Netflix’s latest anime series, Gamera: Rebirth, features our favorite turtle Kaiju from Japan, and he’s back yet again, this time in a 1989 setting, to protect the world from a horde of monsters. Although we all know, how Kaiju movies go, the anime takes the time to focus on a theme that’s usually pushed to the backseat in such action-based anime: friendship. Throughout the six episodes, the theme of friendship is presented repeatedly to the viewers and in multiple ways, proving to us that it’s one of the most important values that we must possess and that it’s what separates us from the monsters that wreak havoc on people. Here’s a detailed analysis of how friendship becomes a significant theme in Netflix’s Gamera: Rebirth.
A common theme in Japanese ‘shounen’ anime is the importance of friendship and how it’s all-encompassing and all-pervasive in the lives of the protagonists. The anime showcases multilateral kinds of friendship: between kids who’ve been friends since childhood, between humans and nature, and between people who started off as enemies. Ultimately, it’s the power of friendship that makes for one of the greatest sacrifices in anime, but we’ll get to that in a while. The most obvious friendship that we witness in the show is that of Boco, Junichi, and Joe. From the get-go, Joe is protective of Boco, like an elder brother would be of his younger sibling. Joe tries teaching Boco how to ride a bicycle and reminds him that if Boco is bullied at the summer school he’s moving to, all he needs to do is let Joe know, so that he can take care of Boco’s bullies. There’s a blanket feeling of assurance, safety, and protection when the three friends are together, and that’s one of the key themes of the series.
Additionally, Boco finds a turtle stranded amidst the branches of a tree and wades through muddy water to rescue the helpless amphibian. When he slips and falls, Joe rushes in to help, even though he was initially opposed to helping a random turtle. This little act of kindness will completely change the kids’ lives forever, but for the moment, the series portrays the message that it costs nothing to be kind to nature and the other creatures that reside on the planet other than us. The three friends do everything together, from pooling all their pocket money to buy a radio to stay in touch with Boco when he moves away to brainstorming ways to take down the teenage bullies, led by Douglas, who’d snatched their cash. Even in the face of a threat, Boco, Joe, and Junichi don’t back down and don’t abandon each other, showing what an ideal friendship should be like.
What began as enmity quickly turns into friendship, after Boco decides to help Douglas when he’s been left to fend for himself as the monsters arrive. Soon, Douglas became part of the group, and he actually warmed up to the younger kids, even though Joe and he found themselves at odds quite a few times. The fact that Douglas, a bully and a mean guy who’d stolen the kids’ money, begged his Army General father to stop bombing Gamera because his friends requested him, is a testament that Douglas had stopped trying to earn his father’s approval and had become a better friend. However, the friendship encountered a little turmoil at the research center of the Future Foundation when Boco and Joe began fighting. Boco declared that Joe should stop treating him as his brother because he’s not, whereas Joe couldn’t help but see his deceased brother Toru in Boco. Although the two groups were separated, with Junichi going off with Joe and Boco staying back with Douglas, when the Situation became tough, the friends showed up for one another. Both Boco and Joe risked their lives to save each other, such was their friendship with each other.
The series also gives a lesson in betrayal and teaches us that not everyone who smiles and appears helpful is a friend, and oftentimes, they can be the worst of enemies. Emiko Melchiorri had quickly befriended the kids with her kind face and soft-spoken nature, and her friendship was strongest with Junichi. However, the kids had to learn the harsh truth later on: Emiko was the biggest conspirator in the chaos that’d been happening, and she planned to sacrifice the kids to Viras, the ancient Kaiju. Thus, the series is a testament that friendship is an extremely valued emotion, and not everyone deserves to become your friend from the beginning because you think they might be nice.
The antithesis of Emiko was Joe, hands down. As the kids escaped the planet in a rocket to get away from Viras’ grasp, the Kaiju damaged the shuttle beyond repair, and it was plummeting down. The only way to survive was the escape pod, but it wouldn’t launch automatically, so someone had to stay back. The kid who came from a neglected family, who’d lost his mother and brother at a young age, and who delivered newspapers to support his family, took up the duty of sacrifice yet again because he couldn’t witness the death of another friend he thought of as a brother. Joe decided to stay back and manually launch the escape pod, so that Boco, Junichi, and Douglas could survive, and he happily gave up his life, if that meant being able to see his family soon.
Joe’s sacrifice is one of the best ways to display what friendship is all about, and many times, the show might remind us of „Naruto”, where friendship is the central theme of the anime. Boco kept the fire alive in his heart and was determined to not let his friend’s ultimate sacrifice go to waste, so he took on the risk of distracting S-Gyatos, a humongous monster, away from Gamera, so that the behemoth turtle could heal before saving the world. Apart from helping save the world, Boco learned to ride a bicycle and became a stronger kid, both physically and emotionally, but he’d never forget the kid he’d meet and befriended in the first grade and how he gave up his life at such a young age so the others could survive. The anime repeatedly points out that humans together can achieve magnanimous feats, that are virtually impossible if attempted alone. This is the importance of friendship, trust, and sacrifice that Gamera: Rebirth tries to inculcate in its viewers.