‘Godzilla Minus One’ Movie Recap & Ending Explained: Is Shikishima Dead Or Alive?

With an enduring saga that spans seven decades since its conception, involving stories that function as parables of the atomic age, pointing out the follies and hubris of humankind, Godzilla can very well be perceived as a key figure in the mythos of a postmodern world. Like the gods of Hindu mythology, the nuclear monster has been reincarnated through generations with renewed symbolism. Beginning as a condemnation of nuclear warfare, transforming into a personification of nature’s fury and vengeance upon humanity, eventually becoming representative of the wrath of the souls who have been wronged on the battlefield, and later on Godzilla also acted as a critique of the response of the government’s absolute negligence towards their people. In Toho’s latest venture revolving around the iconic kaiju, Godzilla Minus One, the beast is an embodiment of survivor’s guilt, an embodiment of an old world order that shackles and demeans the sanctity of human life. 


With each era of Godzilla movies having its specific tone and treatment, in the present Reiwa era, Toho has opted for a darker, more introspective approach in their Godzilla movies, which reconnects with the horror roots of the first cinematic iteration of the creature. Following that structure, director Takashi Yamazaki has crafted a poignant, visually spectacular story in Godzilla Minus One, which celebrates the human spirit and is deservingly being celebrated as one of the best kaiju movies in the world.

Spoilers Ahead


How Did Shikishima’s First Interaction With Godzilla Happen?

Set during and after the events of the Second World War, the movie opens on Odo Island in 1945, as a young Japanese Lieutenant, Koichi Shikishima, lands his fighter jet in the secret repair hub of the island. It’s the last phase of the war, and a desperate Imperial Japan has sent the majority of its fighter jet pilots on kamikaze missions. Shikishima is one of the enlisted kamikaze pilots whose job it is to bring ‘glory’ to the nation by sacrificing their lives. However, Shikishima got cold feet at the last moment, and with the promise he had made to his parents about returning and his own willingness to live, the young pilot decided to abandon his mission. On the pretense of maintenance for his jet, Shikishima makes a stop at Odo, and the lead mechanic stationed at the outpost, Tachibana, rightly guesses at his intention. 

Shikishima notices deep-sea fish floating on the shores of the island, which signals something troublesome lurking in the depths. Later that night, a prehistoric carnivorous dinosaur-like creature, locally known and feared as Godzilla, emerges from the ocean and attacks the outpost. Tachibana asks Shikishima to use the mounted guns on his fighter jet to fend off the creature, which is his only chance to deal some damage. However, despite having a clear shot, Shikishima freezes at the last moment in fear, which results in the panicked mechanics unloading their firearms at Godzilla, sending him on a furious rampage. After a night of bloody mayhem, Shikishima and Tachibana are revealed to be the only survivors, while the entire unit of mechanics has perished. An aggrieved Tachibana blames Shikishima for the deaths of his comrades, and the event scars Shikishima for life. 


Was Shikishima Able to Find a New Life?

Shikishima returns to his home in war-torn Tokyo and learns about his parents’ deaths during the air raids. His neighbor Sumiko, who has lost her entire family during the raids as well, is displeased to see Shikishima return and lambasts him for abandoning his duties, blaming the likes of him for the tragedy the people had to face during the war. Wracked with guilt and despair, Shikishima becomes disillusioned with grief when Noriko comes into his life. Sharing a similar fate of losing her family, Noriko was entrusted by a dying mother to take care of her infant girl, Akiko. Shikishima shelters both of them, and with some assistance from Sumiko, he manages to take care of the baby as well. 

Shikishima lands a job as a gunner in a minesweeping boat, where he befriends crewmate Noda, a former naval vessel technician, Captain Yoji, and first mate Mizushima. Shikishima hopes to turn a new page, but the horrors of the past make their presence felt through nightmares. Despite taking care of Noriko and Akiko, Shikishima continues to maintain a detachment, unwilling to consider them his new family despite his colleagues advising him to, as he is too marred by separation anxiety, which has been caused by his past trauma. Realizing this, Noriko decides to give Shikishima some space and gets a desk job in the Ginza province of Tokyo.


Meanwhile, in 1946, during Operation Crossroads, nuclear warhead testing is conducted in Bikini Atoll, which accidentally mutates Godzilla, making him evolve into a new form with enhanced capabilities. Now a nuclear-powered monster, Godzilla makes his way toward Tokyo and decimates USS warships while doing so. The USA withdraws its support, citing the post-war arms race with Russia as a hindrance, and the Japanese government keeps the news of the impending arrival of Godzilla a secret from the citizens after fearing mass panic. 

In 1947, Shikishima and his crew approach a destroyed warship near the Ogasawara Islands, and from the dead fish clue , Shikishima rightly assumes the culprit to be Godzilla. The team realizes that they were sent by the government to stop the behemoth or at least stall long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Godzilla arrives moments later and chases the minesweeper boat through the ocean. After detonating a bomb inside its mouth, Shikishima manages to temporarily incapacitate Godzilla, but its accelerated healing factor works instantaneously. Godzilla goes back to the deep after destroying the Japanese warship Takao and continues moving towards Tokyo. 


Shikishima confesses his troubled psyche to Noriko, detailing his past responsibilities and what he deems his failures, as the return of Godzilla has triggered his PTSD in the worst way possible. Noriko comforts him by sharing her perspective that, to honor the deaths of the departed, they must survive. 

