Toho’s ambitious first anime for their most famous creation comes to a conclusion with PLANET EATER, and while it features much of the same tedious techno-babble we’ve come to expect from the series, Chapter 3 does succeed in developing engaging dichotomies alongside gorgeous monster visuals.
That is where the positives stop, however, as the studio’s failure to craft an entertaining package for their characters’ philosophies proves this series’ most glaring flaw.
PLANET EATER does succeed in improving over its predecessor, though, as mentioned. The most noticeable improvement over Chapter 2, CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE, comes from a vastly simplified plot (in comparison). Without getting into spoilers, the series’ hero, Haruo, is pitted directly against the familiar Exif priest Metphies – each representing polar opposite philosophies on existence, the meaning of life, and the definition of mortal purpose. Alongside this, Godzilla (Earth) is pitted against Ghidorah, and the two come to correlate in an intriguing, and engaging manner.
Honestly, after Chapter 2, I was not expecting to become interested in this series again, but PLANET EATER succeeds in elevating this trilogy from the near-unwatchable territory of the previous entry. If this chapter were to prove as droll as the immensely over-thought Chpt. 2, it’d be easy to dismiss the series as a whole. Now, though, those who enjoy it can view this trio for what it is: A decent, new, and completely out-there take on Toho’s signature universe.
In this light, it is easier to imagine Toho having a lot of fun playing in the sandbox they’ve been crafting for over sixty years. PLANET EATER features a neat (though just short of ‘fascinating’) spin on Ghidorah. Within, he is the Exif’s God, their “Golden Demise”, among other flashy titles. His old-school gravity-beams are re-tooled into new powers, and his signature roar & silhouette show up as well. The same can be said for Mothra, too, which was an overdue surprise.
Though if you read off the list of featured kaiju in this trilogy, it becomes immediately clear how much Toho not only loves their sandbox, but how stuck within it they are, too.
Our main players (which even that is an enormous stretch) outside Godzilla are Mechagodzilla, Mothra, and Ghidorah. These are, bar-none, Toho’s safe-box, which replaced their ‘sandbox’ long ago when it comes to kaiju selection. Regardless, Ghidorah actually shows up in this entry, unlike Mechagodzilla in his, so there is that. If you’re hoping for a battle, though, we’d suggest tempering your expectations now if you happen to be reading reviews before said viewing.
All in all, there seems to be a myth surrounding intelligent storytelling making the rounds – one that separates ‘intelligent’ entertainment from ‘mass appeal’, as if the two things are mutually exclusive. They are not. It is in no way necessary to omit crowd-pleasing action and ‘lesser’ (to some) storytelling elements in order to craft a meaningful or philosophical narrative. This is utter nonsense. So while PLANET EATER has succeeded in building an interesting dichotomy of warring ideals and philosophies, it falls short in relatively every other manner. I would not recommend this as a watch to any non-fan. Honestly, I would not recommend it to anime fans, either. If there is no core, underlying interest in the franchise to help pull a viewer in, I’d imagine this series only becomes that much harder to endure.
In truth, the studio’s inability to craft an entertaining package for their characters’ philosophies will be what stops this series from becoming any sort of mainstay for the franchise.
If it were to have an obvious strength, though, it would be -without doubt- the animation. While their storytelling may be severely lacking, Toho Animation delivers on their namesake with gorgeous visuals, character & environment design, and to a certain degree their titular kaiju designs, too. Sadly, though, being pretty isn’t enough to elevate this trilogy to the heights it should’ve achieved.
GODZILLA: PLANET EATER lands right in the middle for us, with a 5/10.
Jon. D. B.