Queen of the Monsters
Ranges from brown, to orange, to white.
The second Mothra generation would be birthed in the climax of Mothra vs. Godzilla in the form of a duo, and one of the two would go on to become the new Mothra, up until the 1968 film, Destroy All Monsters, where an unspecified third generation individual would be seen.
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."
Since her first film, Mothra has been depicted in various stages of the lepidopteran life cycle: Mothra's mammoth egg is colored in decorative blue and yellow waves. The egg hatches into her larva, a massive, segmented brown caterpillar (resembling a silkworm) with glowing blue, sometimes red, eyes. In rare circumstances, twins may emerge from the egg.
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 mythical phoenix, resembling resurrection and suggesting divinity.
Mothra's larval form in the original Mothra was portrayed by a 3 foot-long remote-controlled puppet and a 6 foot-tall, 33 foot-long suit that was operated by eight actors, including Haruo Nakajima and Katsumi Tezuka.
The ShodaiMosuLarva is distinct from later Mothra larva designs in that its body is a very light shade of brown, with very pronounced dark spots all over its body. The body is also very elongated and slender. The head is much more rounded than later designs, and features a tall forehead.
The ShodaiMosuLarva has very small light-blue eyes, which are nested within large rounded sockets. The ShodaiMosuLarva's mandibles are relatively small, and the feelers flanking them are thin and located near the bottom of the head.
The ShodaiMosuImago would set the tone for all of the Mothra imago designs to follow. The prop's body is predominantly white, with several orange spots decorating its length, most notably on the top of its head. The body is very thick and rounded, while the thin, scrawny legs are held close to the body.
The ShodaiMosuImago's face is flat and its mandibles are very small. Its blue eyes - which are ovular in shape - are surrounded by a black outline. For scenes of the imago Mothra flying in the distance, animation was used in place of the actual prop.
The ShodaiMosuImago was used in one scene in Mothra vs. Godzilla, during the imago Mothra's battle with Godzilla
The GojiMosuLarva is much fatter than the previous larval design, with a shorter body. Its body is a slightly darker shade of brown, with even darker brown spots covering its length.
The GojiMosuLarva's skin is wrinkly, its veins clearly visible through the surface. The head is less rounded, and the sockets around the eyes are not as deep or rounded. The eyes are still blue in color, but less plainly visible. The mandibles are quite large, while the feelers flanking them are fatter and located directly parallel rather than below the mandibles.
The GojiMosuImago is very similar to its predecessor, the ShodaiMosuImago, although there are a few differences. The body of the GojiMosuImago is slightly more slender and less rounded. The legs are much longer and more pronounced, and are clearly visible rather than held close to the body.
The colors on the GojiMosuImago are more muted, and the wing design is slightly different. Most of the orange fur on the body has been changed to brown, while the areas that were brown on the ShodaiMosuImago are now a darker shade of brown. The eyes are more rounded and extend further out of the head. The GojiMosuImago's antennae are thinner, while the feelers are now covered in fur. The GojiMosuImago's face is more prognathic than the ShodaiMosuImago's, with the snout extending out from the rest of the face before the mandibles. The mandibles themselves are also larger than those of the ShodaiMosuImago.
The GojiMosuImago puppets were reused for Ebirah, Horror of the Deep two years later. The props had deteriorated slightly, and the wings had become more stiff and frayed. The colors are now faded, while the fur that had once been white is now a dingy light brown tone. For several scenes set on Infant Island, Mothra was simply painted onto the backdrop of the scene. This design is also called the NankaiMosuImago (南海モス成虫?) in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. NankaiMosuSeichū
The SanDaikaijuMosuLarva is mostly based on the previous Mothra larva design, as its body proportions and the shape of its face are mostly unchanged. The SanDaikaijuMosuLarva's body is now smooth, without any visible wrinkles or veins, and is a dark brown color all over, with no spots. The eyes are red for the first time instead of blue, and the feelers next to the mouth have returned to a slimmer and more even shape.
