Welcome to our Colossus Movie Guide for Godzilla Minus One. This guide contains our detailed library of content covering key aspects of the movie’s plot, ending, meaning, and more. We encourage your comments to help us create the best possible guide. Thank you!
What is Godzilla Minus One about?
Godzilla Minus One uses Godzilla as a metaphor for guilt, grief, and remorse. On the personal level, we have Kōichi Shikishima and the shame he feels—Godzilla becomes the manifestation of Shikishima’s anguish and PTSD. On the global level, Godzilla is a byproduct of political happenings, embodying the consequences of decisions made by both Japan and the United States. You see this in the visual similarity between the devastation caused by the bombing of Tokyo and the aftermath of Godzilla’s attack on Ginza. There’s also a subtheme rejecting duty to government and valuing community and individuality.
Movie Guide table of contents
- Kōichi Shikishima – Ryunosuke Kamiki
- Noriko Ōishi – Minami Hamabe
- Akiko – Sae Nagatani
- Sōsaku Tachibana – Munetaka Aoki
- Kenji Noda – Hidetaka Yoshioka
- Yōji Akitsu – Kuranosuke Sasaki
- Shirō Mizushima – Yuki Yamada
- Sumiko Ōta – Sakura Ando
- Written by – Takashi Yamazaki
- Directed by – Takashi Yamazaki
The ending of Godzilla Minus One explained
The end of Godzilla Minus One begins following the final fight with Godzilla. The humans win thanks to the combination of Noda’s decompression strategy and Shikishima’s kamikaze plan. The first weakens Godzilla’s body, the second blows up Godzilla’s head. The result is the monster can’t handle the power of its own atomic breath—so explodes.
Initially, everyone thinks Shikishima died when his plane crashed into Godzilla’s mouth. We’re even told that Japanese planes don’t have ejection seats. It’s then revealed that Tachibana had installed one. Shikishima is alive. Back on shore, his neighbor, Sumiko, hurriedly shows him a telegram. A shocked Shikishima runs off.
We pick up with Shikishima hurrying up some stairs, carrying Akiko. He bursts into a hospital room. There’s Noriko. Everyone had presumed her dead in the aftermath of Godzilla’s attack on Ginza. We saw her blasted away by the concussion that followed Godzilla’s heat ray. It seemed unlikely that she would survive. She has injuries, though. And there’s a curious black mark on her neck.
She asks Shikishima if his war is finally over. He says yes and the three of them are once again united.
A final shot of the ocean shows what remains of Godzilla. The mass writhes and bubbles as the legendary monster starts to regenerate.
The movie opened with Koichi Shikishima abandoning his duty as a kamikaze pilot. He lies about having issues with his plane. One of the engineers on Odo Island tells Shikishima that he thinks Shikishima is doing the right thing, that there’s no reason for him to give his life at the end of a war that’s already over. This decision haunts Shikishima in two ways.
First, because it’s technically an act of cowardice. Something that’s reinforced when Godzilla first comes ashore at Odo and the engineers ask Shikishima to man the 20 mm caliber gun on his plane. Tachibana tells Shikshima that nothing can survive a 20 mm. But Shikshima doesn’t believe him. So, to protect his own life, he doesn’t pull the trigger. In fact, he’s so scared that he probably couldn’t pull the trigger even if he had wanted to (which he didn’t). The engineers then decide to fire on Godzilla themselves. Which goes horribly. All but Tachibana perish.
That decision to not fire on Godzilla because it might cost him his life is a recreation of the kamikaze mission. In both cases, Shikishima was too scared, too disconnected from the stakes, to put his life on the line.
Second, when Shikshima is back in Tokyo, his neighbor, Sumiko, realizes that Koichi deserted his mission. She says he’s to blame for the United States being able to bomb Tokyo. That his parents and her children are dead because of his dereliction.
In this way, Godzilla Minus One connects the fantastic concept of Godzilla with the reality of the destruction that actually befell Japan. When Godzilla’s attack on Ginza culminates with a heat ray blast that mimics a nuclear detonation, that clearly stands in for the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima around the same time.
