Matt Kamen on Jun Awazu’s resistance movie Planzet
When the alien FOS came to Earth, humanity was all but wiped out. Faced with overwhelming technology and sheer extraterrestrial might, our cities were devastated, governments fell and the population was left decimated. The survivors united, building the Diffuser, a device that stalled the aliens’ assault and gave us chance to devise a more permanent plan. When Taishi Akeshima’s father was killed early on in the invasion though, the young man was driven only to survive at all costs, desperate for a chance at retribution. It’s now 2053, and the remnants of mankind have created a last-ditch effort to reclaim the planet – Plan Zed. With it, we have one final shot at survival and Taishi has his chance at revenge. Unfortunately, it involves abandoning the scant defence provided by the Diffuser. Is a small chance at victory worth risking total extermination for the human race?
With themes of post-apocalyptic desperation running throughout, Planzet brings together a mix of conflicted characters, unusual enemies and impressive mecha. However, unlike your average ‘giant robots vs aliens’ anime, Planzet presents its visions of clanging titans in incredibly detailed 3D CGI. Despite the success of films such as Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children – though that particular example had a healthy crossover appeal with gaming fans – it’s still an unusual animation style to see in Japanese movies. Most anime fans will likely be familiar with CG work being incorporated into more traditional looking anime, rather than Pixar-style movies but Planzet’s director Jun Awazu is looking to change that. Awazu doesn’t have quite the same career trajectory as many figures in the Japanese film industry, be it live action or anime, and is one of a select few directors championing a progression in computer generated animation.
Awazu’s prior movie, 2005’s Negadon, the Monster from Mars, was one of a scant few examples of feature-length computer animation to come from the country (even then, “feature-length” was a meagre 53 minutes). Negadon become something of an indie hit, notable for its detailed imagery and over the top plot of a giant, Godzilla-esque creature rampaging across Japan after scientists transport a mysterious pod found on the Red Planet to Earth – proving Ridley Scott didn’t invent idiotic researchers with this year’s Prometheus. The film was a love letter to the classic kaiju monsters found in cinema from the 1950s onwards, though it never quite managed to break away from its B-movie loving audience.
Planzet is a bit more mainstream then, at least by anime standards. The film still plays around with sci-fi conventions, as did its predecessor, though here the particular sub-genre being targeted is the alien invasion one. Five years on from Negadon, Planzet is also staggeringly more intricate, the advances in computer hardware and animation software allowing Awazu to realise his visions in ways never before seen. With a voice cast boasting Mamoru Miyano (Death Note, Highschool of the Dead) and Junko Takeuchi (Naruto, Pretty Cure) and production bolstered by some of the top effects studios in Japan, the film itself reflects its own central conflict – a huge technical risk, but one worth taking in order to move forward.
Planzet is out on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment.