Mothra (1961) - Ishiro Honda

Rating: 62

Tags: Giant Monster - Kaiju - Magic - Greed

Director: Ishirō Honda

Producers: Tomoyuki Tanaka

Writer: Shinichi Sekizawa

Starring: Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyōko Kagawa, and The Peanuts

Country: Japan

MPAA Rating: Passed

Studio: Toho Studios

Budget: ¥200 million

Release: July 30th, 1961

Did Ya Know: For years it was thought that Rolisica was actually based on the United States. However, it was revealed years later that it was based on both the United States and the Soviet Union. In fact, the name of the nation of Rolisica is a hybrid of Russia and America. The name of the country originally was going to be Roshirica. Also, the Rolisican flag is a hybrid of the American "Stars and Stripes" and the Russian "Hammer and Sickle".

Screenshot_2019-06-11 Mothra (1961) poster - Google Search.png

A Japanese tokusatsu film from director, Ishirō Honda and effects creator, Eiji Tsuburaya. It was on July 30th, 1961, produced by Toho Pictures and presented in TohoScope. The film stars Frankie Sakai, Hiroshi Koizumi, Kyōko Kagawa, and The Peanuts (A Japanese singing act).


A rescue crew is sent to a remote island, formerly used for atomic testing, to find survivors of a recent shipwreck. They bring back the survivors of a crash who don’t appear to be suffering from the radiation sickness thanks to a special juice given to them by the natives. Strange, since the radiation levels on the island were thought to be so high that life wasn’t possible.  

A multinational expedition is launched to search the island and they find a lot of strange things. The leader of the expedition is an unscrupulous fellow named Mr. Nelson, who kidnaps two Twin Fairies from the island (known as Shobijin) and forces them to sing in his vaudeville show. However, the Shobijin soon become depressed and cry out. Their sweet singing contains a telepathic cry for help to Mothra, a gigantic moth that is worshiped as a deity by the island people. The giant monster heeds the call of the Shobijin and heads to Tokyo, wreaking destruction in its path.


This film moves at a much slower pace and it has much more to offer than Honda’s previous kaiju pictures. These characters are much more flushed out and they keep the viewer more invested. The journalist Fukuda, known as The Bulldog, is a lovable character. And he is about as close to a hero as we can have. The villain, Mr. Nelson, is a deplorable TV producer that has an insatiable greed that’s easy to hate. Interesting note that Mr. Nelson’s country of Rolithica is a fictional country mashup of America and Russia. I would love to see a Godzilla universe world map.

Mothra itself is a beautiful design. I love this early model. The colors are fantastic and I can see how the critics of the time fell in love with it. Some of the effects are terribly dated but still very creative. I really enjoy the miniatures and clever use of limited space to create an entire world.

The pacing is an issue. But that seems to be the case for most of these giant monster movies. I found myself bored, for lack of a better term, during the long dialog heavy scenes between humans. But I really liked the special effects heavy scenes that featured either the Shobijin or Mothra.


Mothra is a really slow movie but entertaining too. I have watched it a few times now and I still don’t get tired of it. I watched the Japanese version for this review. But if you want, the english version moves at a much quicker pace. I would definitely suggest checking this out if you want to get into kaiju pictures. This is one of the early highlights from Toho and I think a lot of people should see it.