So when Shikishima flies the Shinden fighter into Godzilla’s mouth, it has a lot of emotional complexity. It’s a completion of his duty as a kamikaze pilot. But it’s also a sign of his maturation. He’s willing to risk his life to defeat Godzilla because wants to protect people. Not because some generic government order told him to do so. He wants to give Akiko a world to grow up in. He wants to protect his friends from the Shinsei Maru. He wants to do right by the engineers who died on Odo Island.
It’s a dramatic example of a feeling many people have once they become a parent. A more realistic example is someone who partied a lot and didn’t care much about their career—until they had a kid. Then, suddenly, they focus on providing. Their attention turns to health, work, and being a great parent. It’s a cliche, but they feel like their life has a whole new meaning.
That’s what Shikishima discovers. His survivor’s guilt and PTSD had caused him to keep Noriko and Akiko at a distance because he didn’t think he deserved his life, much less happiness. But once Tachibana absolves him of what happened on Odo, and even installs the ejection seat for Shikishima, there’s a sense of closure. He’s able to put away the past and focus on what’s important for tomorrow—Akiko’s future. Which means doing whatever it takes to make sure Godzilla’s not part of it.
That brings us back to the political aspect. There’s a reason the film specifies that the mission isn’t government-sanctioned. Because of tensions between the U.S. and Russian, Japan can’t formally take action. So it’s up to a volunteer army to try to defeat the most terrifying creature ever. We already had the film tell us the kamikaze stuff was stupid. And then we see how little the government did in terms of rebuilding Tokyo in the aftermath of the bombing. And at the end, it’s volunteers who are fighting for their community, specifically because the government is too hesitant to do anything.
Godzilla, too, is only so powerful because of a mutation triggered by the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests. So he is this symbol of the U.S. military carelessness as well as Japan’s governmental timidity. Takashi Yamazaki is making a case that the Japanese people are the ones who are responsible for the country’s future. The nation will succeed based on the effort of its people more so than the direction of its government.
Shikishima’s reunion with Noriko has meaning on both that smaller and larger level. On that personal level, if you look at Godzilla as only ever embodying Shikishima’s guilt, you get that relief and catharsis as he’s finally past the self-loathing and able to start living his life again. On the national level, Shikishima, Noriko, and Akiko represent Japan’s future. The hope that the people of Japan can find love and be happy and build a meaningful existence without the spectre of the war haunting them forever. There will always be the pain and loss of what happened, but it doesn’t have to keep affecting what’s now and what’s next.
You might have noticed the black mark on Noriko’s neck. There’s no clear indication of what it is. Some have speculated it’s a sign of cancer. Which would be a very realistic consequence from the radiation associated with Godzilla. There is something tragic about the idea that Noriko and Shikishima are reunited only for there to be this doomsday clock ticking down. While that might be the case, that sense of hopeless romance could feel at odds with catharsis the movie wants the audience to feel in that moment.
I’d argue the far more likely meaning is something to do with a sequel. It’s not impossible that Noriko survived the blast. But it does raise some questions. Given that the movie cuts from the reunion to Godzilla regenerating, it makes you wonder if somehow Noriko’s gained some ability that allowed her to regenerate. An ability that would connect her to Godzilla in some way. There is a precedent for this.
Godzilla lore has a character named Miki Saegusa. She appeared in six Godzilla films from 1989 to 1995. She is a psychic who kind of communicates with Godzilla the way the Green Ranger commands the Dinozord. The anime Godzilla trilogy, Planet of the Monsters, had a race called the Houtua who communicate telepathically with Mothra. They’re based on the Shobijin, the priestess fairies from the original Toho version of Mothra.
So a human character having a connection to the kaiju is a pretty popular plot point in Godzilla lore. That could be something Yamazaki wanted to hint at. We also don’t know much about Noriko’s background. So there’s a lot of opportunity to take her character in a direction that makes her very relevant to the kaiju-aspect of the story rather than simply Shikishima’s personal plot.
