You know, you'd think that since anime and Godzilla are so big in Japan that they'd combined the two a long time ago. Surprisingly, it took 60+ years to actually do so. Now, we have the first of a brand new animated trilogy called "Godzilla: Monster Planet", released not too long ago in Japan and more recently on Netflix (complete with English dub).
In this refreshing iteration, mankind lost the war for dominance over the Earth to the kaiju, chief among them Big G. With the help of two alien races, the survivors set off to the stars to colonize another planet, but it proved incompatible. Low on resources and options, they return to retake the Earth. However, it's been 20,000 years since they left and not only is there now an ecosystem of monsters but Godzilla, still alive after all this time, reigns supreme. Who will win, man or monster?
Right from the start, they show you of just how grim a situation humanity is in as hope and pride are barely holding on by a thread. In fact, it gets pretty dark at certain times. The humans are in such a sorry state that you sympathize with them but there are tiny hints that they as a species had it coming. There are also religious themes weaved into the story, including references to divine retribution. The cast is a mixed bag. The protagonist is Haruo, who is basically Ahab or Eren Jaeger from "Attack On Titan" (for anime fans reading this). He's passable I guess, though he tends to repeat himself from time to time, which gets old. Scientist Martin and commander Leland are a little more interesting as are two of the main aliens, but the rest are pretty bland and it's hard to say whether they'll get more development in the near future.
As for Godzilla, I love his design. He kind of resembles his 2014 look but with his body looking like a mix between muscle and tree bark and sporting new variations on his abilities. It's also the largest version yet and the animation emphasizes his immense size with slow, foreboding movements. He truly feels like a force of nature and he's got the power to boot; if he has you in his sights, you know you're screwed. New to the franchise are Servum, dragon-like beasties that are nice secondary threats to the humans. Most of the other kaiju are nothing more than cameos in the opening montage. Given the title "Monster Planet", having them show up more in the story would've provided more exploration of this ecosystem.
The overall story is good, though the first half is a touch slow. The reason is simply to establish this universe and provide exposition on the characters' plight and plan to reclaim Earth. This does provide decent suspense and once the monsters show up, it's mostly action. Speaking of which, the battles offer enough thrills to satisfy, pitting futuristic technology against beastly power and the animation allows for great visuals that you normally wouldn't get in live action. Expect a few good plot twists, one hell of a cliffhanger, and an after-credit scene.
Despite the aforementioned flaws, I'm still glad I saw this. The sequel expected to be released this May, this time featuring Mechagodzilla, which I look forward to. It's weird now seeing three separate Godzilla series happening at once, which is a first (Monsterverse, Shin, and Anime). Long live the King of the Monsters!
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