Kaijū Menagerie

NAME: Manda
Manda (マンダ)

Atragon, 1963

– long, snakey bod
– in some forms, dragon whiskers
– tiny, useless legs

– wrapping around bridges and stuff
– being built up for an entire movie then doing nothing
– watching battles from the sidelines
– dying


I have a high tolerance for Toho movies. Even when they’re bad, I find them mildly entertaining, or at least comforting. 1963’s Atragon, however, is an endurance test. Despite being directed by the great Ishirō Honda, it manages to be overwhelmingly boring. Worst of all, it teases us with the promise of Manda — the kaijū better remembered from his later cameo in Destroy All Monsters (1968) — and all the cool shit he can do. This is a promise that never follows through.

Manda in Destroy All Monsters

Manda in Destroy All Monsters

I had high hopes for Manda’s Atragon appearance. His screen time is minimal in Destroy All Monsters. He basically does two things in the movie: he wraps himself around a bridge (as seen above), and later he watches Godzilla and company beat the shit through King Ghidorah from a safe distance. Still, his design (even though it’s sans the whiskers he sports in other appearances) is impressive, and I could picture his constrictor skills being used to good effect in Atragon where he surely must have a longer appearance, right? Oh boy.

Manda in Atragon

Manda in Atragon

There is such a big build up to Manda. An underwater kingdom of assholes, the Mu, constantly threaten the heroes with the use of Manda. ‘WE’RE GONNA GET MANDA TO KICK YOUR ASSES! MANDA IS AWESOME, OKAY?’ (That might not be a direct quote from Atragon.) We get a few glimpses of Manda, and then finally, fucking finally, in the film’s dying minutes, Manda comes out to join the party. Woo! Does he fuck shit up big time? No. He wobbles about in the water, weakly wraps himself around the submarine Atragon, then is sprayed with an ice cannon. And that’s it. He’s done. It’s a total slap in the face, but kind of appropriate considering how dull the rest of the film is.

Manda's pathetic demise

Manda’s pathetic demise

Manda was gifted one more opportunity to kick ass in the super crappy Godzilla: Final Wars (2005). True to Manda form, he is the first monster to die. After a 35 absence from the big screen, Manda went out with a whimper.

Manda's design in Final Wars

Manda’s design in Final Wars

The concept of Manda is cool, and there’s no other monster in the Toho line-up like him, but to successfully pull off a snake-like water dragon is obviously a difficult task, which perhaps explains his lacklustre appearances. Despite what must have been a much higher budget, the Manda of the Shōwa era doesn’t look much better than the dragon puppet from Monkey. And if Manda does return in future Godzilla films (he won’t), he’ll likely be a CGI blob.