Kaiju Profile: Rodan (Heisei & Millennium)
Hey kaiju fans, I'm Koopa, and today we're looking at the Heisei and Millennium incarnations of the Giant Monster of the Sky, Rodan!
Rodan returned from a 25-year absence in 1993 with "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II," playing a supporting role where he fights both Godzilla and Mecha G in order to defend his surrogate brother BabyGodzilla.
The last of Toho's Big Five to make an appearance in the Millennium series, Rodan joined the ensemble monster cast of Godzilla's 50th anniversary film "Godzilla: Final Wars" in 2004.
In an early draft for "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II," a Rodan couple lived on Adonoa Island rather than just one, recalling the character's debut film. Shinji Nishikawa created several pieces of concept art for the pair, with the male Rodan sporting a large crest on his head. He also created a white- and blue-skinned mutation of the female Rodan aptly named "White Rodan," which served as a sort of precursor to Fire Rodan. Within the draft, the mates would have been attacked by Mechagodzilla on Adonoa Island where the male would be fatally wounded and the female would escape into the ocean with damage sustained to one of her eyes. After destroying a nuclear submarine, the female would have absorbed the radiation it gave off and transformed into White Rodan. Later drafts replaced the pair of Rodans with Pteranodons, though the female still evolved into White Rodan. Despite Nishikawa's concepts ultimately going unused, Noriyoshi Ohrai referenced his female Rodan design in the advance poster for "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II," along with Transforming Mechagodzilla. "Hurricane" Ryu Hariken submitted further concept art for Rodan, bearing a striking resemblance to the Showa Rodan which appeared from "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster" through "Destroy All Monsters." However, Minoru Yoshida produced the final Rodan design, experimenting with a number of color schemes and pattern designs in the process, including variations on Nishikawa's White Rodan. He settled on dark brown and red colorations for Rodan and Fire Rodan, respectively.
Though the idea of portraying the monster through suitmation was considered as far back as Nishikawa and Hariken's designs, the Heisei Rodan would become the only incarnation of the character to date to be portrayed entirely by props, due to his smaller relative size compared to Godzilla and Mechagodzilla. Rodan was modeled by Shinichi Wakasa and employees of his company MONSTERS, Inc. Props including a full-scale "main" model, 1/2-size model, a bust for close-up shots, and models of his legs were used to portray the monster. The full-body and close-up models also featured some radio control mechanisms, which allowed for mouth opening, neck movement, and blinking. For Fire Rodan, the same props were simply repainted. They turned up again in "Monster Planet of Godzilla," a short 3D film Toho made for the Sanrio Puroland and Harmonyland theme parks in 1994.
Nishikawa had another chance to design Rodan for "Godzilla: Final Wars" 11 years later, and this time his concept stuck. MONSTERS, Inc. again handled construction of the suit, this time sculpted by Kakusei Fujiwara. "Super Sentai" actress Naoko Kamio, who also played Minilla in the film, donned the Rodan suit, making her the second woman to portray a G-series kaiju after Rie Ota as Baragon in "GMK." The suit featured a head mechanism for opening its mouth, and it was stipulated that its wings be large enough to conceal itself, similar to Batman's cape. In addition to the suit, a wire-operated flying prop was made from the same base model, and was used for the majority of the monster's scenes. CGI was also employed for certain shots.
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993): In 1994, a joint Russo-Japanese oilfield research team discovered a Pteranodon nest on the radiation-polluted Adonoa Island containing two massive eggs, one of which had already hatched. Hiroshi Omae from the Kyoto Biotechnics Institute and his assistants were brought in to investigate. After examining the egg, they decided to bring it back to Kyoto. However, as they loaded it onto a chopper, a colossal Pteranodon appeared atop a nearby cliff and proceeded to demolish their camp. Omae identified the creature as Rodan, which had to have come from the other egg and was mutated to colossal size due to the prolonged dumping of nuclear waste on the island. As the scientists attempted to flee, Godzilla announced his presence with a blast of atomic breath aimed at Rodan. Though the winged monster's speed gave him the advantage at first, he was no match for the King of the Monsters' raw strength, and was seemingly killed by a shot of atomic breath. In the confusion, the scientists escaped with the egg.