The SoshingekiMosuLarva is mostly based on the SanDaikaijuMosuLarva design, featuring the smooth brown body and red eyes. However, this design features some differences of its own. The prop sits much lower off the ground than previous designs and is shorter in length, to match this Mothra's smaller size in the film.
The body is an even darker shade of brown than the SanDaikaijuMosuLarva. The head is very small, with the forehead not even coming up to the top of the body. The sockets around the eyes are slightly more rounded but less deep, making the eyes more plainly visible.
Mothra's chirps are actually Anguirus's roars sped up. This is most evident during a scene in Godzilla vs. Mothra where Mothra is hit by artillery and moans in pain, emitting a sound that is almost identical to Anguirus' roar.
Despite having wrought destruction worthy of any Toho kaiju, Mothra is almost always portrayed as a kind and benevolent creature, causing destruction only when acting as protector to her worshipers on Infant Island or to her egg, or as collateral damage while protecting Earth from a greater threat. Mothra is usually accompanied by two tiny priestesses or fairies (often called Shobijin—Japanese for "small beauties") who also speak for her.
Mothra's origins have somewhat varied from film to film, but she is always portrayed as a benevolent and ancient creature that possesses some level of divinity.
In the Showa era, 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.
HistoryInfant 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 in peace.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. While Godzilla continued his rampage across Japan, the Shobijin and the Infant Islanders began to pray for Mothra's egg to hatch. Finally, the egg hatched into two twin larvae. The larvae followed Godzilla to Iwa Island and attacked him there. While the larvae were much smaller and weaker than Godzilla, they used their size to hide behind rocks and sneak up on Godzilla, spraying him with silk. Eventually, Godzilla was trapped in a silken cocoon and fell over a cliff into the ocean below. Victorious, Mothra's larvae and the Shobijin returned to Infant Island.Godzilla, one of the twin larvae passed away, leaving its sister as the sole goddess of Infant Island. When the evil three-headed space monster King Ghidorah arrived on the Earth, the Japanese government asked the Shobijin to call Mothra to fight him. The Shobijin remarked that the young Mothra had no chance of defeating King Ghidorah on her own, but proposed that if she could recruit the help of Godzilla and Rodan they may have a chance.
The Shobijin called Mothra to Japan, where she sought out Godzilla and Rodan, who were battling at Mount Fuji. Mothra used her silk to get the monsters to stop fighting and informed them of the threat posed by King Ghidorah. Godzilla and Rodan stubbornly replied that they had no reason to defend humanity from King Ghidorah, and refused to work together until the other apologized. Mothra told them that the Earth was not just for humanity, but for all creatures and that it was their duty to protect it.
Unfortunately, Mothra's words failed to sway either monster, and the young larva was forced to take on King Ghidorah by herself. King Ghidorah easily blasted Mothra aside with his gravity beams, attracting the anger of Godzilla and Rodan, who finally joined the battle. Together, the three Earth monsters overpowered King Ghidorah, knocking him to the ground and trapping him in silk. King Ghidorah finally flew off into space, leaving Mothra and her new allies victorious. Mothra reunited with the Shobijin and swam back to Infant Island, while Godzilla and Rodan watched.Infant Island while her people were abducted and enslaved by the terrorist organization known as the Red Bamboo, who operated on nearby Letchi Island. The Shobijin and the remaining natives continued to pray to Mothra until she finally awakened and heard their plea.
The Shobijin told Ryota and Yata Kane, who had both ended up on Infant Island, to travel to Letchi Island and free the slaves, then create a giant net. The two of them traveled to the island by boat, while Mothra and the Shobijin prepared to fly there as well. When Mothra arrived, the island had been rigged to explode and Godzilla was in combat with the monster Ebirah, who guarded the island's waters.
