Godzilla Singular Point episode 1 premiered on Netflix in Japan yesterday, marking the second time Godzilla has made the jump into anime following the mixed response of the Polygon Pictures-produced movie trilogy in 2017 and 2018.
This was one of the most anticipated anime of the upcoming season as well, thanks to name recognition, a strong staff list, and a collaboration between Bones and Studio Orange. What was promised was an exciting new story within the Godzilla universe that explored kaiju from a new angle while paying tribute to monsters from throughout the franchise… But does it deliver?
While still too early to judge, the signs are promising. Much of episode 1 is spent fleshing out the characters of this story and where they and kaiju fit into the world of Godzilla Singular Point. As much as the trailers teased the return of monsters from throughout the Godzilla franchise from the Showa era until the modern day, their introductions will have to wait.
The series instead opens on a street festival that soon shifts to an abandoned mansion as Yun Arikawa and Haberu Kato from Otaki Factory go to investigate strange sounds that have been heard emanating from the empty building. The company are helpers around Etsuo City that they do alongside their main project, which is the creation of a giant fighting robot known as Jet Jaguar.
Meanwhile, you have researcher Mei Kamino also investigating a strange sound heard at the Former Tsugino District Administration Bureau, and in both locations, they hear the same strange ancient song. The source of this sound is unknown, but it seems to awaken the ancient kaiju, as the next day the festival is attacked by Rodan.
Until the very end of the episode with the appearance of Rodan, those coming into the show with the expectation of monster destruction may be somewhat disappointed. Trailers for Godzilla Singular Point released before the premiere of episode 1 did suggest a more human-driven story within the universe of Godzilla. Considering the titular creature makes no appearance in the episode, the anime reinforces the idea that the place of humanity in the world of the kaiju is the focus of this coming series.
The best kaiju movies from the last 50 years have come when the place of the people suffering the consequences of kaiju attacks or who have some sort of affinity to the creatures is placed front and center, as seen with the original Godzilla (1954), Godzilla vs Hedorah, Shin Godzilla, and the Heisei Gamera trilogy. Mei herself is a researcher interested in creatures that don’t exist, with the assumption of her research being that kaiju were once deified but never actually existed, while Yun is simply a talented programmer doing odd jobs. These are ordinary people who have their lives and livelihoods altered by kaiju and need to adapt.
Much of the Showa era of Godzilla, from which the anime takes heavy inspiration with the kaiju included and the bright color palette of the show, mostly center the extraordinary and even the extraterrestrial and use that to justify the kaiju battles on screen or to pad the runtime. The examples cited before, however, more closely integrate the kaiju and human storylines, something that you can see taking place throughout the episode as we’re given time to get to know this cast of characters as people before the tragedy.
Even when the action does come into play at the very end of episode 1, the introduction of Rodan and the initial destruction caused is framed in Godzilla Singular Point from the perspective of these characters. They don’t understand what a kaiju is or why this ancient dinosaur is here, and when buildings are destroyed, we feel fear and terror as innocent civilians flee in terror.
This is a unique project within the Godzilla franchise. Bar poor-quality cash-ins, an episodic TV format is new for Godzilla, which also serves to give the story more room to breathe than your typical movie. Aside from the CG animation of the prior Netflix movie trilogy, the franchise hasn’t had a serious attempt to tell a major story within the animated medium, and I can’t think of any studios better for the challenge than Bones and Orange.
The anime should be applauded for taking the franchise in a new direction. Still, this is an introduction, and as interesting as the premise of this series is, it’s hard to glean much about the future direction of the series from just these opening moments. But with a tantalizing post-credits tease for the series to come and an enjoyable introduction to the main cast, this has all the signs of a great anime.
Godzilla Singular Point is now streaming on Netflix in Japan, and will release internationally later this year.