Godzilla is one of those franchises where I feel like there's an infinite amount of space for different iterations and continuities, so I don't always feel bad when I skip out on some of them (such as the previous Netflix series). This one felt like it had a lot of possibility, and it decided to blend its 3D animation with traditional hand-drawn animation so I was definitely on board with that choice. While it takes a little while to build some steam, I really enjoyed this new blending of ideas as it feels like this series drew from a lot of different eras and ideas from Godzilla's past.
Set in 2030, the story follows a wide cast of characters but always returns to the separate but entangled paths of Mei Kamino and Yun Arikawa. Mei is a brilliant student who studies theoretical creatures, while Yun works for the vaguely defined robotics shop Otaki Factory. Both end up investigating a mysterious signal that coincidentally starts at the same time that kaiju begin to appear.
From there it expands to a pretty large cast but it never feels unwieldly as everyone performs a function to the plot. It also did something I really appreciated and that was creating a regular chorus of media personalities. As more and more kaiju begin to emerge globally, the effort to understand what's happening isn't seen just from the point of view of a plucky main cast of scientists but instead from information gathered and dispersed by people around the world. That goes a long way in breaking up the exposition and I appreciate it.
There's a lot of interesting changes to familiar concepts as well. Rodan isn't a singular creature for example, but the name given to an entire new species. As they show up with more frequency they also evolve, and they also spread red dust. The dust is a central aspect of the show as it appears around all kaiju, connecting to a number of other plot devices as well.
There's a lot of key words you're going to need to track throughout the series, such as Singular Points, Archetype, Orthogonal Diagonalizer, Superdimensional Calculator, and more. In this aspect I was getting a lot of Neon Genesis Evangelion vibes, which was reinforced by how many times Godzilla evolved à la Shin Godzilla. Instead of being chockfull of psychoanalytic deconstruction and mysticism like Evangelion, Singular Point instead goes for more of a metaphysical Grant Morrison-esque route with plenty of time travel, alternate reality theories, artificial intelligence, and overall just has fun with crazy science.
One of those elements I really did love is the new approach to Jet Jaguar. It was an interesting choice to make them such a core part of the story, and for me it really paid off. Jaguar became a focal point of some of the artificial intelligence subplots as they played a bit with concepts of consciousness and memories, so it was all pretty much my jam.
They also do a solid job of creating an expanding mystery that has to slowly unravel. Everything slowly connects to the scientists Ashihara who figured out a lot of the science behind the core plot of the series. It keeps you pretty engaged as you're trying to piece elements together yourself, and there's just enough dangling threads that don't leave you annoyed but make you hopeful for a season 2.
The only real negative aspect for me was that one of their regular methods of exposition was incredibly difficult to track if you watched the show with subtitles. They set up constant streams of exposition between Mei and Yun via phone chat, and while it's kind of inventive in how it changes up how we get our info it was a nightmare to follow. The placement of the subtitles bounced between the bottom and top of the screen at lightspeed pacing, so I got to the point where I just kinda glossed over key words. Again, Singular Points, Archetype, Orthogonal Diagonalizer, Superdimensional Calculator, and so on. It's all just interchangeable jargon to explain why giant monsters are happening, and that's fine.
As a quick aside, I also found it interesting that there was no real gratuitous death despite the scope of the disasters during the series. There's inferred death, but even then it took a while for them to really get to those bits. Considering a legion of giant Rodans are constantly swarming various cities across the world we can assume it was pretty horrible, and the Gamera movies have shown us exactly how crappy that can be. I actually really appreciate that restraint though, because I believe too much mayhem and death would have been a detraction from the plotting and storytelling.
While the show introduced a lot of new ideas and recontextualized a lot of old ideas, the whole series definitely felt like a love letter to the history of the franchise. Even just the closing credit scenes are jam packed with easter eggs, pulling characters and monsters from virtually every era of Godzilla media. I mean even the cast of the American Godzilla make an appearance and that's a very nice and generous gesture. That also means that Jean Reno somehow managed to be in this iteration of a Godzilla cartoon, so that just makes me like it a little more.
If you're a Godzilla fan you're pretty much already going to check this out, but if you don't have much history with Godzilla and just want an interesting sci-fi series that treats all the Godzilla lore as new material then I would recommend giving this a shot. Every episode pulled me in more and more as they developed this new continuity and I really hope they keep going with it.