Today marks the day that Toho is releasing their latest Godzilla film, and their first theatrical animated feature on the King of the Monsters. To celebrate, the Toho Kingdom staff is sitting down and giving their thoughts on the latest look for the nuclear menace.
Like we did in our Reactions to the Look of Godzilla 2016 thread, thoughts are boiled down into a single rating at the end. This will note if the overall response was positive, negative or mixed.
Note, we are just critiquing the visual appearance of the character. There are no spoilers on the events of the movie, nor does this factor into anyone’s view on the design and execution.
For years I have enjoyed calling Godzilla “the Big Green Guy” or similar nicknames, regardless of the fact that Godzilla (usually) is not green. Indeed as a child, my image of Godzilla was always as a giant green monster that breathes flames—which is doubly inaccurate when compared to most of the movie versions. So it is with some amusement that I welcome “Anigoji”—the first animated Godzilla to star in his own movie. He has become, in some ways, closer to that childhood image I had of him all along. At any rate, he is greenish, and certainly Anigoji is metaphorically “green” now. (Curiously, the OTHER Anigoji from the animated educational OVAs from the 90s as well as the American Godzilla from the 70s animated were also green—emphatically so.) Despite the new Godzilla being dramatically different in some marked ways, my first impression of him was that he was kind of unremarkable.
When I first saw the silhouette of the new Godzilla that appeared on an early movie poster, I felt that the monster looked incredibly generic—almost like a knock-off Godzilla akin to the sort of faux-zilla action figures you could buy in the USA back in the 1980s. They retained much of Godzilla’s familiar silhouette, but were always missing something, and of course appeared clunky and stiff. The new Godzilla looks much that way to me, and has even less personality in the face than the 2016 Shin Godzilla design.
However, my suspicion is that this personality-wipe was intentional. As has been widely publicized, the new Godzilla is apparently a plant—or perhaps half-plant—and indeed he looks it. Inevitably taking some cues from Biollante—herself a Goji-plant-clone—the new Godzilla is actually one of the more unique re-imaginings that have appeared in the films. (Perhaps in a meeting Urobuchi made a joke—”What if Godzilla’s back plates really WERE maple leaves?” And they took him seriously.) Coupled with the fact that this Godzilla will apparently be the biggest yet, we are left with what appears to be the most alien, least anthropomorphic Godzilla of recent memory. While Legendary has gone to some lengths to make Garethzilla relatable, Toho seems to be going in the opposite direction. Anigoji has the facial expression of a block of wood—and that is not even a joke. His face looks like it is quite literally a block of wood, cracked and jagged not with teeth, but with thorn-like protuberances where the ivories should be. If anything, Anigoji’s tree-stump face has less personality than Biollante’s fierce dental-nightmare maw. While ShinGoji is all tortured flesh and snaggle teeth, Anigoji is bark and thorns and chunky sinew. If Shin Godzilla is John Carpenter’s The Thing, then Anigoji is The Thing from Another World, for better or for worse.
I think the reason for all of this—the size, the plant-origins, the lack of personality, even the recent reveal of his bizarre incarnation of his nuclear “breath”—is to more align Godzilla with the power of nature. Anigoji seems to be a part of earth itself, and is the guardian and master of the world—a sort of avatar of nature that expunges the polluting, exploitative human race, and reclaims the land with primordial forests and armies of dinosaurian beasts. To take on that role, he has grown in size, taken on a hue more in tune with ecology than nuclear mutation, and sheared off most of his anthropomorphism to be replaced by cold, emotionless-but-relentless life. The nuclear blast, too, seems to emerge from an electric atmosphere that crackles around him like an atmospheric storm, suggesting that he is like planet earth itself. Further, Anigoji’s face has no space for tears, for mercy, for understanding—or even for rage. To me, it appears that Anigoji more truly embodies the force of nature metaphor that has often been applied to Godzilla all along.
