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The King of the Monsters

Howdy folks! Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths is upon us, and with it comes one of the most interesting crossovers in the history of the game, by bringing to the forefront a partnership with the Toho Company. That's right, Godzilla and friends are stomping all over in the special promo series available with Ikoria.

I got to thinking when I saw these cards. As a huge fan of Godzilla monster movies, and of Kaiju movies in general, why not share my love of these massive monsters by talking about where they come from and what they are? Many people might not be aware of these characters or the storied history they represent through film.

I would like to throw a shoutout to WikiZilla, a wiki devoted to information about Godzilla and Kaiju in general. It really helped with my research for this article that this resource exists. Go visit them after you're done and learn more!

So, I present to you, my love letter to Toho Company as viewed through the eyes of the cards in Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.

Kaiju Terminology

Before we talk about individual characters, let's cover some terminology so we don't have to explain a ton later on. This will help if you're unfamiliar with the world of Kaiju.

  • Kaiju - A Japanese word that literally means "strange beast", but is often translated to "monster" in English. This word has become typically associated with the genre of tokusatsu entertainment. More powerful kaiju are often referred to "daikakaiju" which uses the prefix dai- to emphasize great power or status.
  • Mecha - Any lifeform that is a mechanical monster or robotic in nature.
  • Showa Era - The Showa Era refers to a period of time that identifies films produced from 1926 to 1989. One of the defining films of the Showa Era is the original 1954 Godzilla. The Showa Series is the longest defined era of Godzilla films to date, having had 15 films created over the span of 21 years.

The poster for Godzilla (1954)

  • Heisei Era - The Heisei Era refers to a period of time that identifies films produced starting in 1989 with the ascension of Emperor Akihito to the throne until 1995. Just like in the Showa series, all the Godzilla films in the series comprise a single complete continuity.

The poster for Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994)

  • Millenium Era - The Millenium Era refers to the period of time that identifies films produced starting in 1999 until 2004 starting with the film Godzilla 2000: Millenium. Each film in the Millenium series is a self contained storyline.

The poster for Godzilla 2000: Millenium (1999)

  • Reiwa Era - The Reiwa Era refers to the period of time that identifies films produced starting in 2016 until present day. The first film in this series was Shin Godzilla. This era also includes the anime series distributed by Netflix.

The poster for Shin Godzilla (2016)

Now that we have some terminology out of the way, let's talk about some MONSTERS!

Godzilla - The King of the Monsters

Godzilla, King of the Monsters [PIKO] Godzilla, Primeval Champion [PIKO] Godzilla, Doom Inevitable [PIKO]

Originally appearing in 1954 in the Toho film Godzilla, Godzilla (Gojira in Japanese) is a daikaiju who is undisuptedly the "King of the Monsters." Godzilla is iconic and defining in many ways. Godzilla has been everything from a violent and destructive punishment of humankind's abuse of nuclear weapons to even becoming a heroic defender of Japan. Godzilla has been at the forefront of Toho's franchise and has basically become responsible for the movement of kaiju based films.

There have been many incarnations of Godzilla throughout the years, but they all tend to share very similar traits and appearance as a gigantic bipedal reptilian creature with rows of bony white dorsal fins down his back and a long and powerful segmented tail. While specific details have been changed over time, the overall image of Godzilla has remained steady.

Often connected to the concepts of nuclear testing and man's abuse of power that they don't understand, Godzilla's origins have changed over time as well, from an early theory that a hydrogen bomb test drove the creature from its habitat and subsequently killed his family to later suggesting that he was a dinosaur that survived the extinction of the other dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period.

Nevertheless, Godzilla has persisted over time to become one of the most iconic giant monsters in existence. His iconic roar, combined with the signature weapon of the Atomic Breath as seen on Godzilla, King of the Monsters presents a highly potent image of the true King of the Monsters in his natural element.

While Godzilla is incredibly strong and durable, it has been shown that he does have his weaknesses in cold and ice. Originally it was shown that he was vulnerable to electricity, but over time lightning has been used to actually revitalize him.

Furthermore, as King of the Monsters and the forefront of Toho's film franchises, Godzilla movies have introduced a cavalcade of other Kaiju.


