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This Week in Anime – Is Godzilla Singular Point TOO Smart?

[ad_1] Director Atsushi Takahashi, sci-fi writer and ex-physicist Toh Enjoe, and Studio BONES and Studio Orange introduce their entry in TOHO‘s Kaijuniverse with Godzilla Singular Point. The fantastically animated spectacle looks promising, but is it bogged down by its sci-fi jargon script? ALSO: Back for a special one-time appearance is Andy Pfieffer (@ATastySub) to share…

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Director Atsushi Takahashi, sci-fi writer and ex-physicist Toh Enjoe, and Studio BONES and Studio Orange introduce their entry in TOHO‘s Kaijuniverse with Godzilla Singular Point. The fantastically animated spectacle looks promising, but is it bogged down by its sci-fi jargon script? ALSO: Back for a special one-time appearance is Andy Pfieffer (@ATastySub) to share his kaiju-sized enthusiasm for the king of monsters.

This series is streaming on Netflix

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.

Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.


Nicky

REPORT: We have a monster-sized Netflix dump approaching This Week in Anime. I repeat, a giant chungus lizard is going to spell my impending doom. Requesting immediate backup, do you read? Over.

Andy

Oh no! It’s escaped Netflix jail! This can only mean one thing.


Oh, and I’m back too.

I could not ask for a better hero(?). Everyone cheer (or boo maybe) for Andy, who’s responded to my SOS this one time to talk with me about Netflix‘s Godzilla Singular Point.

I love me Zilla, and I wanna send a big thanks to letting me back on to get revenge on Netflix after what happened last time they gave us some.

So let’s get the big question out of the way, did they do it to me again? Did they take something I love and give me one of the most lazy and hamfisted sci-fi stories to ever grace a screen?

Well for one, this isn’t animated by Polygon Pictures. Though, it does indeed include a 3D ‘Zilla.
It also has the same idea behind it. Take Godzilla and give it to a talented writer to pen a sci-fi story. In this case it’s Toh Enjoe, acclaimed sci-fi author of Self-Reference ENGINE.

And boy does the execution by everyone involved, including Studio BONES, speak volumes louder this time around, and I’m so God(zilla)damn thankful.

I first heard about this because Studio BONES announced they were teaming up with Studio Orange. And if that wasn’t big enough news for anime fans, they also got the creator of Blue Exorcist, Kazue Katō, to do the human designs as a bonus. Also former Ghibli artist Eiji Yamamori designed the creatures himself. In all respects, it really felt like they were pulling out the big guns to take on the king of monsters. I had mentioned in the Pacific Rim article that I was way hyped, but also disappointed by its quick lockdown into the cage of Netflix. Now, Godzilla Singular Point is free of his coils and shall reap havoc on all who gaze upon his visage in this 13 episode series.

Oh yeah, and Jet Jaguar is here. That’s pretty cool, too.

You knew stuff was gonna get weird when they led with good ol’ JJ. Honestly I had no idea what to really expect from Singular Point. Prior to watching it, the announced staff and designs were solid, but one of the greatest things about Godzilla in general is that he’s not just a monster, he’s a canvas. He inspires all kinds of different art and stories from contemplative disaster movies, to kid-friendly monster bops, and even legally actionable hip-hop.

So when the first episode starts as a kind of Scooby-Doo Mystery Hour involving a haunted mansion I just rolled with it.

This is the part where having good and interesting human designs helped a lot, honestly. While the word “kaiju” often invokes a certain kind of tokusatsu-style giant creature marching past skyscrapers and mindlessly tearing down everything in its path, as you do, the human element is incredibly important and a wildly sporadic variable. Films occasionally find ways to deal with the pesky problem of having humans in the way, you cannot do away with them entirely. We need human characters to process the story, and Godzilla Singular Point‘s main characters decided that they’re going to process it while solving an Alternate Reality Game via texts while wearing shorts.

Mei’s style is what I’d called “Arale-core,” and I approve.

Her regular outfit isn’t any less casual. Not to mention her glasses are constantly drooping.

Yeah, Mei in particular is very relatable for some reason…


It’s really nice that every single character stands out visually in a very unique way. Especially because once they start talking they can get kinda, well, unrelatable. Because Toh Enjoe wants to tell a very speculative sci-fi story and each and every character is in on it. Even the meathead character casually drops into conversation about theoretical physics.

However, that doesn’t mean they stop being relatable in their mannerisms or interactions with each other, which is what really glues this show together.

