Gurren Lagann Vol. #3 - Mania.com



Anime/Manga Review

Mania Grade: A+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13+
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running Time: 225 Minutes
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (Mixed/Unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2

Gurren Lagann Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     September 18, 2008
Release Date: September 02, 2008


Gurren Lagann Vol. 3
© GAINAX, KAZUKI NAKASHIMA/Aniplex, KDE-J, TV

Reaching for the heavens and succeeding spectacularly, Gurren Lagann is all about the fun and excitement that’s very hard to capture.

What They Say:

Seven years have passed since the final battle against  Lordgenome and the Beastmen. Mankind is now thriving on the  surface of the planet. Lordgenome’s fallen capital has now  become humanity’s new capital, Kamina City, and lead by Simon  and the other members of Team Dai-Gurren. The suffering of the  people forced to live underground seems like a distant memory.  Instead of struggling to survive day after day, Simon now finds  himself dealing with civic duties of keeping the residents of the  metropolis happy. However, true to Lordgenome’s final words,  when the population of humans on the planet reaches 1,000,000  people, an even greater threat falls upon mankind. Now, up  against an unknown enemy and obstacles in every direction he  turns, Simon must fight against destiny to save the woman he  loves and all of mankind once again in the process!

BREAK THROUGH THE KARMIC CIRCLE OF NEVERENDING BATTLE WITH YOUR DRILL, GURREN LAGANN!

The Review:
Audio:

The audio mix for this series is presented in just the Japanese stereo form as a full bilingual version is due out later. The stereo mix, encoded at 192kbps, is pretty good as it captures much of the full brash nature of the action in the show. It does again point to a weakness in the Japanese creative process though as this is a show that would have fared beautifully with a 5.1 mix and proper use of the subwoofer. As it’s presented here though, there’s no complaints to be had as dialogue is clean and clear and placement sounds pretty solid throughout. We didn’t have any dropouts or distortions during regular playback of this single language track release either.

Video:
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Gurren Lagann’s presentation here is one that isn’t going to shine for much of it, especially in the first few episodes which has a fair bit of dark blues and blacks that come across as fuzzy and grainy. What’s problematic past that, when the show gets above ground, is that the noise within the character designs can get pretty distracting at times. The bulk of the show looks pretty good, especially the backgrounds, but this area is pretty noticeable right from the start, more so on a larger screen. The bitrate for the series in general is pretty high though, more than the usual Bandai Entertainment release, which is likely due to Nightjar doing the authoring on it. The release is something of a mixed bag overall but a good chunk of it is likely chalked up to the way the show was visually designed.

Packaging:
While the first two volumes have had their positive and negative aspects, there’s something really appealing about this final cover. The simple image of Simon from behind with Boota on his shoulder looks great on its own, but that they add the flaming aspect to the logo on the back and that he’s wearing the star shaped mask with just the tri-points peeking out makes it work all the more. It’s understated, powerful and rather cool. The back cover fares a little better though as it has a good breakdown of the summary and multiple shots from the show along a strip through the center. This provides it with a bit more color and the various exclamations helps to give it a bit more energy. The discs features are clearly listed and there’s a solid breakdown of the episode numbers and titles. The technical grid isn’t as good as some other recent new releases from the company but they do list things out a little bit better while still falling short of the mark. No insert is included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
As soon as the menu loads up I was in a little bit of heaven as Nightjar got the job for this release, one that I suspect is easily tweaked to be used again in the bilingual version in the future. The menu design uses their love of rotation to get you to submenus as it takes the basic imagery from some of the interior Gunmen screen designs and brings in the navigation elements as well as the basic text you’d expect such as the logo. With a good bit of thrumming music to it, these are fun menus to whip around in and go place to place. Submenus load pretty quickly considering the extra animation and everything is laid out in a very smooth and easy to utilize form. With only one language track here, player presets aren’t too much of an issue but they’re just right when it comes to the subtitle track, something that has been off on some other sub-only releases from other companies in the past.