But I tend to be more emotional, and I like Godzilla being emotional, too. While I am excited that the Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017) team are branching out and taking Godzilla in a fertile new direction, I mostly find the new design to be a little flat and dull. I am quite stoked to see the world’s first animated Godzilla movie spring to life on the screen, but I am a little worried that I might find myself pining for the nuclear snarl of yesteryear.
When the first photo reveals for the new anime Godzilla began flooding in, I was left more confused than enthralled. His legs were oddly lanky for his wide body, the arms were brawny but rather short, and the face appeared to lack even the most basic features such as teeth, with the beaked maw giving off the appearance of a turtle. My initial impressions were closer to negative than positive, especially after hearing how this Godzilla would have to carry an entire trilogy of movies! How could this monster possibly fight against anything with a design like that?
However, as time went on and more information behind the film was released, I became accustomed to the extremely aged look of the anime Godzilla. While small, the weary eyes seem to harbor a certain sentience that not many previous versions of Godzilla carried. The extraordinarily toned body is so well defined with the visible muscle fibers, an unusual design choice but one I liked even before Godzilla was fully revealed. The back plates are probably my favorite feature, the almost leaf-like structure of the spines reminding me somewhat of Legendary Godzilla’s, but with a more traditional twist. I almost feel pity for the oddly-proportioned monster; it looks like all he wants to do is live alone in peace without having to deal with the inevitable encounter with the human characters.
As much as I enjoy certain aspects of this incarnation, my overall impressions are still somewhat mixed. I now love the rugged, almost ancient appearance, but from certain angles the design still looks less than stellar. But I’m more than willing to give this Godzilla a chance to impress me in its debut movie, and I hope the team behind the film has a blast making this new Godzilla pull off plenty of impressive and unconventional tricks that the animation medium allows.
When I heard news of an animated feature coming from Japan featuring Godzilla, I instantly grew excited. My mind raced with the gorgeous animation on display in such films as Your Name. I couldn’t wait for any details on the film and finally a trailer revealed the movie and… in time it showed Godzilla…
The Godzilla on display appears to be based on Legendary’s version with a twist, that being this Godzilla is somehow plant like. The first thing to catch my eye are the spine’s which are unique with the leaf-like style. I will also say the tremendous size of Godzilla makes him imposing, but these features can’t help hide what looks to be a bland creation. The color pallet appears to be all but gone, rendering most of Godzilla’s features almost indistinguishable from one another in regards to color. The skin across his body has little detail, and his forehead protrudes far too long, creating an almost depressed look from every angle. While these negative views could be from over-analyzing the few angles we’ve seen of him, my negative feelings only increase with the realization that the film uses a 3-D animation style instead of a 2-D one.
While many may have cried foul when Shin Godzilla’s design emerged, I can definitely say that movie attempted to make a unique Godzilla to benefit the film. In regards to Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017), I feel this the reverse. The design was created to lower costs, ensure the monster was easy to place on screen, and guarantee he would have little movement as again not to increase costs. Because of these things, I can’t imagine many people clinging to this design with views of positivity and I can’t see myself enjoying it when I finally watch the film.
I hope to be wrong and enjoy this new world when it finally arrives, but unlike my hopes when hearing of this film, my instincts urge me this Godzilla will be a pale comparison to all that has come before.
My initial reaction to seeing this newest Godzilla design was one of excitement and shock. Given the success of Shin-Godzilla, Godzilla Resurgence (2016), I had wondered if we would get a more traditional design to counteract the previous year’s exotic take on the King of the Monster’s appearance. What I did not expect to see was a design that seemed to resonate so deeply with the 2014 take on the monster king. I simply love the similarity of this design to the Legendary Godzilla’s design. Not to wax too heavily on the Legendary monster, but the sheer mass of it brings to mind a sense of overwhelming natural power and strength. I believe it is undeniably Godzilla, and so too is this design. It brings that same mass and strength to this new Godzilla that the 2014 design has. Truly a look befitting the king of a monster planet. And yet, I also feel a hint of Shin-Godzilla; the odd anatomy doll like texture of the body brings to mind the gourd like skin of that monster, accentuated by the 5 rows of dorsal plates and strange eyes (though the newer design has a heavy brow like most of his predecessors).
