Gojira is alive and kicking. In between Hideaki Anno's Godzilla: Resurgence and Hollywood's upcoming Godzilla: King of the Monsters, two Japanese directors are working under Netflix' umbrella to provide an animated alternative. And with great success I might add. Monster Planet turned out to be my favorite film in the entire franchise, needless to say expectations for Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle [Gojira: Kessen Kido Zoshoku Toshi] were considerable. I'm glad to say Seshita and Shizuno came through.
This trilogy is probably the most sci-fi of all Godzilla films, but it's not the kind of sci-fi that's currently dominating the genre. It's heavily futurustic, with novel ideas and concepts mapping out the direction of the films. Modern sci-fi is mostly about blowing up existing trends into near-future tech doom, Seshita and Shizuno seems to be drawing more inspiration from late 80s and 90s anime. There are some smaller fantasy and action impulses too, it is a Godzilla film after all, but expect a slow and tech-heavy film rather than a fully-fledged action spectacle.
City on the Edge of Battle, like most trilogy sequels, does suffer a little from being stuck in the middle of the trilogy. The film needs some time to process the aftermath of the explosive finale of the first part, then it has to set up a new storyline for its own finale while also introducing some unresolved issues for part 3 to unravel. That's quite a lot of juggling for a film that only lasts 95 minutes (if you take away the end credits), but Seshita and Shizuno manage to balance everything really well.
Part 2 introduces a tribe of indigenous, human-like creatures who lead our team of survivors to the remnants of Mechagodzilla's development facility. There they find a nano-metal that has the potential to help them defeat the real Gojira. The nano-metal has unique properties that allow it to take over other materials, though not everyone agrees on the way it should be employed in order to take Gojira down. Regardless of their disagreements, there's very little time to argue as Gojira is drawing closer to the facility.
Visually this is a pretty straight-forward continuation of the first film (and Seshita's earlier projects for that matter). There's a small level of extra refinement compared to his earlier work, so it's nice to see he's still working on perfecting his style, but by and large you'll know what to expect if you've watched Monster Planet (and Blame! of course). The level of detail is still as impressive as ever, but it's really the sense of scale that is unrivaled. Once Gojira starts trampling around he is at his most menacing ever, an experience not even the most expensive Hollywood effects could equal.
The soundtrack is still a little underwhelming though. There's a selection of tracks that are mostly functional, but they add very little to the film and you'll be hardpressed to remember much of them afterwards. The dubbing on the other hand is on point, as long as you stick with the Japanese cast. Netflix included a list of different dub options, but none of the alternatives come even close to the original dub. The sound effects are on another level though, especially when Gojira gets riled up and blasts and roars his way through the scenery. They match and even enhance the scale of the monster, which is quite a feat.
City on the Edge of Battle is all about balance. There is quite a lot of plot and lore to go through, at the same time it's still a Godzilla film and that means destruction and mayhem. Because of those conflicting goals, the film feels quite dense. On the other hand, if you've seen a couple of anime sci-fi features it shouldn't feel all that unfamiliar. It may put off some people who were expecting more in the way of classic Godzilla (if that even exists), then again you're always going to lose some people when you're pushing an existing franchise in a new direction.
For being the middle film in a trilogy, City on the Edge of Battle is pretty great. The film needs to juggle a lot of responsibilities while making sure it still works as a stand-alone feature. It does all of that remarkably well, even though it irrevocably means the film falls slightly behind the first one. Still, with part 3 coming up fans of this Godzilla arc have everything to look forward to. The quality of Seshita's work has proven itself to be consistently great and even though this film may be a bit too dense and slow for some, once Gojira awakes there's still plenty of massive and all-destructive chaos to look forward to.