In his debut film, Varan was a huge prehistoric reptile that lived beneath a lake near a Japanese mountain village, whose inhabitants came to fear him as the "Baradagi" mountain god. Varan eventually emerged from the lake, destroying the village and making his way to Tokyo, where he was finally defeated by the JSDF at Haneda Airport. A second incarnation of Varan was introduced in Destroy All Monsters ten years later, in which the creature was now a small juvenile living in peace with the other monsters of Earth on Monsterland. Varan was present during the Earth monsters' battle against King Ghidorah, but did not take part and only observed. While relatively obscure compared to most of Toho's kaiju library due to only having a major role in a single film, Varan has nonetheless retained some degree of popularity over the years, being considered for many unrealized film projects and making appearances in non-film media such as comic books and video games.
Varan's name is most likely derived from either the genus name for monitor lizards, Varanus, or from the name of an extinct family of synapsids, Varanopidae. In-universe, Varan's name is an abbreviation of his species name, Varanopode (バラノポーダ, which was given to him by Professor Sugimoto. The villagers that worship Varan refer to him as Baradagi Mountain God Baranopōda) (
Varan is often given the title Giant Flying Squirrel Monster (むささび怪獣 in various publications due to the gliding membranes underneath his arms, despite not actually being a flying squirrel. Musasabi Kaijū) In the Japanese title of his debut film, he is simply referred to as a Giant Monster (大怪獣 Daikaijū), while the film's original title addressed him as an Oriental Monster, or more literally Monster of the East (東洋の怪物), due to the project originating as an American co-production. This subtitle is notable in that it uses the word kaibutsu to mean "monster" rather than kaijū.
According to a booklet included with Toho's 2002 three-disc DVD release of Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Varan's name was originally Baradaki (波羅蛇麒) in the original unrealized version of the film, Godzilla X Varan, Baragon and Anguirus: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, with him being given the name "Varan" by the JSDF late in the story.
The initial Varan story was penned by Ken Kuronuma, who also wrote the story for Rodan. Coming off of Godzilla and Rodan, the Toho team thought the next monster should have traits of both a water monster and a flying monster. Varan was initially conceived by Eiji Tsuburaya as being a Godzilla-kappa hybrid, while Akira Watanabe completed his concept art, incorporating the membranes of a gliding lizard.
Varan's head was modeled by Teizo Toshimitsu, his body by Kanju and Yasuei Yagi, and his skin, back, and claws by Keizo Murase. In order to make Varan's back spikes appear transparent, Murase cut them from variously sized vinyl hoses which he purchased from a general store. He then wrapped them in pieces from a semitransparent vinyl sheet to make them less see-through at the request of Tsuburaya. The suit's eyes were similarly translucent, allowing built-in lights to shine through,:34 while the pupils were drawn on with magic marker.:52
The scales on Varan's back were molded from pressed peanut shells, which were in abundance due to one of the Yagi brothers being sent peanuts by his relatives. Murase elaborated in an interview with Brett Homenick in 2018: "When I was talking to Mr. Tsuburaya, we were eating peanuts. Of course, we had to crush the shell in order to eat the peanuts and throw the shells away. So I said to Mr. Tsuburaya, "What do you think about this shell? I think it would look good on Varan's back." Mr. Tsuburaya asked me, "How would you make it with peanut shells?" I replied, "Let me make a sample." So I made a sample, and Mr. Tsuburaya thought it was very interesting. So that's how we made the back of the Varan suit."
Ultimately, Tsuburaya felt disappointed in the final product, due to it appearing excessively muscular. Murase made numerous adjustments to the suit, applying sawdust to the surface and blending the muscles with paint to obscure or define them, but was unable to achieve a favorable product due to being unable to alter the suit's internal structure.
The few color stills of the suit show that it was brown in color, and Murase himself described the Varan suit as being a "chocolate sepia color." Despite this, many stills artificially colorized the suit green. The suit was worn onscreen primarily by Haruo Nakajima, though Katsumi Tezuka stepped in for water scenes.:35 Nakajima was injured while wearing the suit during Varan's climactic attack on Haneda Airport; when the explosives-filled truck underneath Varan detonated, the explosion badly burned Nakajima's stomach, marking the only instance where he had ever been injured during filming.
In addition to the suit, a full body flying prop and hand-operated puppet (or guignol) of Varan's upper half, both 1/2-size, were created to portray the monster.:35
Varan's next film appearance would come 10 years later, for what was originally planned to be the final Godzilla film: Destroy All Monsters. In the film's original script, All Monsters Attack Directive, Varan was supposed to battle King Ghidorah alongside Rodan.:144 Possibly due to his suit becoming unusable, Varan's role was greatly reduced in the final film, with him only appearing on a small monitor on Monsterland, and in brief scenes touching down in Aokigahara along with Baragon and Manda and taking off from Monsterland. The original 1/2-scale gliding Varan puppet is believed to have been reused,:35:35 though some sources claim it was created from scratch.:144
Despite his minimal role, Varan's prop was prominently displayed in promotional stills for the film alongside the other monsters' suits and props. Because of the prop's much smaller size compared to the other monsters, some contemporary sources explained that this Varan was a 10-meter juvenile, although this distinction was largely overlooked in later years, with him simply being given the same 50 meter height as his original incarnation.[note 1]
The Varan prop in use for the single shot of the monster gliding over Monsterland in the film's epilogue
In Shinichi Sekizawa's story treatment for the twelfth Godzilla film, titled The Return of King Ghidorah!, Varan was to appear alongside Rodan as Godzilla's allies against the space monsters King Ghidorah, Gigan, and Mogu, all of whom were under the control of the evil alien brain Miko. Sekizawa refined his story further into Godzilla vs. Gigan: The Return of King Ghidorah!, dropping Varan and Rodan in favor of Anguirus and a larval Mothra with Megalon replacing Mogu. Ultimately, the concept was trimmed down to Godzilla vs. Gigan, which pitted Godzilla and Anguirus against Gigan and King Ghidorah.
Varan's next considered appearance was as the antagonist in the final film of the Heisei series. In this story proposal, Godzilla vs. Giant Monster Varan, Varan was to be an evil creature which is the harbinger of the apocalypse that arises in the year 1999 to destroy the world. Godzilla and his adopted son would team up to defeat Varan, with the film ending at the start of the new millennium. This concept was short-lived, as many other story proposals featuring new monsters such as Ghost Godzilla and Barubaroi were submitted in its place, with Destoroyah ultimately serving as Godzilla's final foe in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah.
When Shusuke Kaneko was hired to direct the third entry in the Millennium series, he eventually settled on the concept of Godzilla battling against three smaller and weaker Guardian Monsters. For this role, he selected Varan, Baragon, and Anguirus. In the story, Varan was the White Wind Monster known originally as Baradaki, who joined forces with the Golden Freezing Monster Angira to battle Godzilla in Yokohama. When the Red Hot Monster Baragora is revived by a lightning bolt, he joins his comrades in the battle. While all three are slain by Godzilla, they do enough damage to allow the JSDF's advanced warship Gotengo to arrive and ultimately defeat him. Kaneko's story proposal, Godzilla X Varan, Baragon and Anguirus: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, was approved by producer Shogo Tomiyama and submitted to Toho's executives. To Kaneko's surprise, they requested that he find a way to work in the more marketable monsters Mothra and King Ghidorah to increase the film's marquee value following the disappointing box office returns of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus. After learning that many people were unfamiliar with the three monsters he chose, Kaneko went with Toho's wishes and replaced Varan and Anguirus with Mothra and King Ghidorah, compromising by retaining Baragon in the final product. Monster designer and modeler Fuyuki Shinada was disappointed in Varan's exclusion, and compromised by sculpting the monster's facial fins onto the heads of the King Ghidorah suit.