Yeah, you expect monster stories to be the same as watching a costumed wrestling match with a long prelude but Singular Point’s story is much more heady, dealing with mysteries, math concepts, and spouting extremely nerdy big-brained words. These would genuinely make some people’s skulls crack if they think about them too much, but the characters as the focal point are the sugar to the medicine. Most of it is visual but I think some of the dialogue also inspires a kind of familiar warmth when it’s not just enthusiastically spouting off about time and space. Just look at this bit in the opening where everyone is just casually sipping noodles.

I appreciate that even the data dog gets noodle.

Oh yeah, when regular explanations fails you can always rely on the cute dog mascot version of Clippy to unravel the laws of the universe for you.

I can’t wait for 2030 so all the poor overworked grad students in the world can have their own personal AI to compile their notes and submit papers for peer review.


Seriously though, Yun really failed at marketing after he invented the Tachikoma AI and barely anyone is using it!
We should introduce the characters first. Yun is a member of a company called Otaki Factory doing oddjobs with his buddy when they get a message about a haunted house on the hill formerly owned by an eclectic researcher. He then finds a recorder broadcasting a melancholy folk song, all while doing his very best Sherlock impression.


And uhh, this is also where I’m gonna bring this up. Man, Netflix‘s subs are bad. Like, really bad.

I’m really thankful this has a decent dub that tries its best to make all the dialogue sound natural otherwise a lot of this would come off as pretentious instead of intriguing and fun.

I was gonna wait until we introduced BB to get to that because that man clearly didn’t get bullied enough in undergrad so now he talks only in literary quotes, but everyone from Japanese ambassadors to handyman jocks toss around Blake, Whitman, etc and Netflix figured that there was no need to like, look at the actual works to make sure they’re subtitling them correctly.


Like come on Netflix this is completely unacceptable.

I would not have understood what was going on if it wasn’t for the dub and the cast does a good job! Yun is performed by Johnny Yong Bosch and he does a really good job at making him come off as both intelligent but soft. Good ol’ Johnny Boy.
I get that they put a lot of effort into the dub, and that shows! It’s good! But it shouldn’t be the only way the story is understandable! There’s several moments where characters discuss a concept and talk about the different ways it can be viewed or established, and the subtitles simply repeat the same thing without the added information, rendering it completely incomprehensible without the dub.

Back to the story, they try to trace the source of the song and head over to an old radio facility where student and researcher, Mei Kamino (voiced by Erika Harlacher), is starting to help out after pulling a favor for her professor. Also, she got to visit some cool local art.


Upon arrival, her and Yun end up in a very strange and coincidental phone call while he’s trying to jump the fence and he ends up getting caught with all parties extremely confused.

We already mentioned that there’s some literature involved in this story, but it turns out that Singular Point is pretty aptly named. All the concepts involved are intertwined. Art, literature, physics, philosophy, and music are all part of a unified mystery that the characters are unraveling. Starting with that song, which is emanating from the usual place—the hidden dinosaur bones in the basement of a government facility.

Studio BONES

I mean has anyone seen their basement?
Also I relate to these bones because I felt very called out by the sequence where they try to research them and this happens:



Guess it’s time for me to crumple into dust.
Imagine your boss just randomly decided to take you down the scary elevator of your pre-war facility to scare the shit out of you ’cause he thought it was funny. Also, no mystery story is complete without MICROFICHE!

I’m pretty sure the only reason I know what a microfiche machine even does is just because I’ve read too many books or mystery games where it comes up because it’s a cool analogue thing.

I used to play around with one at the local library when I was a kid. It was really neat!
I gotta admit when the boss decided to show off the bones I was very prepared for a not great heel turn from him later, but nope. He’s just showing you the basement bones because why not? I had similar feelings towards BB’s introduction. And while my inclination that BB is a bastard was true. It turns out he’s kind of a lovable one and doesn’t seem like a bad single dad either?

There’s a lot of characters and most of them spend their time just rattling on about WTF is going on but there are fun moments too. I rather enjoy the little bits we get of the other members of the Otaki Factory, including fight grandpa Mr. Otaki, who created Jet Jaguar to fight aliens, and the goth chick who sometimes hangs around.

Yeah, I think Nick would have words with us if we didn’t mention Satomi. She’s not a major character by any means but she’s great every time she’s on screen. Speaking of Otaki Factory, I guess it’s about time we mention the kaiju, huh? The first appearance of one in the show is a single Rodan, which thoroughly kicks Jet Jaguar’s goofy ass before flopping over dead for unrelated reasons.


Too bad Rodan just falls over and dies, almost like it’s not adapted to the environment, or something.

Good thing the environment of capitalism is very quick to adapt to Rodan.


I want all of these.

Seriously give me any of the kaiju stuff from this series. I want this to be my phone so bad.

