This ICHF was written by Lydia, who you can find at https://lydiathespiderqueen.tumblr.com/. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
There are certain things in fiction that we tend to take as a shorthand for importance: The more detailed designs go to the more important characters. The big, burly dude is usually a bigger threat than the average-sized villain. The supernatural or alien menaces are usually a bigger deal than the prehistoric monsters. The dragon is more important than the big bug.
The kaiju genre is a little more loose with these trends than most, but they’re still there. Godzilla’s most iconic enemies are a gilded space-dragon and a mechanical duplicate of himself, after all, while the giant mantis, spider and lobster are lucky to appear as mooks – and even they have more film appearances than the monster we’re talking about today.
Megaguirus was the second new kaiju to appear in the Millennium series, most of which would prove to be standalone, experimental films. Megs herself, however, draws her origins from the very dawn of the franchise.
1956’s Rodan introduced the meganulon; A population of cow-sized predatory insects lurking deep within a mine. The meganulon served as a warm-up for things to come, establishing that there were prehistoric monsters lurking beneath the surface, before being unceremoniously devoured wholesale by the film’s true starring monsters.
This is not to downplay the meganulons’ role in the story. They offered a fun bait-and-switch. While most dinosaur-on-the-loose movies will tease us with a prehistoric plant or arthropod, or small, harmless vertebrate, Rodan let the meganulon be a threat in and of themselves – a miniature creature feature to whet our appetites.
Just the same, Rodan was not about the meganulon. They were a bit part player, and would be so for nearly half a century before they were so much as mentioned again in the film series.
When that new role finally came in 2000’s Godzilla X Megaguirus: G-Vanishing Operation, it wasn’t exactly to much fanfare. Despite her billing in the title, the plot was not about Godzilla’s new opponent, but rather another entry in the “humans try to find a way to stop Godzilla” subgenre. In this case, the new plan involves a miniature black hole to be fired from a satellite – one that will exist just long enough to swallow Godzilla before dissipating. The country’s desperation to stop Godzilla is made clear when the weapon’s test firing leaves a brief scar upon the fabric of reality itself, and the personnel responsible for it just write it off with “yeah, that’ll happen. Give it a sec.” When a prehistoric insect emerges from the scar and drops off an egg, the only one who even notices is a small child.
Very little attention is actually devoted to the meganulon subplot. It exists just long enough to establish that it’s happening, while most of the script revolves around the humans’ quarrel with Godzilla. Even when the egg splits off and hatches into a swarm of man-sized dragonflies called meganula, which beeline for Godzilla, the primary obstacle is that they’re making it difficult to target him. The insects are no one’s concern – they’re simply getting in the way of the main plot, and very quickly dispatched by Godzilla himself.
And then she enters the stage: Megaguirus. The queen of the meganula – though given that they hatch from the same egg, she would technically be more like the big sister. After forty-four years, the little guys finally get a kaiju form.
Upon witnessing her, the protagonist tells his partners what he saw, only to be greeted with, essentially “Oh yeah, that’s a Megaguirus. They’re in the fossil record. So anyway, Godzilla…”
The meganulon and their adult stage are playing a role not too different from their original one in Rodan. They’re window-dressing, worldbuilding. They’re a side effect of the world where kaiju exist, but are not the main focus. They’re the bandits who our hero thrashes in the first act to demonstrate his baddassery. They’re the loudmouthed thug who our mysterious villain slays to establish his threat. They’re the yokels who our monster massacres in the opening scene to tease us with bloodshed.
Godzilla is the focus of the plot. Godzilla is the monster who ravages our country. Godzilla is the one who bests us at every attempt to stop him. Godzilla is the one who killed one of our heroes’ commanding officer(sortof). He is the one our emotions are wrapped up in. The full title is about the operation to destroy HIM.
Sure, a giant monster rose up from a flooded city and took off into the night, but no one cares. No one is interested in the big dragonfly. When Godzilla surfaces and the final battle to destroy him once and for all begins, she isn’t even mentioned. This is the story of Godzilla and the humans he’s stepped on. This is a story about revenge and recovery. Megaguirus only exists to spice up a plot that’s already been done.
And so the heroes duel him in their new space-age fighter craft, heedless of anything else. They exchange fire, dodge his attacks, and prepare to fire their trump card.
And then, as they stare down for the next round, Godzilla looks up. And a shadow falls upon the pilots’ cabin. The sound of colossal wings drowns out the music. Megaguirus is here. And with a beat of her wings, as casual as it is spiteful, she knocks the aircraft from the sky and takes its place as Godzilla’s opponent.
And here is the part I’ve been waiting for, because when Megaguirus arrives… well, honestly, there’s a bit of a schism. She dropped in with an A+ entrance, but seeing her next to Godzilla, it becomes clear just how different the two kaiju are. Where Godzilla is big, mountainous and inevitable, Megaguirus is relatively small, almost frail-looking, and moves like an aircraft. From snout to tail, she’s a little bit shorter than Godzilla is tall, and while her jagged exoskeleton is menacing, she’s a good bit less sharp than the Godzilla she’s up against.