Unpainted concept maquettes of Varan, Anguirus, and Baragon for Godzilla X Varan, Baragon and Anguirus: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
The heads of the King Ghidorah suit from Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, possessing Varan's facial fins
Varan is a primarily quadrupedal reptilian creature with thin membranes between his arms and legs, which he uses for gliding in a manner akin to that of a flying squirrel or sugar glider. Varan's eyes are small with large pupils, his head is round, and he has a short-muzzled face with a lumpy nose and a prominent upper lip. His teeth vary in size, but all of them are more or less conical in shape. He has a barrel-shaped torso with a large sternum. His neck is fairly long and thick and his limbs are relatively long and thin. Varan also has a pair of spiky, fin-like structures on the sides of his face and a single row of large spines that run down from the top of his head to the end of his long, prehensile tail. His hands and feet have five digits each and they have a slender, bony look to them. His spines are clear and translucent, having little to no real color to them, and his hide can be divided into two notable sections: the lowermost sides of his skin are smooth with a slightly baggy or wrinkled feel to them and are a light cream or tan-like sandy brown while the uppermost parts of his skin are covered with a multitude of bumpy, wart-like structures and are a much darker shade of brown. These two sections are separated by a series of wavy membranes on the sides of his torso, limbs, and tail that straighten to form Varan's gliding membranes.
Varan is an ancient reptilian creature known as a Varanopode, which lived from the Triassic through Cretaceous Periods. Varan escaped extinction and lived for millions of years at the bottom of a lake in the Japanese countryside. Villagers living near the lake saw Varan as a god, giving him the title of the "Baradagi Mountain God." In Destroy All Monsters, Varan is one of the several kaiju living on Monsterland at the end of the 20th century. No details regarding him are ever discussed within the film, but external sources say that this Varan is a juvenile.
A toy of Varan released by Marusan in 2016 taxonomically classifies Varan as Reptilia Class, Rodan Family, Godzilla Genus, Varanopode (爬虫類ゴジラ属ラドン科バラノポーダ, reaffirming his species as Varanopode but also suggesting a close evolutionary relationship to both Godzilla and Rodan. Hachūrui Gojira-zoku Radon-ka Baranopōda)
After a pair of rare Siberian butterflies were found in Japan by a young boy, two scientists were sent to investigate the area where they were found, near a secluded mountain village. The scientists were killed by an unknown force, and another team was sent to investigate. There, they encountered the local villagers, who worshiped a mountain god called "Baradagi." The team went out to find a boy who was lost in the forest, but the villagers warned that they would anger Baradagi. One of the scientists persuaded the villagers to go out to find the boy, but Varan, the "Baradagi" the villagers worshiped, emerged from the nearby lake and attacked them. Varan killed the village priest and destroyed the village before returning to the lake he had come from. The JSDF arrived and surrounded the lake, and opened fire on Varan after luring him out with chemicals. The attack had no effect, and Varan chased two people into a cave. The JSDF fired flares to distract Varan, prompting him to climb to the top of a cliff. Varan opened large membranes under his arms and dove off the cliff, gliding across the sky and towards the ocean. The JSDF deployed countless destroyers and bombers to try and stop Varan before he could reach the Japanese mainland, but their attacks did little to slow the beast's advance. Eventually, Varan surfaced from Tokyo Bay and attacked Haneda Airport. The JSDF attacked Varan with all of their available artillery and jets, but still were unable to harm him. When Varan destroyed a truck containing experimental explosives, it triggered an explosion that seemed to visibly harm him. The JSDF quickly tied two of these explosives to flares and then dropped them from helicopters, knowing Varan would eat the flares. After Varan swallowed the flares, the first bomb exploded inside Varan, causing him to become weak. Varan limped back into the ocean and disappeared beneath the waves before the second bomb exploded, producing a small mushroom cloud over the water. The JSDF then finally declared the creature dead.
At the end of the 20th century, a juvenile Varan was living among Earth's other monsters on the human-monitored Monsterland. When the Kilaaks took control of the island and its inhabitants, Varan disappeared as the alien invaders' global assault was initiated. Whether Varan was ever used by the aliens to fight humanity is unclear, as he wasn't seen again until well after the humans used the Moonlight SY-3 to destroy the Kilaaks' Moon base. After the Kilaaks' control was broken, Varan spectated alongside Baragon and Manda during the Earth monsters' fight against King Ghidorah at Mount Fuji. Once King Ghidorah and the Kilaaks were defeated, Varan and all the others monsters returned to Monsterland in peace.
