The Milky Way vs Godzilla
- Episodes : 1
- Genre : Action, Sci-fi, Adventure, Fantasy
- Airing Date : Nov. 17th, 2017 (Jan. 17th, 2018 Netflix premiere)
- Studios : Polygon Pictures
Godzilla: Kaijuu Wakusei Introduction and Story (Spoilers)
Godzilla has existed as a franchise for 63 years and counting. He’s been in dozens of movies, television shows, and animated cartoons. All this, and yet he’s never had an anime film? Well, all that’s changed with Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters.
Set in the near future, human beings were blindsided by the sudden appearance of Godzilla and other monstrous kaijuu. They completely ruined humanity’s way of life on Earth, to the point that sympathetic aliens extended a helping hand to the desperate earthlings. The two races, the Exif and Bilusaludo, attempted to help humanity defeat Godzilla, but their best weaponry was completely outmatched by the monster’s sheer power. In a desperate attempt to flee, the human race nuked Godzilla with a massive assault and fled to the stars. Fast forward 22 years, and things in space have gotten so desperate that they must risk returning, even if the biggest bad guy of all time is still roaming the Earth.
Unfortunately, things haven’t gone as planned with their warp home. They have arrived to Earth a staggering 20,000 years later, and it’s nigh unrecognizable. Not to mention, Godzilla is alive and kicking, as are a whole host of other beasts that rule the planet. Now it’s up to the vengeful Sakaki Haruo to defeat Godzilla and carve out a safe haven for humanity on the planet they once called home. Unfortunately for him, the king of the monsters has something to say about that.
What We Liked About Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
We’ve seen Godzilla lay complete waste to cities and towns, but his destruction has always been somewhat limited in scope. In Planet of Monsters, his destruction has escalated to world-ending annihilation. Sakaki Haruo watched helplessly as a child as Godzilla rampaged his way towards the fleeing lifeboats ferrying humanity to the stars, and even then, the monster’s lust for carnage would not let them leave peacefully. One thing the film does right is set a tone of destruction and desperation for all of humanity, and the chief and main culprit behind human extinction is Godzilla himself.
Even throughout the years when Godzilla was portrayed by a man in a suit, the character was always followed by a spectacle. Without the restrictions of practical special effects or a live-action cast, the reigns were free to let the kaijuu king cut loose. What’s more, this is the first setting for a Godzilla film that actively takes place in the distant future. The visuals, scenery, and weaponry all are completely alien to what fans have grown accustomed to from Godzilla in years prior. It’s a drastic departure from what Godzilla has seen before, but it’s something that feels perfect for an anime adaptation with the character.
The cast of characters is all acted by popular seiyuu. Many voices are recognizable from such series as Attack on Titan, Gintama and Durarara!!. Toho really put effort into getting an all-star cast for this film, and while the civilians are never really outstanding in any Godzilla film, their presence definitely doesn’t detract from the movie. It checks off just about every requirement for a blockbuster anime release, from visuals to voice talent, and it works well for the effort.
As the first of a planned trilogy of films, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters introduces mankind’s hopeless struggle in the distant future on a kaijuu infested Earth. While the spectacle is definitely there, the action is quite a bit forced, stiff, and the pacing gets lost frequently. The plot gets force-fed to the audience at the beginning, going from regular modern civilization to the sudden appearance of not one but two alien races. It even introduces Mecha-Godzilla, the most famous nemesis of the series, but he vanishes in the backstory in an instant.
The film gets the tone right. It feels desperate and frantic, and you want humanity to strike back at Godzilla for pushing them to the brink. The cast’s voicework is noticeable, and it feels fitting for their portrayals. The visuals are also topnotch for a 3DCG anime work, with the only outlier being Godzilla himself, seeming too stiff or wonky at times. Compared to Knights of Sidonia or Ajin, it’s Polygon’s prettiest work. It just feels too loaded at the beginning and end with information and importance.
The early days of a modern Earth making first contact with aliens amidst a Godzilla crisis would seem a much better starting point for this trilogy. All the exposition seemed exciting, but it’s glossed over in under a minute. Also the ending plot twist really gets the audience pumped up, but it’s, well, the end of the film. It feels like a very long teaser, but given that it leaves you excited for the next installment, it did something right.
1. An All-star Cast of Veteran Seiyuu
The seiyuu in the Japanese subtitled version of the film are all from very well known anime works. Each one of them has starred in an anime recently as a main character, and hearing them all at once is definitely a treat. Miyano Mamoru (Durarara!!) plays the main character Sakaki Haruo, and is able to go between impassioned war cries and strategic breakdown easily in his scenes. Alongside him is Hanazawa Kana (also from Durarara!!) and Kaji Yuki (Attack on Titan) playing supporting character roles in the film. There’s also Sakurai Takahiro (Berserk), Sugita Tomokazu (Gintama) and Suwabe Junichi (GATE). Chances are, even if you don’t recognize their names, you would easily recognize their voices or the anime they’ve starred in. It’s a nice cast that was put together for this film that definitely shows they weren’t slouching in the voice department.
