"Drill baby drill!"
The positively zany, wildly thrilling adventures continue with Gurren Lagann, Episode 4, Having Lots Of Faces Doesn't Make You Great!. That is unless of course you are the creator of a series with lots of faces! Because Gurren Lagann is pretty great for what it is. It's colorful. Its characters are infinitely likable and interesting. Its world is indeed vast. It's giant robot hero uses a drill as its primary weapon against the many other faces. All of these characters take you on this journey with them and you just enjoy every step of it like you're one of Team Gurren Lagann on an exploratory expedition.
The latest entry gives us more exhilarating mecha action with Gurren Lagann combining and battling a group of nasty beastmen to boot.
The robots or mecha themselves were also created to be quite organic as you can see from the images below. It allows for the action to be much more fluid while at the same time images are often employed for comedic effect. Mecha can sometimes be as exaggerated as the people or beastmen who pilot them.
Having Lots Of Faces, Doesn't Make You Great! is a notable entry in Studio Gainax history. The entry was met with a touch of controversy in Japan. Now understanding that Studio Gainax had given us a breadth of amazing works in Royal Space Force: The Wings Of Honneamise (1987), Gunbuster (1988-1989), Nadia The Secret Of Blue Water (1990-1991), Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996), His And Her Circumstances (1998-1999) and FLCL (2000).
This Gurren Lagann episode was assigned to a guest director named Osamu Kobayashi. Kobayashi had actually provided key animation on Program for The Animatrix (2003), that entry written and directed by none other than Yoshiaki Kawajiri (The Running Man from Neo Tokyo, Ninja Scroll, Wicked City, etc.). Ten years earlier Kobayashi had also done some animation work on the sole animated release, the OVA Battle Angel (1993), for the popular long-running manga Battle Angel Alita.
Despite the fact Episode 4 is actually beautifully animated, again outstanding for a TV Series, it still received a degree of unexpected fan criticism for its animating style. Personally, it's difficult to differentiate from a novice perspective any differences in the expert style seen throughout these first five entries. Go figure. But, the Japanese likely see things we might not.
Nevertheless, as a result of that criticism, founding member of Studio Gainax, Takami Akai and another Gainax employee, Keiko Mimori, allegedly made disparaging remarks toward fans for those critical comments. Akai stated that it was (likely translated) "like putting his face next to an anus and breathing deeply." Fan backlash was intense and Akai supposedly resigned from the studio as a result of the posting incident surrounding the Japanese fan forum in defense of friend and guest Kobayashi. Strange if true. Akai certainly had an impact on the success of Gainax and here he was resigning from the company he helped found in 1984 with the likes of Hideaki Anno, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, Hiroyuki Yamaga and others some 24 years later. It seems surprising but all of it swirls around the events of this particular Gurren Lagann episode.
So you can see the kind of passions inspired by Gurren Lagann. Though I'm not quite sure what all the fuss was about. The whole things looks pretty dynamic to me.
Each episode of Gurren Lagann is truly built, designed, written and animated to be an experience. I know I've gushed over these first many episodes here at Musings Of A Sci-Fi Fanatic, but if you don't believe me here is a smattering of opinions out there on the matrix.
Anime News Network called Gurren Lagann "one of the liveliest series of the decade" and that its "macho mecha action delivers in triumphant fashion." High praise to be sure.
IGN taps into the writing of the series and how the characters are handled by the creators noting "an inspiring story" and "a great tale of the indomitable spirit of determined people."
Mania.com described the series as "chaotic, magical and engaging." The writer highlighted the "non-standard storytelling ideas" and referred to it as "fun, exciting and unpredictable."
Should we really expect much more from such an original anime?
It's a Beastmen shish kebab!