The themes and meaning of Godzilla Minus One
Recovery is possible
Both Shikishima and Japan suffer dearly at the end of World War II. And it’s hard for each of them to rebuild. But we see how both an individual and a nation can recover through community. Shikishima’s sense of responsibility is what initially keeps him going. But he turns a corner from simply surviving to wanting to thrive. Not only for himself but for those he cares about. It’s community that makes the difference. By staying connected to others, Shikishima and Japan defeat Godzilla, creating an opportunity for a better tomorrow.
A lot of Japanese media has focused on or at least referenced the aftermath of the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The original Gojira, released only 9 years later, was a relatively immediate reaction to the horror of that experience. Films like Akira, Rhapsody in August, Labyrinth of Cinema (funny enough, one of the main characters is named Noriko). Your Name.
But it goes beyond that the bombs. Japan has, especially recently, dealt with a slew of natural disasters, from earthquakes, to floods, to volcanic eruptions that have majorly affected the country. So it makes sense why so much of the art relates back to calamity and the response to it.
The more time that passes from disaster, the more the conversation evolves. It expands. It gains texture and nuance. Minus One joins that canon and takes a position of being hopeful about the future, on both the personal and national levels, while still being aware that Godzilla never truly dies.
Government is a hassle
Shin Godzilla was pretty critical about government. A large part of that movie was about how much bureaucracy can fail to appropriately respond to disaster. And in some cases, can actually cause more devastation due to the red tape that keeps proactive solutions from occurring. Hideaki Anno made a statement that Japan should move to a fresher, more agile form of government communication. That, in some ways, the fate of the country relies on being less rigid and less traditional.
Godzilla Minus One goes a step farther and cuts out the government altogether. Essentially saying that the people can’t rely on the government to do much of anything because its too busy worrying about international political dynamics to do right by the citizens. Instead, it’s up to regular people and their communities to solve crises and win the day. That each and every citizen is a hero just for doing their part to not just rebuild but build.
Why is the movie called Godzilla Minus One?
There’s a quote from Takashi Yamazaki that was part of the film’s initial press release.
Postwar Japan has lost everything. The film depicts an existence that gives unprecedented despair. The title GODZILLA MINUS ONE was created with this in mind. In order to depict this, the staff and I have worked together to create a setting where Godzilla looks as if “fear” itself is walking toward us, and where despair is piled on top of despair. I think this is the culmination of all the films I have made to date, and one that deserves to be “experienced” rather than “watched” in the theater. I hope you will experience the most terrifying Godzilla in the best possible environment.
So you can read the -1 as capturing this idea of negative energy. You’re not just at zero. You’re at negative one. If you’ve ever heard of the binary scale, it’s kind of like that. Binary is made up of only two numbers: 0 and 1. Essentially “off” and “on”. The binary scale is an alternative to having someone rate something out of 10. The power is in the simplification. Was the movie a 1 or a 0? Was the restaurant a 1 or a 0? How was your day today? A 1 or a 0?
Now add a -1 to the scale. 1 is good. 0 is neutral. -1 is bad.
It’s actually possible to use that scale to track the plot of a movie. For example, in The Lion King, Simba’s life at the beginning is a 1. Then Scar kills Mufasa. Simba goes to a -1. He meets Timon and Pumba. That resets him to 0. Reconnects with Nala. Then goes to fight Scar. Once he defeats Scar, he’s back to 1.
A tragedy might start at -1, move to 0, to 1, then ultimately back to -1.
Godzilla Minus One has Shikishima start in that negative state, crawl back to 0, stagnate there, get knocked back to -1 after the events at Ginza, then, finally, he defeats Godzilla and turns that minus into a positive. That’s what makes the final scene with Noriko so powerful. You finally have that breakthrough to positivity for the first time.
Another potential way of looking at the title is that we’re witnessing an early version of Godzilla. This was just the backstory and origin of a much more terrifying version of the king of monsters that we’ll see in a future installment. That’s a lot more of a stretch, especially since Yamazaki already explained that the title was created with a sense of despair in mind. But given the choice to have the movie set in the 1940s rather than in the modern era, and the final scene that sets up a sequel, it’s at least worth mentioning the title can be viewed as prequel-ish.
Questions & answers about Godzilla Minus One
Did Shikishima’s plane really have engine trouble?
No. He just didn’t want to fly his kamikaze mission.
