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With Godzilla: King of Monster‘s recent release, we’re looking at a lesser known addition to the kaiju lore of this franchise. Now, Godzilla and Co. have been destroying buildings across Japan for years and as popular as they are, the US had to give it a go.
Before this year’s King of Monsters, before the 2014 film, there was the 1998 Godzilla film starring Matthew Broderick. It sucked. This film took the design and powers of the pop culture icon and tore it to pieces. With everything bad about this, there was a phoenix among the ashes. This gave us Godzilla: The series – a forty-episode, animated continuation of this film. The series ran for two seasons from 1998 to 2000. This little known series may have fallen off the grid and remembered by only a handful of fans and Kaiju aficionados, but there is a sense of beauty in this one.
The ’98 Zilla film (that’s right, it bombed so hard that fans stripped it of its god status) ended with the creature’s death only to reveal eggs in its wake. This is where this show picks up. Zilla Junior is the last offspring of our New York Zilla. After some scuffles, it teams up with a group of monster hunters called HEAT. Over the course of the series, the team track down and stop a number of weird and wonderful monsters and cryptids from around the world. That is the basic premise of this series and it delivers.
Characters are quickly established as Zilla Junior. bonds with Nick, the show’s human protagonist and Broderick’s character from the film. Junior believes him to be its mother. This leads to the start of our monster hunt against the creatures of the week that rear their ugly heads.
What makes this show stand high above the film was that it wasn’t afraid to actually have other monsters. Sure, the old favourites like Mothra and Rodan are nowhere to be seen, but that doesn’t matter; we still get plenty of great action! We are given a Mecha-Godzilla of sorts, but more on that later.
Junior’s powers are enhanced here, making itself similar to the original Japanese Kaiju. This lets us see a cooler creature than the film, and with more complexity to root for. For a show that was penned with the sole purpose of selling toys (a line that was never released after the film’s poor ratings) this series comes across really well. We have our fair share of cheesy dialogue. Nevertheless, the voice cast delivers it with such pure enthusiasm that we can’t help but be enthralled.
That brings us back to the plots. A three part battle against the “Cyber Zilla” (our mecha knockoff) is a highlight. This enemy is the ’98 Zilla reborn. Junior struggles to resolve whether he should side with HEAT and his “mother”, or whether to give in to his monster instincts and follow his father. This is a strong, complex plot that really gives depth and emotion to our creatures.
Looking at the plot is one thing, the pacing can be a bit jarring in places. It tends to jump around from one episode to the next, but the episodic format stands to it. The animation is strong, the lighting and character designs sharp. From the team that brought us Extreme Ghostbusters and the Men in Black animated series, we get fluid motion and a dark edgy vibe with comedic undertones that isn’t really for children, but can be enjoyed by all ages. Re-watching the first couple of episodes as an adult gave me a new found love for this show. During its original airing, there were things that would go over my head.
More than twenty years later, this series still holds up. Despite having sank to the bottom of the ocean like a defeated Kaiju in terms of its popularity and memorability, it is still a strong addition to our 90s animation watchlist – even if it isn’t the REAL Godzilla.