Mothra (First Generation)
The first onscreen incarnation of the character, the original Mothra first appeared inside her egg on Infant Island when a joint Rolisican-Japanese expedition arrived on the island. When Clark Nelson kidnapped the Shobijin and brought them to Tokyo, Mothra hatched from her egg and followed them, laying waste to the city and cocooning herself on the Tokyo Tower. Mothra emerged in her imago form and pursued Nelson to New Kirk City, where she successfully recovered the Shobijin and returned to her island. By the events of Mothra vs. Godzilla, Mothra had laid an egg, which was washed ashore in Japan by a severe typhoon. When Godzilla appeared in Japan and began approaching the egg, Mothra left the island and fought Godzilla, but the battle cost her her life. However, two twin larvae hatched from the egg, and set out to continue their mother's fight.
Name[edit | edit source]
The name "Mothra" is the suffixation of "-ra" (a common last syllable in kaiju names) to "moth." Since the Japanese language does not have dental fricatives, it is approximated "Mosura" in Japanese. Originally, Mothra's name was approximated in English as "Mosla," but it was later corrected to "Mothra" by the time of the release of her debut film. In the American dubbing and various posters for Mothra vs. Godzilla, Mothra is also referred to as "The Thing." This Mothra is designated as the First Generation Mothra (初代モスラ, reflecting her status as the first incarnation of the character to appear onscreen. Shodai Mosura)
Development[edit | edit source]
Both the larval and imago forms of Mothra in her debut film were modeled by Teizo Toshimitsu, Keizo Murase, and the Yagi brothers Kanju and Yasuei. A 3-shaku (Japanese foot) self-propelled miniature model was created for Mothra's larval form in water scenes and the scene where she cocoons at the Tokyo Tower. This miniature featured a motorcycle engine built inside of it which propelled it forward. For the scene of the larval Mothra approaching the Tokyo Tower from Shibuya, a 6-shaku-tall, 33-shaku-long costume weighing about 120 kilograms was constructed. It was estimated to cost 2 million yen. Eight actors, including Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka, wore and operated the costume. This was boasted as the most actors required to portray a kaiju until 1994, when ten actors were needed to play Yamata no Orochi in Orochi, the Eight-Headed Dragon. Tezuka was assigned as the lead actor for the costume, due to his experience wearing a similar suit to portray the Meganulon in Rodan. Keizo Murase covered the larval Mothra's face with barnacles and added a beard made of rattan in order to make it seem like a living, organic creature. The larva's skin was made of latex and coated by Murase with soft vinyl so as to add a sheen to the skin. Out of a desire to please special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, Murase peeled off the vinyl coating and reapplied it whenever he had time during shooting. When Murase worked on the Mothra larva puppet for Godzilla vs. Mothra over 30 years later, he once again applied soft vinyl to it. The silk spit by the larva was created by dissolving rubber paste with thinner and spraying it through an airbrush installed in the larva miniature's mouth. While the larval Mothra is a light brown color in the film itself, several publicity stills for the film opted to colorize it as green instead.
Eiji Tsuburaya poses next to the 33-shaku-long Mothra larva costume.
A publicity still for Mothra with the larva colorized green
A large miniature model with a wingspan of over 2 meters and a smaller model were created to portray Mothra's imago stage. Mothra's white fur was not directly implanted into these models, but rather pasted onto them. The imago's elliptical compound eyes were constructed from plastic with electrical lights built inside of them. To create the effect of compound eyes, Keizo Murase used a rod to poke countless round dents into the eyes while the plastic was still soft. Murase later used this same method to create the compound eyes of the titular character in the original Kamen Rider series. Murase painted Mothra's wing patterns while making reference to the wings of real moths. In order to make the wings able to flap realistically, they were created by placing Indian fabric over a wicker frame. The wings were attached by wires to overhead cranes, which moved them in order to create the effect of them flapping as seen in the finished film. For shots of the imago Mothra flying in the distance, animation was used instead to depict the flapping of her wings.
For Mothra vs. Godzilla three years later, Toshimitsu, Murase, and the Yagi brothers were brought back to model Mothra. They constructed a new, much larger Mothra imago prop, with a total body length of over 2 meters. Toshimitsu modeled the prop's head, while Murase and the Yagi brothers handled its body. The eyes of this prop were made circular rather than elliptical. While the effect of compound eyes on the original Mothra models had been achieved by making concave dents into the eyes, the new model's eyes were sculpted with the compound structure directly on the surface. Like in the previous film, electrical lights were installed inside the eyes to make them glow. Mothra's wings were once again covered in Indian fabric. The imago's mouth was made of wood and painted over by rubber. Mothra's mouth, body, and legs all moved through a remotely-controlled electric motor. This new Mothra imago puppet was used in conjunction with one used in Mothra. In addition, a much smaller Mothra imago puppet was used in close-up shots alongside a hand puppet of Godzilla.
The small Mothra imago puppet fighting a Godzilla hand puppet in a deleted shot from the film
Both the large Mothra imago model from Mothra and the primary Mothra imago model used in Mothra vs. Godzilla would go on to be used to portray the adult Second Generation Mothra in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep.
Design[edit | edit source]
Mothra is depicted in various stages of the lepidopteran life cycle: Mothra's mammoth egg is decoratively colored in blue and yellow waves. The egg hatches into her larva, a massive brown, segmented caterpillar (resembling a silkworm) with glowing eyes. The caterpillar eventually spins a silken cocoon around itself (the pupa stage), and from this cocoon the imago (adult) Mothra emerges, a gigantic moth-like creature with brightly-colored wings. Mothra's life cycle—particularly the tendency of an imago's death to coincide with its larvae hatching— echoes that of the Phoenix, resembling resurrection and suggesting divinity.
Personality[edit | edit source]
Despite having wrought destruction worthy of any Toho kaiju, Mothra is a kind and benevolent creature, causing destruction only when acting as protector to her worshipers on Infant Island or to her egg. Mothra is accompanied by two tiny priestesses or fairies called the Shobijin (Japanese for "small beauties") who also speak for her.
Origins[edit | edit source]
Mothra is the guardian goddess of the remote Infant Island in the south Pacific Ocean. There, she is perpetually reborn through an egg and is worshiped by the island's natives. She is spoken for by two miniature telepathic fairies called the Shobijin. Mothra's origin is never commented upon in Mothra or Mothra vs. Godzilla, and she is simply assumed to be supernatural in origin. However, Kodansha's novelization for Mothra vs. Godzilla proposes that Mothra is a type of Japanese silk moth which evolved as a byproduct of climate change on Infant Island due to increasingly abnormal weather patterns on Earth.
History[edit | edit source]
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Mothra was first discovered on Infant Island, where natives to the island worshiped her as a goddess. Invaders from Rolisica took over the island and stole the Shobijin. The natives went to a temple, where a giant egg was held. The egg hatched into a larva, called Mothra, which swam across the Pacific Ocean and destroyed the Orion Maru as she journeyed north towards Japan to save the Shobijin from the humans. She destroyed Tokyo while trying to find them, then tore down Tokyo Tower and formed her cocoon. She emerged from the cocoon in her imago form, having been inadvertently helped by the army's Atomic Heat Ray Guns. She went to New Kirk City, and was reunited with the Shobijin at an airport runway after destroying a large portion of the city. Mothra then flew back to Infant Island with the Shobijin to live peacefully.
Mothra's egg washed up on the shores of Japan when a typhoon carried it away from the shores of Infant Island. Kumayama, the owner of the company Happy Enterprises, bought the egg from the citizens of the area where the egg was found and planned to turn it into the main attraction of his upcoming amusement park. The Shobijin came to Japan to request the egg's return, only for Kumayama and his financier Jiro Torahata to try and capture them as well. The Shobijin escaped and met with a group of sympathetic humans, warning that when the egg hatched the larva would cause much destruction and death while searching for food and attempting to return to Infant Island on its own. When the Shobijin's allies met with Kumayama and Torahata, they refused to return the egg and wanted to buy the Shobijin instead. The Shobijin then returned to Infant Island with Mothra. When Godzilla emerged in Japan and began heading for the incubator holding Mothra's egg, the three humans who helped the Shobijin traveled to Infant Island, which had been devastated by nuclear bomb tests. They asked the Shobijin for Mothra's help in defeating Godzilla, but they refused. However, Mothra herself, who was living out the last of her days on a sacred rock, agreed to help and flew to Japan, knowing she would never return.
Mothra arrived in Japan just as Godzilla reached Mothra's egg and attacked him. Mothra used the gusts of wind from her wings to knock Godzilla of his feet and tried to slash him with her claws, but she was too feeble to injure him. Mothra released poison powder from her wings against Godzilla, but Godzilla simply blasted her with his atomic breath, causing her to fall on top of her egg and die. Though this Mothra was dead, two Mothra larvae would hatch from the egg and continue the battle, as well as their mother's legacy.
After a second Godzilla appeared in Tateyama in 1999, Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge and Minister of Science and Technology Hayato Igarashi met to discuss how best to deal with the threat. They discussed how after the original Godzilla raided Tokyo in 1954, monsters frequently menaced Japan. One such monster was Mothra, a huge moth that attacked Tokyo in 1961. To combat the monster, the JSDF used advanced Atomic Heat Ray Guns, which would later form the technological basis for the Maser Cannons.
In 2004, the Shobijin and the current Mothra traveled to Japan to convince Shinichi Chujo, who had helped the original Mothra recover the Shobijin back in 1961, that the original Godzilla's bones must be returned to the sea. Chujo later told his grandson Shun the story of how he and his friends had rescued the Shobijin from Clark Nelson and reunited them with the original Mothra in 1961 by drawing her sacred symbol on an airport runway. Shun later used this method to attract the current Mothra to Tokyo to combat Godzilla.
