Kaiju Profile: The Mothras (Rebirth of Mothra Trilogy)
The Mothra, Mothra Leo, Rainbow Mothra, AquaMothra, Light Speed Mothra, Armor Mothra, Eternal Mothra, and Primitive Mothra kaiju profile is the 71st episode of Wikizilla's Kaiju Profiles video series. It was uploaded on November 15, 2022.
In 1995, Toho brought their Godzilla series to a temporary close to clear the way for the TriStar reboot. But as anyone who stayed through the end credits of "Godzilla vs. Destoroyah" found out, the company wasn't taking a break from kaiju. After helping Godzilla record the highest ticket sales of the Heisei series in 1992, Mothra would be reborn... With beams. So many beams. Hey kaiju fans, I'm Les, and I'll be presenting the kaiju profile on the Mothras of the "Rebirth" trilogy!
MOTHRA ('96), The Queen of Monsters
Aliases: Parent Mothra
Length: 25 meters
Wingspan: 50 meters
Weight: 6,000 metric tons
PRIMITIVE MOTHRA, Guardian Beast
Length: 15 meters
Weight: 2,000 metric tons
MOTHRA (REBIRTH TRILOGY)
Aliases: Mothra Leo, Rebirth Mothra, Excelled Mothra, Mothra Exceled, Rainbow Mothra, AquaMothra, Aqua Mothra, Aqua Mode Mothra, Underwater Mode Mothra, Light Speed Mothra, Light Speed Mode Mothra, Armor Mothra, Armored Mothra, Eternal Mothra, Armor Mothra Eternal
Length: 24 meters (Imago, Rainbow, Aqua)
17.8 centimeters (Micro)
25 meters (Larva, Light Speed, Armor, Eternal)
Wingspan: 53 meters (Imago, Rainbow '97)
30 centimeters (Micro)
30 meters (Aqua, Light Speed)
50 meters (Rainbow '98, Armor, Eternal)
Weight: 5,900 metric tons (Imago, Rainbow, Armor, Eternal)
3,500 metric tons (Aqua, Light Speed)
3,000 metric tons (Larva)
Mothra Leo starred in the three "Rebirth of Mothra" movies released from 1996 to '98, defending the planet against Desghidorah, Dagahra, and King Ghidorah. His mother battled alongside him in his first movie and carried him to safety as her final act, while the Primitive Mothra came to his aid in the third movie. Set in its own continuity apart from any of Toho's other kaiju eiga, the "Rebirth" trilogy leans into fantasy and takes on a more lighthearted tone in comparison to the Heisei Godzilla series.
Aside from Taro in "Godzilla: Tokyo SOS," Leo is the only known male Mothra on film: he has feathery antennae, which are generally only found on male moths, and a deeper roar than his mother. The "Godzilla Defense Force" Codex also refers to Leo as Mothra's son, though only in the English version. Of course, what this means in a species that reproduces asexually is less than clear. Worth noting is that in the film's international English dubs, Moll and Lora use different pronouns for Leo in every movie. ["Faster than its mother!" "The caterpillar became a Mothra and received her power from the 10,000 year-old trees." "Look, there it goes again!" "I don't know. He's still out there." "Mothra cocooned herself."]
It's also important to note that, in Japan, Leo is typically only referred to as "Mothra," or "New Mothra" to distinguish him from his mother. "Mothra Leo" originated as a fan name in the West, taken from a song of the same name which the Elias sing as he cocoons in his first film. However, due to its overwhelming popularity, this name has since been acknowledged by official sources in both the States and Japan. Also, in "Godzilla Island," Leo's larval form is called "Child Mothra," and his mother "Parent Mothra."
