Monsters in the School Room: Using Godzilla to Inspire the use of Anime in your School Library
Heather Stewart, Librarian at Brechin High School, has been running a Manga Club for the last 4 years. The club read and discuss old and new manga comics as well as coming together to support each others' illustration, writing, gaming and programming work - a whole host of cross-curricular activities! Heather describes her love of the classic Japanese monster Godzilla in this blog; read on and get inspired to start using anime in your library!
When a friend first lent me a copy of this comic to read the timing seemed auspicious, what with the Godzilla movie reboot earlier in 2014 – hey, I liked it! – and the hotly anticipated Avengers™ sequel due out in May 2015. Yeah kids, in case you didn’t know, Godzilla famously ‘crossed over’ into the Marvel™ universe back in the seventies. Back then, though, the might of Shield’s Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan and other sundry and assorted superheroes met their match in the ‘King of the Monsters’, as even Thor’s mighty Mjolnir is but a mere irritant to the indomitable Godzilla. Yay!
Godzilla, or Gojira, is the King of the Monsters, specifically Japanese monsters or Kaiju. The biggest monsters – the daikaiju – include the turtle-like behemoth, Gamera (move over puny ninja turtles!) and the ‘placid except when forced to defend her young’ butterfly-like Mothra. She is Godzilla’s most frequently cast opponent and sometime ally, and another favourite of mine!
The Big G has diversified into other media too, everything from cartoons to novels to video games – and, of course, comic books and manga! He made his first foray onto the panelled page almost forty years ago and while most are spin-offs from his movies, not all his comics are.
Infamous for changing size from film to film, not to mention from scene to scene, Godzilla remains larger than life for me. He’s a childhood hero to be sure but also much, much more. Godzilla has gone through numerous incarnations since his (we don’t actually know for sure that he’s a boy monster but the general consensus is that he is a he) first symbolic eruption onto the silver screen of 1950s Japan, and thanks to his appeal, he's now firmly planted in our global consciousness.
Playful and benign, he has been compassionate foster-parent; he's been a bully; he's been a vengeful, grieving father. Saviour of Japan, anti-hero; monster – Godzilla is all this and more, but he is ultimately a sympathetic character, as much a victim of the atomic age as the Japanese he terrorized.
So why do I love Godzilla so much? All that knocking cities to the ground and killing millions of innocent people; he sounds like a bit of a jerk, no? Godzilla, as terrifying force of nature, is part of the original and best kaiju lexicon, I think. For all its horrifying consequences, we do not hate the earthquake or the tsunami; they are not moral - or evil. Godzilla embodies the might of Nature; he is terrible and wholly indifferent to human endeavour.
Human endeavour that leads to nuclear warfare, global warming and hurricanes, tsunamis, etc., might well be seen as evil though. America’s nuclear testing in the South Pacific throughout the fifties most definitely could be. That's right, Godzilla’s 1954 film debut was as an allegory for the atom bomb.
The 2014 reboot movie successfully recaptures that original trope; for all the unlucky San Franciscans’ screams and suffering, the US military’s war machine and the hero’s, erm, heroism, Godzilla – or MUTO, for that matter – never really notices they’re there. To paraphrase Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock™, we know Godzilla does not care what humans do.
In short, the world of Godzilla is a veritable goldmine of historical reference, artistic innovation and some seriously awesome films - so why not use this character to inspire your class? I’m hoping for daikaiju manga artwork, pupil-penned fanfiction and maybe even some cosplay to stem from this topic at our school! Now then, where’s my Hawkeye costume got to...?