Why is the Movie Called Godzilla Minus One, Explained

‘Godzilla Minus One’ is a Japanese kaiju film directed by Takashi Yamazaki, which chronicles the devastation unleashed by the giant dinosaur-like monster, Godzilla, in post-World War II Japan seen through the eyes of Kōichi Shikishima, a kamikaze pilot. Traumatized from the brutal warfare he witnessed, Shikishima survives one war only to be drawn into the next as a kaiju beast rips through Tokyo. With a narrative that parallels events during and after the War, the Yamazaki directorial depicts a recovering nation as it looks to pull through the onslaught visited upon it by its enemies and a mythical monster. As a result, many will be intrigued to know the origin behind the movie’s cryptic title and how it came to represent the world of this action epic.

What Does the Minus One in Godzilla Minus One Mean?

The ‘Minus One’ in the title ‘Godzilla Minus One’ refers to Japan’s state after World War II. After the country’s disastrous outcome in the historic battle, everything lies in tatters – the people’s spirit, the lives lost, and the bombed ruins of cities. Taking this into account, on a welfare scale, Japan would be at a 0. With the advancing Godzilla preparing to lay havoc and claim Japan’s mainland territories as its own, the scale drops below the 0 baseline and into the minus. After what the country has had to go through up until now, the specific usage of the -1 integer in the title suggests that things are about to get worse.

This was confirmed by Koji Ueda, the President of Toho International, the company responsible for managing the Godzilla franchise and one of the production companies behind ‘Godzilla Minus One.’ He revealed that their intention with the film was to present Godzilla as “a terrifying and overwhelming force,” which brings the country “into the minus” following its ruin from war. The movie picks up around the time of nuclear armament proliferation. Japan witnessed its power when two of its cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were obliterated, and thousands of civilians were killed.

So, ‘Minus One’ means that the already rundown aspect of Japan’s war-ravaged nation is about to plunge even further with the arrival of Godzilla.  As the country tries to rebuild and recuperate from its innumerable losses and an annihilated soul, the advent of a dangerous, unstoppable force like Godzilla challenges its survival once again. The people’s damaged core from the war is further assaulted by the wanton destruction brought to their homes by the giant lizard monster.

How Does Minus One Relate to the Narrative?

The narrative relates to the title through its various characters, primarily the lead. After his days as a kamikaze pilot, Shikishima’s guilt-ridden psyche is a significant part of his identity. Wracked by a feeling of remorse for all the men who died on Odo Island because of his inaction, he is in a terrible mental state. The country’s state of disrepair and ruin is mirrored in his internal struggles and the personal demons that haunt him regularly. His survivor’s guilt and low state of motivation are a result of the atrocities that have already occurred so far. But even then, his task and suffering aren’t over as he endures a tortured existence. Just as Japan is in a minus state, so is he.

Initially, Godzilla was created as a metaphor for the nuclear holocaust visited upon Japan at the end of World War II. Like the arbitrary nature of war and its horror, ‘Godzilla Minus One’ harkens back to Godzilla’s conception as an earth-shattering, city-leveling, rampaging monster who can’t be stopped. This is also reflected in how the film constantly portrays the dread and fear on people’s faces whenever Godzilla appears. It is as if the calamity they have witnessed so far will only get worse as the kaiju monster unleashes waves of destruction never seen before.

A symbol encapsulating the nuclear bombings on innocent people, Godzilla strikes despair into everyone’s hearts. Historically, this portrayal of the behemoth beast also matches the shattered inner belief within the Japanese people in the post-World War era. While Minus One isn’t a self-explanatory title when experiencing the film, it is perfectly conceived to fit the state of a nation that finds itself on its knees. It’s an overall sense of hopelessness heightened by the arrival of the giant kaiju hell-bent on delivering arbitrary destruction and devastation. The titular monster provides an insight into the Japanese perspective of the catastrophic nuclear bombings and how, in that state of desperation and total surrender, they attempted to pull through as a collective.

Read more: What is the Mark on Noriko’s Neck in Godzilla Minus One?