English Title: Gamera Rebirth
Japanese Title: ガメラ-リバース-
Director(s): Seshita Hiroyuki
Screenwriter(s): Seshita Hiroyuki, Ihara Kenta, Seko Hiroshi, Yamada Tetsuya
Runtime: 6 episodes, ~45m each.
Starring: Kanemoto Hisako, Toyosaki Aki, Matsuoka Yoshitsugu, Kimura Subaru, Hayami Saori, Miyano Mamoru
My Verdict: Short and tight series. A little unfocused at first, somewhat children-orientated but also too dark for it to be. Still, mostly satisfying.
● Boco, Joe and Junichi are three friends who have just finished elementary school. One day during the summer, they find a turtle that is stuck. Boco insists on freeing it and does so. They also get bullied by Brody, the son of an American general based in Japan. The three later confront Brody when all of them get caught up in a kaiju attack. A giant turtle then turns up…
● Written and directed by Seshita Hiroyuki, who also directed the recent Godzilla anime trilogy, Gamera Rebirth adopts what is essentially the same CG style despite being made by a different production company.
● The designs are good. The environment, vehicles, monsters and characters generally look good. However, their actual motion is somewhat crude and this is the main weakness of the style.
● The premise and plot are simple, which is not a bad thing. Kaiju turn up going after the children, Gamera then turns up, and they fight it out.
● Why the kaiju turn up and go after the children is initially part of the mystery. There is also some mystery behind orylium, a substance that kaiju needs. Similar to the recent MonsterVerse live-action films, there is an organization (called the Eustace Foundation) that research kaiju and anything associated with it, including orylium. These elements are part of the backstory (history), sci-fi and politics of the series.
● The premise, at least in part, and main characters are seemingly orientated towards a younger audience. The main characters are children and they get bullied by Brody and then conveniently make friends with him. The Eustace Foundation supposedly wants to protect people, particularly children, which is fine, but they just take in the four children and show them their secret stuff. It’s like a cheesy children’s show.
● However, the tone and kaiju action are dark and brutal enough to be not suitable for too young an audience. The politics, although written simply enough, are also beyond a children’s story. It’s not jarring and the attempt to be balanced is appreciated, but it would be more focused if it leans more towards one or the other.
● It doesn’t take much to guess why the kaiju are attacking. In this regard, I am a little surprised the story is allowed to be told this way.
● Some of the characters are a little annoying to begin with, which is not uncommon in children-orientated stories.
Brody is the stereotypical obnoxious white boy who has little respect for (Japanese) etiquette although he is appreciative after the three save him.
Boco is a kind and decent boy. For someone who is not stupid, he is way too trusting and accepting of Brody even though he just got bashed by him a few days ago.
Junichi is at times the way-too-enthusiastic nerd. Not surprisingly, the “conspiracy theorist” is presented as the weirdo. [Inconsequential Spoiler] By the way, Junichi is a girl. Making a character tomboyish is one thing, but making her totally boy-like in appearance and giving her a masculine name (even if it is supposed to be a nickname) and then go “Oh, didn’t you know she’s a girl?” is just cringe. Thankfully, the series does not dwell on it so it is inconsequential in terms of plot, but the way this “twist” is done still comes across as stupidly woke.
Joe is the only one who is outright likable. The three friends obviously form a triad with Joe being the pragmatic one, constantly warning his friends to be careful. To be fair, all three are serious-natured and, in that sense, quite mature.
The two main adult characters are Eustace Foundation employees who deal with the four children. One is James Tazaki, basically a “suit” who is more involved with politics. The other is Emiko Melchiorri, the “scientist chick” who is always wearing really shot denim shorts because it’s anime.
As for Gamera, he is simply the hero. He is unlike some versions of Godzilla which are deliberately ambiguous, starting off as the villain and then becomes the good guy when another kaiju appears. Gamera is more like a loyal guard dog that will defend you at great risk to himself, and he somehow just knows who to take out. His facial expressions are melancholic. The pathos is presented simply, arguably cheap even, but it works.
● I won’t elaborate to avoid spoiling but some of the expositions, although they make enough sense, are a little convenient in their method. This is somewhat expected in a short 6-episode series. It is tight so some events may come across as convenient. On balance, the pacing across the series is well-handled.
● The pacing for each episode is also good. At around 45 minutes, each feels more full-bodied than a 25-minute episode but without feeling slow. That said, at least one Gamera fight can be longer. Although a long protracted fight with cheesy action should be avoided, there needs to be a little buildup to the finishing move by the titular character.
● Despite a few weaknesses, the production (unless one cannot tolerate the CG style) and voice acting are good. The story is sufficient, perhaps a little predictable, but it works well enough. There are some unanswered questions regarding the origins of the kaiju, particularly Gamera, but that is presumably deliberate—after all, part of the mythology is to, perhaps paradoxically, not know the entire mythology. If there is to be another series, then that has to reveal more, but there is enough of an ending for this series. I would be interested to see a follow-up.
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