2. Polygon’s Best Anime 3DCG Visuals Ever
To say it’s Polygon’s best-looking work is definitely not hyperbole. The studio has made a name for itself by exclusively doing 3DCG anime works that have been picked up by Netflix. Ajin, Knights of Sidonia and Blame round out the list of their adapted works, with the original Godzilla: Kaiju Wakusei being their latest. The space setting and aesthetic of ship design definitely evokes a similar feel to that of Knights of Sidonia. If you’re a fan of Polygon Pictures’ visual work, then you’re going to like this one as well.
3. It Feels Like an Epic Struggle
Humanity has been pushed past the brink. Godzilla has performed some epic feats of destruction before, but he’s never rendered humanity so desperate that they had to flee Earth. Even the advanced alien races that attempted to aid humans were beaten, and all three races have been soundly defeated.
Returning to Earth, Sakaki Haruo has made it clear that he intends to defeat Godzilla, even sacrificing their dropships to attack him at one point in the film. It’s all or nothing, and they don’t have the resources to return to space only to starve to death. Godzilla films have had him as both an antagonist and a heroic force, but the stakes have never been higher than in Kaijuu Wakusei.
1. Lackluster Exposition & Pacing Issues
First off, the film itself has a decent premise. The execution is just all over the place. Godzilla really doesn’t need an origin story, and he doesn’t get one here, but the introduction of two new alien races completely comes out of left field. Aliens have been a major force in previous Godzilla films, but they aren’t so prominent that fans would remember them. It feels completely odd that in the first few minutes of the film we’re told that humanity encountered not one but two alien races, they attempted to help us defeat Godzilla, and even built a Mecha-Godzilla. The film then rushes through the exposition to humanity dying in space.
The film deals with humanity adrift in space, living with aliens aboard their vessel and trying to survive. The majority of the scenes explaining this feel really wasted. The introduction of Haruo and his reluctance to abandon the elderly colonists feels meaningful, but afterwards, it’s just one character after another being introduced, with no impact or reason to be shown. The film doesn’t really get rolling until the last 30 minutes or so, where it dumps all the action together and calls it a day. For having such a fantastic voice cast, it really would have been interesting if the dialogue and scenes had more meaning to them. There’s still a lot of unanswered questions after that quick exposition.
2. Forgettable Action Sequences
Godzilla has been attacked by almost every conceivable weapon, but the ones in Kaijuu Wakusei have to be the most ill-conceived yet. To put it bluntly, they attack Godzilla with hover bikes... I agree that as futile as attacking Godzilla in general is, you wouldn’t want to waste a budget on defending a pilot, or putting much into a sizable craft, but during one sequence, he is bombarded by hover bikes. Attacking a near 400 ft beast on your elliptical machine doesn’t sound like a sound strategy. It didn’t really work out too well in the film, but even the mech tanks and robots didn’t work initially either. While the visuals of the film were good, the action didn’t really match it. Especially when Godzilla himself really felt more like a punching bag than any kind of monster. But more on that in the last point...
3. The Ole Bait & Switch
Humanity beats Godzilla in the end. Or so it seems… Turns out that the monster they’d been fighting for 45mins wasn’t Godzilla at all. It was some plant that adopted Godzilla’s likeness and cells, or something. The real Godzilla was awoken by the conflict of destroying the fake one, and he was truly menacing. Standing at over 300 meters, Godzilla grew in the 20,000 years humans had left him alone on Earth. It was a very exciting scene, but it just ruined the rest of the movie. It felt like a Jebaited meme. The big, new (technically old) Godzilla was what everyone wanted to see, not Cactus-zilla. We’ll have to wait for the sequels to see the real thing.
In some ways, Godzilla: Kaijuu Wakusei is better than we expected, but in other ways it’s just exactly what we feared. It does deliver a Godzilla-like experience in anime form with a lot of high-profile Japanese voice actors, so that’s a plus. Unfortunately, it can’t quite break the threshold and go from decent to highly entertaining. If you just want to watch another 3DCG anime and already have a Netflix subscription, enjoy. If you’re a Godzilla fan who wants to watch the king of the monster’s next chapter, this isn’t really it. Watch it, but keep expectations low.
What did you think of Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters? If you’ve seen it, let us know in the comments section. We’d like to know what you thought!