Because I like each design of Godzilla for one reason or another, I often talk to my friends to see what their thoughts are as well. Though none of them are fans to the degree that I am, the common theme from them seemed to revolve around the similarities of this appearance to his 2014 counterpart. I recall showing it to my younger brother for the first time and he asked why “…they’re just using the Legendary one?” Each of them enjoyed the similarity, and I was happy to hear it. In some ways, it brings to my mind the use of the Mire-Goji suit as a conceptual basis for 4 of the 6 millennium films. Could we be entering a phase where the Legendary design acts as a bedrock for other designs to come from Toho? I’m skeptical, but I would like to see that! But whether that comes true or not, I’m very excited to see this glorious looking fellow in action!
If someone had told me back in 2012 or 2013 that Gen Urobuchi, the mastermind behind the TV anime series Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero, was going to be involved in making a Godzilla movie, I would have been overly enthused at the prospect (and that’s putting it lightly). I very much relish in the dark, tragic twists and nihilistic themes that pervade through his works, so I hold some semblance of expectation when I hear more and more about Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (2017). That said, much like most fans, I can’t really fancy myself a huge fan of taking Godzilla in the 3D route; much would’ve preferred either 2D or a mix of both (Studio Rikka and TRIGGER’s Power Plant No. 33 from director Yasuhiro Yoshiura is undeniably the finest example of how a modern kaiju anime should be handled, even if the robot effects are kinda subpar). While I’ll try and reserve my personal judgments until I see the film, let’s get onto that design now, shall we?
I think the design, on its own accord holds up nicely. The literal plant theme that sprouts from this design I think allows Godzilla to explore different kinds of textures we wouldn’t see with other Godzillas. Seeing roots and tree bark for skin is most certainly fascinating, and it gives the musculature a distinct and unique vibe. Perhaps my favorite tidbit is that the iconic dorsal fins can now literally be described as maple-leaf. My only complaint, and it’s really only a nitpick, is that there should have been some kind of secondary color to him. He just seems too monochrome. Maybe some highlights on the maple-leaf spines like past Godzilla designs, or even on other parts of the body like the tail, would’ve been helpful.
On another note, it would seem that either Toho or people heavily known for their anime works (Gen Urobuchi, Hideaki Anno) really love the precise, laser-styled look for the signature Atomic Ray. I’m more than happy to see the beam returning to the classic blue after the experimental purple for Godzilla Resurgence (2016), though it seems that (at least for Japan) Godzilla is going to be rocking a more narrow beam. It’s something I can personally live with. What I’m currently in love with about the Atomic Ray isn’t the beam itself, but rather the charging of the beam, and everything that builds up to the discharge. Sparks bouncing in between the plates, the gathering of energy to the mouth in the vein of Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)… If there’s anything that makes the narrow beam tolerable, it’s identifier of when it’s coming.
For me, I don’t want to be confined to seeing the same kind of Godzilla over and over again. I understand the nature of tradition, but Godzilla’s always felt like he can be more versatile and serve purpose to the story you create with him. So long as some of his core components are left intact and is treated with respect, unlike TriStar’s infamous GODZILLA (1998), I’d love to see a very different approach to Godzilla–be it by way of a Godzilla Resurgence (2016) sequel or a Millennium Series 2.0 that takes more risks. If you’re looking for something more traditional, I think Legendary Pictures has our back in that department.
I believe that most versions of Godzilla usually fall into one of three categories: Pure Evil, Force of Nature, and Earth Defender. Looking at this design gives the impression that someone might have taken the force of nature concept a little too literally…
His coloration is primarily green, and his flesh has a very wooden looking texture to it. He has small teeth that seem to be carved into his mouth separation, adding to this wooden look. His muscular definition is extremely exaggerated, which gives a very root like appearance.
