My first thought on seeing this was that it was probably related to the interesting short, Negadon: The Monster from Mars.
My second was a strong suspicion that I had actually seen it before.
My first thought proved to be true as Jun Awazu directed both films. I’m not certain whether, as in Negadon, the dates are given in terms of the Showa era, although in the english subtitles they aren’t. Which doesn’t prove much because, depending on the company that prepared the translation, the reference might have seemed too esoteric.
[Here’s the simple version: The Japanese count time according to the reign of the Emperor, and “Showa” was the Imperial name Hirohito chose when he ascended to the throne. “Showa” is also used to refer to the classic era of Toho Studios Kaiju Eiga films, which came to an end in the mid-70s (with the films from 1985 to 1998 referred to as the “Heisei era”, after Showa’s successor, Akihito).]
It looks a lot like Negadon, as Planzet‘s future world is filled with a lot of deliberately archaic elements, like push button phones and the phone-pole crowded cityscapes of 1960s Tokyo. It is the future of the Toho SF 60s, with a Bonestell-esque space station borrowed from Gorath, and the hero’s father flying into space in that Toho favorite, a Lockheed Starfighter.
But it then seems to take a wrong turn somewhere, with an Evangelion-clone storyline about fighting a mysterious alien incursion – in Mecha that look like they came straight out of some Gundam or other.
Most of the story takes place at a remarkably empty base which apparently has a total crew of four – three Mecha pilots and a sexy but ice cold Captain. There’s some talk about Fathers and why we fight, some heroics, a big flying saucers vs. mecha battle and the usual ultimate weapon which is so terrifying and destructive that it has to be saved for the last ditch effort.
Where, as we know will happen, it fails. Well, almost.
Perhaps the biggest problem is that Planzet is too long. Negadon seems far better, not so much because there’s that much more to it, but because, at a third of the length it can be introspective and thoughtful and deliberately paced without slowing things down too much.
And then there’s the animation. Let’s be honest the almost photoreal characters (who look like they escaped from the cut scenes of a videogame) just feel a bit…creepy. And, let’s face it, they need to be far more expressive if you plan to hang critical dramatic scenes on them. You hardly need a glance at Shinji Aramaki’s recent CGI animes to tell that the medium is capable of far more.
Nor does it ever manage to create much interest in its character’s plight, perhaps because, when there are only six characters – and one of them is dead – and no one else appears to be anywhere in the city with them, not even in their top-secret base.
But what seems to sum it up better than anything else is that parts of it are so familiar that I’m fairly certain I have seen it before – and it has to have been within the last five years or so.
An epic CGI anime with Mecha fighting an alien invasion and it left absolutely no lasting impression?
What more can I say?
(Movie available here).