Godzilla Anime Trilogy: Existential Dread With a Dash of Kaiju

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Thomas Richards
| December 6, 2023
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For a series that’s been around for as long as Godzilla, I was surprised when I learned there weren’t many animated projects involving the Giant Lizard. Countless films have depicted various versions of the titular lizard, but there has never been a feature-length animated project. However, this all changed back in 2017 when Netflix and Toho joined forces to create an animated Godzilla film trilogy. Titled Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, City on the Edge of Battle, and The Planet Eater, this trilogy of films provides an entirely new take on Godzilla that is interesting to watch. This Polygon Pictures animated trilogy brought a lot of new ideas to the table, but were they any good? Continuing Godzilla Week here on Couch Soup, I decided that it was finally time to give these films a watch and see how they measure up.

20,000-Year Holiday

This friendship is totally gonna last. (Toho/Netflix)

In the trilogy’s first film, Planet of the Monsters, we learn that Humanity has been forced to flee the planet due to the appearance of monsters. These monsters include many past Godzilla favourites, such as Rodan and even the much-loathed Zilla from 1998 (a movie with a banger of a soundtrack that you can read more about here). The most dangerous of all is Godzilla, who killed the main character Haruo’s (Christopher Niosi) parents, right in front of him. This causes Haruo to hate Godzilla and spend the next 20 years planning revenge. With the help of some alien species, some humans can escape into space and begin searching for a new world. This doesn’t go to plan, and the Aratrum spaceship returns to Earth with a plan to kill Godzilla. But nearly 20,000 years have passed on Earth, and a lot has changed. What follows in the rest of this film and the sequels of City on the Edge of Battle and The Planet Eater is this determined group of people utilising every strategy they can think of to take down the now gigantic Godzilla Earth.

From the get-go, I was intrigued by the premise of this trilogy. Having Humanity being forced to flee Earth was a neat way to change how the story unfolded. Seeing Earth evolve and adapt to accommodate Godzilla was cool to see and gave us situations we hadn’t seen before. It was also neat to see Humans be the invaders, seeing as the planet is basically Godzillas by the time they return. I also enjoyed how the story escalated from film to film. Starting with military tactics, using advanced nano-machines, and eventually involving an extra-terrestrial monster, it was fun (and made the trilogy feel like a classic RPG, Fighting God and all).

However, the story did drag at some points and left me checking how much time was left. This only happened in the first film, but the pacing still hampered the experience. There also wasn’t any satisfaction from the conclusion of the story. Cool things happen, and then it just ends with no fanfare. While it does present interesting ideas around letting go of the past and not letting it influence the future, I think they could’ve achieved the same result in a more satisfying way.

You Been Working Out?

He’s been working out. (Toho/Netflix)

New Godzilla films mean new versions of Godzilla, and this trilogy has one of the largest versions of the lizard to date. While at the start of the trilogy, he looks relatively similar to previous versions, the real new version of Godzilla is revealed at the end of the first film. This gigantic version of Godzilla stands over 310 meters tall and is one chunky boi. It also looks like his entire body is covered in really strong rocks (which has to be a bitch to walk around with skin like that). I would’ve loved to see more from this version of Godzilla, but seeing as Earth has been reclaimed by nature, there aren’t exactly any buildings for him to smash. Regardless, he is still one cool-looking boi, even if he moves really slowly. Other monsters that appear are Godzilla hybrid creatures, a few seconds of Mothra, and Ghidorah (called Void Ghidorah here). Ghidorah gets a decent amount of screen time in the 3rd film, but I would’ve loved to see more than just his 3 heads.

Moving away from the monsters, some human/humanoid characters were enjoyable throughout the trilogy. I enjoyed watching Haruo get angrier and angrier at Godzilla with his single-minded determination. He actually reminded me a lot of Eren Yeager from Attack on Titan, as they both want to avenge their family by killing a giant monster. I also liked Metphies (Lucien Dodge), a member of the Exif religion group. I knew there would be some kind of twist with him, but I was still caught off guard by how far he went. The other characters are alright at best but not really noteworthy. The cast does an excellent job, but the writing holds them back. I did enjoy the relationships between the humans, the Exif, and the Technologically advanced Bilusaludo. These three groups and their interactions drive the plot forward. I also really liked the clashing ideologies and the story beats they create.

A Natural Look

He just curious. (Toho/Netflix)

On the visual side of things, the trilogy is animated beautifully. Polygon Pictures handled the animation for all three films and did a great job. They used 3D animation instead of 2D (which could’ve looked so cool) and created some breathtaking moments. The opening scene on Earth, when Godzilla is wrecking shit, was incredible to see. I also liked the big fights in the 1st and 2nd films, as ass the trippy imagery used in the 3rd. All of these make this trilogy relatively pretty to look at. The same can’t be said for the soundtracks, though, because it’s mostly bland. There’s a nice tune here and there, but it mostly becomes background noise and doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Having recently seen Shin Godzilla and Godzilla Minus One (which you can read more about here and here), I hoped this would be another banger soundtrack, but I was disappointed. Luckily, the music isn’t the main focus of this trilogy, so it doesn’t suffer much from a bland soundtrack.

It’s just a little nibble. (Toho/Netflix)

The Godzilla Anime Trilogy was a unique and enjoyable time. Because of the issues with the pacing, bland characters and soundtrack, and a plot that ends anti-climatically, I can’t recommend this trilogy to everyone. If you’re willing/wanting a trilogy of films that requires you to pay close attention and be patient, I’d say give this trilogy a watch. If I had to rank them from most favourite to least, it would be 2, 3, 1. I’d love to see them make another Godzilla film with a similar style to this trilogy in the future. There’s so much potential there; I’ll cross my fingers for more Godzilla films in this style.

Have you seen the Godzilla Anime Trilogy? What did you think? What’s your ranking of the films? Let us know in the comments where we can talk about all things Godzilla.

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