Giant Moth Stomps Capitalism

Beside Godzilla, Mothra stands as director Ishiro Honda’s most accusatory giant monster film. Borrowing from the lineage of King Kong, Honda makes Mothra Japan’s own, a ferocious attack on the influence of western capitalism and greed post-WWII.

At the center is Nelson (Jerry Ito), a charismatic, millionaire celebrity seeking to shut down press, control data, and exploit the discovery of two tiny women, just inches tall. “Those fairies aren’t human. They’re merchandise,” Nelson huffs, oblivious to their telepathic call to a city-smashing moth. He’s in this for show, ticket sales, and profits. Anything else related to his greed isn’t his fault or his home country’s – Rolisica, an amalgam of America and Russia.

Mothra opens like Godzilla, with a recounting of the Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident, an American nuclear test that slowly murdered multiple Japanese fisherman. Here, the men survive and in great health. On the island is a cure for radiation poisoning. Nelson shows no interest despite the medicinal properties and life-altering possibilities; he sees only fast profits. That’s Mothra’s story viciously observing Japan’s new reality after surrender.

Mothra attacks only to save a final vestige of the native homeland from the corruption of overseas excess

It’s odd – watching a titanic moth smashing through Tokyo delivers eccentric visuals (and dazzling, high-grade miniature effects work, ranking in Toho’s best). But, Mothra’s angered rampage isn’t without purpose. It’s an elegant, decidedly Japanese monster, enraged by the loss of tradition in exchange for westernized values. Mothra attacks only to save a final vestige of the native homeland from the corruption of overseas excess. And, after Japan, Rolisica becomes a target, wiped out as Mothra takes flight in a marvelous bit of destructive screen showmanship.

Honda often ended his monster cinema on hopeful themes. Mothra does, amid a police shoot-out and the devastation. Divine intervention clues the main characters into a solution. Christian priests send out prayers and church bells ring to the hymnal-like Mothra theme. The empathetic monster, running only on instinct, is pacified. Western tradition merges with Eastern in a sensible, satisfying finish that sees avarice overcome. Monuments to post-war economic progress lie in ruins.

Mothra came to America with 10-minutes of footage snipped. Marketing missed the point, portraying the creature with a sloped brow and the tagline, “Ravishing a universe for love.” That’s a bit off-base. Either unwilling to notice the themes or taking an oblivious stance, Mothra still wasn’t turned into a gentle spectacle by American editors at Colombia. Honda’s message remains. Yet, it’s a relentless foreign import in any form, along with splashes of color and properly utilized levity from star Frankie Sakai.


Mill Creek issues Mothra in a splendid Steelbook, lavish in design with a transparent slipcover adding to the shelf appeal.

On the disc, both the US and Japanese cuts reside, equal in terms of image quality. With certainty, this is the same master used from Sony’s previous DVD release. That’s… okay. Mothra is due for a modern scan, notably to increase visible resolution. Detail is evident even if sharpness isn’t, dominant in close than lagging the further back the camera sits.

A chunky grain structure further suggests a DVD master, with the smallest bit of artifacting furthering concern. Some mild ringing comes from the analog source, not the digital transfer.

This sounds mostly negative, but that’s not the total story here. Rich color adds zest uncommon to a majority of Toho monster epics on Blu-ray. High saturation provides primaries with pop, adding to scenes on Infant Island and making the promotion of Nelson’s twin fairy stage show sizzle. All those banners and flowers stick out.

Also, Mothra’s contrast emboldens depth. Highlights reach outstanding peaks and black levels (mostly in the jungle) create density.


DTS-HD mono services both versions of Mothra. The unique score from one-time monster composer Yuji Koseki requires a stretch of treble a mile long. It’s a lot to ask of something aged, yet holds true with some leniency in expectations. Flutes and other instruments on the high-end push things to a limit with only marginal strain in fidelity.

Under the score’s loudest moments, Japanese dialog sinks. Especially during the finale, some lines become barely audible, not an issue with subtitles – except the subs do not cover English dialog. Otherwise, no balance issues are noted.


Mill Creek copies Sony’s Blu-ray release including Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski’s strong, information-laced commentary. Some trailers and an image gallery add to the box’s bullet points.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Ishiro Honda’s takedown of western capitalism invading Japan is also a visual treat with some of the greatest of Toho’s spectacles.

User Review
4 (2 votes)

The 15 unaltered images below represent the Blu-ray. For an additional 39 Mothra screenshots, early access to all screens (plus the 30,000+ already in our library), 75+ exclusive 4K UHD reviews, and more, support us on Patreon.

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