Like “Gojira,” the original 1954 film, “Godzilla Minus One” is a war movie, even though it mostly takes place after the end of World War II. In the opening scene, we meet Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki), a Japanese kamikaze pilot who abandons his squadron under false pretenses of mechanical trouble. He lands at the airbase on Odo Island, fearing that the other soldiers will condemn him as a coward. However, the commander of the base actually supports him, saying that it’s foolish to die when Japan seems destined to lose the war.
That night, the entire base is wiped out by Godzilla — a prehistoric dinosaur of some kind known to the locals. Koichi has a chance to shoot the monster, but he panics, leaving him and mechanic Sosaku Tachibana (Munetaka Aoki) as the only survivors. Scorned by Tachibana for his cowardice, Koichi returns home after the war to find his Tokyo neighborhood decimated by American bombings. In the rubble, he meets Noriko (Minami Hamabe), a young woman caring for an orphaned baby named Akiko. The three form a kind of family, while Koichi gets a job dismantling mines off the coast of Japan.
In a montage, we see that Godzilla is mutated by the nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll and begins attacking U.S. ships. He eventually reaches Japan, where he destroys more ships and lays waste to Tokyo’s Ginza district, seemingly killing Noriko in the process. Devastated, Koichi joins a civilian effort to kill the beast, volunteering to serve as bait while flying an untested experimental aircraft from the war.