Back in Kyoto, the egg hatched into a Godzillasaurus named BabyGodzilla. He quickly imprinted on one of Omae's researchers, Azusa Gojo. Omae believed Baby came from a parasite egg in the nest, and that Rodan saw him as a surrogate brother. The scientists also found a prehistoric fern called Shipniocus attached to Baby's egg, which Miki Saegusa discovered emitted a strong psychic energy. Miki and Azusa soon learned that this energy granted Baby a huge intake of power whenever performed through a song. Unbeknownst to them, it had an even more dramatic effect on Rodan, reviving him as Fire Rodan. He flew to Japan and intercepted a G-Force convoy attempting to airlift Baby and Azusa to the Ogasawara Islands in order to lure Godzilla there so Mechagodzilla could destroy him. He grabbed the canister carrying Baby and Azusa and touched down in Makuhari to try and break it open. Mechagodzilla and Garuda were deployed to stop him. Rodan quickly disabled Garuda and managed to peck out one of Mechagodzilla's eyes. But his new Uranium Heat Beam provided his undoing, as MG absorbed the ray and fired it back through its Plasma Grenade, shredding Rodan's chest and leaving him mortally wounded.
Godzilla soon surfaced from Makuhari Bay and battled Mechagodzilla, but was left crippled and near death once the robot and Garuda combined into Super Mechagodzilla and destroyed his second brain with the G-Crusher. BabyGodzilla broke free from the canister and cried out for Rodan to rejoin the fight. Mechagodzilla shot him down with its Mega Buster, and he fell on top of Godzilla. The pterosaur monster began transferring his energy to the Monster King, healing his second brain and powering up his atomic breath. Godzilla got back to his feet and promptly obliterated Super Mechagodzilla with his Uranium Spiral Heat Ray. In his dying act, Rodan had saved the Big G's life and allowed him to raise Baby in his place.
Godzilla: Final Wars (2004): In the 21st century, Rodan appeared in the skies over New York City, tearing it apart with supersonic shockwaves and battling the Earth Defense Force's advanced warship Rumbling. The EDF found itself overwhelmed by the simultaneous appearances of Rodan and countless other monsters across the globe, but suddenly all of the monsters were teleported away by UFOs. The UFOs' occupants revealed themselves as an advanced alien civilization known as the Xiliens, who claimed to have come to save mankind. However, after their true intentions were exposed, they unleashed all of their concealed monsters across the globe. Rodan reappeared in New York and destroyed the Rumbling, leaving the metropolis at his mercy. Remnants of the EDF used the Gotengo to free Godzilla from his prison in Antarctica, setting him loose against the Xiliens' legion of controlled monsters. Rodan, Anguirus, and King Caesar were deployed to battle Godzilla at Mount Fuji, but the King of the Monsters survived their onslaught and was able to defeat all three monsters, stacking their unconscious bodies in a pile before moving on to Tokyo.
Being a giant Pteranodon, Rodan is capable of supersonic flight. In "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II," he could achieve speeds of Mach 3, while the "Final Wars" version's flight speed is left unspecified. Both incarnations can create destructive shockwaves all the same, with the latter specifically generating crushing supersonic waves, or simply sonic booms. They are also nimble enough to dodge rays at close range, whether from Godzilla or from Rumbling.
After being revived by the song of a choir of psychic girls, the Heisei Rodan took on the form of Fire Rodan. In this powered-up state, Rodan was able to emit a Uranium Heat Beam from his beak. Just before firing the beam, the horns on Rodan's head glowed and discharged energy, similar to Godzilla's dorsal fins before he fired his atomic breath. Fire Rodan used the Uranium beam against Mechagodzilla, though its synthetic diamond coating withstood the attack and absorbed the beam's energy. In the Atari/Pipeworks Godzilla video games, Rodan could fire an orange-yellow Uranium Heat Beam even in his regular form. In "Godzilla: Domination!" an ambiguously-designed Rodan possessed an atomic fireball attack, along with a radioactive mist.
Physical Capabilities: Despite his smaller stature compared to Godzilla, Rodan was able to knock him around with flybys, the bony spikes on his chest, and his sharp beak. Though less successful against Mechagodzilla, he was able to peck out the laser cannon in one of the machine's eyes. The 2004 Rodan also used his chest spikes as weapons, making Godzilla stagger forward after flying by.
