The conception of Gamera, the giant turtle kaiju, might have been inspired by a rival studio’s (Toho’s) much-popular iconic monster, Godzilla, but defining trait-wise, he shares more similarities with another kaiju genre legend, the benevolent, gentle giant, Ultraman. This was a result of gradual character arc progression through the Showa and Heisei eras, a fact that has been duly respected in Netflix’s latest anime, Gamera Rebirth.
After staying in ignominy for so long, the fan-favorite friendly monster finally has his chance to shine, and Gamera Rebirth doesn’t skimp on presenting the opportunity through riveting visuals, an inspiring background theme, spectacular monster battles, an emotionally grounded human story, surprising twists, and adhering to the lore accuracy by humanizing the titular monster. With the only major drawback being the sketchy explanation of the central lore, the series still manages to become the best kaiju-related content Netflix has produced in recent years. Here’s hoping Gamera Rebirth anime gets not just further continuation, but also receives a proper live-action follow-up soon enough, which will be necessary to make the character appealing to a newer generation.
Introducing The Key Players: Who Are The Kids? What Is The Eustace Foundation?
Gamera Rebirth opens in medias res in the year 1989, as viewers see an elementary school student, Boco, sitting at the seashore and striking up a conversation with his friend Joe, who isn’t in the scene, about their last summer together. We will return to this scene later in the article.
The story begins in Shinjuku Province, where three friends – Boco, Joe, and Junichi – are planning to buy a set of two-way radio communication transmitters for themselves. They will soon get admitted to middle school, and as a result, they will get separated from each other, which is why they want to make their last summer as memorable as they can, and the transmitter will allow them to keep in touch. The bond between the trio is really significant and constitutes the emotional core of the story itself.
Joe lost his mother and brother in an accident, which led his anguished father to take up drinking and put the responsibilities of household work, along with earning, on Joe’s shoulders. He finds his brother in Boco, a brave, kind kid who was often picked on for being different than others, and ever since meeting him, Joe has protected him from any sort of trouble. Junichi is a brilliant girl with exceptional intellectual and observational prowess, but her curiosity and nerdy enthusiasm isolate her from her peers. Thankfully, in Joe and Boco, she found reliable friends who support her in every way they can. The trio spend time in their idyllic, grove-side tree hideout, where they gather their one year’s worth of pocket money savings to buy the transmitter, and Boco notices a turtle stuck inside mangrove roots. With Joe’s help, he manages to release the creature – a nice foreshadowing for things to come and also a beautiful homage to the first Gamera movie released in 1965.
The Eustace Foundation is the world’s most renowned charitable, leading energy producer and research foundation, which secretly works on studying Kaiju, or unique prehistoric gigantic lifeforms, across the world. In the first episode, their exploration station in New Guinea is shown to harbor several small, winged dragon-like creatures that attack scientists with supersonic beams and kill them. Soon enough, the creatures, known as Gyaos, increase in number and size at an alarming rate and make their way towards Tokyo. Two Foundation operatives, scientist Emiko and agent Tazaki, rush to assess the situation, and US army units led by General Osborn, who was present in the vicinity due to the US-Japan Coalition, also get a whiff of an apparent troublesome situation.
Meanwhile, Boco, Junichi, and Joe get bullied, and their money gets stolen by an American kid named Brody and his friends. After prepping themselves in various ways to face the bullies the next time, the trio returns to confront Brady and co., but both groups get alarmed by a city-wide cataclysmic situation.
Gamera, The Guardian: How Did The Foundation Come Across The Children?
As the teenagers reach the building rooftops, they see the US fighter jets engaging with the Gyaos and getting demolished in the process. They start escaping from the building, when a ginormous turtle-like creature appears in front of them, flying through a great distance and attacking the Gyaos flock. Brady’s friends leave him, and he gets rescued by Boco and co., but in the process, the quartet gets attacked by one of Gyaos. The turtle creature protects them and proceeds to destroy all Gyaos in the vicinity and leaves, and the incident greatly affects young Boco. At the same time, a Foundation Chopper arrives at the scene, from which Dr. Emiko and Agent Tazaki arrive and request the kids to accompany them. They have observed the Kaijus, particularly with kids, and they want to investigate further to tackle the crisis.