Did the atomic bomb make Godzilla?
Not in this version. In this version, Godzilla already existed as a legendary deep-sea dinosaur monster that hung out around Odo Island. He wasn’t a threat to the country as a whole (or the world). But then America does the nuclear bomb testing at Bikini Atoll. We’re quickly shown that triggering some kind of mutation in Godzilla, radiation-related. That’s what causes the atomic breath and probably the Wolverine-like healing factor.
How did Noriko survive?
Two schools of thought.
One, it’s just pure luck. Crazy things like that have happened. There were people who managed to survive the atomic bombs. So unlikely things like that are possible. We only see her knocked back by the post-blast concussion.
Two, Noriko has some kind of power that allowed her to survive. That would be what the mark on her neck hints at. Either that power is connected to Godzilla, being something she inherited from the blast, or from another entity. Given that Godzilla movies always want to find a way to bring in Mothra, you could easily make a case for it being an early reference to Mothra. And it’s there in case a sequel happens, but not emphasized enough to detract in the event a sequel never manifests.
Was Noriko Akiko’s mom?
No. In the aftermath of the United State’s bombing of Tokyo (which really happened, just wasn’t atomic), The mother asked Noriko to take care of Akiko.
Why was Tachibana mad at Shikishima? Was Shikishima wrong?
Tachibana thought Godzilla wouldn’t survive 20 mm caliber gunfire. Shikishima had an opportunity to hit Godzilla point-blank but failed to take it. That resulted in Tachibana’s fellow engineers firing on a dinosaur with basic rifles. Godzilla then slaughtered everyone but Tachibana and Shikishima.
It’s a tricky situation because Shikshima did chicken out. But no one told the engineers to fire on Godzilla. They could have stayed hidden and maybe ‘zilla doesn’t notice them or doesn’t care to attack them. It’s not like he was hungry and actively looking to eat humans. When he does attack, he simply kills then moves on. And, we all know the 20 mm wouldn’t have done anything, right? If Shikishima fires, Godzilla just smashes the plane. Maybe the engineers take the opportunity to run away? Or maybe they shoot their rifles anyway and the same fate befalls them.
So it’s a bit strange because Shikishima spends such a long time beating himself up over something where he probably wasn’t the one responsible. Unless we believe Tachibana’s theory that Godzilla really wouldn’t have, at that point, survived the 20 mm. That makes the guilt Shikishima’s feeling noble but maybe also kind of not necessary. That’s not a bad thing, though. Because it turns the movie from being about legitimate guilt to the far more pernicious idea of survivor’s guilt, which is akin to imposter syndrome. Even though you aren’t to blame, you still blame yourself. The same way someone who might be very qualified for a job or role might fear they’re not and begin to self-sabotage.
Was the budget really $15 million?
As of writing this, there’s no confirmation. The initial source was a Variety review. In fact, Yamazaki posted on Twitter “ガセはやめてー”, which translates to “Stop making nonsense”. That was a direct response to a tweet about the film’s budget. That doesn’t mean the budget was more. It could be less. But it seems that the number going around might not be right.
Even then, as amazing as $15 million sounds, it’s very different making a movie in Japan versus Hollywood. The labor and distribution costs are completely different. The most expensive movie ever made in Japan was The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) for $49 million. Relative to that, $15 million is actually kind of expensive.
For comparison, the most expensive Hollywood movie was Star Wars: The Force Awakens. $447 million. A movie that’s 1/3rd of that would have a budget of $147 million. That’s essentially the budget of Frozen II. Wonder Woman. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Dunkirk. Ready Player One.
Obviously that’s not the best way to compare. But the context does maybe provide some perspective about why $15 million films from Hollywood don’t look like Godzilla Minus One.
In case you’re curious, these are some movies that had $15 million budgets—The King’s Speech. American Beauty. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Scream. Top Gun. Triangle of Sadness.
Now it’s your turn
Have more unanswered questions about Godzilla Minus One? Are there themes or motifs we missed? Is there more to explain about the ending? Please post your questions and thoughts in the comments section! We’ll do our best to address every one of them. If we like what you have to say, you could become part of our movie guide!