Gamera the Brave opens with a spectacular nighttime battle in which an obviously aged Gamera battles his villain Gaos, prehistoric birds that were prevalent in the previous Heisei Gamera series.
While spectacular in terms of visuals, seemingly a nod to Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris where the series left off (The Brave is a new story), it is important in establishing the creatures from the start. Gone are the needed and incredibly clichéd scenes of people looking in awe that giant monsters exist. Japan is aware, and they are ready.
Gamera the Brave is a throwback to the original series, where the monster is a friend to children. However, this concept is done properly, not a simply means to put kids on screen to draw ticket sales.
Gamera has a mythology as it exists to save humanity from monster attacks. While it is never made clear why, the creature’s instincts are to fight back. The design here is undoubtedly friendly, with bulging eyes and soft face. It is a departure from the Shusuke Kaneko Gamera, which had a rigid sharp shell, giant tusks, and dark exterior.
The tone of Gamera the Brave is kinder and gentler, with a lovely score by Yoko Ueno. This is a children’s film, only with less fantasy than rival Toho’s modern Mothra series. In fact, The Brave tackles some tough issues. Young Toru (Ryo Tomioka) is living a rough life, distanced from his father and dealing with his mother's passing.
He takes hold of a small tortoise he finds, going against his father’s wishes of having pets in the home. He connects with the turtle in a way that insinuates a deeper connection, almost as if finding Gamera (with Toru names Toto) is his destiny.
Gamera grows quickly, and in a way that is completely inoffensive. Scenes of the small tortoise parading through the kitchen are cute, vastly different from the camp of previous attempts to keep the giant monster genre aimed at the younger set. It is not that dissimilar from Water Horse, or any other film in which a lonely child befriends a lovable creature bound to grow to large to care for.