31 Monsters #3: Mothra
Mothra has long struck me as the most Japanese of Japanese monsters. What other culture would give us a city-destroying behemoth in the form of a massive moth?
Part of the first wave of Toho Studios’ colossal creatures, Mothra was unusual on several counts. A female in a male-dominated field, she usually assumed a protective role, coming into conflict with humans only when they threatened her egg or her native worshippers.
She was also killed with alarming frequency, dying on-screen in five of her film appearances. On three occasions, Mothra fluttered off this mortal coil midway through the story, only to be avenged by her offspring.
You may think that made Mothra a rather fragile monster, but don’t be fooled: Mothra could unleash lepidopteran whoop-ass. In her wormlike, larval form she spit sticky silk to entrap her opponents. As an adult, her wings generated hurricane-force winds and filled the air with poisonous scales. In later films she became an absurdly overpowered mystical creature capable of firing energy blasts, transforming into alternate forms (Aqua Mothra! Light Speed Mothra!) and even time travel. That’s right, Mothra travelled through time.
One can’t discuss Mothra without bringing up the two unnaturally tiny women who followed her around. In the original 1961 film they were presumably byproducts of the Pacific nuclear tests which ravaged their home, Infant Island. The wee priestesses shared a telepathic link with each other, as well as with the moth monster herself. One can only speculate as to the full nature of their relationship. (My guess: food source.) And woe to anyone who kidnapped them. Mothra did not take kindly to that, no sir.
Consider this: outside of cameos and stock footage reuse, Mothra was a major player in twelve movies, and the only giant Japanese monster outside of Godzilla and Gamera to headline her own series. Pretty good for a creature that can’t help being attracted to 60-watt light bulbs.