The anime movie Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters (Godzilla: Kaijuu no Wakusei) was released in Japanese cinemas on 17 November 2017 and will be released on Netflix worldwide on 17 January 2018. Following the smash hit live-action movie Shin Godzilla in 2016, this is the first ever animated entry into the series of theatrical Godzilla movies which started in 1954.
Gen Urobuchi was responsible for the original story and screenplay. He is one of the top storytellers who creates stories in conventional genres with a new approach, such as with Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The newest Godzilla movie has become the center of attention for its tough and serious sci-fi world and unpredictable storyline. People can’t stop talking about the mighty power of Godzilla and what the future holds for humanity, which is feeling helpless and in despair. Comments regarding the biggest ever Godzilla anime are trending on social media.
Anime!Anime! conducted an interview with Hiroyuki Seshita, the director of Knights of Sidonia, Ajin, and BLAME!, who directed the Godzilla anime together with Kobun Shizuno. We asked him how he constructed and visualized the movie based on the screenplay Urobuchi wrote while having an awareness of the massive significance that Godzilla has. The interview unveiled his trust in his staff who made the anime together, deep reflection on its detailed stage design, and enthusiasm for Japanese CG animation.
He also revealed some information regarding its second installment, Godzilla: Kessen Kidou Zoushoku Toshi (‘The City Mechanized for the Final Battle’, English title TBC) during the interview. Whether you have watched the movie already or not, this interview will provide you with clues to understanding the movie.
[Interview and composition: Ryosuke Komatsu]
The anime adaptation couldn’t have been done without Urobuchi and Shizuno.
I’ve heard that you had doubts as to whether or not it was possible when you first heard about an animated Godzilla movie. Could you tell us the reason for your doubts?
Needless to say, Godzilla is a world-famous character representing Japan. I’ve known Godzilla since I was a child and I understand the significance of Godzilla thoroughly as a professional who is in the film industry. It was easy to imagine how hard the challenge would be, including how to visualize the beauty of tokusatsu, the stylized special effects which are essential to Godzilla, in an anime adaptation.
You wondered about how to visualize the stylized beauty of tokusatsu in anime.
If you were asked, ‘can you adapt Kabuki into a musical?’, you’d probably think it’d be too difficult. However, if you were asked, ‘can you create a musical that tells people who are unfamiliar with Kabuki about what Kabuki is and make them interested in it?’, you are very likely to think there might be a way to do that, don’t you? The stylized beauty of Godzilla isn’t readily adaptable into anime. However, I thought it might be doable depending on how I approached it. So, I accepted the offer.
I think I wouldn’t have accepted the offer if I had been on my own. I accepted because Sizuno and Urobuchi were with me to challenge the task. After struggling, wondering, and thinking for the last 3 years, I’ve finally achieved the goal thanks to the two.
I suppose you and Polygon Pictures are indispensable parts as well.
I feel ecstatic to hear that. [laugh] Established in 1983, Polygon Pictures is one of the oldest anime studios dealing with CG in Japan. They’ve been at the forefront of the utilization of CG for the commercial film since the early days of CG in Japan. They have an outstanding ability to create anime with consistent quality and quantity. They also have a proven track record and experience in taking up the challenge to produce cel-shaded anime.
I had every confidence in them to create a great movie even if it’s a blockbuster feature anime.
How does Gen Urobuchi appeal to you?
He can transform profound and recognized narratives and worlds passed down through generations into modern ones which reflect today’s sensitivities. He knows the emotions and words which young, serious anime fans are seeking, and creates stories based on that information.
I believe it was Urobuchi who managed to sustain the prestigious Godzilla brand with its vast world concept and ensemble cast.
What do you think about your co-director, Kobun Shizuno?
He can appeal to the mainstream, whereas Urobuchi and I are rather geeky types. Shizuno has an ability to adapt any geeky subject for the mainstream. He has a brilliant talent.
I honestly enjoy interacting with Urobuchi and Shizuno. Thanks to them, I was allowed to concentrate on the areas I’m good at and love as much as possible. I relied on them thinking, ‘even though the world of the movie I set is rather geeky, Shizuno will adjust it for the mass market.’ Urobuchi gave authenticity and respectable formality, and Shizuno gave overwhelming mass appeal to the movie. I was able to give many geeky suggestions because of these guys, who I was able to trust greatly.
Were you mainly responsible for the world concept and settings of the movie?
We didn’t divide the work among us but carried it out while exchanging ideas. However, I played an active role in creating the concept of the world in the movie and researching the sci-fi background, because that’s what I like to do. [laugh]