Earlier this weekend, while doing my rare rounds of looking for more tv goodness in the ever fruitful lands of Huluville, I ran into a title that equates clearly to the recent acquisition of another geek classic, Edgar Wright’s SPACED. The late 90s-early 2000s TV series featuring none other than Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and various members of the cast of future nerdcore classic Shaun Of The Dead movie. As many feel, the sharing of such a seminal tv series has been something of a rarified godsend for those looking for a little added edge to their streamy viewing. And just as SPACED fulfills great gobs of love for geeks of the comic-book & movie persuasions, the discovery of GAINAX’s penultimate 2000s tribute to Robot Anime is akin to an action lover’s gold rush. No I’m not speaking of THAT show, I’m speaking of course of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan.
And why is this reason for celebration? Why is it that the discovery of this series on one of the more mainstream viewing sites such a big deal? I’ve decided to compile some simple, concise reasons as to why missing out on this show could possibly be like missing out on your own wedding or birthday. It’s simply that remarkable. But don’t take the last two paragraphs’ word for it. Read on. Oh yeah. Read on!
1. Hiroyuki Imaishi
If you’ve yet to familiarize yourself with this name, you may as well take that hot handle from the kitchen and burn yourself now. I mean it. An animator well integrated into the GAINAX fold for years has had an amazing career, bending reality in ways that defy physics and belief. If anyone remembers much of the infamous “Bra Bullet” episode of Tsurumaki’s mad as nuts FLCL(1999 – 2001), you’ll recognize the bizarre use of puffy, mutated art that sprouts and bulges as if the screen can’t contain the action. Or how about Dead Leaves(2004), people? The sheer madness sealed within that title is sheer, unadulterated Imaishi from first frame to last as his crew made his anarchic art style into brain-bursting mantra. So his wild vision is well suited for an all-out tv assault, and by 2007, about time it was.(and this all through the watchful eye of storyboard artist extraordinnaire, Osamu Kobayashi) Imaishi’s work directing Gurren Lagaan, while still mad, serves a truly fitting setting and mythology that asks us to believe anything, and in drooling turn…we do.
2. Giant Frakin’ Robots!
Taking the best cues from decades of giant mecha anime, Gurren Lagaan takes an apocalyptic landscape approach, thereby maximizing the potential for all types of mecha possibilties. It’s a realm of anything-goes Robot-Fu that doesn’t skimp on the wacky. From drill-bit hands, to giant shuriken throwing, to ridiculously combining stunts, and even beyond.(If that’s imaginable) Gundam this is not. This is a show that takes mecha action into places even most adventurous creators haven’t dared to go. And with a studio and crew highly knowledgable in the classics, this is saying a whole lot.
3. Yoko & Nia
The less I say about this, the better.
4. Notions Of Heroism
A running theme throughout the series is how one generation leaves impressions of adulation and inspiration for the next. As our protagonists grapple with mere survival, they are also conflicted by illusive truths concerning heroism. What does it truly mean when there are none to immediately look to? Through the lead characters of Simon & Kamina, we’re taken through shades of what youth tends to see as heroism, as opposed to what kind of sacrifice is truly necessary to attain such a state. It’s also encouraging to see a recently made show take us through the looking glass of childhood to adulthood, and not make light of such things, while at the same time enthralling viewers with tales of manly derring-do. Anything that is played overtly macho on the surface, is often done so with a tongue-in-cheek attitude so blatant, that when we see other angles later, we are taken on a visceral trip that not merely celebrates badassery, it gives viewers pause to question why it is so.
5. Gainax Steps Up To The Plate
Still saddled with the baggage claims left by Evangelion, it seemed only natural that a studio famous for ripping the Mecha Melodrama a new, gaping one would want to take on sheer action mecha shows. The pedigree with which Gurren Lagaan was written by is also worth noting, as much of the series was penned by playwright Kazuki Nakashima. The man’s use of heroic archetypes, and knowledge of the drama inherent are amazingly put together here, as he understands that the visuals will mark higher than just eloquent oratory. And when his dramatic sides start to flare up in this show, look out. It seems like the working marriage between his words and Imaishi’s hypercharged visuals is one for the books as it all seems so effortless, even when it feels like the show could so easily fly off the rails, and into oblivion.The series builds, and crescendoes in a way that defies even the most didactic anime pioneers. If you want a show that shows more, and says less, and still achieves volumes, this is your show.
Seriously, action fans. Dub or no, this is a can’t miss series.