Gurren Lagann volume 2 continues the awesome brought by the first one, but this time things take a more serious turn in tone, lending this series a completely different feel.
What They Say
In his sky-less cavern of a village Simon toils daily, drilling holes to expand his stifling little world until one day he makes an extraordinary discovery: a small glowing drill-bit and the man-sized mecha it activates. Before he can give it a second thought Simon's dragged into a plot to break through to the surface by the local gang leader Kamina, only to have the ceiling come crashing down on top of them under the weight of a giant monster! It somehow falls onto the boisterous Kamina and the cowardly Simon to defend their village but once they defeat the monster what awaits the duo on the surface world? Get ready for buxom babes, beastmen, and giant mecha as only GAINAX can provide them! BUST THROUGH THE HEAVENS WITH YOUR SOUL, GURREN LAGANN!
For this viewing, I took in the English 5.1 dub. The Japanese track is offered in 2.0. This mix is pretty nice, with good directionality present during the fight scenes. Dialogue and sound effects come through clearly, and the music track is decent. Each track is distinct, and there were no problems with dropout or distortion.
For the most part, the visuals in this series are really nice. The character designs are excellent, as are those for the Gunmen. With a wide range of locales used through these episodes—such as underground, deserts, and waterfalls—there are a number of nice visual effects used for the scenery. It is a fairly colorful series, and the colors mostly come through well, but there were a number of instances of haziness and blending. There was not enough to ruin the effect of the show, but enough to warrant a mention. Overall, this title looks pretty good.
The packaging is a bit of a mixed bag. The front cover has a picture of Kamina sitting in Gurren looking every bit the self sure young man that he is. This is set against a bare grey gradient, which gives the image a bit of an empty look, though it is not bad. Oddly, this image is set up in landscape format rather than the traditional portrait. The back cover returns to portrait format as is displays the disc summary along the top, with stills and features in the middle, and the technical credits along the bottom. The disc has the same image of Kamina and Gurren that is on the cover. My biggest problem with this is that the amaray case is fairly thin and feels like a mild sneeze could cause it to fall apart. Of course, I hope that is not the case.
The menus on this release are pretty well put together. The majority of the menu is made up of a series of red shapes that border a box that is showing clips from the episodes, another area that has a rotating version of the Team Gurren logo, and the menu selection. The selections are highlighted by a white arrow underneath pointing up which stands out well from the red. A guitar riff plays during the menu loop. Overall, it is a pretty nice design, but the selection of red for the motif is a bit odd since it lends a different feel than the mostly lighthearted affair of the series itself.
Though there were some nice extras on the previous disc, this disc is scaled back a little bit. For starters, there are the US and Japanese versions of the TV trailer along with a set of textless songs. The big extra on this disc is the inclusion of the TV version of the sixth episode. Apparently the uncut version of the episode featured some content deemed too racy for broadcast—hot springs episodes have that tendency sometimes—and this is the version edited for TV. In place of the offending scenes, the start of the episode features a significantly longer summary of past events than most episodes open with. While the uncut episode is obviously better, it is pretty interesting to see the thought processes and edits that can go into preparing a show for broadcast.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After an enjoyable first volume, I was really looking forward to checking this one out. The odd mix of characters, great comedy, and great story gave it a strong beginning. While this volume certainly lived up to the expectations set by volume one, there is an odd shift in the tone of the series near the end of this disc that I really was not expecting.
When the last volume left off, Team Gurren has found their way into another underground village that had the absolute gall to force Yoko to cover up. The first episode pays that back by having the requisite hot springs episode, with Yoko and the Black Sisters providing Kamina a number of opportunities to try and sneak a peak at them. Of course, the hot spring was a trap laid by the beastmen in order to stop Team Gurren from continuing their quest to eradicate them, but despite Kamina’s complete inability to focus in the presence of near naked women, Team Gurren manages to escape.
Upon their escape, they come upon Thymilph the Crasher, one of the Spiral King’s four generals who has vowed to defeat Team Gurren with the Dai-Gunzan, his overly large Gunman. While the battle looks bleak for Team Gurren, even with Kamina’s unceasing optimism, things take a step up with the sudden arrival of acquaintances who have managed to steal their own Gunmen. This helps even up the odds, but the battle is still tough.
Much like the first volume, the main strength in Gurren Lagann continues to be the characters. In this volume, Kamina’s confident ways begin to rub off on Simon as he learns to think independently for himself. However, Yoko’s presence starts to confuse him. Though Simon is quite a bit younger than Yoko, she is unbelievably nice to him, and he is at that special age when he starts to notice girls. The fact that she refuses to wear anything but the bare minimum certainly helps. However, when he spies Yoko and Kamina share a kiss on the eve of the big battle, he is thrown for a complete loop and has trouble accepting it.
What is interesting in this volume is a complete shift in tone late in the disc. Up to the shift, the series is plenty light-hearted and contains not a small amount of sexual humor carrying it. However, the shift brings a heavy, dark tone to Gurren Lagann. While the story is still very good, the shift is quite dramatic and makes me wonder about the direction of it going forward. In some ways, I missed the original tone of the title, but in others, the new tone brought the story to new levels and opened up an entirely new set of avenues for later episodes to go down.
What this means is that I am intrigued as to the effect of this shift. Without it, I would have been perfectly content to suggest that I was really looking forward to more of the same that is offered in the early stages of the series. However, now that it has happened, I am still interested in checking the rest out, but that curiosity is piqued by the new potentials, not to mention the new pitfalls, the shift has opened up. Aside from wanting to see more of the story, I want to see if it can handle the shift, and if/when it ever shifts back.
The second volume of Gurren Lagann brought more of the same stuff that made the first volume so great. However, there is a dramatic change in tone in the latter part of this disc that takes it into areas previously unexplored by the earlier episodes. That shift completely changes the feel of the series, but in some ways raises the already high ceiling even higher. I definitely want to see what they do with this going forward. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Televised version of Episode 6, "Sit in the Hottub 'Til You�re Sick!" (English 2.0 Audio), Textless Opening, Textless Ending
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System