Extras:
The only extras included on this release, which are the same on both discs, are clean versions of the second opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gurren Lagann has been a fascinating show to watch, which isn’t a surprise as very few Gainax original series have been uninteresting. The second set of nine episodes was the weakest of the series for a point simply because it wallowed a bit too much in despair, which was rather necessary when looking at the bigger picture of the story. Once it got going however, it led into an area that turned the whole series in a fascinating new direction, one which is capitalized on beautifully in this final installment of nine episodes. Gainax rarely goes beyond the standard episode counts, so seeing them hit twenty-seven episodes here does feel unusual but it all works out perfectly.

The arrival of the Anti-Spirals on Earth brings everything to what seems to be the big new arena. While the fight against Lordgenome was certainly a huge event, it was more of a mid-series epic moment that must be topped for the finale. Every time things get to a new level that you think is as far as it can go, they come out with something even more. The shift to seven years in the future has shown us humanity moving forward with extreme speed and ending up in extreme comfort over what they now have. When that’s threatened, they instinctively look to place blame and Simon’s poor actions in defending everyone combined with the way Nia has manipulated things makes it easy for him to receive a sham trial. Before he knows it, he’s sharing a cell with Viral which is simply amusing just for the visuals of it all.

Seemingly unable to defeat the Anti-Spirals, though at least able to fend them off to some degree, everything has gone epic in scale as the bad guys are now threatening the planet by tossing the moon at it. The resulting destruction will cause untold despair on the million plus inhabitants, which is exactly what the Anti-Spirals want. Rossiu at least has plans to try and save more than half of them, but events never go as the earnest young man plans. When there is such a dominating force looking over everything and with the Lordgenome head coming up with all sorts of new information, it only gets more and more grim. But that’s a huge part of the appeal as everyone moves between despair and hope as they can’t give up.

Eventually, everyone is brought back into play as a means to fight the Anti-Spirals is discovered. It’s one that has the core cast of characters having to look at everything in a new way, but a familiar way as well. With the moon above now acting like a new ceiling, those who spent so much time underground before now realize that it’s just another thing they have to climb, crawl, dig and drill through in order to reach the “surface.” The series keeps a very warm and personal touch as it moves onto a universal size scale in order to deal with the Anti-Spirals by taking the battle to their home world or wherever they actually operate out of. The Anti-Spirals themselves are highly fascinating in their design but also in how they’re portrayed since it reveals a lot about their past in a very brief manner that makes a whole lot of sense. The galactic scale of it all is something that a lot of Gainax shows work with so it was little surprise to see it go there, but we’re reminded once again of why Gainax excels at this and few others do. They simple make it engaging and fun while also giving it that immense sense of scale.

This is both the boon and the bane of this series however. The bane of it is that on some level, so much of this intimately familiar, just with different characters. There aren’t shades of Gunbuster, Evangelion and FLCL here, there are plenty of direct adjustments and swipes of their own material. That sense of the familiar can be off-putting after awhile, especially if you’ve been watching Gainax shows since 1989 and have seen everything they’ve done. At the same time, it’s their boon as they have such a unique wealth of material to work with that watching them take it, rework it and refine it is extremely engaging. Familiar costumes, robot designs, settings and even font types are all tweaked and prodded over the years and this is the most current result of it. The way it works from such a small personal relationship between characters and the universe that they know which then grows into a massive sprawling piece where so much is at stake at a much larger level is highly satisfying.

In Summary:
With many anime series, I always come back to the idea that it’s the journey that’s the most fun. Often the openings are slow and the endings meager or weak at best. With Gainax however, with their work through original properties rather than manga based ones, they’re able to be more expressive and take more chances. Gurren Lagann represents another one of those moments where not only is the journey highly enjoyable – and it is! – but the conclusion is just as satisfying, if not more so. Everything here is in that realm of science=magic for the viewer, but it’s handled so expertly, with such passion and charm, that as it all rolls across the screen it’s very easy to get swallowed up in and almost feel like an active participant. While a show like Neon Genesis Evangelion will get the most praise, it’s shows like this that I tend to find the most engaging from this studio. Gurren Lagann joins a very strong field of properties that Gainax has created and is in my opinion one more of their “must watch” properties for any anime fan. Whatever form you want to own it in, it is one that definitely needs to be on most any fans shelf.

Features:

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment:

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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