The last live-action Gamera movie, Gamera the Brave, came out almost 20 years ago, and it has been almost 30 years since the character’s most well-known trilogy of films arrived to challenge Old King Goji for the grand kaiju throne. Therefore, a brand new anime series sounds like the kind of thing that would be the ideal way to reintroduce the franchise to a new generation of fans. In addition, the Netflix release of the series implies that there is (at least theoretically) a greater possibility than ever before to rekindle the Gamera fandom. When you learn who is directing Gamera -Rebirth, the series’ future suddenly becomes quite uncertain.
Now, I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I am calling Hiroyuki Seshita a bad filmmaker or anything; to be completely honest, I haven’t seen enough of his series to the very end to draw such a broad, firm conclusion. But I can tell you that he’s been in control of virtually all of the Polygon Pictures-produced CGI anime programs that Netflix has promoted over the years, including Ajin, Knights of Sidonia, and their polarizing Godzilla film trilogy. The work Seshita and Polygon Pictures have done is, well, let’s just say it’s “inconsistent,” at best. I don’t think everything Seshita has touched is terrible, necessarily, but I think it’s fair to say so.
Let’s get this out of the way right away: Gamera -Rebirth- is a Studio ENGI production, not a Polygon Pictures collaboration, although it has all the characteristics of the latter studio’s (in)famous method of 3D animation.
Gamera – Rebirth — looks awfully janky. The battles between Gamera and his different kaiju foes all appear to be well-staged, and the background and set design really bring the period-piece feel of the location to life. However, the majority of the time, the character animation is truly terrible. The decision to cut the framerate in half did not assist the characters’ herky-jerky movement, which all appear to be constructed of cheap plastic.
I implore Japanese animators using 3D rigs to accept the truth that a CGI series does not just seem “like anime” because it mimics the sparse animation of classic 2D anime. Just because Studio Orange and the team behind the incredible Spider-Verse movies are talented enough to get away with it doesn’t mean you should start assaulting our eyes with this uncanny valley garbage!
Under all of that jank is a wonderful kaiju adventure, so it’s a shame that Gamera -Rebirth’s ugly aesthetics will probably turn away a lot of prospective fans. The cast of children was surprisingly endearing and well-developed, and it was what drew me in the most. With its humorously profanity-filled English dub and the genuinely outstanding performances of Ryan Bartley as Boco, Robbie Daymond as Joe, Sean Chiplock as Brody, and Abby Trot as Junichi, the show immediately exudes a strong summer hangout mood. It genuinely seems as though a group of bizarre, man-eating huge creatures invaded a classic Stephen King story like IT or The Body, and I’m here for it. By the conclusion of the series, I had grown very close to all of the kids since they each had their own little arc to experience as they made their way through this strange world of government conspiracies and monster battles.
That’s also fortunate because the sci-fi conspiracy material that gets crammed in between the coming-of-age fantasy and the horrifying monster battles is where Gamera -Rebirth- falls short, aside from its aesthetics. James, that can’t possibly take up too much of the duration, you might be thinking, but I’m sorry to tell you that it does. Although this season of the show only has six episodes, each episode lasts almost an hour, and the monster fights only occupy a small portion of each episode. That means that when we’re not with those mischievous kids, we’re stuck with characters like Tazaki and Emiko, who are involved in the trite Foundation plot, which kills the show’s life. The show’s final two episodes are the worst because they involve major story twists that are abruptly discarded with no emotional payoff and gobbledygook explanations for the greatest “whats” and “whys” of the premise.
But ultimately, Gamera is a franchise that has always been about the connection between the huge flying turtle and the children that he defends from the evil guys, and when Gamera -Rebirth- concentrates on those themes, it’s a good time. Complete beginners to the genre probably won’t be able to get beyond the show’s obvious problems, but seasoned tokusatsu aficionados have seen their fair share of subpar production standards and ridiculous sci-fi plots. I don’t believe this one has the power to fire the fandom’s flames to a roar never seen before, but it should be able to keep them burning until the next Gamera revival.