Film have depicted Mothra in various stages of the lepidopteran life cycle: Mothra's mammoth egg is brightly colored in blue and yellow waves. The egg hatches into her larva, a massive brown, segmented caterpillar (resembling a silkworm) with glowing blue—red when angry—eyes. In rare circumstances, twins may emerge from the egg. The caterpillar eventually spins a silken cocoon around itself (the pupa stage), and from this cocoon the imago (adult) Mothra emerges, a gigantic moth-like creature with brightly-colored wings. Mothra's life cycle—particularly the tendency of an imago's death to coincide with its larvae hatching—echoes that of the Phoenix, resembling resurrection and suggesting divinity. Despite having wrought destruction worthy of any Toho daikaiju, she is almost always portrayed as a kind and benevolent creature, causing destruction only when acting as protector to her worshipers on Infant Island or to her egg, or as collateral damage while protecting Earth from a greater threat. She has also fertilized her own eggs.
Mothra has proven a formidable adversary in combat: in larval form she may use her silken spray to wrap and immobilize an opponent, and has a knack for biting and clinging to foes' tails. In imago form her powers vary widely from film to film, including very animalistic scratching and dragging, incorporating several bolt and beam weapons in the Heisei era, and often concluding with a poisonous yellow powder (or "scales") —her last defense. Also, Mothra is given a short origin story in the Heisei series, with the Cosmos explaining that Mothra is a genetically engineered creation of the Cosmos made from fusing the remaining life energy of their race with a common lepidoptera.
Mothra is one of the most powerful psychics in the Toho universe. She has had the ability to use this power benevolently, to communicate with humans, or aggressively, to destroy her enemies. As suggested earlier, Mothra is assumed to be divine and draws many parallels to the Phoenix, which makes her one of the more powerful kaiju of the Toho universe.
Mothra has become one of Godzilla's more challenging opponents, having achieved the greatest success rate in battle save Godzilla himself: She has once rid of Godzilla in imago form, and twice Godzilla has fought her to the death only later to be bested by her newborn larvae. Mothra has never beaten Godzilla alone (in her Imago Form). Godzilla was defeated by Mothra twin-larvae in Godzilla vs. Mothra in the Showa Era, Imago Mothra and Imago Battra in Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth in the Heisei series, and the twin-larvae and Kiryu (MechaGodzilla) in the Millennium Series.
Mothra is the only kaiju other than Godzilla, Junior, and Mecha-King Ghidorah to appear in more than one Heisei Godzilla movie as she appears in Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla when she sends her Cosmos and Fairy Mothras to help out Miki. In the Heisei Era (1984–1995), Mothra gained her own series of films dubbed in America as the Rebirth of Mothra series (Rebirth of Mothra, Rebirth of Mothra II, and Rebirth of Mothra III). In Japan, the series is simply called the "Mothra Series"(Mothra, Mothra 2: Adventure Under the Sea, and Mothra 3: Attack of Grand King Ghidorah). These series are not connected to the Showa, Heisei or Millennium Godzilla movies and are standalone films aiming towards children. The movies start off as the last Mothra puts the last of her energy into a new egg. From this egg hatches Mothra Leo.
Mothra Leo is supposedly, and regarded as, male, as opposed to the pure female Mothras before (though the English dubbing is inconsistent, going back and forth between "she/her" to "he/him", even "it", and therefore its gender is left ambiguous). It also has "ever-increasing energy" which allows it to absorb energy from other sources to become stronger. The 10,000 year-old tree in Rebirth of Mothra allowed Mothra Leo to change into its imago form as "Mothra Leo", thought to be the most powerful Mothra of all time. Mothra Leo gains several forms throughout the Rebirth trilogy, such as Rainbow Mothra, Aqua Mothra, Light Speed Mothra, Armor Mothra, and Eternal Mothra.
In this series Mothra battled three opponents: Death Ghidorah, a flora-destroying horned beast with three heads; Dagahra, a toxic dragon-like sea creature; and finally Cretaceous King Ghidorah/Grand King Ghidorah, who comes back to Earth to feed of the life force of Japan's children.
In Godzilla Final Wars, Mothra once protected the world in ancient times from the space monster Gigan (this scenario echoes from the Heisei series of Godzilla films where Mothra was portrayed as an ancient defender of the earth and battle Battra, there are also similar cave-drawings of these two events). After being summoned by her Shobijin to help the Earth in a 21st century assault, Mothra flew over Tokyo to aid Godzilla in a battle against Monster X. The Xilien wouldn't let that happen, though, and they sent an improved Gigan to stop Mothra. Mothra is quickly dispatched by Gigan. Mothra quickly recovers and attacks Gigan and Monster X. Gigan resumes his battle with Mothra, using its laser vision beam, turning Mothra to a wall of fire. As a final effort, a burning Mothra flies towards Gigan, and both kaiju are destroyed in a kamakaze attack by the lepidopteran deity. Mothra does survive and she returns to Infant Island at the ending credits. This is the first time imago Mothra returns home directly after a battle involving Godzilla, excluding her brief appearances in Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster.
Unlike the majority of other Toho daikaiju, which are usually performed by stunt actors in a large costume, Mothra has always been operated mechanically as a wire controlled marionette, remote controlled robotic prop, or a combination of the two. Her characteristic chirp was created by speeding up the roar of Anguirus from Godzilla Raids Again. Mothra is known for her habit of dying somehow in many of the movies she has appeared in.
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