Review

by James Beckett,

Godzilla Singular Point

Synopsis:
Godzilla Singular Point

In the year 2030, a small crew of local engineers in the Japanese city of Nigashio, along with an independent team of scientific researchers, discover a mysterious musical broadcast that seems to have heralded the arrival of an equally mysterious Red Dust in the world. Emanating from so-called Singular Points, areas of the world wherein the laws of physics are bent and broken, this Red Dust isn't the only otherworldly visitor to find its way to our world; soon, terrifying monsters start wreaking havoc all over the planet. Flocks of Pteranadon-esque Rodan terrorize Tokyo; swarms of aquatic dragons known as Manda invade Britain; and it isn't long before Godzilla himself appears, a monster so terrifying that it could only mean that the end of the world is nigh. The engineers, led by the brilliant Yun Arikawa, use a robot called Jet Jaguar to do battle with the beasts and protect the terrified citizens that are unlucky enough to get in the kaiju's way. Meanwhile, an eccentric graduate student named Mei Kamino travels the world and finds herself working with top scientists, government officials, and even a bona fide artificial intelligence, all in the hopes that they can uncover the mystery of the Singular Points and prevent the Catastrophe that could spell the death of not just Earth, but the universe itself.

Review:

I've been a Godzilla fan for years now, and all of the previews made Godzilla: Singular Point look like a show that was practically made for me. It features slick character designs and lovely 2D artwork from the venerable Studio Bones, and the work for all of Singular Point's incredibly unique looking creatures and robots are handled by Studio Orange, who are perhaps the industry leaders in creating stylish and well-blended 3D CG for television anime. Godzilla's new look was especially appealing to me, as it has perhaps the most in common with what we saw in Hideaki Anno's Shin Godzilla. There's not a hint of anthropomorphic humanity in this iteration of the King of the Monsters — he's completely alien, and beyond empathy. A true creature of paradigm smashing destruction.

I love pretty much every iteration of ol' Goji (except for the stupid T-Rex-looking doofus from the Roland Emmerich movie; that shit doesn't count), but you can count on one hand the number of times that Godzilla has been truly scary, and it was very exciting to me that Godzilla: Singular Point was trying to position the titular titan as a genuine existential threat to humanity again, instead of a really, really tall professional wrestler in a rubber suit (not that there's anything wrong with that).

However. This series was written by Toh Enjoe, who earned a Ph. D. in mathematical physics at the University of Tokyo before moving on to a career in computer software, after which he eventually transitioned into writing novels. Singular Point is his first time writing a full television series, having first dabbled in anime when he wrote some of the headier Space Dandy episodes. While this is an absolutely incredible career trajectory, his background will also help explain why his contributions to Singular Point are bound to make it a very divisive chapter of Godzilla's history, even among diehard tokusatsu geeks.

To put it simply, where past Godzilla properties have made no secret of their willingness to play it fast and loose with the fundamental laws of science and nature, Toh Enjoe's script for Singular Point takes the exact opposite approach. Scientific theory, and the applications thereof, are perhaps the highest priority that this story has. The characters, while likeable, are all preposterously smart, and roughly 85% of each of the anime's 13 episodes are devoted to long, detailed, and incredibly complex conversations about seemingly every theory, allusion, and random factoid that EnJoe has ever held even a passing interest in.

This can sometimes make for riveting kaiju drama, such as an extended set-piece where Yun and his engineer partners have to MacGyver up some Rodan lures using only some arrows, a handful of water bottles, and an AI smartphone buddy who can perform complex calculations to predict velocity, wind speed, and sonic resonance frequencies – I promise, it's a lot more exciting to watch than I'm making it sound.

On the other hand, you'll have plot-critical elements such as the Orthoginal Diagonalizer (this show's version of the classic Oxygen Destroyer), or the strange broadcast of an old Indian folk ballad that keeps popping up in mysterious places. It takes an entire season's worth of digressions about particle physics, space-time fluctuations, and theoretical applications of quantum computing formula just to properly explain what the hell these things are, and why they are in any way relevant to dealing with the giant dinosaur-dragon-whale-thing that is blowing up Japan. I know that it was pretty dumb when, back in the original '56 Godzilla, they explained that they were going to kill Goji by blowing up all of the oxygen in the ocean…somehow…but at least that movie was able to get through its nonsense pseudoscientific exposition in less than four hours.

And look, I would be more than happy to put up with the series' borderline fetishistic obsession with brain teasers and info-dumps if I was invested in its characters and story. Except Singular Point just cares so damned much about letting its human characters geek out over heaping piles of kaiju/physics/literature/history trivia that it fails to make even one of them feel, you know, human. Whole cities are being razed to the ground, people are dying everywhere they look, yet our heroes never behave as if they're in any real danger, and they treat the chaos around them as little more than a series of especially complicated math equations to be puzzled over.

Even the well-crafted English dub, which tries its hardest to keep up with EnJoe's impossibly overstuffed dialogue, can't make the story feel like anything more than a series of earnest TED Talks that happen to be hosted in the middle of a world-shattering kaiju invasion. Plus, without spoiling anything, the show doesn't even pay off over a dozen episodes' worth of technobabble with any satisfying answers to its biggest mysteries. If we get a second season out of this grand Godzilla experiment, then Singular Point might be able to put together a great story out of all this setup, after all. If not, though, I'm not sure how well it will be able to stand up to its more digestible cinematic brethren.

Here's what I will say, though, even after all of my gripes: Godzilla: Singular Point is an excellently crafted work of epic science-fiction, and there has clearly been a lot of time, effort, and love put into making this a top-of-the-line creature feature. The animation is top-notch from beginning to end, Ken Sawada's score makes excellent use of classic themes in addition to new material, and you're pretty much guaranteed to have a great time whenever a kaiju is getting its time to shine on screen. Singular Point is a good anime, and it is simply too well made for me to say otherwise. The writing fell flat for me more often than it hit, but even if this isn't my favorite Godzilla story of recent years, it's bound to be someone's. And who knows? After a couple more rewatches (and an explanatory lecture or three), Singular Point could very well cement a legacy of its own in the annals of the Godzilla canon.

Grade:
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+

+ Excellent production values for both its 2D and 3D animation, cool new monster designs, a heady and science-obsessed story that will satisfy fans looking for a very different take on classic kaiju tropes
Focus on exposition dumps and techno-babble make characters feel more like Wikipedia pages than real people, slow burn plot is lacking both emotional stakes and a satisfying conclusion

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Production Info:
Director: Atsushi Takahashi
Series Composition: Toh Enjoe
Script: Toh Enjoe
Storyboard:
Tomoyuki Itamura
Katsuyuki Kodera
Yasushi Muraki
Atsushi Takahashi
Episode Director:
Shūji Miyahara
Satoshi Nakagawa
Noriyuki Nomata
Takuma Suzuki
Tsuyoshi Tobita
Daisuke Tsukushi
Music: Kan Sawada
Original creator:
Ishiro Honda
Takeo Murata
Original Character Design: Kazue Katō
Character Design: Satoshi Ishino
Art Director: Norihiko Yokomatsu
Animation Director:
Keiichirou Honjou
Koichi Horikawa
Kazuaki Inakuma
Satoshi Ishino
Eri Kojima
Naoyuki Konno
Tomoyo Nakayama
Eiko Saito
Shinya Yamada
Art design: Akihiro Hirasawa
Sound Director: Kazuhiro Wakabayashi
Director of Photography: Yu Wakabayashi

Full encyclopedia details about
Godzilla Singular Point (TV)

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