Born in 1911, Honda was raised by a Buddhist father, who instilled in him a positive outlook in life. He was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army in the 1930s and again during World War II, in which he was a foot soldier (putting his movie career on hold for a while). As a film director, for the majority of his early career, he directed propaganda films. Honda's ultimate life-changing experience was the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which haunted him forever afterward. Poor guy. When Godzilla was being produced, Honda decided to turn the movie into what it is today, and it's popular amongst the Japanese and fans of the series.
Honda's direction of Godzilla stems from the fact that it was based on his haunted experience of the atomic bombings. After Godzilla, the majority of his Kaiju films tend to have a bittersweet ending, while others do have happier, less depressing endings.
Aside from Kaiju, Honda made other films in a variety of genres, which tend to be overlooked. He was long-time friends with Akira Kurosawa, and they directed movies together, such as Kagemusha, Ran, and quite a few more. Like Kurosawa, Honda's well-known actors in his films include Takashi Shimura (best known as Dr. Yamane in Godzilla), Akihiko Hirata, Kenji Sahara, and Akira Takarada.
If a film has something to do with radiation, or looks like a mutation of radiation, yeah, you'll know where this is going. Since Honda will pull this in his films.
Sadly, he passed away before he could direct Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, which would have been his first Heisei Godzilla film.
Ishirō Honda has worked on the following movies/television shows:
- Godzilla (1954)
- Half Human
- The Mysterians
- Varan, the Unbelievable
- Battle in Outer Space
- Frankenstein Conquers the World
- King Kong Escapes
- Latitude Zero
- Space Amoeba
- Return of Ultraman
- Zone Fighter
- Anvilicious: No matter what film, he will drop this in-universe in his films.
- Author Appeal: Any of his films will have a giant monster with ending their life a complete tragedy. Mothra was the only film monster that didn't suffer from this.
- Break the Cutie: He was a very optimistic man despite having to fight one of the second biggest wars of the 20th century. As he went home after being released as a war prisoner, well... He saw Hiroshima. The man he once was did not survive.
- Bittersweet Ending: The majority of his films will end this way. It may have been the fact that his films were based on real-life events.
- Creator Backlash:
- Because of the Lighter and Softer direction the Godzilla series was going, he refused to direct The Return of Godzilla, when the films after it are Darker and Edgier.
- He also began to resent being pigeonholed as a monster movie director by the mid-1960s, as he no longer got to make the kind of romantic dramas he was also fond of, and better known for early in his career. After retiring, most of his positive words about his monster films were for his earlier ones, before he became burnt out on them.
- Heroic Sacrifice: most of his serious sci-fi movies feature at least one. The trend began with Dr. Serizawa in the original Godzilla and became less prevalent when the studio mandated more lighthearted pictures.
- Nuclear Weapons Taboo: His famous one. He will pull a Space Whale Aesop for this reason. And not at Hideo Kojima levels of expositing them.
- Scenery Porn: the landscapes and waters of Japan are often a character in and of themselves in his movies, owing to his childhood in the mountains and his fascination with diving and underwater photography. The various destruction scenes often verge into Scenery Gorn.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Honda is one. After World War II, he made Godzilla with its own shell-shocked veteran.
- Space Whale Aesop: Honda is the king of this trope. Godzilla involved nuclear weapons, Mothra involved not being a good idea to let your greed get in a way of disaster, etc. And despite the hate All Monsters Attack has received, it deals with how you, as a child, must handle the world by yourself even if your parents aren't around to help you.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Depending on the film, you have Godzilla, Rodan, and The H-Man in one hand with cynicism, but Mothra, Destroy All Monsters, and Mothra vs. Godzilla on the ideal hand. Godzilla is very notoriously cynical for a reason.
- Spell My Name with an "S": When Honda's films are sent to America, his name is sometimes written as "Inoshiro" Honda because the first character in his name is more commonly read as "ino" or "inoshishi", meaning "wild boar".
- Tragic Monster: Pick one. One of his monsters will have a tragic ending. Godzilla is one by default.