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Okay, Godzilla is assured of huge, monstrous enemies in every film where he appears. But of them all, one stands out: King Ghidorah.

Ghidorah is another very recognizable daikaiju, a two-tailed, three-headed, winged dragon that breathes lightning. His appearance was inspired by the Hydra of Greek legend, although Hydra breathed poison rather than lightning. He first came to Earth from outer space in the 1964 film Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster. This was the fifth in the Godzilla series. Invaders from Mars attacked Earth, with Ghidorah at the forefront. Godzilla reluctantly teamed up with Japan’s self-defense forces to stop them. Like most daikaiju, Ghidorah was driven off but not truly defeated.

This character represented a huge advance in the animation process known as “suitmation.” Where Godzilla had been simply a person in a suit, with alterations to film speed giving him his characteristic lumbering stride, Ghidora was a person in a suit with the heads, tails, and wings controlled by puppeteers. The breath weapon is animated later.

Since 1964, King Ghidorah has returned in eight of Godzilla’s films. He’s also been announced as part of the cast in Godzilla 2, with a scheduled release in 2018. Whatever the story, Ghidorah is Godzilla’s opposite number. So when Ghidorah is the villain, Godzilla plays a semi-heroic role. In a couple of films, however, Godzilla is the antagonist and then Ghidorah plays the semi-heroic role. Which it will be in 2018, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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