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MECHAGODZILLA RECONSIDERED

by Den Valdron

[Supplementary info provided by this editor will appear in brackets, and will be initialed by me]



Let's think about Mechagodzilla for a minute.

I mean, remember back when you were young and the dog across the street was barking? And you built a mecha-dog to beat it up? Or when that bear attack killed all those young campers, and the forest rangers sent out the mecha-bear? Or back in WWII, when the Allies used a giant Mecha-Hitler to storm Normandy? Of course you don't remember, because none of those things happened. And they didn't happen because it was a stupid idea. Really stupid. Profoundly stupid. To quote Plan 9 From Outer Space: "Stupid, stupid, stupid!"

Well, now there's Mecha-Godzilla. Here's the bright idea: Godzilla is plaguing the countryside. Why not build a gigantic robot version of Godzilla to fight it? As opposed to putting all that time, money, and material into more sensible military anti-Godzilla projects, like tanks, lasers, guided missiles, warships, orbital lasers, etc. At the very least, you'd get something a lot faster, cheaper, and with more uses and applications. Honestly, just about any investment makes more sense than building a giant robot dinosaur to fight real dinosaurs.

So why build Mechagodzilla at all, since it just doesn't make sense? Or does it?

*****

Okay, let's back up. There's three versions of Mechagodzilla, obviously. I'm going to belabor the really obvious and count them off:

Mechagodzilla 1, a.k.a., Showa Mechagodzilla - star of two movies at the end of the Showa Era, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (obviously) and Terror of Mechagodzila. This is actually an alien-tech robot created and operated by the Simeons (a.k.a., the "Black Hole Aliens," actually 3rd planet from their sun, about to be devoured by a black hole, or third planet from the black hole; anyway, the point is that they need new real estate real fast), ape-like and then humanoid mutant-like beings. They built the thing on Earth, disguised it as the real Godzilla, kicked Angilas' butt, and then got exposed. After battling Godzilla to a standstill, it gets double teamed by King Seesar and Godzilla, gets its head torn off, and that's all she wrote. Until the next movie. This time, the Simeons are back, with a fixed up Mechagodzilla and a new monster culled from Earth's Pacific Ocean, Titanosaurus. Godzilla goes two on one, and it ain't pretty for the bad guys.

Mechagodzilla 2, a.k.a., Heisei Mechagodzilla, a.k.a., WTF-Mechagodzilla - This one is not alien tech. It's built by the United Nations, who really should know better. The story for this one is weird. Basically, in Godzilla vs King Ghidora, time traveling douches from the early 22nd century come to our era promising to get rid of Godzilla. This appears to work, but then we get stuck with King Ghidorah, which is in no way an improvement. Then Godzilla comes back anyway, even bigger and meaner, and waxes Ghidorah's floor. At this point, one of the time travelers has a change of heart, goes forward in time, plucks Ghidorah's corpse off the floor, turns Ghidorah into an undead zombie cyborg (a.k.a., Mecha-King Ghidorah), and sends it back against Godzilla...which works well enough to end the movie. Anyway, Undead Zombie Cyborg King Ghidorah (say that three times in a dark room in front of a mirror) is full of cyborg future tech, which is then deconstructed and used to build Mechagodzilla! I know, WTF, right? Anyway, it doesn't actually perform all that well. It gets a field upgrade when the Garuda aircraft merges with it, making it Super-Mechagodzilla. Features in one movie - Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla 2. In the next movie, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, they built a new robot, which turned out to be the space-chicken-robot Mogera (aka Mecha-Guilala) (no, not seriously) - (Yes! Seriously! Look at the two of them!!!). Heisei Mogera represented some pretty heavy redesign, but retained a vaguely Godzilla-ish profile.

Finally, we've got Mechagodzilla III, also known as Millenium Mechagodzilla, a.k.a., Kiryu (???). This Mechagodzilla is even weirder than the previous two versions. It's built on a chassis that is essentially the bones (and likely, tendons and ligaments) of the original Godzilla, which turn out to be not entirely dead. Or entirely dead, but haunted by the ghost of the original Godzilla, which occasionally takes possession and goes for a rampage. Or maybe it's just really badly programmed. Anyway, although the Millenium series was always proud to throw continuity out the window, these two Millenium Series movies - Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and Godzilla: Tokyo SOS, are linked together, and with in-jokes and references and stock footage from Showa films, they form their own continuity. Anyway, for once, this Mechagodzilla generally holds its own, although, you know, that whole zombie cyborg kaiju thing was starting to be done to death.

So there we have it: Alien Tech, Time Traveling Undead Zombie Cyborg Tech, and Regular Undead Zombie Cyborg Tech.
Which still begs the question of why anyone would want to build the god awful huge unwieldy, astonishingly expensive, and ineffective things. Let's face it, you want to put a hit on someone, you don't build a robotic duplicate, you buy a gun and put a cap in their ass.

