Salvation is a deeply personal thing– while it may take help and cheering from others, the only person you can save is yourself, and only you can do that saving.
That isn’t just the gist of Planet Eater, I think that’s the gist of Gen Urobuchi’s works as a whole. At least as far as the ones I’ve seen.
Of the stuff that’s wholly Urobuchi’s, writing-wise, I’ve seen these Godzilla movies, the Madoka TV series, and both seasons of Psycho-Pass and their accompanying movie (although he only wrote the first season and the movie). In each story we’re presented with a situation where humanity as a whole is in a dire situation. It may not be outright apocalyptic in each case, but humanity as a whole is always threatened in some way. Madoka is about fending off Walpurgisnacht while also dealing with the long term concept of the heat death of the universe. Psycho-Pass deals with a dystopian society where the rule of law is an algorithm that “objectively” determines one’s capacity to commit crime, or at least that’s what society is led to believe. This Godzilla movie shows Earth completely overrun by its namesake and the struggle to not only reclaim Earth for humanity, but to also defend it from two alien threats.
In each scenario, none of these end game scenarios are solved. While Walpurgisnacht doesn’t come, the looming threat of the universe’s inevitable demise is shown to be something you can’t really solve. That dystoipia in Psycho-Pass isn’t toppled like in so many other similar stories. It’s still there at the end of the day despite discovered secrets and weaknesses. Godzilla still rules Earth at the end of the animated trilogy, his threat rendered moot through a combination of acceptance, consignment, and the annihilation of immediate threats to his existence.
That existential dread is never eliminated, because it’s something that can never be defeated. Even in finding a personal victory, it still lingers in the hearts and minds of others. You may help a few other souls along your path to personal redemption, much like how Madoka “saves” the various magical girls who preceded her, but that doesn’t change the ultimate outcome.
But that’s the point. While it isn’t the only cause for suffering, it’s that need to look at the bigger picture and see it as solvable that helps push along that very end.
The Planet Eater shows that the various kaiju are born out of their respective people’s need to achieve eternal prosperity. The Human, Bilusaludo, and Exif civilizations all strove for perpetual, ever-growing change and progress. All three races saw existence as infinite, with infinite possibilities, infinite growth, and infinite time. Their existence was seen as permanent and unbeholden to any limitation. The big picture was their big picture, and they all failed to see that they’re just another minor cog in something that’s far bigger than them, but also just as limited. There is something akin to God, in that there are forces beyond our comprehension and power, but even they are limited. It’s our inability to perceive such vast limits that makes us see them as infinite. Godzilla, Mechagodzilla, Mothra, and Ghidorah are all like unto gods, but they are all limited to the same cycles as the rest of us. And in that limitation we perceive this as forever and seek it as a goal, when all we’re really seeking is an unforeseen death.
The big picture is bigger than us, but it isn’t actually big. It’s just big enough to crush us.
And it isn’t that we can escape from that inevitability, either. Death comes even to Godzilla. It may not have come “today,” as his death at the hands of Ghidorah is thwarted, but it can and it will happen. And that’s OK. If Godzilla can die, it’s OK for us to die too.
That’s Planet Eater’s take on “salvation.” It’s your terms that matter. The main guy, Haruo, refuses to give in to the Bilusaludo’s “become the monster” philosophy. He refuses the Exif’s “welcome the monster” philosophy. He even refuses Humanity’s “we always come back from the monster” philosophy, as he takes the remnants of technology that could rebuild all of the terrors that he and his friends sacrificed themselves to defeat and literally tries to rams them down Godzilla’s throat in one last statement saying “I’m doing this my way.”
And then he dies. Gozilla lives. And that’s OK. He died as himself rather than as the image others demanded. Just like how Akane in Psycho-Pass may not topple the Sybil System, but she makes it meet her demands and allow her to continue living the way she sees fit. Just how Madoka only becomes a magical girl at the right moment to do with her powers as she sees fit. They all lose when you look at things in terms of the bigger picture, but you can never win when that’s your game.
And you can’t help what happens after the fact either. The world is finite, but it’ll be here long after your time has come, and what people do to your image and in your name is out of your hands. Haruo’s worshiped as a new God who the new natives of Earth believe can burn away their fears, but is that not just beginning the cycle anew? Is this just a new foundation for a new ideology that will birth a new destroyer god? Will their patron Goddess Mothra be that destroyer?
Maybe. But that’s OK. Mothra’s just another big picture you can’t help.