How the Heisei Era Gave Godzilla his bite back
Godzilla was in a transition period following his last debut in Terror of Mechagodzilla. Fans wanted him back, but there needed to be a change. In an effort to get back to its roots, Japan released The Return of Godzilla in 1984. A full decade after its release, this film marked a return to the monsters rampaging roots and unofficially ushered in the Heisei Era.
Technically the era began in 1989 and ran until 1995 and featured much taller and brutal takes on Godzilla’s friends and foes. This era also introduced some of the most violent kaiju Godzilla had ever faced, including Biollante, Destoroyah and Mecha-King Ghidorah. The Heisei Godzilla films are most famous for making Godzilla more of a force of nature and less of a friend to the children.
Godzilla vs. Biollante marked the first official introduction into the era and let viewers know that this wasn’t their dad’s Godzilla. Aside from being much more massive, his foes’ origins came from all corners of the universe. Biollante was the result of genetic tampering while other creatures came from space. Tokyo was a constant battleground, and even with the inclusion of G-Force (a human initiative designed to combat Godzilla), collateral damage was always inevitable.
The Heisei Era reintroduced fans to the King of the Monsters, who has experienced a bit of a makeover. Looking more like a T-Rex, Godzilla has smaller eyes, a more squared-off about, and a smaller neck. He looks angry almost all of the time and isn’t afraid to fight dirty. The biggest change to the character is his personality. While he used to be a fun and animated version of himself in the Showa Era, this new version is very much an animal. Unpredictable and meant to be admired from a distance. He doesn’t discriminate whether or not the thing in his way is a friend or a foe, and even allies like Mothra do their best to get Godzilla as far away from civilization as possible.
However, while the times have changed and Godzilla is more aggressive, he still has some Shows elements that carry over. For example, he has another son named Godzilla Jr. His appearance is a bit more green and much more dinosaur-like as he ages. Initially, he was meant to take the mantle up from his father at the end of the series, but the story didn’t continue. Godzilla Jr. showed that his father was still good at heart even though he was a gargantuan titan.
The Era culminated into the titanic and climactic, Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. Godzilla returns for one final bow as his body begins to go nuclear. Simultaneously, the sins of the past return in the form of Destoroyah, a mutated crustacean born of the same oxygen destroyer that killed the original Godzilla. This kaiju is by far the evilest Godzilla had ever faced and even killed his son.
With his rage at a fever pitch, Godzilla uses the last ounces of his power to defeat Destoroyah. As his body goes into meltdown, he uses his spare radiation to revive his son as the next Godzilla. The film serves as a celebration of decades of Godzilla, and while we never got to see all of the good his son would do for humans, it was a fitting end for such an exciting era.
The Heisei Era is easily my favorite Godzilla era. It features kaiju, both new and old, and stakes that hadn’t yet been seen in the franchise. Godzilla was a hero but not in the traditional sense. He was an animal who fought to survive, and that image was never compromised. Its storytelling over multiple films feels smooth and adds onto itself with each new entry. No other era has matched what this one has put out, and I think the creators know that. The Heisei Era deserves to stand tall above all others because it not only gave Godzilla his bite back, it showed him as the mythic titan he truly is.
Thanks for reading everyone and please check out my rundown of Godzilla’s Showa Era! I am still trying to figure things out scheduling wise but I am getting there! Thank you for the patience and support! We also have a new episode of our podcast, The Next Panel with Nick and Jake, up so make sure to give it a listen while you read! Stay Safe Stay Happy and Stay Fresh!