October 05, 2008
Except for dinner with a friend, I spent all of yesterday studying for my upcoming exams. Despite this, around 3 AM I found myself quite unable to sleep. Thus, I got up, opened the copy of Gurren Lagann that's been sitting on my shelf for over a week and popped it into the iMac, intending to watch an episode or two.
This was ill considered, for the people at Gainax had nefariously used the DVD as a delivery vehicle for an advanced, bioengineered, fanboy-optimized, formulation of crack.....
John C. Wright recently opined upon some of the important qualities that the Star Wars movies lacked.....
... Let us compare and contrast: the sequels to, let's say Galactic Patrol by Doc E.E. Smith or the sequel to Skylark of Space got bigger by orders of magnitude to their predecessors. In Galactic Patrol the Gray Lensman is fighting Space Pirates. By the third or fourth sequel, he is fighting in the immortal interdimensional super-psionic superhuman creatures of Eddore. In the Skylark of Space Richard Seaton is fighting the World Steel corporation. In Skylark Duquense, he is teleporting one galaxy into another galaxy to turn the whole thing into a galaxy-sized cloud of supernova material, meanwhile teleporting all the human planets through the fourth dimension to a third and safer galaxy.....
This childrens cartoon, notwithstanding its so-so art style, bizarre Tex Avery-esque gags and over the top garishness, manages to put itself very nearly in that league.
Through the fabric of the silliness, the contrivances and the sight gags is woven a story of courage, betrayal, pathos, sacrifice, nobility, honor, hope, vision and star-spanning grandeur. What began as a tale of a boy, trapped underground, who merely wanted to see the sky, culminates in a series of escalating battles for the fate of the very universe, against an implacable enemy with whole galaxies used as weapons. The show builds to a thoroughly satisfying climactic battle as the whole of Earth looks up into the sky to witness a confrontation that dwarfs in scope the showdown with Lee and Kirby's Galactus.
The tale has poignancy, teh Yoko(!) heroic noble sacrifice, and teh Yoko(!), plus an ending that is as rewarding a payoff as any I've seen in years....
....which is cruelly interrupted by the actual, Gainax ending. (but see below)
Objectively, the show ends on an upbeat note, the universe is saved and made a vastly better place, it was a wild and enjoyable ride that kept me glued to the TV for 3+ hours, but the unnecessary and out of the blue gut punch really spoiled it for me as it just felt mean spirited and pointless.
The epilogue is cool and uplifting, though in my opinion it did not quite compensate for the aforementioned surprise. (Which, in fact, bothered me to distraction... which is why I took time out on pre-exam Sunday to blog about it.)
All that being said, Gurren Lagann is a remarkable accomplishment and absolutely worthy of its considerable hype. Rewatchability is low because of the bittersweet ending, but it is otherwise highly recommended.
4.89 of 5 bricks.
Rare show indeed.... 5 full bricks
UPDATE: On the advice of one of my weird...nay...criminally weird commentors, I re-watched the last episode after exams were over. Watching it when I hadn't been up for 26 hours put it in a rather different perspective. Suffice it to say I've modified my opinion. Far from being spiteful, the ending is both tragic and heroic. The epilogue, as I mentioned, is quite upbeat, and is in keeping with the sense of wonder that this goofy show somehow manages to convey.
This was an awesome show.Watching it while awake made it noticeably more awesomer...er...gooder...ummm...
Previous Gurren Lagann posts here and here.
(It should be noted that the surprise return of teh Yoko was handled quite well and while she is less central in the latter part of the series, she is occasionally pivotal, gets to kick rather more ass and is further established as a likable, ethical and decent character...Here she is in her superheroine outfit and in her cunningly unassuming alter ego....as mild mannered school teacher 'Yomiko')
...smacks of a Greek tragedy...
More like a "Geek tragedy".
Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Sun Oct 5 23:35:23 2008 (+rSRq)
Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at Mon Oct 6 21:14:21 2008 (/ppBw)
Posted by: Will at Thu Oct 9 05:21:31 2008 (73lWn)
Pete: You are, of course, correct....but that does not distract from teh hotness.
Posted by: The Brickmuppet at Thu Oct 9 05:23:33 2008 (73lWn)
I didn't have much time to fully flesh out my comment at the time. I still don't, but I just wanted to mention how that whole final scene fits in with the general theme of the show. (as I see it of course)
The very end of the epilogue to me was mostly hopeful, showing so much progress in just one generation, but it's also saw it as tinted by the tragedy that each new generation starts from zero and must learn everything possible from the previous generation before their time together is up. In that small window of time some lessons are distorted or lost, and some mistakes are doomed to be repeated. That young kid Simon is talking to has no concept of living underground. It's impossible to really know the struggle our elders fought, and sometimes it's impossible to get others to even care.
Posted by: Will at Thu Oct 9 15:53:47 2008 (WnBa/)
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