Gurren Lagann has something of an interesting history here in the States. A while ago ADV had announced that they acquired the license but due to mitigating factors the company was unable to follow through. Bandai Entertainment was quick to pick up the title but rather than release it with an English dub they decided to push through the series with the original Japanese language first. It's a move that may feel rushed and haphazard for all intents and purposes, but you know what? I'm damn happy Bandai picked up the series and released it such as they did.
The 27 episode Gurren Lagann hit Japanese airwaves in April of 2007 and enjoyed a decent amount of success. Produced by Gainax and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi (who worked on FLCL) it developed a cult following both in Japan and here in the States. A manga has been released and an animated film is actually scheduled to come out overseas in September. If you've never heard of this series before though, chances are good that you're wondering what the heck it's all about.
Gurren Lagann is arguably one of the most irreverent and over-the-top mecha series ever to be released. It has a wild sense of style and quite honestly the series is unique and imaginative right from the start. While it certainly does not have the most refined story ever created it's definitely one of the most enjoyable rides we've taken in a while. Few shows are this upbeat and Gurren Lagann has a lot of fun while never taking itself too seriously.
Okay, consider this your warning. If you have not seen the previous two volumes of this show the next portion is going to contain discussion about spoilers.
In the previous installment of Gurren Lagann Simon, Yoko, and the Gurren gang were reeling after the death of Kamina. The show took a couple of episodes to explore those emotions and it really set a bar for the series in terms of human feelings. It was fascinating to see how Simon reacted to the death of his "brother" and it's safe to say that few anime utilize emotion in quite this fashion. Filling that void was Nia, the daughter of the Helix King, who latched herself onto Simon and quickly became a staple character among the Gurren crew.
Just before the second installment finished the show took a bit of a leap forward. Up through episode fifteen the series was working on the established continuity, but after the recap episode the show leapt ahead seven years. We didn't have much time to explore this new reality but thankfully the third volume gives us ample time to do just that.
This may seem a little off-topic, but are you a viewer of Battlestar Galactica? Fans of that show undoubtedly know all about the "one year" later jump just prior to the end of the second season. Gurren Lagann handles the content in much the same way with a new set up, new threats, a new world, and familiar characters grown up and changed living amidst them. Humanity is living in their new city but a group known as the Anti-Spirals has surfaced and their threat is much more than the earlier one from the beastmen.
The Anti-Spiral are a group of people who created Spiral energy and technology that the humans and beastmen have been using. Back in the day they determined that the use of Spiral will bring about the end of the universe so they do whatever they can to prevent people and cultures from using it. During this attack it's also revealed that the moon is going to crash into the world below, so naturally Simon has to do something about it. Along the way though he's captured and winds up in a cell with Viral, which stirs up all kinds of things as you'd imagine (if you have been following the show that is).
From here Gurren Lagann pierces the heavens as the rest of the Gurren Brigade is assembled again. As they head up to space Simon, Nia, Yoko, Rossiu, Leeron, and the rest take the fight to the Anti-Spirals where more grandiose battles and tragedy await them. If you recall the opening moments of the series where Simon was featured on the bridge a massive space ship in the midst of explosions and stars, that's where this portion of the show ventures to. It's fun, irreverent, touching, and leaves an impression on you when the credits finally begin to roll on the last episode.
For some time now I've been stating how great this show is and how it's easily one of the best shows to come along in the 2008 American DVD market. I still stand by those claims even after this volume comes to a close. Gurren Lagann is an epic program that constantly pushes the bar for itself and you'll never look at a giant mech series the same way again. If you're in the market for a show that will leave you breathless and wanting more this is definitely the one to check out.
Gurren Lagann is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The production for this series is fantastic and the animation is second to none. This is also one of the brightest shows I have seen in a while with some vibrant colors and a fine contrast to the image. Some very light grain does appear in darker shaded sections of the picture so shadows aren't as deep as they should have been. Even so this is still a fine looking transfer for the show and it looks great with a nice home theater set up.
One thing that will probably cause some people to stay away from this release is the lack of an English dub. To be quite honest though the 2.0 Japanese track that is included here is all I'll ever need. I simply do not feel that an English voice cast could capture the insanity and spirit of this show. With that being said a 5.1 track definitely would have gone a long way to improving the experience; especially during battle sequences. The 2.0 provides some nice punches but without rear channel support it's simply not as immersive as it should have been.
All you're going to find on these two discs are some clean animations and Bandai previews. Sadly if you want better features and more content you're going to have to fork over some dollars for the special edition.
Gurrent Lagann is sadly over now. I want more and thankfully there should be a film coming out at some point here in the States. If you have not seen it yet, then you are missing out on one amazing series. Sure it's over the top, yes it's irreverent, but oh my god is it fun and addicting. You'll be humming the opening theme song and quoting this show after just a few episodes. Don't bother just reading reviews; go buy this now!
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