Grateful to the group for saving his life, Brady also joins their ranks, much to the initial dismay of Joe. Later, it is revealed that General Osborn is Brady’s father, whose harsh treatment contributed to the Inception of his problematic bullying tendencies. After initial questioning by Emiko and Tazaki, Boco names the turtle protector Gamera, and the group is given a special communication device, much more advanced than the transmitter they wished to have. Later, discussing the possible sighting of another chameleon-lizard-type Kaiju, known as Jiger, General Osborn’s unit scours the neighborhood of Boco.
Meanwhile, the teenage group had already ventured through a subterranean area nearby, where they confronted a gigantic version of Jiger, who emerged from the ground and started wreaking havoc by destroying everything in sight. As previously mentioned about the connection these Kaijus share with kids, Jiger turns his focus on the teenage group. Gamera makes another timely appearance, as if he can sense the emergence of other Kaijus, and starts battling with Jiger. However, Osborn orders his men to concentrate firepower on the turtle monster, which lets Jiger continue his rampage and leaves Gamera helpless. The group of teenagers asks Brody to plead with his father to reconsider that decision, and finally, Brody musters the courage to do so. Finally, the army artillery starts targeting Jiger, which allows Gamera to turn the tables in his favor and annihilate the monster as well.
Kaiju Voyage: How Did Gamera Defeat Zigra?
To learn about the role the kids might play in the grand scheme of things, Dr. Emiko decides to take them to the Foundation HQ and takes them on a journey aboard the Foundation’s high-tech cruiser. Several Kaiju organs and tissues have been brought as Cargo as well, as the organization wants to research the interconnectivity factor among different Kaijus. On the ship, Junichi befriends Emiko, as she finds common ground with her curious, observing, pragmatic self.
A giant ray or pterodactyl-type marine Kaiju, Zigra, attacks the ship, leading to them evacuating in an attached submarine along with the biological samples, which Gamera once again intercepts. However, using his EMP discharge, Zigra knocks out Gamera and continues his pursuit of the kids. Junichi’s quick-wittedness allows the group to lure Zigra from the water, use a radio amplifier stationed on an island, and render the monster temporarily dazed. Gamera returns, and having the land traversal disadvantage, Zigra gets annihilated by Gamera.
Betrayal And An Epic Battle: What Happened To Joe?
The team finally reaches the Foundation HQ at the Yonaguni Island sea-mining facility, where two one-of-a-kind objects are kept among numerous other elusive materials. One of which is Orylium, a mystical mineral that empowers the Kaijus, and a unique Kaiju named Viras. Things start happening rapidly from this point on, as a confused Tazaki asks for details about the Kaiju situation from the uppermost echelon of the Foundation, but to no avail, and wishes to quit. The shady nature of the organization raises Joe’s suspicions as well, and while bringing up the question of their security, Joe has a falling out with Boco. After realizing that they have been shut out from the rest of the HQ, Joe and Junichi go their separate ways to find an exit route. In the meantime, a saw-headed Kaiju, Guiron, attacks the seastation, leading to a chaotic, destructive situation, and Gamera comes to the rescue once again.
Gamera is grievously injured during his battle, stabbed through the carapace with one of his arms cut off, but still manages to use his remaining strength to split Guiron in half. The station almost collapses, and the teens reunite, with Joe rescuing Boco once again. Reaching the holding station of Viras, the teens find out about Orylium, which they touch, after which they see a vision that reveals the Foundation’s sinister motives to them.
Turns out, the organization’s roots go back almost a hundred millennia ago, when they, as part of a technologically advanced cult, created and worshipped the Kaijus and sacrificed some chosen children to Viras. It is believed that, if a child with a genetic code with the highest matching rate of all the code-matching world populace is found out, the Kaiju can devour him to end the lives of all the code-matching world populace at once. With a very limited population left to survive, the Foundation can take control of the world. A similar procedure was attempted a hundred millennia ago, but thanks to Gamera, the crisis was averted. In the present day, Dr. Emiko turns out to be a villainous psychopath who seeks to continue the mission of ‘global purification.’ However, she isn’t aligned with the upper echelons of the organization, who are staying in a center on the Moon to avoid the impact of mass genocide induced by Viras, as she has bad blood with one of the four top members of the upper echelon – her aunt, Melchiorri. Soon after the havoc caused by Guiron, she finds the kids at the Viras holding area and captures them, and eventually, Tazaki learns about her supposed betrayal but decides to play along.