Varan's hide is extremely durable, and is unable to be penetrated by any known conventional weapon. Dr. Sugimoto and Kenji Uozaki propose that Varan's durability comes not from the thickness of his skin, but rather its flexibility, which allows it to withstand impacts from projectiles and explosives.
Varan is a tri-phibian creature, meaning that he is capable of movement on land, underwater, or in the air. Varan walks across solid land with ease, and can effectively crush structures using his arms, legs, and tail. Varan remains submerged underwater for long periods of time, initially spending his time sleeping under a lake. Varan later makes his way to Tokyo by swimming through the ocean, evading the JSDFs naval assault as he quickly covers a great distance. Most unusually, Varan is capable of gliding flight. Varan unfolds membranes between his arms and legs and leaps into the air, with the membranes allowing him to glide across the sky like a flying squirrel. Varan glides at Mach 1.5, the same flight speed as Rodan.
In the novel Godzilla 2000 by Marc Cerasini, Dr. Birchwood theorizes that Varan can glide by "somehow separat[ing] the oxygen and hydrogen in water. The creature then expels the oxygen and pumps the hydrogen molecules into sacs along its torso."
In the video game Godzilla: Unleashed, Varan can spit a pink sonic beam from his mouth. Varan is stated in the game to use sonic waves to communicate over great distances, but has the capability to weaponize these same sonic waves into a proper beam which can damage opponents and buildings alike.
Also seen in Godzilla: Unleashed, this ability allows for Varan to shoot small concentrated balls of sonic energy at targets that explode on impact.
Varan is very strong, easily crushing buildings under his weight using his limbs and tail. While he has never been depicted in combat with another monster in a film, in his appearances in other media Varan is shown to be a capable hand-to-hand combatant, making use of his claws and agility to carry out martial arts-style moves while also being able to leap into the air and glide.
Varan only has one known exploitable weakness, that being the fact that his durable hide does not protect the inside of his body. The First Generation Varan was successfully killed when the JSDF tricked him into swallowing flares carrying powerful bombs designed for excavating rock. These bombs then exploded inside of Varan's body, destroying him from within. Varan was shown to be visibly stunned after a truck filled with these bombs exploded underneath him earlier, but he quickly got back to his feet showing no ill effects.
- Varan (1958)
- Cheers, Mr. Awamori! (1961) [prop]
- Destroy All Monsters (1968)
- Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) [stock footage; toy]
- Godziban (TV 2019-) [episode 21]
- Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! (1988) - Nintendo Entertainment System / Famicom
- Godzilla, King of the Monsters (1993) - Nintendo Game Boy
- Godzilla: Heart-Pounding Monster Island!! (1995) - Sega Pico
- Godzilla Movie Studio Tour (1998) - PC and Mac
- Godzilla: Trading Battle (1998) - Sony PlayStation
- Godzilla Generations (1998) - Sega Dreamcast
- Collect Godzilla: Giant Monster Assembly (1998) - Sega Dreamcast VMU
- Godzilla: Unleashed (2007) - Nintendo Wii
- Godzilla (2014) - PlayStation 3 and 4 [Kaiju Guide]
Despite his limited number of film appearances, Varan has been featured in a fair number of video games. Most notably, Varan appears as a boss character in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! for the NES, and as a completely playable character in the Wii version of Godzilla: Unleashed.
Appearing on the second world, Varan will assault Godzilla or Mothra with a variety of melee attacks, the most devastating attack of which is his punch, a move that has excellent range and does noticeable damage. Varan can also attack with his claws in rapid succession, which can score several hits against Godzilla or Mothra if in range. Varan may also attack his foes with a kick, or attempt to head butt them while advancing forward. Varan also has the ability to jump high into the air to avoid attacks. Despite a healthy amount of moves, Varan shouldn't cause much trouble for Godzilla or Mothra because of his lack of a projectile and his habit of reeling back in pain after sustaining heavy damage; furthermore, unlike other bosses, Varan will not trap the player in the corner but will stay just in arms reach if Godzilla or Mothra is backed into the corner.
