When a group of children try to plan their last summer together, their summer is flipped upside down when giant, man-eating monsters begin to appear. Their only hope to save them is from a giant turtle called Gamera.
When the director for Gamera Rebirth was revealed to be Hiroyuki Seshita there was a lot of hesitation towards this show. This was because Seshita also directed the Godzilla Polygon trilogy, which was not received very well. Since then, there was an interview with Seshita from Sci-Fi Japan and he sort of tried to clear the air on his work with Godzilla to get to the point that this Gamera anime was his original vision for Godzilla and admits the Godzilla movies he did make were not the anime he wanted to make. On top of that, apparently the success of the anime is what will determine Gamera's future and I have to say there could be a very bright future awaiting for the big turtle because Gamera: Rebirth is one of my most favorite kaiju anime ever. It is right up there with Pacific Rim: The Black as a close second place.
Story and Characters:
The story is sort of like the Showa era, with a good blend of the Heisei trilogy. The approach Seshita went with here is the monster-of-the-week approach for each episode and it still works. I really like this approach as it doesn't feel too many monsters are on one screen and the story can focus on both the characters and the monsters without complications. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
It starts off with Boko, Joe, and Junichi trying to gather enough money to purchase a radio so when they are away from each other in the next school year they could keep in contact with each other. However, the American boy, Brody, steals their money from them and Boko plans a counter offense to get the money back from the bully. As the three kids were about to stand up to Brody, the Gyaos began to attack Tokyo and started eating people. Two of the Gyaos spots the children and flies toward their direction to hunt them down until Gamera appears and saved the kids as well as save the city from the swarm of Gyaos. The kids were then met agents from a secretive organization called the Eustace Foundation and from there the four of them began their journey learning more about Gamera and the five monsters and how the Eustace Foundation are involved with the monsters.
Starting with Brody, I thought he was going to be the problem child through out the show and it turns out that isn't the case. In the first episode, he was the bully and the problem child, yet by the second episode he sort of inserted himself as the fourth member of this circle of friends. We see Brody has a tough upbringing as he lives under a very strict father who happens to be an American general of the American Air Force and the kids understood why Brody is the way he is. So I really liked how Brody went through a series of changes in each episode. He went from the kid that stole money from these kids to actually becoming a really good friend to Boko, Joe, and Junichi by the end of the show. So I feel he had the most character development out of everyone else. My only gripe with Brody was how he gets flustered after finding out Junichi is a girl. His sudden crush over Junichi after learning she was a girl seemed forced and off putting.
Boko is the main character who happens to be the one that tried to plan on buying that radio and developed a psychic link with Gamera. He looks up to Joe for protection because he is so small and gets picked on a lot by other kids. After his first experience with Gamera, he sees images and reading Gamera's thoughts which reveals Gamera's backstory little by little.
Joe is Boko's closest friend who sees Boko like a little brother to him. He lives with an unemployed father who does nothing other than drink forcing Joe having to work just to keep the lights on. It didn't use to be this way for Joe as he did reveal that he once had a little brother and a mother, which both of them died in an accident. His father lost his job and was unable to find work, which resulted in Joe's father to turn to drinking. Joe is also the cautious and most rational one of the group. He knows when something is dangerous and shouldn't trust the situation and his keen intuition would turn out to be correct. He didn't even want to go with the Eustace Foundation in the first place because it means experiencing more monsters and all he wanted was to spend the rest of the summer with Boko and Junichi doing what kids do as well as teaching Boko how to ride a bike. He was even the most stubborn towards Brody because Brody had tempted Boko and Junichi into exploring a tunnel system to go look for Jiger. At the end of the day, he is a real bro that is willing to sacrifice his own life to save his friends. That moment is one that I did not expect an anime like this would happen. Usually, child characters would turn out fine and everyone is back to being happy again. Not with this anime. Gamera: Rebirth did not shy away from showing a death scene and it is a really sad moment because the show really has you caring about these children. It made me want to see all of them live through the end of the show. So I honestly feel as though Joe as a character was the strongest character in the group as he is the bravest character among the children.
Junichi is the brains of the group and I feel was the weakest character. She did not get much of a character development other than kids thought she was weird for being interested in aliens and the paranormal, but Joe and Boko were the only ones that accepted her for who she was. Junichi actually reminded me of a character in the Digimon anime that was also the brainiac kid named Izzy because of how smart she is and her voice was even similar. If the show had more episodes to allow this character to develop more then perhaps I would like her more. Maybe in a season 2 if one ever gets made the show can go into further character development.
Along side the children characters, we have the characters from the Eustace Foundation: Emiko and James. The Eustace Foundation in the show is sort of like the "anti-Monarch." It is an organization that the whole world knows about and much like Monarch from the Monsterverse they have known about the existence of the monsters for a long time. Unlike Monarch, however, instead of containing them to protect both the monsters and the whole world this organization had a more nefarious reason. As it turned out, the Eustace Foundation is really a front for a race of humans from an ancient civilization to resurrect the monsters to control the human population on Earth.