And yet, she shows no fear. Against thrice her bulk, against demonstrated atomic firepower, and against the plot itself, Megaguirus knocks aside the humans and stares Godzilla down, grinning fiendishly, declaring that this is HER story now. She effortlessly dodges his attacks and slams into him multiple times, knocking him flat each time. The beating of her wings functions as an EMP, shutting down electronic devices, keeping the airship grounded, and ensuring that the dimensional weapon can’t be fired. The humans will no longer ignore her. They can only watch helplessly as the force that they feared unstoppable, unassailable and invincible is soundly knocked around by this tiny bug.
And OH what a slugfest it is. It’s not entirely one-sided – Godzilla gets some very good hits in. But he fights harder here than he has at any point in this movie – or the last one, for that matter. Megaguirus MAKES him fight that hard, and still manages to secure the upper hand.
And she does this without the flash that many other kaiju have wielded. Her one noteworthy combat-ability is a vampiric sting that sucks energy from the target. It’s almost comical – she’s a mosquito! A mosquito who sucks Godzilla’s atomic breath right back down his throat, drinks it like a capri sun, then hurls it back at him in force.
Megaguirus does not have the social commentary that helps make Godzilla so memorable. She’s not a metaphor for any of our vices, nor does she really represent any of our enemies. She doesn’t embody our disregard for the environment, she doesn’t act as a warning against our imperialistic ways, she doesn’t comment on any social issue gripping our world. She doesn’t have abilities tailored to represent a real world concern. She’s a big bug for Godzilla to brawl with at the end. And yet she’s winning!
There is something to this kaiju. It may not be intentional, but there is a message to her being. And that is a message of defiance. She defies the humans, she defies Godzilla, she defies convention, why she even defies the narrative itself – a narrative that said she was insignificant. She was coded in every conceivable way to be a minor obstacle, and yet here she is, making every other character in the film look like helpless fools.
And it’s not simply the fact that she’s more powerful than we expected. Megaguirus is a BRILLIANTLY emotive character. She grins fiendishly when Godzilla is at her mercy. She waves mockingly as he struggles to hit her. She panics when he does grab her – and has a glorious “oh crap” expression when Godzilla finally does get her in one spot long enough to deliver a thirty-story sumo slam. Megaguirus is fully aware that she’s a bit part player challenging the world’s greatest monster, and she’s having the time of her life with it!
We live in a world that likes to put us in boxes. People have expectations of us based on what we are more than who we are. And some of those boxes are worth more than others, in the eyes of many. It’s not always malicious – generations of conditioning mean that even the most well-meaning person can make assumptions about another without any real cause.
There’s a bit of a difference between how humans and monsters are portrayed in media. And yet the same rules apply. We assume things about characters based on how they’re drawn, how they’re written, and who they’re interacting with. And we make similar assumptions about fantastical creatures.
Everything about Megaguirus is coded to be insignificant. She’s an insect, rather than something more conventionally “charismatic”. She’s a prehistoric animal, rather than a supernatural being or an alien invader. She doesn’t wield the power of a WMD. She doesn’t tie into any character’s personal journey. Her abilities aren’t nearly as flashy as many others. She’s a good deal smaller than Godzilla. And oh yeah! She’s based on a background critter that served as food for the real star. Even the story isn’t about her – it’s about a conflict that she has no part in.
But as many elements insisted otherwise, Megaguirus refused to be insignificant. She defied everyone and everything, and had the time of her life doing so. She may never appear in another film. She may never go down in the hall of fame. She may not even be remembered by the bulk of the fanbase. But for a moment in this colossal franchise’s history, this little bug who everyone ignored managed to bring the King of the Monsters to his knees. And when he finally did get a lucky shot in and obliterated her with his breath, her burning, doomed form still hung in the air for several seconds, refusing to be done until a second blast finished her off. When she finally died, the unquenchable fire inside her ripped its way to the surface and engulfed her.
It’s common to dismiss a lot of episodes in a series as “filler”. If it doesn’t further a character’s plot, doesn’t uncover clues to a mystery, doesn’t move the story exactly forward, it’s skippable. And sure, you can usually still follow a story if you skip the filler. But you’ll still be missing something. Characters still bounce off of one another in filler, iconic scenes still happen, memetic blunders occur, and monsters-of-the-week still menace people. Minor scenes can still find people with whom they resonate. Little things can make or break someone’s enjoyment. And every character is someone’s favorite.
Megaguirus is certainly a filler-monster. But OH what a monster she is!
I can attest that if not for Megaguirus, much of that particular Millennium Godzilla entry would’ve been a damn dull affair-for a ‘filler bug’ she shapes that film in a way the Kamacuras & Ebirah don’t quite manage in their introductory appearances. The fact that she’s a part of that film setting’s fossil record raises an interesting question or three: were her species & Godzilla’s doing this several hundred million years back? How did other species (be they ‘ordinary’ or kaiju-scale) figure into that long-gone ecosystem? Was *this* Godzilla around for that epoch?