Continuity of the Godzilla series18,988 Views36 RepliesAdd A Reply
A previous thread started to get derailed due to a debate about the continuity of the Godzilla franchise, so I thought it might be helpful to dedicate a separate thread to this topic so the discussion can continue here. I previously worked on an article about the continuity of the Godzilla series on Wikizilla, which was also featured on our YouTube channel. Neither of these really went into detail about how the continuity fits together, they primarily just described it. So here, I will try to lay out the Godzilla continuity as I understand it.
Showa era (1954-1975)
The continuity of the Showa Godzilla series simply enough comprises every Godzilla film from Godzilla (1954) to Terror of Mechagodzilla, with the arguable exception of All Monsters Attack, which features monster scenes set in the imagination of the protagonist. Destroy All Monsters is generally assumed to be the chronologically final film in the series: despite being produced in 1968, the opening narration places it at the end of the 20th century (1999 specifically in the English dubs, 1994 in the original Japanese version according to Japanese Wikipedia). The subsequent Showa films are presumably all set in the 1970's (Godzilla vs. Megalon specifically places itself in 197X), so it is assumed they all happened before Destroy All Monsters.
In addition to all the Godzilla films, there were numerous non-Godzilla films produced by Toho in the Showa era, many of which introduced kaiju that would later make appearances in the Godzilla series. Whether or not most of these films take place in the same continuity as the Godzilla films is unconfirmed, however we do know that both Rodan and Mothra are part of the Showa Godzilla continuity. The Mothra featured in Mothra vs. Godzilla is the same individual featured in her debut film, designated as "First Generation Mothra." The characters in Mothra vs. Godzilla all know what Mothra is and her existence is common knowledge, though there are few explicit references to the film's events specifically. In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Rodan emerges from Mt. Aso, Kyushu, the same location where the two Rodans nested and were seemingly killed in 1956. Selina Salno (the Venusian prophetess) acknowledges this, claiming Rodan will be resurrected by volcanic gases. We don't actually know for absolute certain if this is a surviving 1956 Rodan, but the characters in the film all know what Rodan is. The 1973 television series Zone Fighter also exists in this continuity, with Godzilla, Gigan and King Ghidorah all making appearances and the show's events fitting neatly between Godzilla vs. Megalon and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
Like I said before, explicit continuity nods in the Showa Godzilla films are rare, but there still are some and they are usually limited to only the film directly prior. Godzilla Raids Again explicitly acknowledges the events of the original film, and introduces a second incarnation of Godzilla, the Second Generation Godzilla. King Kong vs. Godzilla references Godzilla Raids Again, with characters being aware that Godzilla was frozen, and Godzilla emerging from an iceberg in the waters north of Hokkaido. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster acknowledges Mothra defeating Godzilla in Mothra vs. Godzilla, as well as the fact that there was a second larva in that film, which has since passed away. Invasion of Astro-Monster references Godzilla and Rodan repelling King Ghidorah in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. Ebirah, Horror of the Deep itself contains no explicit references to previous films, but informational books confirm the adult Mothra featured in it is the larva from Mothra vs. Godzilla and Ghidorah. Godzilla vs. Megalon acknowledges Godzilla vs. Gigan, with Gigan being the pawn of the M Space Hunter Nebula Aliens. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Terror of Mechagodzilla are closely linked, with a stock footage recap of vs. Mechagodzilla appearing in the opening sequence of Terror.
As for the identities and numbers of kaiju featured in the Showa continuity. Monsters whose First Generation incarnations debuted in films not confirmed to exist in the Showa Godzilla continuity are included as well:
Godzilla: First Generation (1954) and Second Generation (1955-1975)
Anguirus: First Generation (1955) and Second Generation (1968-1974)
Rodan: Two First Generation (1956), Second Generation (1964-1968) that may actually be a surviving First Generation
Mothra: First Generation (1961-1964), Second Generation (1964-1966), and Third Generation (1968)
King Ghidorah: Some sources claim the 1972-1973 King Ghidorah is a Second Generation, but this may be an error due to incorrectly placing Destroy All Monsters' events before Godzilla vs. Gigan.
Ebirah: First Generation (1966)
Kumonga: First Generation (1967), Second Generation (1968)
Kamacuras: Three in 1967, one appears through stock footage in 1972, said to live on Monster Island.
Gorosaurus: First Generation (1967), Second Generation (1968)
Varan: First Generation (1958), Second Generation (1968)
Baragon: First Generation (1965), Second Generation (1968)
Manda: First Generation (1963), Second Generation (1968)
Hedorah: First Generation (1971)
Gigan: First Generation (1972)
Mechagodzilla: Mechagodzilla I (1974), Mechagodzilla II (1975)
King Caesar: First Generation (1974)
Heisei era (1984-1995)
Unlike the Showa series, the Heisei series follows a much stricter and more obvious continuity. It ignores the events of all previous films save for Godzilla (1954), and its entries are all connected and will often feature recurring characters and callbacks to prior films.