Abilities[edit | edit source]
Flight[edit | edit source]
Mothra can fly at Mach 3 in her imago stage. Her speed becomes handy in combat when she is able to dodge multiple blows from Godzilla's tail and claws.
Silk[edit | edit source]
In her larval form, Mothra has the ability to spit a stream of silk from her mouth. Though the First Generation Mothra did not ever use this silk offensively, subsequent incarnations of the character have. In her debut film, Mothra uses this silk to create a cocoon on the Tokyo Tower. The silk was strong enough to stop the propellers on a helicopter from spinning when it got too close. It is also quite durable, requiring multiple hits from the Atomic Heat Ray Guns before catching fire.
Durability[edit | edit source]
In both her larval and imago forms, Mothra is immune to the weaponry of the JSDF and Rolisican military. She was completely unharmed when the JSDF poured oil in the water and set it ablaze and simply swam through it. Even the Atomic Heat Ray Guns were unable to injure Mothra, though they did burn her cocoon.
Hurricane winds[edit | edit source]
In her imago form, Mothra can produce powerful gusts of wind that can reach up to 500 meters per second, by flapping her wings. These winds caused shockwaves and were capable of causing major damage to cities, as well as knocking Godzilla off his feet. Vehicles, signs, roofs, and other small structures are destroyed if caught in the blast radius. Entire buildings and large bridges can be destroyed if directly below her.
Claws[edit | edit source]
In her battle with Godzilla, Mothra uses her small claws to scratch him on the face and head. They are also able to hold things in a tight grip, seen when Mothra grabs Godzilla's tail and is able to hold on to it.
Strength[edit | edit source]
In her larval stage, Mothra is able to destroy structures simply by plowing through them, even a large and dense dam.
Mothra's imago stage demonstrates impressive physical strength in Mothra vs. Godzilla when she drags the heavier Godzilla across the ground by his tail. In addition, she manages to knock Godzilla over by taking flight and slamming into him when he approaches her from behind while she is on the ground.
Poison Powder[edit | edit source]
Mothra's weapon of last resort is a poisonous yellow powder that she releases from her wings. Mothra only uses this attack when she is near death, as it apparently causes her to lose her ability to fly. The attack does not appear to have much of an effect against Godzilla, as it only seems to disorient him.
Amphibiousness[edit | edit source]
Reproduction[edit | edit source]
Mothra is said by the Shobijin to be immortal, and she lives on through her offspring. Since no mate is ever seen, Mothra can presumably reproduce asexually. In Mothra vs. Godzilla, she lays an egg which hatches into two larvae, who continue the battle against Godzilla after their mother dies.
Weaknesses[edit | edit source]
The only time Mothra appears visibly hurt in her debut film is when she falls over while trying to climb the Tokyo Tower. Mothra appears to grow weaker with age. In Mothra vs. Godzilla, she has shrunk in size from old age and is living out the remainder of her life on a sacred rock. The Shobijin state that Mothra does not have much longer to live, and correctly predict that she will never return if she leaves to fight Godzilla. Mothra eventually succumbs to a combination of old age and the wounds sustained in her battle with Godzilla and dies.
Filmography[edit | edit source]
- Mothra (1961)
- Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
- Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002) [stock footage]
- Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003) [mentioned]
Video games[edit | edit source]
- Monster Strike (2013) - Android and iOS
- Godzilla (2014) - PlayStation 3 and 4 [Kaiju Guide]
- Godzilla Kaiju Collection (2015) - Android and iOS
- Godzilla Defense Force (2019) - Android and iOS
- Godzilla (2021) - Pinball
Kaiju Guide[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Godzilla (2014 video game)/Kaiju Guide#Mothra.
Gallery[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Mothra/Gallery.
Roar[edit | edit source]
Mothra's chirps are actually Anguirus' roars sped up.
Trivia[edit | edit source]
- In the Omni Productions English dub of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, Prime Minister Machiko Tsuge erroneously states, "Luckily, we destroyed [Mothra] with a massive heat-ray gun" as footage from Mothra plays. This error is reproduced by the subtitles in the Sony Blu-ray of the film, but not the earlier DVD.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- The first generation imago from Mothra vs. Godzilla is sometimes inconsistently listed as being 65 meters or 135 meters long despite being the same individual as the 80 meter long imago from Mothra.
- Numerous sources give the imago from Mothra vs. Godzilla a wingspan of 135 meters despite being the same individual as the 250 meter imago from Mothra, likely due to her apparent size difference when compared to Godzilla. However, media contemporary to both Mothra and Mothra vs. Godzilla, such as the films' theater programs, agree on a 250 meter measurement.
- The first generation larva's weight is variably listed as 8,000, 12,000, 15,000, or 20,000 metric tons.
- The first generation imago's weight is variably listed as 10,000, 15,000, or 20,000 metric tons.
References[edit | edit source]
This is a list of references for Mothra (First Generation). These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: 
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