It’s a dark day for fans of monsters and Kaiju. Akira Takarada, a long-time veteran actor of the Godzilla franchise, has passed away. The actor was 87.
Takarada and Godzilla are old friends and go way back to the creature’s debut. For those that are new to Godzilla, the monster wasn’t always about goofy fights and rubber suits. The creature’s first film, 1964’s Godzilla (or its American title of Godzilla, King of the Monsters), was a very grim story to tell.
The monster was conceived as a metaphor for the destruction of nuclear weapons due to the horrific bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki being still fresh in the minds of the people of Japan. It was this film where Akira Takarada and the monster first became colleagues. The actor played Hideto Ogata, a ship captain who was also the love interest of Emiko Yamane (Momoko Kōchi). Emiko’s father, Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura), was a paleontologist sent to study the mysterious creature after the initial sightings on the island of Odo. Ogata soon grapples with Kyohei, who wishes to study the monster for its natural defense against radiation rather than seeking out how to destroy it. The reluctance leads to the infamous destruction of Tokyo. Ogata and Kyohei team up with her former fiancé, Daisuke Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata), to put an end to the creature once and for all.
Takarada and Godzilla Had a Long Partnership
Godzilla was, no doubt, a grim story but also a smash hit worldwide. The film currently has a rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Naturally, this spawned sequel after sequel. There are now 36 films in the Godzilla franchise, of which Takarada has made numerous cameos and appearances. While the actor would star in countless other films of varying genres, he would return to the world of monsters in 1964’s Mothra vs. Godzilla, where he played the news reporter Ichirō Sakai. He would play the astronaut K. Fuji in 1965 Invasion of the Astro-Monster, then Yoshimura in 1966’s Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster). In 1992, he played Jōji Minamino in Godzilla vs. Mothra, then the character Natarō Daigo in 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars.
Takarada’s final appearance in a Godzilla film would be 2014’s Legendary Picture’s Godzilla, where he played a cameo as a Japanese immigration agent at an airport. Sadly, the scenes involving him were cut from the final film. Director Gareth Edwards stated that the cuts were because they needed to speed up the film to get to the action sooner. The director stated that while the cuts were necessary, having to do it was one of his biggest regrets in production.
While Takarada’s most famous for his involvement in the Godzilla franchise, as well as various other Toho projects, he also had a bit of success in voice acting. He was involved in the Japanese dubs of the Disney Aladdin movies as Jafar, and he would reprise his role as the villainous figurehead in The Return of Jafar, Disney’s House of Mouse, Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. He also played Ratigan in the Japanese dub for The Great Mouse Detective.
Even though our fondest memories of the Godzilla franchise involve the rubber suits and model smashes, what makes the Godzilla films so easy to return to are the endearing human characters that we follow. It’s hard to try and share the screen with a monster, but Takarada was one of the first, and he provided an unforgettable performance. If you’re looking to take this opportunity to see some of his work, the original Japanese cut of Godzilla is currently free on Youtube courtesy of Toho and Shout Factory, as well as Mothra vs. Godzilla. Godzilla is an unforgettable movie, but you might want to keep a box of tissues within arm’s reach.