It’s been a while since we kaiju fans have had any new Gamera material to sink our teeth into — the last live-action film, Gamera the Brave, came out nearly twenty years ago, and it’s almost thirty years since its debut. The character’s most famous trilogy was born to challenge the old King Goji for the throne of great kaiju — so a brand new animated series seems like the perfect reintroduction to the series this to a new generation of fans. What’s more, the series is out on Netflix, which means (at least in theory) there’s a bigger chance than ever to reignite the fire of the Gamera fanbase. Then you see the name of the guy directing Gamera-Rebirth-, and suddenly the series’ prospects look extremely shaky.
Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m declaring Hiroyuki Seshita a bad director or something; Frankly, I haven’t seen enough of his series from start to finish to make such a sweeping and definitive statement. However, I can tell you that he’s been in charge of pretty much every Polygon Pictures-produced CGI anime series that Netflix has pushed over the years, from Ajin, to Knights of Sidonia, to the very causing their division. Godzilla film trilogy. I don’t necessarily think everything Seshita touches is terrible, but I think it’s fair to say that the work he and Polygon Pictures have produced is… well, it’s best to say it’s “inconsistent.”
Although Gamera-Rebirth-is a Studio ENGI production and not Polygon Pictures, it bears all the hallmarks of the latter studio’s (in)famous approach to 3D animation, so let’s get rid of this way right now: Gamera-Rebirth-looks funny. The fight scenes between Gamera and his various kaiju enemies all look pretty solid, and the set design/background work gives a very lively vintage flavor to the setting. However, most of the time the character animation is terrible. The characters all look like they’re made from cheap plastic, and their jerky movements aren’t helped by the decision to cut the frame rate in half.
I implore Japanese animators working with 3D rigs to accept the fact that mimicking the limited animation of traditional 2D anime doesn’t just automatically make a CGI series feel “anime-like” . Don’t bombard our eyeballs with this uncanny valley nonsense just because Studio Orange and the team behind those amazing Spider-Verse movies are talented enough to get away with it!
It’s a shame that the ugliness of Gamera-Rebirth’s visuals will likely turn off so many potential fans because underneath all of that is a solid kaiju adventure. For me, the biggest attraction is the extremely adorable and well-developed child actors. From the jump, the show delivers some strong summer fun vibes, bolstered by a hilarious profanity-filled English dub, combined with a truly stellar performance from Ryan Bartley (Boco), Robbie Daymond (Joe), Sean Chiplock (Brody), and Abby Trot (Junichi). Honestly, it feels as if a classic Stephen King story like IT or The Body was invaded by a bunch of bizarre man-eating giant monsters and I’m here for it. Each of the kids has a little journey to overcome as they navigate this strange world of government conspiracies and monster wars, and I felt very attached to them by the end of the series.
That’s a good thing, too, because if there’s one area where Gamera-Rebirth falters outside of its visuals, it’s all the sci-fi plot stuff crammed into the middle of the upcoming installment -The age of fantasy and sick monster battles. You might be thinking, “Oh, James, that can’t take up too much runtime…” although I’m sad to inform you that it really, really does. This season is only six episodes long, but each episode is nearly an hour long and the monster battles last only a few minutes each. That means whenever we’re not spending time with those sassy kids, we’re stuck with characters like Tazaki and Emiko, who get caught up in the hokey Organization storyline. so much life comes out of the movie. Things get worse in the final two episodes, when major plot points are dropped with absolutely no emotional impact, and the show continues to ask “what” and “why” questions. star” biggest in its premise with a series of sassy questions.
However, at the end of the day, Gamera is a franchise that has always been about the big flying turtle’s relationship with the children he protects from bad guys, and while Gamera-Rebirth-focuses on those elements, it was a fun time. I don’t think it will be easy for newcomers to the genre to overlook the film’s obvious flaws, but die-hard tokusatsu fans have largely gotten over the terrible production values and scientific stories. Stupid science fiction. I don’t think this one has enough power to make the fandom’s fire burn brighter than ever, but it might keep the fire burning long enough until Gamera’s next reboot.