Origins and Powers and Abilities
Mothra is a giant caterpillar/moth-themed kaiju that is the protector and goddess of Infant Island and, later, the entire Earth. Mothra also has two notable distinctions. The first is that she is one of the few kaiju in the Godzillaverse who is definitely a “good guy.” Mothra is always seen being a defensive fighter, as she only engages in a battle to save someone close to her or her island or to save the planet itself. Two is she is one of only a few kaiju with a definite gender, that being female. However, male members of Mothra’s species have been depicted, most notably Mothra Leo in the Rebirth of Mothra movie series and a male larva that appears in 2003’s Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. Mothra is also one of the few monsters that can claim to go toe to toe with members of the Ghidorah family and even Godzilla itself with a reasonable chance of success.
Initially, Mothras larvae have the ability to swim and climb great distances and shoot a kind of silk thread that can cocoon and immobilize their target. When Mothra cocoons itself and emerges in her Imago “adult” form, she can fly, generate great gusts of wind, use poison powder that comes out of her wings, and basic slashing attacks with her claws. In her later appearances during the Heisei era onward, she is granted the ability to shoot beam attacks to better counter Godzilla’s atomic breath.
Mothra made her media debut in 1961’s The Luminous Fairies and Mothra, a serialized novel written by Takehiko Fukunaga, Shinichiro Nakamura, and Yoshie Hotta. It tells the story of an expedition in the South Pacific, finding tiny fairies called Ailenas who worship their god: Mothra. After stealing the fairies and returning to New Kirk City ( a substitute for New York City), an angered Mothra comes and, after transforming into her moth form, levels the entire city. She then takes the Ailenas and returns to her island to, presumably, live in peace.
Mothra’s first movie appearance is in her self-titled 1961 film. The film mostly follows the novel but does change some minor details. For example, the twin fairies are now called the “shobijin” or “small beauties” Mothra doesn’t completely destroy the city, and there are more obvious Christian tones in the film. The O.G. Mothra movie is a cult classic and a must-watch for anyone getting into kaiju films or if you haven’t had the opportunity.
After her first appearance, she popped up again three years later in 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla. In it, a Mothra egg washes ashore in Japan. After a group of journalists returns to Infant Island to elicit the inhabitant’s help protecting it, an older Mothra helps by defending it from Godzilla. However, Godzilla is too powerful, and the older Mothra dies, but the egg hatches into twin larvae that cocoon the King of The Monsters and take him out to sea away from civilization. Also released in 1964 was the sequel Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster. When a golden three-headed space dragon comes to Earth to destroy it, Godzilla, Rodan, and one of the freshly hatched Mothra larvae team up to repel it. This movie further establishes the “Guardian of Earth” role Mothra would assume in the future as she is the main catalyst for Godzilla and Rodan teaming up with her. Finally, she would make a cameo in the film Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. Having grown into her adult form, she is shown rescuing Infant Island captives from a South Pacific island. Her last major appearance in the Showa era would be in 1968’s Destroy All Monsters, in which she is mind-controlled by aliens and then teams up with ten other kaiju to take down King Ghidorah. After that, Mothra wouldn’t have any more film appearances until the rebirth of the Mothra series that began in 1996.
With her many appearances since her initial debut, Mothra has been cemented as a staunch protector of Earth and its inhabitants. Unlike other kaiju in the Godzillaverse, Mothra doesn’t change all that much from era to era, with the exception of some added abilities that I will cover in the next part of this article. I will pick up with The Queen of The Monster’s comeback in 1992’s Godzilla vs. Mothra and the rebirth of Mothra films.