When Godzilla defeated Ebirah and saw Mothra fly overhead, he approached her and tried to initiate combat. Mothra simply knocked Godzilla over and grabbed the net holding the escaped slaves, then flew away from the island. Godzilla soon jumped into the water, just as the entire island was consumed in a nuclear explosion.Monsterland along with most of Earth's other kaiju. When the Kilaaks invaded the island, they took control of the monsters and sent them to attack major cities around the globe. Mothra first attacked Beijing, and later resurfaced in Tokyo along with Godzilla, Manda and Rodan.
The four monsters completely leveled the city before departing. Thankfully, mankind destroyed the Kilaaks' mind-control device and the Earth monsters assaulted the Kilaaks' lair at Mount Fuji. The Kilaaks summoned King Ghidorah to fight off the Earth monsters. Mothra aided in the fight from afar, covering King Ghidorah in webbing alongside Kumonga. When King Ghidorah and the Kilaaks were defeated, Mothra and the other monsters were returned to Monsterland to live out their days in peace.
In imago form her powers vary widely from film to film, including very animalistic scratching and dragging, and often concluding with a poisonous yellow powder (or "scales") - her last defense.
As an adult, her wings can (and generally do) create gales which tear apart buildings and send other kaiju flying. Her great bulk of a body is commonly used to her advantage in battle to slam into opponents (both in larva and adult form), and her surprising levels of strength can help her to drag and even lift monsters like Godzilla.
Her final strategy is to emit "scales," a yellow poisonous powder that can usually asphyxiate an enemy. However she only uses that attack when she knows she is going to die, this is speculated, because the extreme loss of scales will cause her to lose flight.
Mothra is one of the most powerful psychics in the Toho universe. She uses this power benevolently, to communicate with humans, or defensively, to destroy her enemies. As suggested earlier, Mothra is assumed to be divine and draws many parallels to the Phoenix, which makes her one of the more powerful kaiju of the Toho universe.
In larva form she may use her silken spray to wrap and immobilize an opponent, and has a knack for biting and clinging to foes' tails.
- Main article: Shobijin.
Mothra is usually accompanied by two tiny priestesses or fairies (often called Shobijin, Japanese for "small beauties") who also speak for her. For Mothra's first three film appearances these twin fairies were played by the Peanuts. In Mothra they demonstrate telepathic abilities, within speaking range with people and over great distances with Mothra. They explain that while they call to Mothra in prayer and in song, they and Mothra are also connected on some deeper level beyond their control, and it is this connection that impels Mothra to find them no matter where they are.
These qualities are part of the continuity of all subsequent Mothra appearances. In Mothra vs. Godzilla the Shobijin also demonstrate teleportation, when trying to escape from Kumayama and Torahata. In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster the girls translate not only Mothra's chirps but an entire conversation among three daikaiju.
Mothra appeared as a summonable monster in Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee. A Mothra-shaped icon, when picked up, calls in a "Mothra Airstrike," where she flies around the arena firing her antennae beams at all monsters besides the one who retrieved the item. She does little damage with each attack, but can add up.
Mothra can be chased off if hit with a beam weapon, but this is difficult to do. Mothra is playable in the game's Gameboy Advance counterpart, Godzilla: Domination!, and was also playable in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters. She was also a boss in Godzilla Generations: Maximum Impact.
Mothra became playable once again in Godzilla: Save the Earth. Players start as a larval Mothra, who is slow and has a high defense and a moderate attack. Larva Mothra can use her Silk Shot to immobilize foes, and can spear with her tail and roll around the arena to attack.
