Given his Japanese heritage and the long history of Anime that’s linked to the culture, it’s been consistently baffling to me that there hasn’t been more animated Godzilla projects over the years. Oh sure, Hanna-Barbera knocked out that nifty Godzilla cartoon back in the 70’s (altogether now: Up from from the depths, 30 storeys high…) and it’s easy to forgot that the Roland Emmerich remake got it’s own animated sequel series that was way better than it had any right to be – but apart from that… zip.
While there were other, Kaiju themed, anime doing the rounds (Attack On Titan immediately springs to mind) the Big G himself had to wait until 2017 until Toho and Netflix deemed to give him an animated trilogy to call his own. But to the disapointment of many, the trio of movies turned out to be something of a huge let down, focusing literally on everything else except the monsters leading to that age old complaint regularly suffered by monster enthusiasts – Kaiju Frustration.
However, when news broke that Toho and Netflix were planning to release a Godzilla series in 2021, fingers were crossed and prayers were made: could this latest attempt to animate cinema’s greatest monster finally bear fruit?
The year is 2030 and we follow two workers from the “do-it-all” Otaki Factory as they whizz around, trying to finish the latest job they were hired for. Essentially glorified handyman, the buff, sensitive Haberu Katõ and the cold, intelligent Yun Arikawa’s latest job is to example weird power surges located at an old mansion, but upon getting there they discover an old radio picking up a mysterious broadcast that takes the form of an old Indian folk song. Elsewhere, graduate student Mei Kamino has been brought in to assist at the old radio broadcasting station known as Misakioku to investigate a strange alarm that’s going off and she discovers that it’s connect to – you guessed it – the same broadcast of that old, weird song.
Haberu and Yun’s boss, the old and noticeably eccentric Gorõ Õtaki, speculates that it probably has something to do with aliens and then gets back to work on his life’s obsession, creating a robot warrior dubbed Jet Jaguar in order to be Earth’s protector and while he’s showing off his creation at a local festival, he finally finds he may get his chance when a giant, pterodactyl shows up and starts wrecking the joint.
Elsewhere, Mei is contacted online by a copy of an A.I. created by Yun named Naratake that declares it wants to help and is subsequently re-named Pelops II after Mei’s dog, but the most alarming revelation is that in the basement of Misakioku, resides the skeleton of a huge monster as a familiar theme plays over the end credits….
The reason I was so excited when I first heard that Godzilla was branching out into the realm of Anime, I naturally was excited as it suggested that the franchise could move into realms where the physics of a dude in a suit kicking over a model building was no longer an issue and the only thing that could limit the imagination would be – well, the limits of imagination. However, while the format was utilised to explore a future where Godzilla and his fellow Kaiju had made mankind flee Earth, the Netflix trilogy was famously short on monster action, falling into the familiar Kaiju trap of focusing too much on the humans when animation meant you could focus on the creatures like never before.
Still, despite this, my hopes were high that this series, subtitled Singular Point, would go some way to address the balance, but based on the first episode, I’d best not hold my breath.
Ok, maybe I’m being a bit harsh, because of course the pilot episode was going to be character heavy as it introduces its cast as they individually stumble upon the fringes of a strange conspiracy centred around a strange folk song and the strange goings on at Misakioku. The Anime archetypes are in full effect, with the stock characters of a excitable pixie girl; shy hunk; intense brainiac and crazy old man all present and correct and not breaking a single mold and it’s not long before the old twinges of frustration and impatience wind their way back into your mood.
Yes, the conspiracy plot is a slow burner, with many of the early scenes featuring Yun and Haberu wandering round a house, discussing metaphysical theories, while Mia conversed with an annoyingly hyper-active A.I., however, the show thankfully holds attention by being dusted by a surprisingly dense layer of verbal and visible Easter eggs that prove to be incredibly rewarding to spot. Be it a background poster featuring Hedorah: The Smog Monster or a spoken namecheck to the dimension travelling bugs from Godzilla Vs. Gigan, the episode is crammed full of them which keeps things ticking over until some familiar faces turn up.
To be honest, I’d never thought I’d be so glad to see the permanently gurning face of day-glo robot Jet Jaguar, rebooted on screen as he’s ret-conned into being a wonky-limbed mecha that draws jeers from the crowds due to its ungainly appearance. As well as a role for the magnificently kitschy droid, our first proper view of a Kaiju is when a noticably smaller-than-we’re-used to Rodan suddenly shows up at the end of the episode to raise a ruckus and while he now looks far more like a standard pteranodon than some nondescript flying lizard monster, his movie-accurate roar assures us it’s really him.
Finally, to reassure us that this Godzilla series will actually have some Godzilla in it, the final shot bestows upon us a giant skeleton that is awfully reminiscent of the gargantuan bones seen at the end of the original movie that were left behind after the Oxygen Destroyer weapon had done its work. It’s fan service like this that carries this first episode through it’s rather slow, exposition-heavy, start and give us hope that things will pick up, because there’s nothing worse than a Kaiju property without any sodding Kaiju in it…