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Ultraman's Kaiju Take Godzilla's True Meaning To A New Level

Warning: spoilers for The Trials of Ultraman #5 ahead!

The kaiju Ultraman has been facing in Trials of Ultraman are taking Godzilla's central metaphor to a whole new level. In The Trials of Ultraman #5, on sale now in print and digital, Ultraman makes a revelation about kaiju, one harkening back to the original meaning of the first, and greatest, kaiju of them all: Godzilla!

The kaiju genre can trace its roots back to ancient Japanese myths about giant monsters. While the creatures from these folktales do not resemble the kaiju fans know and love today, they still laid the foundation for the genre, made famous around the world by 1954's Godzilla. The film, a commentary on nuclear destruction, remains iconic, and Toho Studios, the studio responsible for Godzilla, created a whole stable of kaiju, such as Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah, to name a few. Other studios got in on the kaiju game, such as Daiei Film, who created Gamera. Ultraman is another example of the kaiju genre, as the titular hero is locked in a continuous battle with these creatures. Last year, Marvel Comics began a line of comics based on Ultraman, and the most recent, The Trials of Ultraman, continues to expand on the character's mythos.

Related: Ultraman Refuses to Save Humans from Other Humans (Only Kaiju)

In issue five, written by Kyle Higgins and Matthew Groom, with art by Francesco Manna, colors by Espen Grundetjern and letters by Ariana Maher, a fake mechanical kaiju, created to discredit the United Science Patrol, finds itself locked in combat with the real deal, and Ultraman comes to its aid. As Ultraman scans the real kaiju, named Zumbolar the Walking Inferno, he learns the kaiju is especially angry at the fake one, as it resents technology. In Ultraman's world, kaiju travel to Earth from other dimensions, drawn by concentrated negative emotion. Ultraman's team reveal that Zumbolar was drawn to Iceland due to the negative energy generated when the island's first settlers chopped down every tree, and that it therefore harbors a grudge against technology.

As mentioned earlier, the original Godzilla film was intended to be a commentary on the horrors of atomic testing and nuclear weaponry. Godzilla acts as a representation of this type of unfathomable destruction, and in the fiction of the movie, atomic tests in the Pacific are what awoke Godzilla, causing his destructive rampage. Godzilla debuted less than a decade after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the film's themes and imagery invoke the trauma of those events.

Ultraman's kaiju follow a similar theme, but their connection to negative energy means that each kaiju can be blamed on a specific disaster and remains motivated by what brought it to Earth. In short, every Ultraman kaiju is an individual "Godzilla" expressing a different negative event, all explicitly tied to an incident by the logic of what caused them to manifest. Each kaiju is an expression of how humanity has hurt the Earth or itself, all with their own tragedies that must be answered for - in Zumbolar's case, the deforestation of Iceland.

Over time, the Godzilla films deviated from their social commentary and opted for more outlandish plots that focused on smog monsters and aliens, but Marvel makes clear its intent to have each Ultraman kaiju bring a different disaster to light, even to the extent of holding grudges towards humanity for specific actions. Like GodzillaThe Trials of Ultraman treats its kaiju not as mere monsters, but as towering metaphors for past sins, creating a fascinating moral universe in which humanity must face the fact that it is empowering its own monstrous destruction.

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