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Character Analysis: 1.0
Date: 10/27/04

Yoshimitsu Banno's 1971 Godzilla film, Godzilla vs. Hedorah, conveys a strong anti-pollution message, and in order to properly express the problem Banno had to create not only a monster who embodied the idea of pollution itself, but one who greatly overpowered Godzilla to show the severity of the problem. The result was Hedorah.

Cutaway view of Hedorah

Born from the Dark Gas Nebula in the Orion Constellation, Hedorah latches itself to the Ikeya Comet, which ends up traveling past Earth as the space monster descends on the lush planet below. Once on the surface, the creature grows an affection over Humanity's pollutants, from the smog in the air to the waste poured into the sea, and starts to grow both in size and power as it continues to consume this new abundant food supply.

Banno's creation not only embodied the pollution issue he wanted to tackle, but also represented the growing shift away from the traditional "tooth and claw" monsters of the 1950's and 1960's as more complex monsters begun to enter the scene. Hedorah is a prime example of this shift, as the creature sports a wide array of powers that it uses to easily overcome Godzilla until the climax of the film.

The purpose of this article is to compile an extensive view of all of the creatures perceived powers and weaknesses. Before diving into these, though, it should be noted that continuity errors, such as Godzilla's skeletal hand changing from the right to left hand or Godzilla being struck with sludge in the wrong eye, aren't factored into the discussion.

Hedorah's rabid evolution

Hedorah does not reproduce in the same fashion that normal animals do, instead the creature divides and reforms as needed, or when forced to. The monster's primary goal is to simply engulf as much pollution as possible relatively quickly, as the creature's size and available powers both increase as it consumes more.

Hedorah's first form was one adapt to a watery environment. At the start of this stage it can be assumed that the creature was relatively harmless, going by the tadpole like Hedorah that the fisherman Gohei caught. The creature likely divided rather heavily at this stage in order to accelerate the speed at which it consumes pollutants. Eventually these smaller Hedorahs start to merge into larger creatures who can now take out oil tankers in order to accelerate their own growth. Hedorah's quest for more pollutants ultimately lead the creature to land where it dons a four legged form in order to consume the emissions from factory smoke stacks. Hedorah is still relatively weak at this stage, which is showcased by how easily the creature is made to retreat when faced by Godzilla. Godzilla also manages to punch a hole through the creature, which sends a chunk of Hedorah flying into a local club as it takes on a life of its own.

The next day, the creature takes another leap in evolution as it has shifted to a flying form that now has easy access to the pollution which can be found through out Japan. The Hedorah that was released into the night club is meanwhile consuming pollution on its own, as it begins to devour cars that stray to close to its path. Meanwhile, Godzilla confronts the flying Hedorah once more, but this time proves ineffective against the Smog Monster. The two Hedorah eventually merge to form the creature's final form. A towering, 60 meter, monster whose appearance is loosely based on Godzilla's, as it's apparent that Hedorah has reached this next form with the intention of finally dealing with Godzilla, permanently. At this stage, Hedorah still maintains the power to shift back to its flying form as needed.

The ill effects of direct contact  

Body Toxicity:
Hedorah's own body is generally perceived as a weapon, as those who physically harm the creature will likely only injure themselves in the process. The level of toxicity in Hedorah also increases dramatically over time as it consumes more pollution, and this is very clearly illustrated in the film. During each of Godzilla's three battles with Hedorah's land, flying and final form he punches Hedorah's body, and with varying success. Against the land form, Godzilla thrusts both of his hands clear through Hedorah's body with no visible ill effect to either monster. Against Hedorah's flying form, when Godzilla punches the Smog Monster after throwing it to the ground, an entire layer of Godzilla's skin is burned off from his contact with the vile creature. The full extent of this power is realized, though, in the battle at Mount Fuji against the final form, as after punching Hedorah's eye his hand is literally eaten away down to the bone.

Hedorah doesn't have to be attacked to make use of this power though, as the Smog Monster was often fond of firing off large clumps of its mass at opponents, most notably when it takes out Godzilla's use of his right eye by firing sludge at Godzilla's face.