With the death of the Japanese Godzilla clearing the path for Sony's soon-to-come Hollywood production, it was decided halfway through filming of "Godzilla vs. Destoroyah" that Mothra was to headline Toho's next kaiju flick. The idea of an imago and larva Mothra teaming up originated in Kazuki Omori's 1990 screenplay for "Mothra vs. Bagan." Rather than simply show up for the final battle, however, this larva would hatch in the middle of the film, then become an adult to avenge his mother's death. Takafumi Tanibuchi and Masayuki Kurahashi of Boncraft modeled Mothra Leo's larva form. There were at least three separate larvae created for the film: a mechanized radio-controlled type, a guignol, and a larger prop for swimming close ups. As special effects director Koichi Kawakita was dissatisfied with the movement of the larva from 1992's "Godzilla vs. Mothra," he requested that the new mechanized prop be able to move its body in a wave-like motion akin to a real caterpillar. Kawakita ordered an internal mechanism for it from Myuron, a company specializing in mechanical modeling. It was built with a gimmick which allowed different parts of its body to move up and down independently through the expulsion of compressed air inside of it. The guignol's facial expressions changed when operated by a wire, while the swimming close-up prop was later refurbished for "Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack."
While the Mothra imago props from "Godzilla vs. Mothra" were too badly damaged to be reused, Leo's mother would have an almost identical design save for the improved mouthparts. Tomoki Kobayashi modeled two new Mothra props for Toho Eizo Bijutsu, one for close-ups and one for action shots (both less than one meter in length). A lower-grade stand-in dummy was also utilized. Toho E.B.'s Special Art division created two more props for Mothra Leo's imago stage. The imago props were given more realistic mouths than past Mothra designs. Staff members were told to only touch the imago Mothra Leo props after they had washed their hands, since any dirt would show up on the fur. Concept artist Hideo Okamoto was responsible for the final designs of the three Mothras in this movie. The coloration of Leo's wings invoked that which he and his kind protected - the greenery of nature and the Earth.
"Rebirth of Mothra 2" used the same Leo props. They were slightly modified and repainted in order to portray Leo's new Rainbow form. The main prop's wings were detachable and could be swapped. Okamoto had drawn up wing patterns for Rainbow Mothra… which didn't quite live up to the "rainbow" moniker as much as what the crew ultimately created.
Hideo Okamoto, Minoru Yoshida, Shinji Nishikawa, and even Heisei Godzilla suit actor Ryu Hariken all had a hand in the look of AquaMothra. The design that won out - one of Yoshida's - balanced features of insects and dolphins with the wings of flying fish. The "Illusion Mirage Aqua" ability Mothra used to defeat Dagahra was not part of the screenplay, but was inserted by the time the storyboards were made in order to set the fight apart from that in the previous film. This was Kawakita's way of finally realizing a battle within a monster's body, an idea he first came up with for the scrapped 1991 "Micro Super Battle: Godzilla vs. Gigamoth" and continued promoting to Toho for the next two years. Two props were constructed of AquaMothra for the second film. The largest one's body was constructed from latex, while its fins were made of vinyl chloride so that they appeared transparent. Additionally, a 3D model was used in a few shots to depict AquaMothra, mostly in Micro form.
Rainbow Mothra's appearance would change in his next film without explanation: his primary color-based pattern actually a scrapped one from "Rebirth 2" resurrected for this third installment. The wings were made from a transparent material, allowing the obverse and reverse faces to display the near exact same painted pattern. "Rebirth of Mothra 3" called for new props, created by Star Train: the 1/1 scale types with swappable wings, and one 2/3rds size model with a built-in mechanism that flapped the wings. The new look was slightly more slender and fuzzy as opposed to the prior Heisei Mothras' plumpy and fluffy appearance. This was a deliberate adjustment on the part of sculpting producer Shinichi Wakasa: after hearing from Okamoto that the appearance of the Leo props "was not the same" as the concept art he'd drawn, Wakasa took the opportunity to "go back to the beginning" a17nd properly adapted the decided design.
Yasushi Torisawa and Shinji Nishikawa realized the concept art for "Rebirth 3." Armor form sketches by Nishikawa presented wings that gave the impression of manmade craft like jets. Torisawa produced a number of striking pieces leaning into a realistic insect look, though only his ankylosaurus-plated Primitive Mothra was selected. Armor and LightSpeed designs by Nishikawa were also approved.
CG was used again in the third film: Armor Mothra's wings unfurling after hatching from the time capsule cocoon were computer-rendered, as were the shots of Light Speed Mothra. Still more props were required for Leo's two final forms; Armor and Eternal Mothra. Different color palettes and wing shapes were considered for Armor Mothra before the final radio-controlled 1/1 prop opted for wings composed of a single piece with pointed tips and a silver, blue, and orange color scheme. The antennae initially sprouted fur, but these were removed before the start of shooting. You may have never noticed, but Armor Mothra does have legs. They're tucked into the chest armor! Oh, and one more thing. A Rainbow Mothra prop was accidentally destroyed during filming! The culprit was the thinner used to create the Primitive Mothras' silk, which somehow ignited and set Rainbow Mothra on fire. Once they put out the blaze, the filmmakers retrieved another model and shot the scene again.
For hundreds of millions of years since the beginning of life on Earth, world peace had been presided over and maintained by the Mothras. Co-existing alongside a civilization of small humanoids known as the Elias and the Fairy Mothras on the paradise-like Infant Island, these guardian deities protected the planet from two three-headed space monsters during the Cretaceous period. The young King Ghidorah's invasion 130 million years ago was thwarted by the time-traveling Rainbow Mothra. Three Primitive Mothra Larvae arrived and covered him in silk, saving him from the brink of death and preserving him through the ages. Desghidorah's arrival 65 million years ago, on the other hand, was more catastrophic. When the Super Space Demon Beast came close to wiping out life on Earth, the Elias dispatched the Mothras from Infant Island. After three days and three nights of grueling war, defeat befell Desghidorah. Left with no other recourse, the Elias utilized the power of their Seal - indispensable to the prosperity of their race - to confine the demon beast. In the end, their numbers dwindled, as did the divine moths'. In the present day, only Fairy, the three Elias sisters Moll, Lora and Belvera, and the parent Mothra remained.
As for Leo himself… he's the result of red and blue particles of light released from his mother's body coming together and forming a giant egg. (Not exactly how I recall the birds and the bees. Maybe it's supposed to be metaphorical. Oh, and, this is the first - and so far only - Mothra "egg-laying" scene ever actually shown… anywhere.) Despite Moll's insistence that it was too early to be born, Leo - imbued with a strong will - burst out of his egg… ready to come to his mother's aid.
Rebirth of Mothra (1996): At the end of the 20th century, the last Mothra spawned an egg, ensuring that her guardian race would live on, and readied to spend her final days in peace. Her priestesses, Moll and Lora, sensed the site director of a logging company removing the Seal of Elias from a Hokkaido forest. Their evil sister Belvera soon seized the Seal and used it to awaken the space monster Desghidorah, who Mothra and her kin had locked away 65 million years ago. Left with no other option, Moll and Lora called upon Mothra to battle Desghidorah. She caught him by surprise, but was clearly outmatched. Responding to his mother's distress, Leo hatched from his egg and joined the fight. But his webbing could only briefly hold the monster back, and Mothra had to come to his rescue. Even working in tandem, they couldn't stop Desghidorah, so Mothra tricked him into firing on a dam. As the waters washed him away, she carried her son out to sea, but soon succumbed to her injuries. Leo could only watch as his mother sank beneath the waves. He traveled to Yakushima Island to metamorphose, building his cocoon around the 10,000 year-old Jōmon Sugi tree. Hundreds of multicolored moths emerged from his cocoon before coalescing into Leo's imago form - the unique greenery in his eyes and wings resulting from the influence of the yakusugi cedar. He flew to Hokkaido for a rematch with Desghidorah. This time, he had an overwhelming edge in speed, firepower, and even raw strength, and put the three-headed monster out of commission with the Shine Strike Buster. Moll and Lora used the Seal, which they had regained from Belvera with the help of the site director's children, to trap Desghidorah once more. Leo restored the forest to its former resplendent state before returning home to Infant Island.
Rebirth of Mothra 2 (1997): A year later, Moll and Lora summoned Mothra Leo to battle Dagahra. Created by the ancient civilization of Nilai-Kanai, he was infesting the Okinawan waters with toxic starfish called Barem. Leo's Sparkling Pileload seemed to give him the advantage, repelling a vicious sneak attack from Dagahra and driving him deeper and deeper into the ocean. But from there he unleashed a Thundering Toxic Crimson Vortex, covering Leo in Barem. Moll and Lora tried to dislodge them with lasers from their hands, but there were far too many. Dahagra tackled Leo into the Nilai-Kanai pyramid, felling a statue, and dragged him underwater. The remaining statues imbued Leo with a temporary burst of strength and fired on Dagahra, burying him under rock. Leo managed to surface and collapsed on top of the pyramid. Sprouting two new shoulder cannons, Dagahra soon renewed his attack on Leo from underwater. The statues granted him another burst of energy to knock Dagahra back. Shiori, one of Moll and Lora's human allies, presented Leo with Ghogo, the living treasure of Nilai-Kanai. The little creature began to glow and floated above Leo, giving his life to transform him into Rainbow Mothra. Dagahra was no match for this new form, his rays reflecting off an invisible shield. Flying low to the water, Mothra cleared a dry path for the humans to run to shore. Dagahra retreated underwater, but this time his opponent followed him, shifting into AquaMothra. After a withering barrage of beam attacks, he changed into a swarm of smaller Mothras and swam inside Dagahra's mouth, ravaging him from the inside. Reforming outside Dagahra's body, he lifted the motionless monster out of the water and dropped him on top of the pyramid, setting off a tremendous explosion. As flames consumed the pyramid, Mothra transformed it into water, then collapsed it with a slice of his wing.
Rebirth of Mothra 3 (1998): King Ghidorah, a space monster who invaded Earth 130 million years ago, returned in a meteor and began abducting children across Japan. Rainbow Mothra challenged him before he could feed upon them, but an invisible barrier around Ghidorah blunted the impact of his rays. Ghidorah returned fire with his Gravity and Antigravity Beams, badly injuring him, then stomped him into the ground. Mothra was helpless as Ghidorah threw him into the air and sent him flying with another volley of Gravity Beams. Moll and Lora tried to distract him, only for him to place Lora under his control. After she tried strangling Moll, she fell into Ghidorah's dome. Recovering from the battle, Mothra told Moll that the only way to defeat Ghidorah was to travel through time back to his first attack on Earth, when he was significantly weaker. Moll sang to power his journey, as he shifted into his AquaMothra form, then Light Speed Mothra, but at the cost of her life. Mothra quickly found the younger Creataceous King Ghidorah, and as he rained down attacks, the Ghidorah in the present began to feel pain. One Crossheat Laser Rainbow blasted off part of Ghidorah's tail, and an alarmed pair of dinosaurs watched it burrow underground. But the younger Ghidorah was still a formidable opponent, and his fireballs began to wear Mothra down. In the present, Moll's ally Shota told Lora that her sister's last request was for her to help Mothra, and she returned to her senses. As he neared death, Lora's song imbued him with strength. He paralyzed Ghidorah with Excel Shining Field Rainbow powder, then carried him into the active Mt. Fuji. In the present, Ghidorah and the dome both vanished. As Lora and Belvera mourned Moll, three Primitive Mothra larvae came upon the fallen Mothra and cocooned him with their Excel Strings. Suddenly, Ghidorah burst out of a meteor in the present again, having regrown his body from the tail Mothra shot off. As Lora and Belvera bravely battled Ghidorah, Mothra's cocoon burst out of a hillside and opened to reveal his new form: Armor Mothra. Ghidorah was completely outmatched, his Gravity Beams useless. After slicing one of his wings off, Mothra energized himself and flew through Ghidorah, causing him to crystalize and explode. Mothra shed his armor, becoming Eternal Mothra, and combined his power with the Elias' sword to revive Moll. With the dome gone, the abducted children rushed to be reunited with their parents. They waved goodbye to the Elias and Mothra.
Before "Rebirth of Mothra 2" premiered, Mothra Leo began crawling around the small screen on "Godzilla Island." His mother battled the likes of Battra, Destoroyah, and a giant Xilien laser cannon in the early episodes. Leo was primarily a background character until the sixth story arc, which saw his mother sacrifice herself to drop Hedorah into a volcano. Leo emerged from his cocoon months later when Hedorah returned, and helped Godzilla dry him out with red antennae beams and wing lightning. In the fifteenth story arc, he fought Godzilla to a draw in defense of his newly-hatched sibling, who had been corrupted by Battra. They ended up joining forces again to defeat the Black Mothra, then brought down Megalon and Destoroyah.
Mothra opened her fight against Desghidorah with Beam Pulsars from her antennae and later used a weaker version of this attack called the Milky Whip to knock the Seal of Elias out of Belvera's grasp. Her other signature technique was the Pressure Field: scales and lightning bolts from her wings. Unlike the Heisei Mothra, her scales did not redirect Desghidorah's rays. She could also shoot lightning from the top of her wings. Beyond beams, Mothra had a number of tricks for close-quarters combat. She could increase her flight speed to Mach 80 with Flash Dash, discharge energy from her body with Direct Impact, and channel electricity through her claws with Stun Trigger. She could also lift up to 20,000 metric tons.
That brings us to Leo himself. He and his mother were both highly intelligent and possessed psychic powers. As a larva, Leo had two forms of attack: the Petite Railgun, a blast of blue-green energy fired from his underbelly, and Excel Strings, which had a rainbow aftershock. The Primitive Mothra could also spit this webbing, but luckily for Rainbow Mothra, theirs had no aftershock. Anyway, while Leo was powerful enough to get Desghidorah's attention in his larval stage, his limited durability meant he needed his mother's help to survive the encounter. While his Fake Reflection technique allowed him to blend in with the forest for a while, Desghidorah's flames exposed him. He could swim at 130 kilometers per hour, dropping to 40 to 60 km/h on land, while the Primitive Mothras traveled at a sustained 60.
So vast was Leo's arsenal as an imago that he only used two attacks against both Desghidorah and Dagahra: his signature Crossheat Lasers and the Excel Shining Field. Like his mother, he combined the latter with lightning bolts from his wings. His Petite Railgun upgraded to the Sparkling Pileload, which sent Dagahra flying through the air and vaporized huge swaths of ocean. He made Desghidorah's life miserable with a Sparkling Pileload variant and by transforming into a swarm of Crystal Mothras, an Illusion Mirage. His finisher was the Shine Strike Buster: spinning above his opponent to unleash rings of energy, then crafting a giant lens to focus the sun's rays into an "Independence Day"-style laser. After the battle, he restored the forest to its original splendor with a Pulsaphonic Shower. He also had a couple of rays without flashy names: antennae lasers and a traveling energy field granted by the Nilai-Kanai temple.
Leo could increase his already-staggering Mach 15.5 flight speed to Mach 85 with the Excel Dash, getting the better of Desghidorah in a head-on collision. That was his greatest feat of durability against the Super Darkness Monster. Dagahra laid him low with the Thundering Toxic Crimson Vortex, but he withstood an incredible amount of punishment after that.
Upon becoming Rainbow Mothra, he generated a Shining Shield similar to his mother's Pressure Field which deflected all of Dagahra's attacks, though it was useless in the next movie. His upgraded Crossheat Laser Rainbow drove the sea monster underwater, and later severed one of Cretaceous King Ghidorah's tails. In "RoM2," he uses Sparkling Pileload Rainbow, though the beam isn't visible; he uses it more clearly against King Ghidorah in the following movie. After transforming back from his Aqua Form, he dropped Dagahra onto the Nilai Kanai temple with his psychokinetic Aurora Power, then liquefied them with a Rainbow Buster.
