The 2nd Dimension

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Viewing Journal: Gurren Lagann (complete)

Series Overview
DVD Info
TV Broadcast Info

Overall= A-
Story = A-
Video = A-
Audio = B


In their closed-off underground village, Kamina and Simon chafe at the limits imposed by the village elder. Yet all this will change, when Simon stumbles across a fantastic device - just as the village's peace is broken by a violent intrusion. (Source: ANN)

Anime as a medium has produced a wide variety of stories from every genre, theme, and subject matter imaginable with artwork that ranges from the esoteric to the purely commercial. But when it comes right down to it, what anime fans really want is something with outlandish energy and uproarious fun. And Gurren Lagann is just that kind of show.

Gurren Lagann -- for those who don't know -- is brought to you courtesy of Studio Gainax. That's the same bunch of die hard otaku/animation producers that brought you the classics like Evangelion, Gunbuster, Diebuster, FLCL, and Otaku No Video. The studio has built its reputation on giving fans exactly what they want. With Gurren Lagann they pay tribute to the giant robot genre. And by "tribute" I don't mean that it's the kind of self-aware parody anime that calls attention to different elements by making self-effacing in-jokes. Instead this is more of a true homage to the genre that boils it down to the purest elements, then bumps those elements up to unabashedly unreasonable proportions in order to show just how cool they really are. So, for example, you have the constantly evolving/transforming mecha, characters that aim for the heavens with an unbeatable will, and just a crap-load of really cool stuff.

And more than the stuff of the giant robot genre, Gurren Lagann has those qualities that tend to make all the best Gainax shows worthwhile.

For one thing, even with all that over-the-top action and melodrama, Gainax somehow is always able to create naturally evolving and compelling characters with heartfelt emotions. Other shows that try to pull off the same balancing act between action and drama usually seem awkward and forced, like there's a tangible dividing line between the two moods. But here, that transition is seamless.

The other quality of most Gainax shows -- at least their sci-fi series -- is that the science that they use to explain the mechanics and logistics for how their universe operates is convincing, even as you are watch god-like mecha hurdle galaxies at one another. It adds an odd air of legitimacy to even the most ridiculous circumstances.

Another thing that I like about Gainax shows is their willingness to make a drastic shift to the story midway through the series. I love that kind of thing because when a show ends I want it to feel like the story and characters have changed -- and the more drastic the better. Waiting to see what that change will be and how it will happen gives that much more to look forward to. That same willingness to turn things on their head is here too, though I obviously don't want to give away when it happens or what it is.

As for the art, it's top quality throughout. The character designs and mech designs scream energy. And the action sequences are full of dynamic ... um .. energy. It's like the best part of FLCL and Diebuster put together.

And, well, the music's good too.

So if you haven't gotten the point by now, this show is cool. If you are a fan of anime, you'll love it. If you aren't a fan, you may just get a glimpse of why we fans obsess over the medium so much. Watch it!

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