Emiko first comes off as a laid back kind of girl and acts like the big sister to the children. This is because she and James were assigned to babysit them and make sure they don't actually die from the monsters. For most of the season, she was a very likable character. She really seemed like a caring person, at first. Then by episode 5, her personality drastically changes and turns out she was not as kind of a person as she made herself out to be. Finding out Emiko is one of the main human antagonists was a real punch to the gut not because I liked the character, but because it seemed sort of forced. I had the idea that something was up with the organization itself yet I didn't get anything that seemed off about Emiko. Her change in personality and the reveal of her being the antagonist was a total one-eighty from how she was through out most of the anime. If there were some scenes here and there that hinted at Emiko's involvement is more sinister then I would understand. It just seemed like Seshita didn't know how to present it.
James Tazaki is another agent of the Foundation, but he is an outsider and very committed to his job as an agent. However, he comes off as a coward and does not handle stress very well. He didn't try to abandon the mission not once, but twice and both times his get away boat or copter would get destroyed. He hated the idea of babysitting children to the point he felt as though it was above his pay grade. When Emiko revealed her insidious plan on what she was going to do with the children, he played a double agent. He first started off deceiving the children into believing he never cared about them and only wanted a seat on the rocket to the moon. His shining moment, however, was when he was able to save the kids by using Viras's awakening as a distraction and leading the children out to safety. I honestly couldn't care about this character. I thought James was annoying and useless until the fifth episode where his character really came to shine. As much as I liked this moment, it is not really enough for me to like the character overall and felt underdeveloped.
The Monsters and Monster Fights:
When it came to the monsters, the monster designs look fantastic; some I like more than others. I even enjoyed some of the fights. When it came to the monster fights, Seshita really delivered for the anime. Some fights were better than others, but I loved every moment. This is what the Godzilla Polygon trilogy should have delivered rather than a Godzilla that barely moves an inch, beams everywhere, and a three flying spaghetti monsters lifting Godzilla up and putting him back down. More so, the music used for whenever Gamera arrives and a fight starts really got me hyped for the fight that was about to take place. I remember one person say it reminded them of a commercial from Home Depot, but I guess you could put this in any commercial that is supposed to make you feel manly. Put this in any commercial for a truck like Chevrolet, Ford, or Ram and you get the same result. So the animation, music, and monster fights for Gamera: Rebirth I give two thumbs WAY up. I even liked how in every episode, we see the scars Gamera sustained from the previous episodes still shown. The director even said that we would see Gamera carry his scars from beginning to end and he certainly carries more than just scars with him. So I really appreciate them keeping up with the finer details.
Gamera's design is definitely using the 2016 concept teaser design with some tweaks added to it. There are some inspiration from Gamera 3 and the Monsterverse Godzilla put into the design, as well, and it helps make this Gamera stand out from the previous iterations. Gamera acts like a friend to the children harking back to his "friend of all children" title from the Showa era, but he also has a backstory which it is not just children he is protecting. His entire backstory goes thousands of years back to when an ancient civilization that was way far advanced and those that took care of him gave him his final mission, which was to live on and protect the next civilization. So I really like how the story didn't go along with Gamera protecting children willy-nilly because he likes children. The story explains that he had a far greater task and it was a great way to meld the Showa and Heisei eras together quite well.
Gyaos has been a long recurring monster through out the Gamera series and it was no surprise to see it return here. The design for Gyaos is also similar to the 2016 concept teaser design with some tweaks here and there. There is even one moment where Gamera fires a fire ball at a swarm of Gyaos and they evaporate almost immediately. That was even taken from the 2016 teaser. I really like how demonic they look. It looks very unnatural and unsettling to look at. Gyaos has even come a long way since the Showa era. In the monster's first movie, it was supposed to be a giant vampire bat. Now, it is turned into more of a carnivorous bird of sorts. There were a few scenes when Gyaos used their beams it would slice through buildings very similar to Godzilla's beam in Shin Godzilla. It was powerful, but it wasn't as powerful do heavy damage to Gamera. So there beams were nerfed in this show as opposed to previous iterations.
From the Showa era, Jiger was a ceratopsian monster that shot needles from its tusks, could lay parasites inside Gamera, and shoot an orange death beam. In the anime, Jiger still has that head that looks ceratopsian, but the design has drastically changed to looking more like a rat. Jiger has no orange death beam, it can't shoot needles, and while it did have a stinger it didn't lay any parasites inside Gamera, which makes this monster seem nerfed down and it made me disappointed that the only way Jiger was able to get the upper hand on Gamera was mostly because of human interference. So Jiger was not my most favorite enemy monster in the series, but it did have the best death scene. My favorite moment was when Gamera used his plasma fist and rammed it up Jiger's mouth. Rob from Entertainment Talk Nation had given a name for that finisher move that I actually like. He called it the "fist of death." So now we have the "fist of death" for Gamera and the "kiss of death" for Godzilla, which I must say is very fitting and it was a very brutal death scene.