Emiko and her loyalists rejuvenate Viras using several Kaiju body parts and Orylium, and as she is about to prepare the teenagers for sacrifice, they break free along with Tazaki and start departing in a rocket, which was previously used to transport supplies to Foundation higher-ups on the Moon. As their vessel reaches space, Viras shoots at it using enhanced laser powers, and despite Gamera’s interference, he manages to damage it severely. With the escape pod of the ship being accessible only from the other side, Joe decides to sacrifice himself in order to save Boco and the others and manually ejects the escape pod while staying inside the about-to-crash space vessel. However, the escape pod starts malfunctioning as well, but Gamera manages to hold it after chasing and killing an oncoming Viras. As the team reaches safe ground, Gamera is seen in near-death condition, and Boco laments the loss of both Gamera and Joe. The crashing debris of Viras’s body decimates the remainder of Foundation HQ as well.
Did The Guardian Of The Universe Win His Kaiju Gauntlet?
However, the Foundation still has an ace up its sleeve, as a new Gyaos emerges, devours a still-alive Emiko, the remains of Viras, and starts growing at an exponential rate. It is revealed that the Gyaos can perform the same function of human extermination on a massive scale as Viras, if he can get a hold of Boco, the teenager with the highest genetic code match. On the other hand, Boco and his friends manage to convince Tazaki to call in reinforcements, the defense chief, and medical help to revive Gamera, as he is the only thing standing between the kaiju threats and total human extinction. It is at this moment that Boco remembers this last summer spent with Joe and the rest of their friend group and laments his loss.
Using Orylium shards with copper coils to amplify its energy wavelength, the scientists and doctors manage to set Gamera on a course to revival, but it might be too late already, as a ginormous Gyaos is already making his way towards the island where Gamera is stationed. Under the command of the head of defense, the army engages with Gyaos, but facing vicious attacks from the sonic scalpel, they are forced to retreat. Boco decides to distract Gyaos away from Gamera, who is still in the course of recovery. Just as Gyaos is about to attack the team, Gamera emerges and attacks him. Initially, a still-weakened Gamera gets entrapped by Gyaos, but with the help of the army and General Osborn’s unit (who interferes despite his initial reservations after his conversation with Boco’s mother), he gains the upper hand and kills Gyaos.
However, things are far from being over, as the Foundation high council activates a protocol to revert Gamera to his original, evil form and goads him to attack Boco and his friends. Boco decides to appeal to the monster’s senses and reinstate his faith in him. This results in Gamera fighting his evil instincts to break free of the control, and using the last of his remaining strength, Gamera launches an ultimate energy beam attack that precisely demolishes the high council station of the Foundation stationed at Moon. During Gamera Rebirth‘s ending, Gamera sacrifices himself to save humanity; his body slowly disintegrates, as the team tearfully watches from a distance.
Months after Gamera’s last stand, the teenagers are slowly gathering themselves up, although Boco or any of them can never move on from the tragedy they had to witness in the form of the deaths of two friends, Joe and Gamera. The teenagers clean out their grove hideout, which reminds them of loads of unforgettable memories they shared with Joe. As the finale ends, we see Boco and co. go to a state research facility, where they greet a tiny baby Gamera, who is seen walking inside a secure chamber and trying to let out the iconic roar. Rebirth is realized in the true sense of the term.
In Gamera Rebirth‘s post-credits scene, it is revealed that Tazaki has made a fortune by using Orylium as the superconductor of a new brand of smartphone. A receiver unit at the grove hideout becomes active, as it seems Joe is trying to reach out to Boco from the other side. This leads to plot points that will be utilized if a second season eventually gets made, which Gamera Rebirth anime series really deserves as well.