Rainbow Mothra debuted one more upgraded technique in "Rebirth of Mothra 3": the Excel Shining Field Rainbow. The explosive powder paralyzed Ghidorah, allowing Mothra to pick up the 25,000-ton monster and fly him into Mt. Fuji. That was also the only fight where he got his claws dirty, drawing blood with a few swipes. In their first bout, he tried out a new attack called the Arrow Buster, though it didn't work any better than the others. Again, he takes a pummeling in this movie. Gravity Beams, Antigravity Beams, a flying stomp, Fire Balls, having chunks of his wings ripped off… he really earned that 130-million-year-rest.
AquaMothra could swim at 200 knots. He had two different rays defined as Crossheat Laser Aqua, along with the X-Thunderbeam, which came in blue and a deadlier orange. He retained an Aqua Shield, though it merely absorbs attacks. He all but finished Dagahra with Illusion Mirage Aqua, the Micro Mothras' Shine Formation Attack devastating his organs and Barem. After that, his Space Miracleforce psychokinesis lifted him out of the water. AquaMothra returned briefly in "Rebirth of Mothra 3" as an intermediary form for Lightspeed Mothra, who could, with Moll's assistance, fly at sublight speeds to travel through time.
Armor Mothra lost a bit of flight speed, dropping to a 'mere' Mach 15, but gained overwhelming offense and defense. King Ghidorah threw everything at him, even a Gravity Beam Triple Tornado, and he kept coming. His Armor Crossheat Laser broke through the three-headed monster's barrier, but he dealt even more damage with the Armor Wing Cutter, which lived up to its name by removing one of Ghidorah's wings in two hits. Despite his size, even his headbutt was incredibly powerful. He ended Ghidorah by flying straight through him with the Excel Dash Buster, causing him to crystallize and explode.
In tandem with the Sword of the Elias Triangle, Eternal Mothra used Celphonic Power to bring Moll back to life. Since he never fought another monster, his other abilities are unknown, but they're probably terrifying.
On-set tales: Here's a couple of cute bits from the set of the "Rebirth of Mothra" trilogy that aren't quite at home in the design section, but we still wanted to share. When shooting the scene of the dying parent Mothra and her child, assistant special effects director Yosuke Nakano was initially in charge of manipulating the props. For whatever reason, it didn't work out, and Mr. Kawakita got in the big pool himself and took charge of the performance. He stated that he worked very hard on this scene, with the intention of properly depicting the love between parent and child. And, Godzilla co-creator Tomoyuki Tanaka's final special effects set visit was to "Rebirth of Mothra". A planning credit for its sequel would be his last prior to his passing, and the third film gave him a stealthy cameo in the Sonoda household.
Truly Outrageous: In 1998, Tentomushi Comics published "Outrageous Flying Mothra," a wacky, extremely loose retelling of the trilogy. Highlights include larval Leo wearing a Godzilla mask when he hatches, an underwhelming Illusion Mirage, Rainbow Mothra disguising himself as a tree, Armor Mothra faltering under his own weight, and a Mechamothra cameo. The magazine Bessatsu Coro Coro Comic also printed more straightforward manga adaptations of all three "Rebirth of Mothra" films, but stupidly never collected them in paperback, so none of us own them.
Too Powerful for Pixels: Leo's video game debut was "Mothra Tamagotchi" in 1997, followed in 1998 by "Mothra: Dream Battle" for the Dreamcast VMU, which makes a brief appearance in "Rebirth of Mothra 3." You'd think, with a move list so enormous it almost gives "Tekken" a run for its money, that he'd be found all over, but forms of his have only featured in four Godzilla games—"Trading Battle," "Kaiju Collection" (the only video game to have Primitive Mothra in it!), "Defense Force", and "Battle Line"—plus the "Monster Strike" and "Pocoron Dungeons" collaborations. Strangely, "Save the Earth" put Rainbow Mothra on the cover, but based the Mothra in the game on the 1992 version.
Astrology: We don't have any proof that Mothra Leo's name was inspired by the Western Zodiac. Still, it's interesting to note that the original "Mothra" hit Japanese theaters on July 30, meaning the character was "born" under the sign of Leo. So, wait, it's all Leo?
Ishiro Honda with a gun: Always has been.
That's all we have for Mothra Leo & co. I've been Les, and thank you for watching!