Speaking of looks, reflecting their primordial-ness, the kaiju in this look pretty different from their traditional appearance. They seem less goofy or costume-y and more animal-like; bestial.


Angrius, however, looks like an angry rodent.

The big goofy front tooth was certainly a choice.

It’s a good choice, I like it. It’s very endearing for what seems like a big rampaging herbivore.

“Herbivore” is also a choice when he’s introduced by snacking on Rodan corpses.

Whose only defense is to become holographic like one of those special trading cards and SEE THE FUTURE TO DEFLECT BULLETS!

Also he was named by a child!

There’s a lot of excuses for why the monsters still keep their classic names.

They’re all good excuses! Except for the one new original monster, Salunga, who looks like if the dog demons from Ghostbusters got a spot on Beast Wars.


I think he’s the sole example in the entire show of the CG just not doing a great job. We get various forms of both Godzilla and Rodan, we get Mandas and Angurius and they all look interesting, but this guy just looks a bit too goofy.

I actually didn’t know the big monkey was new since I’m pretty unfamiliar with the Beeg Lizzer Lore.

And I feel very comfortable putting this entirely on the CG, because he’s also the only monster that later appears in 2D? And looks really good and menacing??

I think the animation of the monsters are super dynamic. Most of the time they blend into the environment well enough, but I’m still not really a fan of whatever shader they use sometimes.

I really wish we had some more of these 2D detail shots.

It’s a little disappointing to see because it introduces the idea of “what if” the rest of the show also animated all the other monsters like this the whole time!

And it’s not like these were static shots, they’re in the middle of a really cool rampage!

Part of the reason I like the ED so much is also because the 2D animation is really fluid and we get to see the monsters transferred to 2D.

Every shot of the ED is a love letter to a different monster and I am so here for it.
Shout out to Mothra, my favorite who sadly doesn’t really have a part in the show.


That said even the character designs in the ED get a cool revamp to a style I would love to see a whole show in. Look at this aesthetic! Someone at BONES is clearly dying to go back to it and we should really let them.

It’s got a neat filmgraininess but it’s also like mostly animated on ones in some bits.

I don’t want to sound like I’m being too harsh on the CG tho, because there are some shots of Big G that are absolutely great and imposing.

What starts with an invasion of Rodan quickly becomes an infestation of various monsters throughout not just Tokyo, but the world. They cover the Planet With literal red dust while our two heroes are working together with their individual Clippys to try to solve the mystery left by the old researcher, Ashihara.
The whole story becomes a kind of globe-trotting adventure of trying to piece together Ashihara’s notes to save the world before it becomes completely terraformed into a Kaijuverse. It’s pretty funny how he’s treated as if he was some benevolent genius while every picture of him looks like Dr. Hell Jr.

Geniuses have never heard of a comb.

No comb can fix those eyes.

Only stupid people brush their hair, like this money-grubbing man.

Also all his notes look like this:

That’s just my middle school notebook.
Where is the cool S?

Have you considered you’re a pioneering genius?

You duped me into writing about anime. What do you think?

It’s true.

Anyway, the red dust and the kaiju are all pouring out from these things called Singular Points, which are being studied by a company called SHIVA who are trying to produce a new material called “archetypes.” Mei is brought onto SHIVA by Doctor Li after her dog uploads her homework.

There’s a lot of characters involved with SHIVA, and not all of them are particularly interested in stopping the oncoming calamity. It’s particularly noteworthy in 2021 that even in the face of kaiju changing the entire ecosystem of Earth and extinction bearing down on them, industrialists will prefer looking for a way to weaponize and monetize the life-saving work of others rather than use it for its intended purpose.

There are points where the disaster definitely feels like an anime written in 2020, with the red dust encroaching on everyone’s lives, though I will say it never leans too heavily into the political commentary and its focus is more conceptual, as is everything.


It sort of throws all the current problems in a blender. While some stand out more than others cough climate change cough it does end up making a pretty earnest case that the solutions to our problems already exist and it’s more about making use of them before it’s too late. Though I did get a bit of a laugh out of seeing the old people that were causing the problem foist figuring out how to fix it onto the next generation.


Ah yes, how lucky to be burdened with your problems now that they are also mine.
BB going from potential psychopath to actually one of the only sane ones is really strange though, I’m not sure I always understand everyone’s motivations all the time.

Yeah it turns out “we’re all in this together” to save the world doesn’t mean everyone wants the same thing once it’s saved. BB in particular is introduced as a character type you think you know, but by the end is completely different, but still pretty amoral!

I really like this small exchange about how he sees Mei.


He absolutely loves being the smartest guy in the room, but that means when he isn’t he loves the idea of learning more and getting that spot again.