So why? What's the motivation?

*****

Dominance.

Okay, hear me out. In each of these kaiju realities, it's very well established that Godzilla is not alone. Each continuity is a world swarming with kaiju, who, as it happens, occasionally get out of hand.

Well, let's look at it from the kaiju point of view. They don't really perceive humans per se. Or, if they do, it's mostly the way we perceive ants. They gravitate to human structures, they destroy human infrastructure - buildings, dams, power plants, transmitting stations, ships, etc. And they'll respond to human attacks, but in the indifferent way that you might respond to a swarm of ants. The bottom line for the kaiju is that they don't really care about human beings, don't really respect human beings, and aren't deterred by human beings.

What do kaiju pay attention to? Other kaiju, as it turns out. The kaiju, led by Godzilla, are notorious battlers. Frankenstein has it out with Baragon; the Gargantuas whale on each other; Godzilla fights Angilas, then King Kong, then Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Ebirah - and the list goes on. Gamera can't get along with anyone. The kaiju pay attention to each other, they notice each other, and oftentimes, they go out of their way to pound on each other. Given their propensity for reappearing, relatively few kaiju seem to be permanently killed. Godzilla has come back from death lots of times, but so has Baragon, Gorosaurus, Rodan, Varan, Manda, Angilas, Gigan, King Ghidorah, etc., et al. So we have to assume that most of these epic battles are not necessarily, or even usually, fatal. They whale on each other, but at some point, each of them eventually walks away most times.

More strangeness: On various Monster Islands, they can be shown to be fairly tolerant of each other. In Destroy All Monsters, they're sharing the same piece of real estate, but not hammering each other senseless.

So what's going on?

Dominance battles. The monsters aren't necessarily killing each other so much as establishing a social hierarchy, a pecking order. Once everyone knows their place, things calm right down. Knowing your place, in many cases, means staying the hell away from bigger and tougher kaiju...or at least, not provoking them. Now this sounds a bit crazy, but bear with me. In a number of movies, these creatures are shown to be relatively socially complex and quite smart.

And here we have an explanation for the various Mechagodzilla's. In a kaiju-ridden world, actually killing a kaiju may not be a good idea when you think about it. Even a medium sized kaiju is 30,000 tons. Kill it, and you've got 30,000 tons of dead monster starting to decompose.

Now, even if it was regular biological decomposing dead meat, you've got a bio-hazard problem that would evacuate a state. 30,000 tons of rotting monster carcass? There would be no way to dispose of it all before it starts to liquefy and putrefy, before the gases of decomposition release a toxic stench that chokes you a hundred miles away. And what about all those exotic bacteria and parasites in the kaiju corpse, now released and looking for a new home?

Of course, it's likely not biological decomposing dead meat. No, what you've probably got is a giant, 30,000 ton nuclear reactor. Does that decompose? Maybe it just sits there radiating slowly, in which case, if you are lucky, you can spend the next five years covering it with 100,000 tons of concrete and hope that it's some future generation's problem. Or maybe, without biological regulation, it melts down...or fissions up to an explosion...or decomposes in some weird way that basically means you've got to find yourself some new real estate fast.

The point is, when you really start to think about it, is actually killing one a really good idea? If it's even possible, that is. Because they seem to have a propensity from waking up from death, brushing themselves off, and wandering away.

But if you aren't sure you really can or want to kill it, then what do you do? A lot of anti-kaiju tech seems to focus on ways to direct it somewhere else - like the electrical barrier around Tokyo in King Kong vs. Godzilla - or actively drive it off with firepower. Really, the point is that we'd just rather have them somewhere else.

Well, how about taking this social dominance trait that kaiju seem to have...and using it against them?

You know what I've seen around some apartment blocks in the city? Owls. Not real owls. Owl statues. See, owls are predators, pigeons are prey. When pigeons see an owl silhouette, they find that they would just rather be somewhere else. It works.

Out in the countryside, farmers put up scarecrows to deter crows.

So this is the real purpose of Mechagodzilla. It's like the city owl statues, or the farmer's scarecrow. The real purpose of Mechagodzilla is to use the kaiju pecking order against them, by creating our own apex-kaiju. Mechagodzilla, by being tall, mean looking, and resembling Godzilla to an extreme degree, socially dominates the lesser kaiju, scaring or warning them off, or at least forcing them to mind their behavior.

Well, why use a Godzilla template? Why not use an even bigger, scarier robot design? Something brand new?