In his final form, Hedorah was also able to discharge large quantities of sludge from the base of his body as well. The exact purpose of this appeared to be fairly limited, though, as Godzilla didn't look to be adversely affected by the sludge, except for the fact that it made it more difficult for him to leave the hole that Hedorah was filling. The sheer amount of sludge that Hedorah discharged in this manner is worth noting though, as he was able to release a tremendous amount of the substance into the pit.

Results of Sulfuric Acid Mist

Sulfuric Acid Mist:
Released in Hedorah's flying form as it traveled across the sky, the creature's sulfuric acid mist was a powerful byproduct of how the creature flew. The mist was powerful enough to cause Godzilla to collapse when he made direct contact with it, but was especially lethal for humans as the mist quickly burned through skin and organs to leave only a pile of bones and scant remnants of sludge behind.

The Crimson Energy Beam at work

Crimson Energy Beam:
Hedorah's Crimson Energy Beam is often overlooked in terms of power. Fired from the top of Hedorah's eye by the creature's flying and final form, the Crimson Energy Beam proved to be a potent weapon against Godzilla. The first time the Smog Monster strikes Godzilla with the ray, while in its flying form, it effectively knocks the creature out of Hedorah's intended path. The second time it uses the ray to directly attack Godzilla, it's blocked by Godzilla's hand, a tactic which proves ineffective. Following the attack, Godzilla rapidly flails his hand in the air, one can assume because the ray has some sort of lasting burning effect (it's certainly something Godzilla never did when he was struck with a beam from any other monster in the Showa series), before quickly caressing the stricken hand with the other hand, as if he were trying to rub something off.

The ray doesn't have to hit to be effective though; in fact, Hedorah would often miss on purpose, firing the ray at the ground right in front of his intended target. Upon making contact with the ground, the beam then appeared to release a toxic smoke that was similar to that of Hedorah's sulfuric mist, and caused Godzilla to collapse every time he was engulfed by the smoke.

Godzilla's ray being used

It would be safe to conclude that Hedorah is, by no means, easy to destroy. The creature proved to be particularly resilient against Godzilla, whose Atomic Ray was ineffective, only causing a momentary discharge of sparks. It's likely that radiation, in general, has no ill effect against the creature. The film's own characters, mostly the group of teenagers at the base of Mount Fuji, pose the assumption that fire might be effective against the Smog Monster, but this is never seen in the film itself. The match size torches flung at Hedorah certainly do no damage, but how close was the creature to the exploding oil refineries? The creature is never seen during the incident, but is obviously the cause of this and if it was in fact exposed to these large explosions it would prove that fire wasn't effective against it either.

Hedorah being destroyed

Hedorah's weakness is well emphasized in the film: the creature will die if dried out. This is finally achieved in the film by two giant electrodes that are able to discharge 3 million volts between the two. However it takes 41 seconds (11 seconds, followed by another burst lasting 30 seconds) of being fried with 3 million volts of electricity to simply dry out Hedorah's outer layer. Godzilla removes the eyes and dries these as well, and still a new Hedorah is formed from the remains of the final form. It takes Godzilla tearing Hedorah apart, piece by piece, and frying each individual chunk in order to ensure that the creature never returns again. So just because it's a weakness does not mean that it's a easy means of defeating the creature by any regards.

In earlier forms, Hedorah appeared to be much easier to dry out though. His water form dried out simply by being deprived water, as the tadpole sample that was given to doctor Toru Yano quickly dried and cracked into a black powder like substance (although these pieces could be brought back to life if exposed to water and pollution). Hedorah's first land form also seems to have trouble retaining sludge, as parts of its body ooze out after it leaps at Godzilla only to smack into the hard ground instead. This sludge that oozed out was dried simply by exposure to the sun the next day.

It should also be mentioned that Hedorah has some trouble regenerating eyes, as Hedorah's final form loses the use of its left eye for the remainder of the battle after Godzilla punches it out. However, once the creature's outer layer is cooked by the electrodes, and a smaller Hedorah escapes for the fried husk, two eyes are present again. So this doesn't mean they can't be re-grown by the creature, but they are a more vital part of the creature's body when contrasted with the rest of the creature's exterior.

Final Thoughts:
In closing, Hedorah is reasonably assumed to be Godzilla's deadliest adversary from the Showa series, and one of the most powerful creatures to ever grace a Toho film, as Banno effectively paints pollution as a nearly unbeatable foe in the film, at least for Godzilla on his own.