Height: 50 meters
Weight: 15,000 tons
"Varan is an Earth Defender with special affinity for forested and hilly areas. Although not capable of true flight, Varan's extraordinary leaping capabilities and gliding capacity mean that he rarely, if ever, touches the ground for more than an instant. Although he naturally lives in solitude, Varan has developed very finely-honed sonic projection capabilities which can be used to communicate over vast distances. These same pinpoint sonic waves can be used in battle to disrupt an opponent's sense of balance. Varan is quite possibly the most mysterious of Earth's native monsters—first-hand sightings of him by humans remain relatively rare."
- Main article: Godzilla (2014 video game)/Kaiju Guide#Varan.
Varan in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters!
- Godzilla on Monster Island (1996)
- Godzilla 2000 (1997)
- Godzilla: Journey to Monster Island (1998)
- Godzilla Likes to Roar! (1998)
- Godzilla vs. the Space Monster (1998)
- Who's Afraid of Godzilla? (1998)
- GODZILLA: Monster Apocalypse (2017)
Multiple individual Varans appeared, but the second individual denoted "Varan II" came ashore in Los Angeles in 2030 along with Baragon II and Anguirus IV after they were attacked by Godzilla in the Pacific Ocean. All three kaiju were then killed by a single blast of Godzilla's atomic breath.
- Giant Monster Varan (19??)
- The Godzilla Comic (1990)
- Godzilla: Rulers of Earth #4-5, 25 (2013-2015)
- Godzilla in Hell #2 (2015)
- Godzilla: Rage Across Time #5 (2016)
Varan appeared in the Monster Warrior Godzilla segment as one of the kaiju living on their own planet.
Varan first appeared from a lake in China and traveled to a military bunker where he fought Rodan and Gaira before vanishing into the ocean. He was also seen in a flash back when King Caesar and Megalon fought, appearing in the ocean with Ebirah to attack the escaping islanders. He was also seen on the mural in the Infant Island cave, where he was one of the Water Monsters. It is unknown where Varan went after the battle with Gaira, as he was never present on the Monster Islands, but a Trilopod with Varan's traits later appeared to fight Godzilla. Varan was being held in the Trilopod hive, but was freed by King Caesar along with the other kaiju. Varan then took part in the final battle against the Trilopods, helping Zilla kill the Titanosaurus-Trilopod, and against the massive Magita. After the threat was vanquished, Varan and the other monsters followed Godzilla out to sea.
A demonic version of Varan emerged from the Eternal Ocean as Godzilla arrived there after falling from the ice following his fight with the demon Anguirus. The demon Varan and Godzilla immediately fought each other, but Godzilla dispensed of the demon with his atomic breath.
- Main article: Varan/Gallery.
Varan's roars originated from Godzilla in his debut film, and were previously modified for Rodan in 1956. Varan's roars were also recycled or altered for Gorosaurus, the Showa Baragon, Megalon, Peguila, Banila, and Chandora and several dozen others in the Ultra Series and the MagiDragon in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger. His roars are also used for Godzilla Amphibia in Godzilla Singular Point.
In other languages
- Russian: Варан
- Varan is a "tri-phibian" creature in that he can swim, walk on land, and soar through the air. Numerous other kaiju have been described using this term, such as Gappa.
- Despite his small role in Destroy All Monsters, Varan's name is briefly mentioned in the Italian version of the film.
- Varan is the only non-humanoid Toho kaiju to possess five digits on his hands and feet.
- Varan's skull makes a brief appearance in Pacific Rim Uprising, during the scene where Hermann Gottlieb examines PPDC records in search of a match for the image Mako Mori transmitted.
- Sprite assets for Varan can be found in the game files for Godzilla Defense Force, although he cannot currently be encountered in the game itself.
- A "what-if" illustrated scenario in the 2004 book Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. Super Complete Works showed the JXSDF creating an army of mecha-kaiju with the help of DNA extracted from their organic counterparts, including Varan.
- Varan influenced the design for Godzilla Amphibia in Godzilla Singular Point, even using his classic roar.
This is a list of references for Varan. 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: