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The Movie Tourist Visits The Monster Islands of the Godzilla Franchise

“Tired of giant monsters stomping on your city? The United Nations Science Committee have you covered with “Monsterland” the island which paved the way for similar Kaiju sanctuaries were the world’s monsters live in peace, or at least until they find a way to get out again!”

The Monster Islands can be considered an umbrella term for all the islands which have appeared over the course of Godzilla’s 60+ year history starting with Monsterland, which was originally created as a convenient plot device when it first appeared in Destroy All Monsters were the United Nations Science Committee had at the close of the 20th century, rounded up the world’s monsters to this one central location. At the same time the island was fitted with a magnetic field to prevent the likes of Rodan flying away while for the ground-based Kaiju, special mists can be unleashed to deter their escape attempts, and a command centre located under the island means that the monsters can be monitored at all times, while also giving scientists a way to study them. Of course the downfall in this plan, like anytime you gather together a group of monsters, dinosaurs … or well pretty much anything, was soon made clear when the alien race called the Kilaaks used the island to their advantage when they took over the island, brainwashing the monsters and unleashing them on the major cities of the world.

Amongst the numerous inhabitants joining Godzilla on the island were Rodan, Mothra, Anguirus and Kumonga as well as several Kaiju who were dug out of the Toho monster archives to add to their numbers, including Gorosaurus who’d previously turned up on Mondo Island in King Kong Escapes, and Manda the Japanese dragon style Kaiju who’d been created for Atoragon as part of a marketing strategy for the film, as well as a way to symbolise the upcoming Year of the Snake.

Destroy All Monsters had been originally designed as a way for Toho to mothball the Godzilla franchise, making all the more sense for them to bring in monsters from their other films with Monsterland providing the perfect reason to bring all their Kaiju creations together without any of the concerns about filling the audience in on the backstories of the various Kaiju. For Kaiju fans though the island is in many ways like a living museum of Toho’s Kaiju movies, let alone a tribute to the creative vision of the legendary Special Effects director Eiji Tsuburaya for whom this marked his last Godzilla film to be produced alongside his fellow Godzilla fathers who also included Producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, Director Ishiro Honda and Akira Ifukube providing music. Following the release of the film Tsuburaya a loyal company man would remain at Toho following the film until his death from a heart attack in 1970 creating amongst his numerous credits the equally iconic Ultraman, which like the series he produced before it Ultra Q saw him adapting / reusing many of his monster creations.

Of course before Monsterland there was always the issue of where to exactly hide a 50 Metre radioactive dinosaur, and that’s just Shōwa era (1954 – 1975). When we look at the Heisei (1984 – 1985) and Millennium (1999 – 2004) era’s, which followed, he can be seen in several films clocking in at 100m and higher. Before its creation he would appear from the Ocean depths or just turn up randomly on whatever tropical island the story happened to be taking place on in that film.

The films which followed Destroy All Monsters of course usually were able to sidestep these issues with seemingly the same island now being renamed Monster Island in the abysmal All Monsters Attack. Godzilla following this was now often seen sensing a new monster presence for him to challenge or in the case of Godzilla Vs. Gigan he was found hearing a recording which summoned monsters, a scene which also saw him actually talking to Anguirus using either speech bubbles or some horribly dubbed dialogue depending on which version you’re watching. These films usually ending with him returning back to the island as the credits rolled, despite nothing particularly keeping him there to begin with, the hidden security devices seemingly having vanished at the end of Destroy All Monsters, the UNSC apparently believing that the monsters would just stay put.

While Monster Island was phased out at the end of the Shōwa era, it would however continue to appear in spin-off media such as the Godzilla video games, the cartoon series Godzilla: The Series and the IDW Comics, which ensured that its legacy has continued to live on. With the Heisei era, however, a new island was introduced with Birth Island, where despite serving as a home for Godzilla to raise this era’s version of Minilla, clumsily renamed Little Godzilla. The island would only make two appearances largely thanks to the Heisei era focusing on more primal version of Godzilla, similar to the one we saw in the early films with Godzilla’s heroics having more of a Darwinist edge to them as Godzilla battled rival monsters more due to the fact that they had stumbled into his territory than his Shōwa era version saw him as Earth’s defender. Birth Island though can be seen in many ways like a tribute to the one shot islands like Letchi Island from Ebirah Horror of the Deep and Solgell Island which served to introduce Minilla in Godzilla and Son

Rounding out this tour of Toho’s Kaiju islands is arguable one of the most important, that of Infant Island, which serves as home to Mothra, who is not only a giant moth but also one of the most popular Kaiju in the Toho catalogue, especially considering her strong appeal to female fans. The island would first appear in her standalone movie Mothra before she was brought across into the Godzilla universe in Mothra Vs. Godzilla were she and her Lava have remained a firm fixture since.

Unlike the other islands, Infant Island has its own native population who worship Mothra while being led by the Shobijin, a pair of twin fairies who are able to telepathically communicate with Mothra and as such are usually nearby when she makes an appearance. Unlike the other locations, Infant Island has remained a constant through each era and into Mothra’s own stand alone trilogy with the only noticeable change being that of the Shobijin due to the age of the actresses playing them, while the original Shobijin played by Emi and Yumi Ito set a precedent for them singing songs which is largely believed was due to them also being a popular singing duo in their native Japan where they were known as The Peanuts.

Considering how many of the islands were created for plot convenience, it’s quite remarkable how the world still fits together, while the spin-off comics have only continued to strengthen their legacy and further tie them together. But still they remain a source of fascination for fans while adding perhaps a simple touch of realism to a wonderfully fantastical world.

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