I wasn’t expecting to cry as much as I did at "Godzilla Minus One.” The strong word-of-mouth made it sound like an awesome spectacle with cool action courtesy of the scaly title creature. And while there were awe-inducing showdowns with the monster, the Toho International production, written and directed by Takashi Yamazaki, is largely a meditation on sorrow and survival in the wake of World War II.
The specter of trauma has long hung over Godzilla, a creature unearthed from slumber by hydrogen bomb testing in the 1954 original. But "Godzilla Minus One” further literalizes that as it tells the story of Koichi (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a kamikaze pilot who shirks his duties, surviving both the war and an initial encounter with the beast, only to return to the ruins of Tokyo haunted by what he witnessed. Godzilla poses a threat, but one that lives mostly in the background. Instead, this is a story about finding community in the wake of destruction and learning to value yourself in a society that deems you worthless.
As I watched, I couldn’t help but think about how "Godzilla Minus One” exists in conversation with two other recent releases: Hayao Miyazaki’s otherworldly exploration of grief, "The Boy and the Heron,” and Christopher Nolan’s biographical drama, "Oppenheimer.” Both "Godzilla Minus One” and "The Boy and the Heron” at least partly answer the question that some audiences had after the release of "Oppenheimer,” which documents the invention of the atomic bomb. Namely, where was the Japanese perspective in this story about the man whose invention caused so much pain for them?