Ishiro Honda wanted to direct movies more than anything. According to a Criteria Collection Essay, he gave up dental school to pursue a film program at Nihon University. He found work in his early twenties at Photographic Chemical Laboratories, which would later become known as the famed Toho Film Studio. In 1934, while training as an assistant director, Honda was called to the front by the Imperial Japanese Army to fight in China. He would be drafted again and again until 1946. By the time Honda had been discharged for the last time, he had spent more time as a soldier than he had ever had as a manager. “When I came back,” he said, “I had to start over.”
After returning to Japan, Honda made a name for himself as an assistant director. His friend Akira Kurosawa, himself a successful director, came to trust him with his own projects. Honda’s first film as a full-fledged director was 1951’s “The Blue Pearl.” He was 40 years old. Honda quickly became adept at directing small-scale comedies and dramas. But it was his war films, “Eagle of the Pacific” and “Farewell Rabaul,” that brought him into contact with special effects pioneer Eiji Tsuburaya and built his own reputation as a spectacle purveyor. Toho chose Honda to direct “Gojira”, and his fate was sealed.