Pressing R2 and L2 at the same time causes her to metamorph into adult Mothra. Trading speed for defense and attack for weapons, Mothra relies on long-range assaults and a good strategy. She can reflect most beam weapons away from her, and stun opponents when getting up or with a greenish mist. Mothra is unique in that she does not enter Rage Mode, instead she treats the Rage power-up as Health and Energy Recover.
|“|| Mothra is a guardian of the earth, and only exists to defend the earth from pollution, corruption and devastation. Mothra begins life as a giant larvae, with a barbed tail and a web-spinning snout. Once danger threatens, however, Mothra cocoons herself and transforms into her flying adult form.|
As an adult, Mothra creates powerful gusts of wind from her wings and create clouds from her scales to reflect energy attacks. Although her wings appear frail, Mothra is a very capable melee opponent, using her superior mobility to strike her opponents quickly and then retreat. Mothra is devoted to rooting out the crystal corruption, and abhors monsters who absorb their energies for personal advancement.
— Godzilla: Unleashed
|“|| A giant moth and the guardian deity of Infant Island in the Pacific Ocean. Starting from an egg, it grew into a larva, cocooned, and became an imago before ultimately maturing into its current colossal state. It flew to Japan to rescue the small, beautiful maidens who were kidnapped by a party of explorers. Later, it flew over again to retrieve its eggs, which had washed up on Japan's shores due to a large-scale typhoon. It was there that it engaged in a desperate battle with Godzilla, who was after its eggs.|
Mothra is a quintessential physical-effects monster, appearing more often than any other guest character in the Godzilla series. In addition to the miniature from the original film "Mothra" (1961), a new model was created specifically for appearance in the Godzilla movies. In contrast to the more elliptical eyes of the original model, the new version featured nearly round eyes.
There were two types of props made for the new model: a self-propelled model and a hand-operated model. The mechanics of the self-propelled model later became widely used in TV special-effects miniatures.
— Mothra 1961 and 64's Kaiju Guide bio
The 1961 Mothra larve made an appearance within the Kaiju Collection game for mobile devices, alongside the 1961 Mothra imago.
In other languages
Mothra's name remains the same across many languages employing the Latin alphabet.
- Bulgarian and Russian: Мотра
- Chinese: 魔斯拉 (Mó sī lā)
- Italian: Watang, Mattra, Pulluk
- Serbian: Мотхра
- Yiddish: מאָטהראַ
- Mothra is the first bug kaiju in the Godzilla series.
- Mothra is the first Toho opponent Godzilla faced that did not debut in the Godzilla series but was instead absorbed by it, becoming one of the series' recurring characters.
- Likewise, Mothra is also the first and so far only Toho monster to have a series of films dedicated to her and her kind after being featured in the Godzilla series.
- Mothra is widely considered to be Toho's second most popular kaiju behind Godzilla, due to her numerous film appearances both in and outside of the Godzilla franchise. Toho has even given Mothra the title "Queen of (the) Monsters," a counterpart to Godzilla's "King of the Monsters."
- Despite being a frequent Godzilla ally, Mothra, in most movies, was Godzilla's foe. She became Godzilla's ally in two Godzilla movies in the Showa series, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster and Destroy All Monsters.
- In Ebirah, Horror of the Deep, Godzilla only fought Mothra because his role in the movie was originally meant for King Kong, as the creature never met Mothra before.
- In Godzilla vs. Gigan, Mothra makes an extremely brief appearance when Godzilla stomps towards Gigan. This is due to an erroneous use of stock footage which reused a scene from Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster.
- Mothra has become one of Godzilla's most challenging opponents, having achieved the greatest success rate in battle. She has once overcome Godzilla in imago form, and twice Godzilla has fought her to her death only later to be bested by her newborn larvae. It should be mentioned that Mothra has never beaten Godzilla alone (in her Imago Form). The only victory by an insect over Godzilla were the Mothra twin-larvae in Mothra vs. Godzilla in the Showa series, Imago Mothra and Imago Battra in Godzilla vs. Mothra, in the Heisei series and the twin-larvae and Kiryu in the Millennium series.
- Unsurprisingly, Mothra has been mentioned or referenced countless times in other forms of media, some of which are tagged below.
