Mothra is a giant moth monster, who later became a common recurring character in Godzilla's
films. Created when the Kaiju
genre was still in its infancy, the 1961 Mothra
wasn't dark and full of horror. In contrast, the film was colorful and had an air of fantasy about it. There's an influence of Western Christianity as well. Instead of ending with her death, Mothra achieves her mission and leaves on good terms. The actual villain is a greedy capitalist and tomb raider from the American and Russian stand-in, Rolisica.
The four survivors of a shipwreck are discovered to have been unaffected by the radiation on Infant Island due to the berries offered by the island natives. When this story breaks, the European country of Rolisica and Japan co-sponsor a scientific expedition to Infant Island. They encounter the natives and two tiny women called the Shobijin, who plead for the halt of atomic testing near the island. The crew acknowledges this, and returns home sworn to secrecy. But the greedy Rolisican Clark Nelson secretly returns to kidnap the Shobijin and exploit their singing abilities for profit. Our heroes manage to contact them, who are confident Mothra will save them but fear that innocents would get hurt. The Shobijin can't be rescued through legal channels and their connection to Mothra is ignored as she lays destruction upon Japan...
She is one of the most popular monsters in the Toho monster franchise. Whenever Godzilla is waning, Mothra is one of the classic monsters brought out to give a box office boost. She has been so popular that a Spear Counterpart
was featured in a trilogy in the late 1990s, called Rebirth Of Mothra
Tropes used in the films include
- Berserk Button: As mentioned below, Mothra is usually very peaceful. But, she won't hesitate to unleash her full wrath upon anyone who dares to harm/kidnap her fairy companions.
- Big Applesauce: New Kirk City's an obvious stand-in for it.
- Butt Monkey: Fukuda, who ends up on the end of some good-natured and not so good-natured jabs.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Nelson.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Zenichiro manages to defeat four of Nelson's mooks by himself.
- Death Ray: The Rolisican Atomic Heat-Ray Cannons.
- Divine Intervention: The natives believe this. They have a ritual to help awaken Mothra, which includes a fertility dance by a young couple. Lots of people partake of a ceremonial drink and get ceremonially stoned.
- Fake Nationality: The natives of Infant Island are obviously Japanese actors decked in the Polynesian equivalent of Blackface.
- Fictional Counterpart: Rolisica for America and Russia.
- Gentle Giant: Mothra is by far the most benevolent and peaceful amongst Toho's Kaiju. That is, as long as you don't harm her fairy companions.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Nelson had no idea that each theatrical performance by the Shobijin was strengthening Mothra and guiding her toward them.
- Intrepid Reporter: Zenichiro "Bulldog" Fukuda and his clever photographer, Michi Hanamura. They will sneak into places that they shouldn't sneak into in order to get a story.
- Kick the Dog: Where to start with Nelson...
- Macabre Moth Motif: Inverted, Mothra is a symbol of peace and hope. Battra, the evil moth on the other hand...
- Mama Bear: Never mess with Mothra's fairy friends
- Noble Savage: The natives on the island.
- The Professor: Dr. Shinji Chûjô, a cultural anthropologist, is the young cute one (Akihiro Tayama returned to play him in several subsequent Mothra pictures); Dr. Harada appears to be an M.D. with a number of other degrees under his belt.
- Shoe Phone: Michi has a camera disguised as a lighter, in case she enters a No Cameras Allowed zone or to photograph a camera-shy person.
- Playing Against Type: This is the first film in which Haruo Nakajima (yes, the guy who played Godzilla in 1954) plays a monster that's only destructive because it had to. His previous roles, being Godzilla and Rodan, are are just destructive by nature.
- Telepathy: How the Shobijin are able to communicate with humans who use other languages.
- Theme Music Power-Up: How the Shobijin and Infant Islanders are able to summon Mothra, guide her to the Shobijin, and give her power ups.
- Too Long; Didn't Dub: When the Shobijin are about to reunite with Mothra, the English dub just has the characters go "Sayonara."
- Villainous Breakdown: Nelson gets one when he's surrounded by very pissed off civilians of Roliscia. Yeah, you should listen to the Japanese and not hold that Idiot Ball, moron. Otherwise a giant moth will chase you at the ends of the earth until you release the Shobijin.
- What Could Have Been: Originally, Nelson and his men were to have kidnapped Shinji and then flee with him as hostage to the mountains with the heroes in pursuit. However Mothra beats them to it trying to rescue the fairies, and winds up killing Nelson herself by knocking him off a cliff.