Mothra, Supersonic Queen [PIKO] Mysterious Egg [PIKO]

Mothra originally appeared in a serialized novel called The Luminous Fairies and Mothra which was adapted the same year by Toho into the film Mothra. Mothra is a divine moth kaiju, and is distinctive as the first female Kaiju in the Godzilla series. Mothra is actually benevolent to mankind, seeking to often protect humanity from other monsters. The exception to this when her Shobijin (who are twin priestesses who speak to humanity on Mothra's behalf) are threatened.

Mothra's first appearance alongside Godzilla came in the film Mothra vs. Godzilla, where she fought Godzilla as he threatened her unhatched egg  She would later call on Godzilla and Rodan to assist in fighting against the evil King Ghidorah.

Mothra is unique in that her origins are that of a benevolent goddess of the remote Infant Island in the South Pacific Ocean. She is perpetually reborn through an egg that is worshiped and cared for by the island's natives. Her origins are also further explained as one of an ancient guardian of Earth. She is often tied to the creature Battra who was created as a dark Mothra.

The poster for Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)

Mothra's abilities allow her to not only fly at speeds up to supersonic, but she can also use the scales of her wings as powerful weapons, such as being able to emit an incapacitating poison powder from them. She also has powerful telepathy and can also spit a stream of silk at her enemies to entrap them. In some variants and movies, she can also fire beams of energy from her antennae.


Rodan, Titan of Winged Fury [PIKO]

Rodan's first appearance was in the 1956 film Rodan, and he debuted within the Godzilla series in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Rodan is a giant Pteranodon Kaiju, and was a creature also born of atomic radiation. Having survived under Mount Aso for 200 million years, radiation from nuclear testing seeped into the cavern containing Rodan's egg, which mutated the creature into the Rodan we know today.

Rodan instantly clashed with Godzilla, fighting the King of the Monsters until they were interrupted by Mothra. Mothra telepathically pleaded with both Godzill and Rodan to assist her in defeating the evil King Ghidorah.

Being a Pteranodon, Rodan is capable of flight at speeds close to Mach 1.5 and can even produce destructive shockwaves in the wake of his flight.  He is also very physically formidable. His primary weakness has been shown to be lava.

King Ghidorah

Ghidorah, King of the Cosmos [PIKO]

Widely considered to be Godzilla's greatest nemesis, King Ghidorah debuted in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Ghidorah is a triple-headed dragon who is an extraterrestial of unknown origin. 5,000 years prior to the events of the film, Ghidorah destroyed the planet of Venus before arriving on Earth during the events of the film. He was driven away from earth by Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra.

Ghidorah would later return during the events of Invasion of Astro-Monster, where it was referred to as "Monster Zero" by the Xiliens. It was used as a pawn in a bid to acquire both Godzilla and Rodan and use them all to destroy the Earth. Also within the Showa era, Ghidorah would appear alongside Gigan in the film Godzilla vs. Gigan.

The poster for Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

Ghidorah is consistently one of the most favorite monsters within the Godzilla films, and is one of the largest Kaiju to appear in the films. His powers include the famous Gravity Beam, which is roughly equal in power to Godzilla's Atomic Breath.

Ghidorah is also capable of regenerating lost body parts and can even regenerate his entire body so long as a single piece remains of it.


Crystalline Giant <387> [PIKO]

Mechagodzilla is not so much a Kaiju, but is instead a mecha that first appeared in the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Created by the Black Hole Planet 3 Aliens originally, Mechagodzilla was sent to Earth to conquer the planet and destroy Godzilla. Its first encounter with the King of Monsters left it reeling and damaged, where it then went after the guardian deity King Caesar. This version of Mechagodzilla was destroyed by both King Caesar and Godzilla working together.

Following this, there have been many other incarnations of Mechagodzilla, either as a construct of alien origin or created as a human built creation to combat Godzilla.

The poster for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)

Mechagodzilla is one of only five monsters (the other four being Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Godzilla) to appear in Showa, Heisei, and Millenium series of Godzilla films and is prominently one of the more popular characters.

The abilities of Mechagodzilla vary wildly from incarnation to incarnation, however the Showa era incarnation had the ability to fire laser beams from its eyes and missiles from various parts of its body, including from its fingers.

King Caesar

King Caesar, Ancient Guardian [PIKO] King Caesar, Awoken Titan [PIKO]

King Caesar is a guardian shisa Kaiju (a shisa is a cross between a lion and a dog and is often regarded in Okinawan mythology as a guardian of the people) that first appeared in the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. In this film, Mechagodzilla was sent after King Caeasar's statue before the guardian spirit could be awakened. King Caesar was successfully awakened but his fight with Mechagodzilla left the deity vastly outmatched. King Caesar would later fight alongside Godzilla and successfully destroy Mechagodzilla.