- In episode 40 of the Kimagure Orange Road anime TV series, the cast are making an amateur movie referencing certain elements from Mothra. They use the Kasuga family cat to play the part of a giant monster heading towards Tokyo with a final confrontation at Tokyo Tower and the Kasuga Twins playing the part of lost princesses that the monster is seeking. The twins even sing to the monster in order to calm it down and they ride on the monster back to their island paradise.
- In the Rumiko Takahashi series, Urusei Yatsura, Mothra, along with other kaiju co-stars, make multiple background cameos.
- In the Love Hina anime, Motoko has a dream where Mutsumi Otohime appears as two tiny versions of herself who sing to summon a giant version of Tama-chan in a similar fashion to how Mothra is summoned by her fairies.
- Mothra has a brief appearance in an episode of The Simpsons where Godzilla is attacking the plane the family is on along with Gamera and Rodan.
- A song by We Are Scientists, released on their 2002 LP Safety, Fun, and Learning (in that Order) is titled "Mothra Versus We Are Scientists."
- In Class of 3000 Mothra and Godzilla made a few appearances.
- Mothra is the name of a track on the Nosferatu album by The Stranglers' lead-singer and guitarist Hugh Cornwell and Captain Beefheart percussionist Robert Williams.
- The Toe Jammers wrote a song about Mothra, in which Godzilla sings Mothra a letter he wrote that begs for her forgiveness.
- During the events entailed in Silent Hill 1, the lead protagonist, Harry Mason encounters a large larva that he must fight. Later on, it is shown to have evolved into a very Mothra-like giant moth, who seeks revenge.
- A common enemy in the Legend of Zelda series is a giant poisonous moth known as Mothula, an apparent play on Mothra's name.
- In the Pokémon anime, Giratina has Mothra's chirps and screeches.
- Mothra looks strikingly similar to the Generation III Pokémon Beautifly, even having an almost identical color scheme.
- The Pokémon anime makes a direct reference to Mothra through Caterpie. In an episode a giant Caterpie attacks a city similar to Tokyo and it evolves into Metapod while on a tower similar to Tokyo Tower.
- In the Generation V Pokémon video games, Volcarona (a giant, fire-controlling moth Pokémon) is likely to have been influenced by Mothra.
- At the end of the Mad Cartoon Sketch: "Linkong", the Shobijin from 1961's Mothra (plus their various appearances in several Godzilla films) appear, narrating the epilogue and summoning Mothra Washington. Mothra flies on-screen, with authentic chirps.
- In the Sonic X anime, the giant moth Mothmacin is a reference to Mothra.
- In the Kirby series, a parody is seen in the anime. A monster named Mosugaba and the small twin girls were known as the Twin Nuts.
- Mothra is part of a miniskit in the comedy show Saturday Night Live.
- Mothra makes a pseudo-cameo in Legendary Pictures' Godzilla. When Joe and Ford Brody are searching through the ruins of the quarantine zone, the word "Mothra" can be seen printed below a glass terrarium. Also, in Ford's classroom, there is a diagram featuring several moths and butterflies, the largest of which has Mothra's coloration.
- In August of 2014, the 1998 film was mocked by RiffTrax Live, which was created by and shares many of the former members of Mystery Science Theater 3000. During the riffing, they made witty references to King Ghidorah and Mothra.
- In the Dreamworks Animated film Monsters vs Aliens, the character Insectosaurus starts her life as a gigantic, mutant larva that is mostly a parody of Godzilla. By the film's climax, she has metamorphosed into a colorful imago whose wings bear a vague resemblance to the pattern on Mothra's own wings.
- In the video game Terraria, one of the minibosses is named Mothron, who is a direct parody of Mothra with the design being heavily inspired by Mothra's, also with the ability to lay large eggs.
List of appearances
- Mothra (First appearance)
- Mothra vs. Godzilla
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
- Ebirah, Horror of the Deep
- Destroy All Monsters
- Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee
- Godzilla: Save the Earth
- Godzilla: Unleashed
- Godzilla (2014 video game)
- Godzilla: Kaiju Collection