The Return of Godzilla makes multiple references to the original film. The characters know Godzilla first appeared at Odo Island in 1954, and photographs of his 1954 attack are shown. The film never mentions the use of the Oxygen Destroyer nor does it discuss whether this is a new Godzilla or the original returned to life. Godzilla vs. Biollante picks up five years after The Return of Godzilla, with Godzilla still trapped inside Mt. Mihara and stock footage of his 1984 attack shown. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah is where the continuity can start to get muddled due to its time travel plot. At the outset, it acknowledges that Godzilla is infected with the ANEB and sleeping in the Sea of Japan, name-dropping Biollante as the reason he was driven there. The time travel is confusing and a frequently-debated subject, so here isn't really the place to discuss it. What's important to take away from it is that the events of Godzilla (1954), The Return of Godzilla, and Godzilla vs. Biollante were not erased from the timeline, as their events are referenced in subsequent films. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II acknowledges the Godzillasaurus species from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla is said to be built from the remains of Mecha-King Ghidorah. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla acknowledges Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II with Godzilla having adopted a son, and Godzilla vs. Biollante with Godzilla killing Goro Gondo and battling Biollante. It also mentions Godzilla vs. Mothra and shows stock footage of Godzilla's battle with Mothra and Battra. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah contains numerous nods to Godzilla (1954), finally confirming that the original Godzilla was indeed killed by the Oxygen Destroyer in this continuity, and it also references Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla through the location of Birth Island, and The Return of Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Biollante through the construction of the Super X3.
The primary monsters featured and their identities are as follows:
Godzilla: First Generation (1954, only referenced and through flashbacks), Third Generation (1984-1995, sometimes called Fourth Generation after growing to 100 meters in 1991), Rebirth (adult Junior)
King Ghidorah/Mecha-King Ghidorah
BabyGodzilla/LittleGodzilla/Godzilla Junior/Rebirth Godzilla
TriStar Pictures' GODZILLA (1998) was envisioned as a complete reboot to the series' continuity, set in a world where Godzilla and giant monsters have never appeared before. In Emmerich and Devlin's own words, the only tie to the 1954 film is the existence of a Pacific Island legend speaking of a creature called Gojira. The 1998 film never received a sequel, but an animated series was produced as a continuation of it. The series sort of retcons the 1998 film's ending, with Nick now being present when the baby Godzilla hatches, but aside from that it treats the 1998 film as canon.
Godzilla: Original (1998, revived as Cyber-Godzilla), Second (1998-2000), Numerous baby Godzillas
Various monsters from Godzilla: The Series
Millennium era (1999-2004)
The Millennium era is often seen as the most confusing example of the series' continuity. This is because it isn't one overarching continuity, but a staggered anthology of several standalone stories each existing in their own continuities. Each continuity will be broken down individually.
Godzilla 2000: Millennium makes absolutely no reference to any film prior. All that the film establishes is that Godzilla has been around and menacing Japan for some time. Though the film offers nothing on this Godzilla's identity, supplementary materials and godzilla.jp, the official website for the series, say Godzilla 2000 is a direct sequel to Godzilla (1954), and the Godzilla featured in it is the second Godzilla to appear, after the original 1954 Godzilla. So, we can assume the events of the original film are held canon, as the original Godzilla was killed by the Oxygen Destroyer and a second Godzilla appeared sometime afterward, just as Dr. Yamane warned.
Godzilla vs. Megaguirus is an odd case. It is both a sequel to Godzilla (1954) and at the same time, not. It holds only a portion of the 1954 film canon, as demonstrated by the film's opening sequence. Godzilla first appeared in 1954 and attacked Tokyo before returning to the ocean. This is where Godzilla vs. Megaguirus diverges. Godzilla disappeared after this point, whereas in the 1954 film he was tracked down and killed with the Oxygen Destroyer. In this new continuity, Godzilla vanished and didn't return until 1966, when he attacked Tokai. Godzilla's next appearance came 30 years later in 1996, while the film's main events pick up in 2001. vs. Megaguirus also follows an alternate history, where Osaka was made the capital of Japan after the destruction of Tokyo in 1954, and nuclear power was outlawed in Japan in the late 60's after it was discovered that Godzilla was attracted to it.
Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, hereafter referred to as GMK, is another direct sequel to the original film, though its references to it are left vague and ambiguous. In this continuity, Godzilla attacked Tokyo in 1954, then killed by an "experimental chemical weapon," whose inventor "has since died." The JSDF claimed credit for killing Godzilla to avoid facing ridicule, and for almost 50 years Japan lived under the assumption that the JSDF had killed Godzilla. The film also jokingly references the 1998 American film, saying that a giant monster similar to Godzilla recently attacked New York City. The Americans believe the monster was Godzilla, but Japanese experts doubt it. This likely isn't meant to be taken literally and place the events of GODZILLA (1998) before GMK, just treated as an inside joke.
Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., often collectively referred to as the "Kiryu Saga," are the only two Millennium series films to share continuity with each other. In addition, they also incorporate the events of several non-Godzilla films from the Showa era, along with Godzilla (1954). Like Godzilla vs. Megaguirus though, the Kiryu Saga does slightly diverge from the original film, but only through a single plot point. Whereas in the original film Godzilla's entire body was completely disintegrated by the Oxygen Destroyer, in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla his skeleton is shown to have remained intact and is used to construct Kiryu, the Millennium version of Mechagodzilla. Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla acknowledges the events of both Mothra, showing stock footage of Mothra's 1961 attack, and War of the Gargantuas, showing stock footage of Gaira's attack and battle with the original Type-66 Maser Cannons. It is worth noting that the same film can be part of multiple unconnected continuities, the most prominent example being Godzilla (1954). Like that film, Mothra is also part of the Kiryu Saga's continuity despite being part of the Showa Godzilla continuity as well. Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., the direct sequel to Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla, makes even more explicit nods to Mothra, and also brings back the character Shinichi Chujo, once again portrayed by Hiroshi Koizumi. Tokyo S.O.S. also references the film Space Amoeba when the corpse of Kamoebas washes ashore. The characters state that the first Kamoebas was found on Selgio Island in 1970, even mentioning a character from Space Amoeba. No other overt nods to other films occur in Tokyo S.O.S., save for maybe the monsters' names on the DNA tanks in the post-credits scene, but supplementary materials lay out an extensive timeline of monster attacks, which is as follows:
1954: The original Godzilla appears
1956: Rodan and Meganulon appear
1958: Varan appears
1961: Mothra appears
1962: Maguma appears
1963: Manda appears
1964: Dogora appears
1965: Frankenstein, Baragon and the Giant Octopus appear
1966: Sanda and Gaira appear
1967: King Kong, Gorosaurus and the Giant Sea Serpent appear
1970: Gezora, Ganimes and Kamoebas appear
1987: A second Kamoebas appears
1999: A second Godzilla appears
2003-2004: Events of Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.
The appearance of a specific kaiju in the timeline may not necessarily confirm if the film that featured that kaiju did in fact take place in the timeline. For example, the timeline claims Maguma attacked in 1962, even though Gorath is set in 1980, and features the destruction of the moon, which is clearly present in the Kiryu Saga. It also places the Giant Octopus in 1965 rather than 1966, seemingly accepting the infamous alternate ending for Frankenstein vs. Baragon and excluding the creature from War of the Gargantuas.
Godzilla: Final Wars, the final Millennium film, is another standalone film with its own continuity. Unlike the other films, Final Wars may not even be a sequel to Godzilla (1954), as it only says Godzilla first appeared in 1954 and the EDF was formed to combat him. It makes no reference to Godzilla being killed or a second individual appearing. If it is meant to be a sequel to the original film, it seems to follow the logic of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, only establishing that Godzilla appeared in 1954. Final Wars features extensive stock footage of previous films, ranging from Space Amoeba to Godzilla vs. Megaguirus and everywhere in between. This footage is only meant for nostalgia and world-building purposes, establishing that other monsters frequently menaced Japan after Godzilla's first appearance, and is not to be taken to mean all these films occurred in the Final Wars continuity. It is unclear when the film's prologue is set, though the Maser Cannon and Gotengo props bear a strong 1960's aesthetic, but the main action of the film is set in the near future of 20XX.
Monsters included in the Millennium series and their identities are:
Godzilla: Millennium (1999), GxM (2000, same Godzilla that attacked in 1954), GMK (2001), GxMG-GMMMG (2002-2003), First Generation (1954, used to build Kiryu), FW (2004)
Meganulon/Meganula: Not the same incarnation from Rodan
Mothra: GMK (2001), First Generation (1961, stock footage and mentioned only), GMMG (2003), FW (2004)
Monster X/Keizer Ghidorah
Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse consists of two films currently, with two more in production. All four films will share a tight continuity with overarching characters and storylines. Godzilla (2014) is a complete reboot for the Godzilla franchise, ignoring all prior films including Godzilla (1954). While the film does mention that Godzilla was seen in 1954, this is meant as a nod to the significance of that year to the franchise, not as a connection to the 1954 film. While the 1954 Castle Bravo h-bomb test was what awakened Godzilla in the original film, in the MonsterVerse this test was one of a series of nuclear strikes targeted against Godzilla. Kong: Skull Island is a prequel to Godzilla (2014) set in 1973, with its tie-in comic Skull Island: The Birth of Kong having scenes set in the distant past, 1995, and 2012. Godzilla: King of the Monsters and Godzilla vs. Kong will both be set after Godzilla (2014). For more details on the MonsterVerse timeline, it may be worth consulting the "Monarch Timeline" thread on this site.
Post-Millennium era/Phase Four (2016-)
There is no official name for the era encompassing Toho's Godzilla films after Godzilla: Final Wars at this moment, but we on Wikizilla have adopted the term "Post-Millennium," while Japanese Wikipedia has been calling it "Phase Four" or "2010's series." Whatever the case, this new era consists so far of two continuities. The first, occupied by Shin Godzilla, is a complete reboot once again, explicitly setting itself apart from the 1954 film. Shin Godzilla is set in a world where Godzilla has never appeared before, and was spawned by nuclear waste dumping sometime in the 1950's, rather than having been awakened and irradiated by Castle Bravo in 1954. The second continuity in this era is that of the GODZILLA anime trilogy. According to supplementary materials, Godzilla first appeared in this continuity in the year 2030, making it impossible to line up with previous films. In addition, the anime Godzilla is said to have originated from plant-based life, an origin shared by no other incarnation of the character to date. This continuity will encompass GODZILLA: Planet of the Monsters along with its two untitled sequels.
Godzilla: Shin (2016), Anime (2017-2018)
Various monsters said to have attacked Earth in the 21st century in the backstory for Planet of the Monsters.
And there you have it, at least to the best of my ability and understanding at this point. I didn't really get into non-film media, but this is dedicated only to the continuity of the films themselves.
The Rebirth of Mothra trilogy is set in its own standalone continuity unconnected to any other Mothra or Godzilla films.
Which is just as well--They're awful.
I agree. Rebirth Of Mothra was a cool idea but the over bearing child actors really made it hard to care for them at all. Im very surprised they made 3 of them.
Just wanted to know about its place in the Godzilla continuity.
Been a while since the last post, but there's some interesting information regarding this topic that came to light. The 2014 book Godzilla Dictionary [New Edition] actually includes a comprehensive timeline of the series that provides some information not in any other sources.
First of all, while it obviously demonstrates that every film from Godzilla (1954) through Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) is part of the Showa continuity and that Godzilla (1954) along with the Heisei series comprises the Heisei continuity, it also shows that not only are Mothra and Rodan canon to the Showa Godzilla films, but so are Varan, Atragon, Frankenstein vs. Baragon, War of the Gargantuas, and King Kong Escapes. All of said films are also separately canon to the Kiryu Saga continuity.
Most interestingly is that this book does not treat the line about a monster similar to Godzilla attacking New York at the beginning of GMK as a joke. It includes GODZILLA (1998) in the GMK continuity on the timeline, between Godzilla (1954) and GMK. It is even more explicit about this in an entry titled "Giant creature that closely resembles Godzilla," which states: "At the beginning of GMK, Admiral Tachibana told the young soldiers that a gigantic creature struck the United States at the end of the 20th century. In America it was named Godzilla, but Japanese scholars do not believe it to be so. The creature does not appear onscreen, but it goes without saying that it is the American version GODZILLA (1998). In the world of GMK, the events of vs. Megaguirus or Raids Again do not exist, but the American version GODZILLA exists."
So, at least according to this source, the 1998 film does take place in the GMK universe and is set between the original film and GMK. In the GMK universe, the events of that film happened, and the monster is canonically not Godzilla. Obviously this is an act of retroactive continuity, since Emmerich and Devlin intended the film to not be a follow-up to any previous film, but so is the inclusion of many of Toho's non-Godzilla films into the Godzilla continuities.
Well that's nauseating.
As if that doesn't muck up things already, trying to wrap my head around Kong's amazing shrinking trick in the Showa series is also hard to swallow. Cinematic Universe indeed...
Very interesting though. Thank you The King of the Monsters!
I kind of always just thought that all those films were cannon anyway. I mean how else can the film Destroy All Monsters explain other kaiju like Baragon, Gorosaurus, Manda, Varan and others just appearing with Godzilla and others? I just thought it was all the same story line anyway and kind of expected it to be explained but never was.
I hope TOHO makes things more clear in the upcoming Cinematic Universe that they want to do.