Energy Transferral: After being mortally wounded by Super Mechagodzilla, Fire Rodan transferred his life force to the downed Godzilla, sacrificing his own life in the process. This ability turned the tide of battle, regenerating the Monster King's damaged second brain and granting him the powerful Spiral Heat Ray which he used to destroy Mechagodzilla.
Telepathy: The Heisei Rodan is capable of telepathic communication with his surrogate brother BabyGodzilla, allowing him to track his exact location.
Durability: The Heisei Rodan withstood repeated tail strikes from Godzilla and blasts of atomic breath, but was ultimately defeated by a combination of strangulation, stomps, and even more atomic breath. Repeated blasts of Mechagodzilla's Mega Buster and Garuda's Maser Cannons damaged his chest and wings, with the Plasma Grenade having an especially devastating effect. A point-blank blast from Mechagodzilla's Plasma Grenade shredded Rodan's chest, leaving him on the brink of death. The "Final Wars" Rodan withstood a high-speed collision with King Caesar's head, but was knocked out by a curled-up Anguirus launched by Godzilla's tail.
Rodan's roots: While the origins of the Rodan featured in "Godzilla: Final Wars" are never explored, the film's theater program explains that he is a Pteranodon who was reawakened due to "environmental disturbances in the earth." In an interview conducted by Henshin!Online just a month before the film's theatrical release, modeler Shinichi Wakasa explained:
Shinichi Wakasa: "[The monsters in the film are] not brand-new. The only new monster is Monster X. The others all have the same elements, the same character as before."
Keith Aiken: "So when Rodan appears onscreen for the first time in Final Wars, the characters will recognize him because he's attacked before."
Shinichi Wakasa: "Yeah."
The Heisei design for Rodan, particularly Fire Rodan (who by the way, is technically a separate character from Rodan trademark-wise), has been featured in numerous video games. The Heisei design for Rodan is used in all three Pipeworks Godzilla fighting games, but in "Unleashed" he is specified as Fire Rodan. The Millennium design has been used less frequently, only appearing in the "CR Godzilla" Pachinko Games, "Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash" for the DS, and the mobile games "Kaiju Collection" and "Defense Force"— the former of which is notable for featuring what seems to be the unused White Rodan design for "Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II."
Rodan is one of the residents of Godzilla Island in the 1997 TV show of the same name. He is portrayed primarily with a repainted Bandai Fire Rodan figure. In the nineteenth story arc, King Caesar performs a ceremony to transform him into Fire Rodan to defeat the mushroom monster Neo Hedorah.
For the third entry in the "Rebirth of Mothra" trilogy, Toho initially planned to introduce a new monster for Mothra Leo to battle, like it had done with Desghidorah and Dagahra in the first two films. This monster was to be fire-themed, and Leo would be forced to travel back to Edo-period Japan to battle it. Early during production, Toho decided to bring back one of their established kaiju for the film instead, first landing on Rodan. The decision was short lived, however, as King Ghidorah was ultimately chosen as the film's antagonist, with Mothra Leo traveling back to the Cretaceous period to battle his adversary's younger form. However, Rodan still makes a cameo in the movie by way of a Dreamcast VMU a child is seen playing with prior to being abducted by King Ghidorah.
Rodan was the only member of Toho's Big Five without a major role in the "GODZILLA" anime trilogy, appearing only as a skeletal corpse during the opening credits of "Planet of the Monsters." He did feature more prominently in the two prequel novels, "Monster Apocalypse" and "Project Mechagodzilla." The first Rodan attacked Beijing alongside Anguirus I in 2005, before being exterminated by the bioweapon Hedorah. Others appeared around the world following the first one's death, with Rodan II attacking Kyushu, Japan, and flocks of the creatures descending on Siberia, Italy, North Africa, and China. As in Rodan's debut film, they preyed on both humans and Meganulon. However, they seemed to be able to coexist with Megaguirus in Siberia, where both monster species preyed on refugees fleeing from Europe.
Storyboards for "Godzilla: Final Wars" show Godzilla obliterating Rodan, Anguirus, and King Caesar with a blast of atomic breath after he piles them up. We're not sure why the scene was scrapped, but there's something appropriate about Godzilla sparing three of his greatest allies.
That's all we have for the Heisei and Millennium Rodans. Thanks for watching!