The Rebirth of Mothra trilogy is just that: a reboot of the Kaiju for a new audience in a new generation. It is bittersweet as Tomoyuki Tanaka, the producer of the original Mothra back in 1961 and every movie in the Godzilla franchise up to that point, died several months after the movie was released.
Rebirth of Mothra, released in Japan as simply “Mothra” on December 14, 1996, was a reboot of the iconic moth-themed Kaiju. However, instead of featuring the same character that appeared in the Godzilla franchise, it brings in a different Mothra that’s the guardian of an ancient civilization and gives birth to the star of the franchise, Mothra Leo.
The series’ first film begins millions of years in the past when the space dragon DesGhidorah, a relative of Godzilla’s main rival King Ghidorah, arrives on Earth and proceeds to battle a race of gigantic moths who protect tiny humanoids called the “Elias.” After being defeated in battle, DesGhidorah is sealed inside the Earth while only three Elias and one moth remain to protect it. To ensure her species’ survival, Mothra lays an egg which leaves her physically drained.
In 1996 a logging company inadvertently awakened DesGhidorah, and the dragon began to rampage, literally absorbing and depleting the planet’s life force. Despite her condition, Mothra summoned the dragon to battle and agreed to do so. Sensing his mother is in danger, Mothra Leo prematurely hatches from his egg and joins the battle against DesGhidorah. Although seeming to turn the battle, DesGhidorah bites Leo and begins draining his life force. In desperation, Mothra flies her son to safety and lures DesGhidorah to a dam. Mothra quickly collapses from her wounds and exhaustion, with Leo unable to offer any aid.
Filled with anger over the death of his mother, Leo cocoons himself and begins his transformation. He soon emerges as a swarm of butterflies before taking his more traditional moth form. Leo relentlessly blasts DesGhidorah with a hail of energy beams and, drawing on the ancient legacy of Mothra, defeats DesGhidorah and saves the Earth. Leo then sets about fixing the damaged environment before leaving to return to his ancestral home of Infant Island.
Mothra Leo will return in Rebirth of Mothra II!