Zigra is another odd monster from the Showa era whose design drastically changed for this show. At first, I thought maybe Zigra in this show was a Gyaos variant that could swim underwater because it did sort of look like Gyaos based on the beak, the wings, the long tail, and the wings. Unlike Gyaos, however, there is a method to this monster's madness. The way it hunts and fights is more like how a sperm whale hunts with echo location and it can extend its tail to make it longer. It isn't being "dumb monster smashes stuff." It actually observes the situation and can adapt to the situation. I also really like the underwater dog fight between Gamera and Zigra. It really looked like they were flying with all of the zipping around and that's one thing I like about animation. You can do a lot more with fight scenes that can't be achieved in live action and this underwater dog fight shows one aspect of how creative you can get. So I really like this approach done with Zigra, but I also feel as though Zigra fell too shortly.
Guiron's design has not changed as drastic as the others, but my lord was this the craziest one! This is perhaps my most favorite villain in the anime. That giant blade it has for a head is no joke. It basically trashes the main hub of the Eustace Foundation before Gamera arrives. Every time it is about to attack it does a back flip turned forward flip and slices the buildings around it. Guiron still has the shurikens, but rather than shooting them from its head Guiron shoots them out from its back, which was nicely done. The way Guiron fights is very straight forward. Keep slicing and stabbing until the turtle is dead. Guiron can't sustain damage very easily and it costed Gamera an arm, an eye, and internal bleeding in the organs just to beat Guiron, which involved Gamera turning into a giant saw blade. So for Guiron, I really enjoyed this monster a lot and I don't think I could do the monster enough justice on just how this thing was. I was very happy with this monster overall.
Viras is the fifth and "final" monster Gamera fights. I put final in quotations because there is a sixth monster Gamera fights, but I will get to it when I get there. Viras is this squid monster that the Eustace Foundation was going to sacrifice the kids to. Ironically, they even call it the "golden devil," which sounds familiar as Ghidorah was interpreted as the devil with three heads. It appears in the fifth episode and after it reawakens it had this final boss music going. I was even surprised that Viras could fly because Viras didn't fly in the Showa era. The design is just another giant Kraken monster, which honestly feels underwhelming. Also, all Viras did was grab Gamera, lift him up in the air, and shock him until he is unconscious and that was the majority of the fight. The rest that happened was that Gamera flew after Viras and shot straight through Viras killing the monster instantly. I honestly wish this was not the fight. This one could have been more action packed with all of the creative decision that was granted to him and he decided to redo the Godzilla vs Ghidorah fight from Godzilla: The Planet Eater. So yeah, I was not as impressed with this monster nor the fight that took place.
There has been this theory going around that a hidden sixth opponent was going to appear ever since the second trailer dropped back in July. And the theory was right as a sixth opponent did make an appearance, but it was a mutated Gyaos with large ears. It wasn't Barugon nor Legion nor was it Iris as some have speculated. Again, Gyaos has always been Gamera's arch enemy. So having Gyaos be the final opponent makes sense. I was hoping maybe a new original monster could show up. If we are lucky, maybe we can get a season 2 and we can get other monsters in this show.
The animation in Gamera: Rebirth is a hit and miss. When it came to the monsters, the animation and CGI look great. It is mostly expected for the monsters to be animated in CG and it could have turned out very poorly much like the Godzilla Polygon trilogy. Yet, it went far better than expected. When it comes to animation and using CGI you can get really creative with the monster fights that couldn't be achieved with rubber suits. For instance, when we see Gamera using his UFO mode to turn into a buzz saw to slice Guiron in half or when he turned into a flying ball to kill the mutated Gyaos those moments couldn't really be achieved the same way with rubber suits.
When it comes to the CGI and animation for the characters, however, it's really rough to look at. There are times they look fine enough, but a lot of the time the human cast look very plastic looking. It is like the CGI is trying to render 2D and it is having a really hard time doing so. Seshita has heard of the criticisms of using CGI to make his anime shows and movies and it hasn't deterred him from animating human characters in 3D. So my criticism is to not rush these projects and find a new style. The anime style of animation is clashing a lot with the CG. If he looked at CG animated movies like Toy Story and Shrek he could get a better understanding as to how to make the humans look more life like. Better yet, look at the newer Final Fantasy games. Very animated, very expressive emotions, very colorful, and the animation does not clash with CG in the cut scenes. I even say take a look at Pacific Rim: The Black. It basically replicates the very same kind of animation that Seshita tries to attempt, but done a lot better. Again, the characters are very expressive and detailed in that show and was animated very well. If he can replicate the animation as good as Pacific Rim: The Black he would be golden.
Ever since the Godzilla Polygon trilogy, there was a lot of fears of whether or not Gamera: Rebirth will be a success under Hiroyuki Seshita and I am proud to say yes, this show is a HUGE success in my book. While the animation is a hit or miss, the story is great, the characters are likable, most of the monsters look great, and the show delivers on the monster fights. If any kaiju fan is on the fence on this show, I can safely say we have a winner, winner chicken dinner on our hands.
I want to know what your thoughts are on Gamera: Rebirth. Did you or did you not like the show? What did you like most and what did you like the least? Leave a comment in the comments section of your thoughts on the anime. Make sure to follow me on Facebook, Minds, MeWe, Gab, and TRUTH Social to stay up to date for more news, reviews, and discussions.