish being caught in their waters. It wasn’t until the 3/11 disasters, which included the Fukushima meltdown, that Japan suffered as large a nuclear-related incident. These led to an increase in distrust of nuclear power and the shutdown of many nuclear plants. This is problematic given that Japan is in desperate need of domestic energy sources since, being an island nation, they have to import most of them.

You might think it’s crazy, then, that anyone in Japan would want to preserve a ship that reminds them of this “curse.” I think the Japanese do it for that very reason. It allows them a means to look back on their past and remember their convictions. These events have made indelible marks on their history and culture, and they can’t afford to forget them.