King Caesar would later return in Godzilla: Final Wars, but beyond that never appeared in any other films. He was also the last monster to be Godzilla's ally in the Showa era. The character even has his own theme song.


Gigan, Cyberclaw Terror [PIKO]

Gigan first appeared in the 1972 film Godzilla vs. Gigan, and is an alien cyborg Kaiju created by the M Space Hunter Nebula Aliens. He was originally deployed alongside King Ghidorah to destroy and conquer Earth, however he was repelled by the combined might of Godzilla and Anguirus.

Gigan is quite a sight for a Kaiju, boasting a terrifying circular saw weapon on his frontal abdominal region as well as having large steel hooks for hands. In addition, he has spikes everywhere and a cybernetic visor for an eye. He also has a metal beak, making him one of the most horrifying creatures in the series. Gigan is also considered to be one of Godzilla's most brutal opponents, showing himself to be very sadistic and vicious in combat. Later on during the events of Godzilla Island though, Gigan would ally with Godzilla in fighting off invading monsters.

The poster for Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)

Gigan is very popular in pop culture, having been used as a skull cameo in the Modern era Kaiju film Pacific Rim Uprising.


Anguirus, Armored Killer [PIKO]

Anguirus is a giant Ankylosaurus Kaiju who first appeared in the 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again. Anguirus was actually one of Godzilla's first opponents, however was ultimately killed by Godzilla during the events of the movie. A second Anguirus appeared in the film Destroy All Monsters, where he was depicted as being a loyal ally to Godzilla.

Anguirus also appeared in the film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, where he was attacked and viciously beaten by Mechagodzilla. The robot monster broke Anguirus' jaw, forcing the beast to retreat.

Despite not being as popular as the other larger creatures, Anguirus is reasonably popular amongst fans as one of Godzilla's most loyal of allies and friends.


Dirge Bat <386> [PIKO]

Battra is the opposite counterpart of Mothra, a dark divine moth Kaiju that first appeared in the 1992 film Godzilla vs. Mothra. Battra was created by the Earth 12,000 years ago after an ancient civilization created a climate-control device. This action ofended the earth, and so Battra was born to serve the purpose of destroying the device. Battra did so, but ended up coming to see all of humanity as a blight on the planet. This brought him in direct conflict with Mothra, who defeated the dark creature and sealed it in the North Sea.

Battra would later be awakened in 1993, the result of a meteor impact on the planet. Battra then came into conflict against Godzilla, but was defeated. Meeting Mothra once more, the two giant moths fought in battle, only to put aside their differences to take on Godzilla. This action cost Battra his life.

Battra would only appear in this one film, and held very similar powers as Mothra herself. Battra's skull image also appeared in Pacific Rim Uprising.


Biollante, Plant Beast Form [PIKO]

Biollante first appeared in the Heisei era film Godzilla vs. Biollante in 1989. Biollante was a genetically modified Kaiju born out of gene splicing with Godzilla's cells and a rose that contained the cells of Dr. Genshiro Shiragami's deceased daughter. The result was a massive flower monster that attacked Lake Ashi. Godzilla would defeat her, but she returned in the Plant Beast Form to attack Godzilla once more.

The poster for Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)

Biollante's defeat during her second battle caused her to disperse into the planet's atmosphere, which is later hypothesized to have been the cause of the birth of SpaceGodzilla.

Biollante is the first creature in the film series to be created by and possess Godzilla's DNA. She is also the first female Kaiju that is not an insect.


Bio-Quartz Spacegodzilla [PIKO] Spacegodzilla, Void Invader [PIKO]

SpaceGodzilla first appeared in the 1994 film Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, and was a clone Kaiju of Godzilla that was designed to be Godzilla's penultimate foe in the Heisei era of films. SpaceGodzilla was created by cells of Godzilla that had been cast into space, and it is hypothesized that the disperal of Biollante is responsible for this or that Mothra unknowingly carried cells of his into space. Either way, SpaceGodzilla is a calculating and intelligent villain for Godzilla, even going as far as to kidnap Godzilla's son during the events of the film.

SpaceGodzilla made his way to Earth and was attacked by the G-Force built mecha MOGUERA, quickly overpowering the mecha in combat. It took both the combined might of MOGUERA and Godzilla to defeat SpaceGodzilla.