Well, here's the beauty of it. A new kaiju-bot would just attract other kaiju, to test it and see where it fits in on the social dominance pecking order. Mecha-Generic-Kaiju would be battling constantly, and probably wouldn't work so well. You want the kaiju to stay away, not come looking. But Godzilla has kicked pretty much everyone's ass, and those that Godzilla hasn't kicked are even further down on the pecking order, and definitely not looking for trouble. So build a giant robot in Godzilla shape, and various kaiju are going, "hmmm, we know that silhouette, thanks, we're going home now."

Basically, the reason to build a mecha as a Mecha-Godzilla is to capture and take advantage of Godzilla's social dominance as the apex-kaiju. Indeed, it might be possible to use Godzilla's social dominance, not just to keep other kaiju away or make them behave, but even to control them to some extent. The kaiju are known now and then to work cooperatively, and in those cases, Godzilla is often the leader.

Of course, the downside of a Mechagodzilla is that sooner or later the real Godzilla is going to show up to have a smack-down. So far, that has a long history of not turning out so well. But on the other hand, it's better to only have to fight one badass kaiju than to have them lining up around the block to take you on.

And of course, assuming that Mechagodzilla actually manages to win, or at least draw, or at least acquit itself respectably, its got a real chance of establishing itself as the genuine apex-kaiju, or at least a very high ranker. Is there the least bit of support or evidence for this in any of the continuities?

Some. I mean, let's face it, they never say so directly. But there's some information which would support such an inference.

For one thing, in each continuity, even the Millenium continuity, it is well established that there are multiple other kaiju besides Godzilla. This is pretty obvious in the Showa continuity - the Mechagodzilla films, after all, come at the end of the series, and are chronologically the last (except for Destroy All Monsters) - so the menagerie is well established. The Heisei continuity establishes at least a handful of monsters, including Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Biolante. The Millenium continuity establishes past monsters going back to the 1960s and currently active [specifically, Mothra, Gaila, and Kamaebos--CN].

And for another, no one actually stops to explain to each other, or to the audience, why they're building their big kaiju robot like the original Godzilla. Now honestly, the Showa constructors are Simeons, and they've got a lot on their mind - so between being aliens and kind of stressed out, we can overlook that. Not understand mind you, but you know, who knows from aliens, right? The Millenium Mechagodzilla actually has something of a reason: the bones of the old Godzilla. The Heisei Godzilla...well, how did they come up with that decision?

The fact remains: No one actually stops to ask, "For what good reason are we making our robot look like a big metal version of Godzilla?" Presumably, there has to be a reason. So why not?

The other two cases, the Heisei and Millenium movies, are a lot less clear cut. But let's face it, if they're building these things out of undead kaiju zombie cyborg parts, that's just so wacky that anything is possible.

In the Heisei movies, Godzilla is unquestionably the reigning champ, the Alpha Kaiju, so Mechagodzilla's appearance may well be a conscious choice to deter other, lesser kaiju [though that wouldn't include Rodan, who went at the giant robot beak and nail--CN].

In the Millenium continuity, there's not much design choice. The design chassis is the original Godzilla's skeleton. But on the other hand, we can't rule out deterrence and dominance, as there are definitely other kaiju out there, and Godzilla is definitely numero uno amongst them.

Take the Showa Mechagodzilla. Through a fair bit of Showa continuity, aliens or alien-like races - the Xians, the Kilaaks, the Nebulans, the Simeons, the Muans and Seatopians - all employ and attempt to control kaiju, with some doing better than others. But the point is that controlling, dominating, or otherwise manipulating kaiju seems to be a big alien focus. Which might give some insight into the decision to construct a robotic version of Godzilla.

Originally, Showa Mechagodzilla appears disguised as the real Godzilla, which implies that there's a more complex agenda for the robot. Why bother making it look exactly like the Big G, unless you were going to try and take advantage of that resemblance, i.e., cashing in on Godzilla's social dominance and position as Head Kaiju? It doesn't exactly work out that way, and Mecha-G ends up whaling on Angilas. Obviously, the disguise didn’t work, but its still expressing social dominance. In the second movie, it even garners a subordinate - Titanosaurus (controlled by ultrasonics, but perhaps social dominance is a back-up factor - it is facing off the genuine Godzilla after all, and it's established to be a normally shy creature).

By the way, this might also explain the Showa Mogera. Why build a giant chicken robot kaiju and bring it to Earth? Maybe they're making a bid for kaiju social dominance. After all, they're from outer space. And outer space features at least one giant space chicken kaiju, Guilala (Really! Separated at birth, I tells ya!). No one said the Mysterians were bright.

At the very least, the notion of copying Godzilla's silhouette or profile onto a robot as a means of usurping social dominance/deterrence makes a kind of sense, and I don't think it's explicitly contradicted.

So, why not? Anyone got a better explanation?

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