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Godzilla: A Pioneer of Global Pop Culture

Time & Location

August 31, 8pm EDT


For the tenth episode of our JFNY pop culture series, we will take a closer look at Godzilla, the worldwide pop culture icon and the longest-running film franchise in world history.

Starting in 1954 with the Japanese release of Ishiro Honda’s Gojira, the franchise has since released 36 films made in Japan and Hollywood, with new titles still being made today. Godzilla sparked the Kaiju (monster) genre, and its fandom has reached all generations and has spread all over the world.

What were some of the cultural contexts in which Godzilla was created? What does Godzilla mean to Japanese people? How was it exported to the world, and what led Godzilla to become the “King of Monsters?”

Please join us for a panel discussion with five Godzilla experts from both the U.S. and Japan, Bill Tsutsui, Takayuki Tatsumi, Norman England, Meghan Mettler, and Steve Ryfle, as they explore the history of Godzilla and discuss its universal appeal.


What is your favorite title from the Godzilla series?
Please tell us what your favorite title is on the Eventbrite page when you register. We will announce the results of the poll during the event, and discuss it with the panelists.

The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A. Along with answering the poll, now is your chance to ask the experts your questions about Godzilla. Please ask your question when you register. Live commentary will also be enabled on the YouTube stream, so you can participate in the Q&A session live as well.

This event is free. Registrants will receive the link to the stream via email.


Dr. Bill Tsutsui is an award-winning historian and teacher, frequent public speaker, and media commentator, who currently serves as President and CEO of Ottawa University. Dr. Tsutsui’s research and teaching focus on the business, environmental, and cultural history of twentieth-century Japan. He is also an author of books and numerous essays on modern Japanese history. His book Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters (2004) reveals how Godzilla was born and explores Godzilla’s lasting cultural impact on the world. He has also coedited In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage (2006).
> Official Website

Dr. Takayuki Tatsumi is Professor Emeritus at Keio University in Tokyo and has taught American Literature and Critical Theory since 1989. He is an award-winning author of books and numerous essays on subjects ranging from the American Renaissance to post-cyberpunk fiction and film. His major books include Cyberpunk America (1988), New Americanist Poetics (1995), Disfiguration of Genres: a Reading in the Rhetoric of Edgar Allan Poe (1995), and Full Metal Apache: Transactions between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America (2006). His essay “On the Monstrous Planet, Or How Godzilla Took a Roman Holiday” in The Liverpool Companion to World Science Fiction Film (2014) examines the origins of Gojira from literary and cultural perspectives.
> Official Website

Norman England is a film journalist, author, columnist, subtitler, set photographer, director, and teacher, who has been living and working in Japan for almost 30 years. For American and Japanese film magazines and media, he covered countless movie productions in Japan, reporting from film sets and interviewing directors, writers, producers, and actors, including Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002). In 2008, he directed the Godzilla documentary, Bringing Godzilla Down to Size, released by Classic Media in the United States. In 2012, he began writing for Eiga Hiho, one of Japan’s top-selling cinema magazines. He is currently working on his upcoming book Behind the Kaiju Curtain, covering his years on Godzilla sets.
> Official Website

Dr. Meghan Mettler is the Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs at Upper Iowa University having served until recently as an Associate Professor of History. Her research centers on U.S. international relations during the Cold War, especially cultural relations between the United States and Japan. Her essay “Godzilla versus Kurosawa: Presentation and Interpretation of Japanese Cinema in the Post World War II United States” contrasts America’s reception of the most famous Japanese movies of the 1950s: Kurosawa Akira’s Rashomon (1951) and Honda Ishiro’s Godzilla (Gojira, 1956). In 2018, she published her first book, How to Reach Japan by Subway: America’s Fascination with Japanese Culture, 1945–1965, which analyzes how middle-class American consumers embraced Japanese culture in the wake of WWII.
> Official Website

Steve Ryfle is an author, journalist, and documentary film producer who has written about film, books, and culture for the Los Angeles Times, Criterion Current, Cineaste, and other publications. He is author of the forthcoming book Godzilla vs. the World: The Politics of Japan’s Disaster Monster (Univ. of TX Press) examining the geopolitical themes of the Godzilla series, and coauthor with Ed Godziszewski of Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa (Wesleyan, 2017). Ryfle cowrote the NY Emmy-winning documentary Miracle on 42nd Street (2018) and coproduced the documentary Bringing Godzilla Down to Size: The Art of Japanese Special Effects (2008). He has contributed audio commentaries and other material to numerous home video releases in the U.S. and U.K., including Gojira: The Original Japanese Masterpiece (Classic Media, 2006).
> Official Website

Related Article

The Fascination with Godzilla: Insights from a Japanese Illustrator and an Animator

JFF Plus, the Japan Foundation’s online platform dedicated to Japanese cinema, published a new article on Godzilla. Veteran kaiju illustrator Yuji Kaida and legendary animator Eiji Yamamori discuss the enduring fascination with this iconic kaiju monster. Read here

Previous Sessions

EP1: Roundtable: Why Do We Study Anime and Manga?
EP2: Through a Glass Darkly: Identity Crises in Ghost in the Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion
EP3: The Power of Music in Anime
EP4: Satoshi Kon: Tracing the Legacy of an Anime Giant
EP5: Sailor Moon: How These Magical Girls Transformed Our World
EP6: Anime Takes the Stage: The Rise of 2.5-Dimensional Musicals and Beyond
EP7: Hayao Miyazaki: Children Entrusted with Hope
EP8: Exporting Studio Ghibli: The Road to Worldwide Recognition
EP9: How the Japanese Video Game Industry Found, Lost, and Rediscovered Its Way

Watch all the episodes on YouTube.

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