Kaiju History: Godzilla’s Greatest Rival Never Appeared In A Movie, Though Toho Tried Several Times

Bagan in Godziban (2022) via Godzilla Channel YouTube

Godzilla’s had quite the rogues gallery over the years, possibly the greatest in all of cinema. Most if not all his opponents were his equal in some measure, and several have given him more than he can handle. Ghidorah comes to mind right away as a threat that took the King of the Monsters to his limit, while also challenging his throne. 

Godzilla Ghidorah Netlflix
Ghidorah surrounds Godzilla Earth in Godzilla: The Planet Eater (2018), Netflix

Hedorah, SpaceGodzilla, and Destoroyah also gave him runs for his money; the latter two went as far as striking at his irradiated heart by going after his son. Anyone of them could vie for the title of his greatest rival although Ghidorah would soundly win that crown in any fan vote. 

However, there is one more monster waiting in the shadows that dwarfs even The Three-Headed Monster. Bagan doesn’t get talked about an awful lot yet has developed quite a following despite always being the ultimate enemy who almost was.

Also known as “Bakan” and “Vagan,” the unused monster’s complex history traces back to 1980. At the time, Godzilla producer Tomoyuki Tanaka was still trying to figure out a way to relaunch the series half a decade after Terror of Mechagodzilla brought the Showa era to a close.

Destoroyah smokes and screams in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995), Toho Co. Ltd.

The proposal Tanaka was working with was dubbed the “Resurrection of Godzilla” and it called for the big guy to battle a shape-shifting daikaiju who would evolve into three “Sacred” forms that represented the elements of land, sea, and air. They were the Sacred Dragon Beast (air), the Sacred Monkey Beast (land), and the Sacred Water Beast (sea).

These forms were based on beings in Chinese mythology and were complemented in a 1983 revision by a final “Demon Beast” form that had traits of the others. Like a Megazord, Demon Beast Bagan combined all forms into a giant segmented totem that hoped to even the score against Godzilla. 

He would have fallen like all those that came before, but once Resurrection of Godzilla morphed into the successful Return of Godzilla, Bagan was left out of the action completely. He wouldn’t be brought up again behind the scenes for another decade – where he’d endure more near-miss proposals.

To start the 90s and kick off Bagan’s stymied reign of terror with a twist, Tanaka and Toho thought about shaking things up a bit. Instead of developing a new Godzilla movie with him as the antagonist, they considered using him for Mothra’s first solo adventure in 30 years.

Mothra vs. Bagan went unmade naturally and it would be another few years before the Queen of the Monsters would fly again in her Rebirth trilogy, but Toho had big plans. In action that would engulf Calcutta and Bangkok, she would fight Bagan to the death with help from her larvae to seal the monster back up in his tomb.

The stages of metamorphosis were accounted for in this proposal, but it also gave us the form we all recognize. Dubbed “Design A,” the hulking bipedal kaiju with horns atop its head is how he would appear in video games and everywhere else henceforth.

The former medium is where Bagan would really get to shine, starting with Super Godzilla in 1993. The final boss of the game, outranking even Ghidorah, Godzilla’s conventional attacks did little damage. It’s only when he can transform into something reminiscent of his cosmic crystallized clone that Godzilla can finally defeat Bagan.

The latter’s ultimate defeat, though, would be the circumstance of mercurial studio decision-making. Bagan was pitched as the villain for two more Godzilla movies that later turned into Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah respectively, and a sequel to the period fantasy Orochi, the Eight-Headed Dragon that was scrapped like everything else.

He made one final appearance in the Godzilla Movie Studio Tour PC game as a model for a customizable poster before disappearing for decades. He didn’t resurface until the puppet show Godziban debuted on YouTube in 2019.

That isn’t much to hang your hat on, but Bagan is still remembered the world over by diehard G-Fans. A few of them are filmmakers including Adam Wingard and Takashi Yamazaki, and who knows? They may have a Bagan-sized surprise for us all – depending on their next move.

NEXT: Kaiju History: Godzilla And Hedorah Were Poised For A Rematch In A Canceled Sequel

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