SpaceGodzilla's abilities make him one of Godzilla's most formidable foes. From the power of his Photon Reactive Shield to his powerful breath weapon, SpaceGodzilla is extremely powerful. It is also the heaviest monster in the entire franchise at a massive 720,000 metric tons.


Babygodzilla, Ruin Reborn [PIKO]

A version BabyGodzilla first appeared in the 1967 film Son of Godzilla, however there would be different incarnations of the character in both the Showa and Heisei era of the series as it also appeared in the 1993 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II as well as in the 1994 film Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (as LittleGodzilla) and the 1995 film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (as Godzilla Junior). The version depicted in Babygodzilla, Ruin Reborn is specifically the version from the film Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla. During the events of this film, the younger Godzilla would be captured by SpaceGodzilla to draw Godzilla into battle.

BabyGodzilla would go on to appear in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah and would eventually become an adult Godzilla throughout the events of the film, mainly by absorbing his father's dying radiation after the King of Monsters literally melted down.

BabyGodzilla was popular enough in Japan that it was used in advertisements for Canon photocopiers.


Dorat, the Perfect Pet [PIKO]

Dorat first appeared in the 1991 film Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. It is actually a small Kaiju, genetically engineered as pets in the 23rd century. Three of the creatures were brought from the future to 1944 by the Futurians as part of a plot to change Japan's future as a corrupt superpower. The three were brought to Lagos Island where the Futurians believed that Godzilla would be born due to H-bomb testing.

As part of the testing and becoming exposed to the radiation, the three Dorats combined and mutated, eventually becoming King Ghidorah. It is believed that the Dorats were actually engineered in the future by the Futurians by using genetic material recovered from the carcass of the actual King Ghidorah who was found on the surface of Venus.


Destroroyah, Perfect Lifeform [PIKO]

Destoroyah was Godzilla's final opponent in the Heisei series of films, appearing in the 1995 film Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. It is a massive crustacean Kaiju that was created out of the chemical weapon known as the Oyxgen Destroyer, which was used to kill the original Godzilla in 1954. The resulting creature was capable of evolving and growing by combining with other lifeforms until it finally became Destoroyah.

The poster for Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)

Destoroyah is one of Godzilla's most merciless foes, and is also highly intelligent and destructive. Destoroyah seems to be fully aware and takes pleasure in causing death and destruction, including killing Godzilla's son (Godzilla Junior/BabyGodzilla) while Godzilla is attempting to save him. Destoroyah would eventually become destroyed by the combined power of Godzilla melting down and the Japanese Self Defense Forces (JSDF). This act caused Godzilla to perish in a nuclear meltdown, which was then absorbed by his son Godzilla Junior.

Destoryah is a composite lifeform and is capable of dividing and reforming his cells to continually evolve from form to form until it reaches the "Perfect Lifeform" status. Because of his origins, it is also considered the oldest known monster in the series at 2.5 billion years old.

Kaiju in Modern Culture

The impact of Kaiju movies on Modern culture is not to be denied. Toho Company's mark on the world with Godzilla allowed many others to follow in their footsteps and develop interesting monster movie films, from horror films such as Cloverfield to action packed Kaiju cinema such as Pacific Rim and Pacific Rim Uprising.

The poster for Pacific Rim (2013)

Many of the themes of monster movies are allegorical to the human condition of destructiveness and often have subtle meanings about humanity's abuse of power unknown. Godzilla was originally designed as metaphor for the development and abuse of nuclear weapons. The character represented many of the fears that were held over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These themes and allegories make these movies incredibly interesting to analyze but also to simply sit down and enjoy.

Godzilla himself continues to make his mark on cinematic history as part of the MonsterVerse and also in the Godzilla anime series. The franchise itself is considered to be one of the longest continuously running movie franchises consisting of 36 films from 1954 to present day., truly making Godzilla the King of all Monsters.

The poster for Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have folks. I hope you enjoyed this little look at the incredible history of Toho and of Godzilla films and the characters behind them. I had a lot of fun creating this article as it was ultimately incredibly fun to dig into memory lane and remember the Godzilla films I've personally seen. The world of Godzilla is incredibly large, filled with massive monsters and interesting stories, so get out there and watch some movies! Here is a great link to WikiZilla to get you started on Godzilla!

And remember, if you hear some rumbling... Run.

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