How Does Noda Plan to Neutralize the Beast?

Godzilla emerges in Tokyo and continues to leave a trail of death and destruction. Unaware citizens who weren’t notified about the impending danger simply get slaughtered as the monster wreaks havoc in the city. As the creature rampages through Ginza, Noriko barely escapes with her life, and an anxious Shikishima manages to find her. However, as the military launches countermeasures to neutralize Godzilla, they prove to be ineffectual, and in retaliation, Godzilla releases its devastating heat wave, which obliterates a portion of the city. In the nick of time, Noriko pushes Shikishima to safety, sacrificing her own life in the process as she gets killed in the fallout. A crestfallen Shikishima is brought back to reality; he chastises himself for ever daring to dream of a life. He considers that the curse of the people whom he has failed will be his burden as long as he lives, and Godzilla is a brutal reminder of that. Shikishima is being tormented in hell, and the atomic monster is the devil. Godzilla returns to the ocean, and in the aftermath of his emergence, the already dwindling spirit of the people of Tokyo reaches rock bottom. 


At Noriko’s funeral, Noda requests Shikishima to join a citizen-formed group that is trying to come up with a viable, functioning countermeasure against Godzilla, as it is suspected that the beast will return soon. The government’s inability to form a defense due to post-war stipulations has left people hopeless, yet a faction of war veterans and common folks unite to come up with a plan to take Godzilla down once and for all. Due to the fact that regular weaponry seems ineffective on Godzilla, Noda opines that they need to try alternative methods and suggests drowning Godzilla at the lowest ocean depth using Freon gas, as the crushing pressure of the lowest level could destroy the creature in an instant. If it manages to survive still, Noda plans to bring it back to the surface using inflatable levitation rescue devices, which will induce a deadly decompression force—blasting Godzilla from within. While there are no certainties about the success of the plan, for now, it will have to suffice. 

Shikishima requests Noda arrange a working fighter jet, as he has a third option in mind. As Noda arranges for him a Shinden fighter jet, Shikishima desperately searches for Tachibana and, after reconciling with him, requests that he equip the jet with artillery. He seeks to draw the attention of Godzilla to Sagami Bay, the lowest depth in the nearby ocean floor, where the ships will be able to initiate the plan formulated by Noda. 


How Did Shikishima end the threat of Godzilla?

During Godzilla Minus One‘s ending, it is revealed that Shikishima seeks to absolve himself by sacrificing his life in a kamikaze attack, avenging Noriko in the process. With Godzilla heading back to Tokyo, the citizens and war veterans prepare for a final conflict, and in the last-minute meeting, Noda emphasizes breaking away from the conventional sacrifice-valuing mindset that the state has tried to indoctrinate its citizens with for so long and requests he fight to live for a better future. 

Before the re-emergence of Godzilla, Shikishima entrusts Akiko to Sumiko. As Godzilla arises from the bay, Shikishima flies the Shinden to draw its attention and takes it to Sagami Bay, where deployed ships manage to round it up with Freon gas apparatus. Still finding it to be alive, the citizens enact the next phase of the plan, but pulling Godzilla back to the surface turns out to be way more difficult. Mizushima brings a fleet of tugboats to assist the warships, and Godzilla arrives on the surface with a gnarly, severely bloated, and injured appearance. However, it still manages to survive and prepares to launch a heat wave to annihilate everyone when Shikishima arrives and jams its mouth by thrusting the Shinden inside of it. The reserved artillery and bombs explode Godzilla’s head, while the pent-up nuclear energy destroys its body from within. 


Shikishima survives, as Tachibana had previously installed an ejection mechanism in the Shinden after being able to reconcile with Shikishima, empathizing for his past predicament. This also gave Shikishima much-needed closure, and he wanted to live by abandoning his past guilt and regret. As he returns to the shore, Sumiko arrives with a telegram addressed to him, which reveals the news of Noriko’s survival. Shikishima goes to the hospital where Noriko is admitted and breaks down in tears after reuniting with her. It goes beyond saying that now that Shikishima is finally done with his battles, he will accept the feelings he had for Noriko and will welcome her and Akiko as part of his family. 

Godzilla Minus One‘s ending suggests a sequel in the near future, as we see a mysterious black mark emerging on Noriko’s neck, and the scene quickly shifts to show a drowning piece of Godzilla’s carcass, which starts regenerating once again. Director Takashi Yamazaki has confirmed that Noriko’s mark is formed by G-cells, part of Godzilla’s radioactive, rapidly regenerating tissue, which explains Noriko’s miraculous survival despite getting right into the path of nuclear fallout. The final scene also teases that Godzilla will return like a nemesis, meaner and stronger once again, and Tokyo will feel its wrath soon enough. Additionally, G-cells connecting with humans also provide a way to bring kaiju like Biollante back to Godzilla movies. As fans, we will keep our fingers crossed so that Toho announces a much-deserving sequel to this decade’s best kaiju epic. 


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Siddhartha Das
Siddhartha Das
An avid fan and voracious reader of comic book literature, Siddhartha thinks the ideals accentuated in the superhero genre should be taken as lessons in real life also. A sucker for everything horror and different art styles, Siddhartha likes to spend his time reading subjects. He's always eager to learn more about world fauna, history, geography, crime fiction, sports, and cultures. He also wishes to abolish human egocentrism, which can make the world a better place.

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