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, Japan and the European country of Rolisica 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, and they are confident their goddess Mothra will save them, but fear that innocents will 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 kaiju of all time. 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 / Beware the Nice Ones: 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. In the original serial novel, Mothra did head over to the U.S.
- 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 and even tells them, "Now you know why they call me 'Bulldog!'" Later, when Mothra destroys a dam, a couple trying to escape the flood waters inadvertently leave their baby on a bridge that's about to be destroyed. Zenichiro, without a moment's hesitation, runs out onto the bridge, grabs the baby, and brings the child to safety just in time.
- 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. There is a website dedicated to Mothra's faith and other fans discuss the religion on forums.
- Eagleland: Nelson is definitely a citizen of type two, though the other residents of Rolisica don't seem all that bad.
- Easily Forgiven: Despite causing so much destruction and killing many people, the humans seem to be quite happy with letting her go back home with her Shobijin. Heck, they even wave goodbye to her like a friend.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Unlike later incarnations, this Mothra appears much more ruthless. All she cares about is fairy companions and nothing else. She is perfectly fine with killing many people just to get them back. For example, she sinks an ocean liner maned Orion Maru, despite it only being in the way.
- Expy: Infant Island is the closest Toho ever got to their own Skull Island. The story itself is closer to King Kong (1933) than any other Toho Kaiju film — including, interestingly, King Kong vs. Godzilla.
- 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.
- Karma Houdini: Interestingly, Mothra is actually one. She literally caused so much damage and killed thousands of people in her quest to save the Shobijin. Yet, the humans are perfectly content with letting her go free without her or the Shobijin answering for what has happened. Of course, had Nelson not exploited the Shobijin in the first place, she would have left everyone alone.
- Kick the Dog: Where to start with Nelson...
- Lighter and Softer: This is perhaps Ishiro Honda's first kaiju film that isn't dark by any means. However, the villagers being gunned down? Not so much. It does end on a lighter note, though.
- Macabre Moth Motif: Inverted; Mothra is a symbol of peace and hope.
- Mama Bear: Never mess with Mothra's fairy friends.
- Noble Savage: The natives on the island.
- Obviously Evil: Nelson constantly has a smug evil grin on his face, so it's hardly a surprise when he turns out to be evil.
- 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.
- 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 Dumb to Live: Nelson keeps the girls prisoner for his show, despite the fact a giant monster is barreling towards Japan, and even when his own country demands he release the girls, he still holds them hostage and goes on the run. He also shoots several cops when they come to take them.
- 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 to the ends of the Earth until you release the Shobijin.