Personally, I don’t particularly care for this direction in design. For starters, I feel that his muscular definition is far too exaggerated, to the point of almost looking like he has no skin. Also, despite all that muscle, this is one of the fattest versions of Big G we’ve ever seen. Almost all of his mass is in the central body, giving him a tiny head, and twigs for lower arms and legs. These proportions make him look like he’s an overweight alcoholic! Finally, his constantly half-shut eyes, and plant-like aesthetic have earned him the nickname Weedzilla in more than one place on the net. Which brings up a good question…
Why design Godzilla like a plant? One could argue for the sake of experimentation, and to bring new concepts to franchise that’s over 60 years old, but that’s the thing: Despite the strange choice in aesthetic, there’s virtually nothing unique about this Godzilla. At a distance, one could easily mistake this for Godzilla 2014’s design.
When you think about it, the base design of Godzilla is just one head, two arms with four fingers, two legs, a tail, and a body with a row of spines down its back. Love ’em or hate ’em, designs like Godzilla 1998 and Shin Godzilla actually are experimental, because they are built around this base, and experiment by giving it different form. This design seems built around a more concrete base, and gives it a different aesthetical treatment to differentiate it.
Reportedly, the studio was given free reigns to design Godzilla as they wish, and part of me wonders if they didn’t begin animating with a model of Godzilla 2014, and built their design around that. Somehow, it just feels like something done out of obligation rather than passion.
But overall, I can look past a concept as meager as a design if the film ends up being good. Though in this aspect, I am still apprehensive towards this film. What I find most disappointing about this whole situation is that a proper Godzilla anime is something I have wanted for a long time, but I don’t feel this is it. From the 3D animation, to the James Cameron Avatar looking Backgrounds, to this strange plant-like Godzilla, nothing says “anime” to me. I would’ve hoped for something more akin to Neon Genesis Evangelion, or Go Nagai’s Maoh Dante in that regard, which still contain fantastic elements like giant demon monsters, or super robots, but have a basis in reality that makes it more relatable. However I intend to keep an open mind, and try to look at this film with as unbiased lenses that I can.
I love that Toho is taking chances with Godzilla. What really hurt the previous Toho Godzilla films and even the Legendary film to a certain extant was the repetitiveness between the films. Shin Godzilla’s design was something fresh and new and I loved it. Monster Planet’s Godzilla design is also new, but I’m not sure it works for me as well as Shin Godzilla did. On the surface it looks almost exactly like Legendary’s design. Similar body shape and mass with identical back plates. However the ripped muscles across Godzilla’s body really make this design stand out as does the new head design that almost gives Godzilla a permanent grin. I’ve seen fans refer to this design as Old Man Godzilla and I think it fits. This Godzilla manages to appear more ancient than previous versions but still looks as powerful as the King of the Monsters should. Ultimately what really matters is how well this design is executed on screen and considering that a 3D animated film is completely new territory for Godzilla this design may be able to allow Godzilla to pull off new feats that we’ve never seen before.
It’s strange to think that the latest Godzilla movie is here, and yet I have found myself rather indifferent to it. A lot of this actually stems from the design of the titular character this go around. While the look of the King of the Monsters in Godzilla Resurgence (2016) got a strong reaction from me, initially negative in nature, this take on the character did not. Yes it tried new things, but falters in evoking an iconic look or experimenting in a way that makes the character jarring to an audience. I actually liked the design when used as a black and white sketch, as seen below, and so had some initial excitement after the poster reveal. This is because it focuses on the strengths, such as the nice dorsal fin design, and hides some of the weaknesses, such as the bland colors. Naturally, though, that excitement faded as more was seen of the character, especially the lackluster face. The mouth in particular just feels so docile. Ultimately what the design generates from me is utter indifference, and some times that’s an even worse emotion to leave people with than getting them riled up over something.