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This Week in Anime
Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle Isn't Quite What Fans Were Expecting

by Nicholas Dupree & Jacob Chapman,

Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle is the second in Netflix's new trilogy of films from Polygon Pictures and Gen Urobuchi. This week, Nick and Jacob break down how this movie betrayed our expectations in both good ways and bad.

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.





Nick D
Jake, it's been a few months since we covered the monstrously mediocre GODZILLA: PLANET OF THE MONSTERS, and while I was worried the second movie would be just as slight as the first, I think I'm starting to understand Gen Urobuchi's vision with this new project.

You can paste that graffiti on basically anything the man has ever written, and yup, SEEMS LEGIT. Regrettable animation choices aside, I was honestly looking forward to this movie quite a lot after our discussion of the first one, since it was basically just a protracted first act of the real story, and Urobuchi is notoriously "meh" at writing beginnings compared to his middles and ends.

But I dunno Nick, this was not the ride I was expecting.

We Built This City (On Mechs and Kaiju). I don't think anybody, hearing that this second movie would heavily feature Mechagodzilla, was expecting said robolizard to take the form of a literal city made of nanomachines. But hey, considering the first movie featured humanity abandoning the Earth for 20,000 years, I think we just have to expect curveballs at this point.

And the whole time, this fucker was just
pounding down cheetos.

That first movie ended on such a high note that I knew we were probably in for an hour of exposition before anything exciting would happen again this time, but even so, there's a lot of batshit weird stuff going on in this movie, and I'm not sure all of it works?

You certainly can't accuse them of not being ambitious!

I'm just thankful there's conflict here besides "Can we kill Godzilla?" this time around. Like at this point, the rug's been pulled out and we know that the real King of Monsters is here to wreck shop. We also know this movie won't end with them beating it, so instead why not have a philosophical debate about whether we should or shouldn't pursue trying to kill him?

Right. It's another way that this installment really plays like the second act of one three-act movie. It's universally accepted that of course we should kill Godzilla and take back the planet through all of movie 1, but right from the start of movie 2, the script is relentlessly adding "BUT AT WHAT COST?"

It's a pretty familiar conflict, and honestly the movie spends too long dragging it out when the answer it will come to is obvious, but at least it's something to chew on instead of lengthy technobabble about how exactly Haruo and crew can jam a big bomb up G-zilla's butt.

Or should I call him by his new name?

Right, the humans-that-might-have-evolved-from-insects-in-only-20k-years (???) immediately present themselves as the voice of the Earth in humanity's stead. They explain that peaceful coexistence with the big G is the only option, because even though it sucks that he brings death and destruction, he's an echo of a past mistake that they must now accept the consequences of and grow from.

Which is definitely not a metaphor for the unstoppable progression of civilization and technology and warfare and how it irrevocably changes the earth or anything...

And I really liked that stuff, but factoring in a FOURTH party (another race of humanoid aliens among the Exif that I thought were just dark-skinned humans in the last movie but nope) who worship the cold utility of homogeneous machinery kind of overloads things.

The setup's definitely overstuffed, but considering we've stretched a single movie's plot across 4+ hours for this project, I think it works out okay. If the pacing were snappier, it would probably be hard to follow, but as-is I'm just grateful for something to chew on. Even if it's just pivoting from "how do we kill Godzilla" to "how should we kill Godzilla".

So the answer's not becoming one with the hivemind of Mechagodzilla City, all-are-welcome-in-the-cold-embrace-of-the-void? Cuz that seemed like a surefire plan!

Naturally, Haruo disagrees, so we get another movie.

He just doesn't understand logic and rationality.

I think part of the problem is that cutting this up into three films both dilutes its ambitions and thrusts expectations on it that it can't totally deliver on. If this was a single movie with a single thesis that it could explore in one shot, even if it was just Urobuchi waxing on his pet themes again, it'd be a neat reimagining of Godzilla, like Shin Godzilla was for Anno. But when you're suddenly making a trilogy, viewers are gonna expect more for their time investment than:
"Well gee, that was nifty I guess".

Right. The most pertinent question is, what are these movies trying to say? Because the experience of watching them is—unfortunately—mostly exposition, technobabble, and bad animation. There's basically no character development beyond Haruo, and the other most interesting character, Metphies, has yet to really show his cards. So at this point all I'm left with is the ideas. I guess it's a good thing there are so many?

I don't know what you're on about saying there's no character development. Just look at this blooming romance for the ages!

Ah yes. Feel the passion burn in the gun-metal gray city. And she's only two weeks from retirement, so they'll be able to spend so much quality time together soon!

WWWWWWHOOPS!!! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Okay, that's actually another way this movie improves on the first. There are COLORS every once in a while! It's not just grey, blue-grey, green-grey, and grey-grey.

Thank GOD. Please break out the color wheel more often, PolyPic.

Like that shot's not anything amazing, but it is an oasis in a sea of PS2 cutscenes.

Beyond that, I do think this movie makes a case for itself by having a more complex moral conflict. It kind of reminds me of Macross 7 where the driving force isn't combating the antagonistic monster, but deciding what means we're willing to consider to do so.

In that show it was Militarism vs Pacifism, but City at the Edge of Battle is about whether Haruo is willing to give up his humanity to achieve his goal or risk destruction to preserve what little he has left.

Right. Like, this creature is humanity's fault, so do you try and accept the consequences by putting aside your ego and your revenge-lust to find a less vainglorious solution, or do you do...the opposite of that?

It's interesting, but I'm not sure it was worth over three hours of movie to start getting into it.

I can definitely see that, and I'm sure part of my reaction is just being glad to have something to think about in between lengthy explanations of what nanometal is. If nothing else, I can at least recommend this to people who got some enjoyment out of the first one—it still hasn't overcome its glaring flaws, but there's at least more going on under the hood this time.

Unless the third installment absolutely knocks my socks off, I'm not sure I can see recommending this to any but the most ardent Godzilla fan. But by no means do I hate it either! I think I'm just waiting for Urobuchi to drop more shoes, and the glacial pacing and lack of character depth in these movies is a detriment to his style of writing.

But after two movies of nothing but Zillas, it seems like we're going to get more kaiju in the final installment, from the Houtua's obvious connection to Mothra to the big post-credits name drop:

Let's hope the final act delivers that monster-on-monster action I've been cravin'.

Well I for one feel very confident in saying that we should expect big exciting things from the next installment in Urobuchi's favorite pet project, and I personally can't wait to see it continue this fall.

(But enough about Thunderbolt Fantasy.)

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