His daughter also explains the actual meaning of the folk song about how people are split apart but are always reunited. Similarly there’s a lot of parts of Godzilla S.P. that feel pretty scattered, but some of it does come together. It’s at times hampered by how packed it is and a lot of the messages aren’t straightforward when the characters aren’t trying to quiz each other with different ciphers.

This is, after all, a time travel story even if the characters themselves don’t time travel. So you better believe everything gets messy. We watch the story unfold upon a linear path, but the rules and information the characters are given are not bound by it. They learn that along with the audience, so everything that happens is constantly recontextualized as the stakes and pace accelerate with every episode.

I think it helps that Yun and Mei’s partnership and their relationship with their AI friends are like, pretty cute, and ultimately platonic. It’s neat. But I’m sure people are going to want to rewatch the series to try and untangle a lot of jargon being thrown at you constantly. It makes my brain tingle, but in a good way.

I’m actually pretty eager to give it a rewatch myself. As much as I enjoyed binging it, the Netflix model isn’t always the best. There’s so much crammed in here that I know I missed some of it, and it deserves a deep dive with the added consideration of thinking time.

Sometimes it feels like there’s too much crammed in there, especially for all the large cast of characters. I also felt like it could’ve spent more time on the monsters. I’m used to seeing stuff where The Zilla and kaiju have some sort of underlying motivation, like to deliver karmic retribution for humanity’s sins. Instead they’re trying to figure out how to stop a storm from existing using math in disaster flick terminology.


Most of the characters don’t develop or have a stated motivation either. I guess they don’t really need to because some of them are geniuses and most of them are dorks.
Yeah the Big G doesn’t really even exist in the show until the last quarter of the show! And then he’s more of a landmark than a character. I do appreciate what the series is using him for, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still want more involvement out of him. Since he’s the final sign of the apocalypse, he really doesn’t get to do much other than appear at the appointed time.

He’s cool to look at as a being who cannot be stopped. A literal paradoxical entry point of another dimension come to explode like a ticking timebomb. Little is made of him other than as a threat. However, I actually felt the most useful, touching, and interestingly developed characters were the AIs, Jet Jaguar, and Pelops II.

This is now a Pelops II appreciation zone.

What’s not to love about pet computer dogs? While normally I find mascot characters annoying, both Pelops II and JJ offer a lot of charm. Pelops II gives Mei someone to bounce off of and JJ is just a good friend of humanity.

I like that Yun’s super AI takes on the characteristics of its user/host. So while Yun’s iPhone apparently is just as dry and boring as a current day Alexa, in the hands of Mei it instantly becomes a super curious and incredibly proactive AI.

And then once Yun himself allows it to become Jet Jaguar it quickly develops its own different personality there. And learns some sweet spear moves.

They’re also a metaphor for how the kaiju (and humans) work, too. They all come from the same origin but quickly evolve into entirely different beings and that’s also where some of the conflict stems.

I’m not gonna spoil the ending but it does a good job of bringing together the idea that what really saves the day is the collective culmination of everyone’s personal skills and experiences. It’s just about realizing how to utilize them.

If the kaiju are the culmination of nature, a higher power, or a different universe. Conversely, technology, information, and our feelings, are the products of humanity.

A true clash of titans.

But even without all that heady stuff, I still just had a lot of fun because the show is really well presented and paced. It’s hard to balance that much exposition and action in a show before it starts to feel like rote demands for the viewers’ attention. I’ve seen a lot of Netflix stuff try and do worse, but the fact that it’s engaging all the way through is because it’s still fun.

It’s really cool speculative science fiction with a nice Godzilla suit. I highly recommend everyone to check it out if either of those things sound interesting because it works on both levels. There’s so much packed into 13 episodes that we barely scratched the surface here. Whether you want some cool action set pieces, a monologue about the Book of Revelation, or just more of Mei’s exquisite fashion, it’s all here.

It was definitely worth the wait for something I waited all season to watch. Also, monsters are cute. Please give us more monster plushies.

GIVE US THE MERCH!

And thanks again for having me on Nicky! It’s been far too long, and this one was too close to the heart not to talk out. You guys have all been doing great, and I once again leave the column in your capable hands. Though maybe I’ll be back again one day… for the sequel…

It was great to finally be able to work with you! And, with that kaiju-sized sequel bait, I’d be glad to do it again. Godzilla is a big property that’ll be around forever with a lot of possibilities to explore. Everybody on the creative side seemed to bring their full force. Naturally, I’m also itching for what else they can do with those concepts.

For now, I’m also just sad to see you go. But it’s like the song says, “The rivers may split, but they always come back to the sea.” Just like Godzilla.

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