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GURREN LAGANN SET 01 (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

January 11, 2009 by  



“’A mecha anime from the folks at GAINAX that is imaginative, sexy and explosive.  Only one word to describe this series… Fantastic!”

DVD TITLE: GURREN LAGANN SET 01

DURATION: 225 minutes (9 episodes/ disc 1 – 5 episodes / disc 2 – 4 episodes)

DVD INFORMATION: Original Uncut Episodes, English 5.1, Japanese 2.0, 1:78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Bilingual (Japanese and English), English Subtitles

COMPANY: Bandai Entertainment

RATED: Suggested 13 and Up

Created by GAINAX

Director: Hiroyuki Imaishi

Assistant Director: Masahiko Ohtsuka

Series Directors: Kazuki Nakashima

Character Designs: Atsushi Nishigori

Mecha Designs: You Yoshinari

Design Works: Shigeto Koyama

Art Director: Yuka Hirama (BIHOU)

Color Design: Harumi Takahoshi

Director of Photography: Toyonori Yamada

Editing: Junichi Uematsu

Sound Director: Tohru Nakano

Music: Taku Iwasaki

Produced by TV Tokyo, DENTSU, Aniplex

Featuring the following voice talent:

Katsuyuki Konishi/Kyle Herbert (as Kamina)

Marina Inoue/Michelle Ruff (as Yoko Littner)

Tetsuya Kakihara/Yuri Lowenthal (as Simon)

Yukari Fukui/Bridget Hoffman, Hynden Walch (as Nia)

Daiki Nakamura/Doug Stone (as Dayakka)

Kana Asumi (as Kiyal)

Kana Ueda/Stephanie Sheh (as Kinon)

Kisho Taniyama (as Kittan)

Masaya Onosaka/Steven Blum (as Leeron)

Mitsuki Saiga/Johnny Yong Bosch (as Rossiu)

Nobuyuki Hiyama/Sam Ergal (as Viral)

Rina Satou/Karen Strassman (as Kiyoh)

Shizuka Itou/Julie Ann Taylor (as Boota and Darry)


From GAINAX, the studio that brought you Neon Genes Evangelion and FLCL, comes a series that revives the spirit of the classic robot anime show for fans of all ages!

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 cowardly Simon to defend their village but once they defeat the monster what wawaits the duo on the surface world?

Fantastic!

It’s the single word that describes how I feel about “GURREN LAGANN SET 01” released by Bandai Entertainment.

GAINAX brings us a mecha anime series and having created so many and with so many created for so many decades, you often wonder if innovative, imaginative storylines can still be developed.  Well, with “GURREN LAGANN”, the creators of this anime series manages to create something unique, fun, explosive and just enjoyable.

With this first volume set, we get both vol. 1 (Episodes 1-5) and vol. 2 (Episodes 6-9) of “GURREN LAGANN”.  The popular anime titled “Tengen Toppai Gurren Lagann” aired on TV Tokyo back in April 2007 and completed it’s 27-episodes by Sept. 2007 and centers around two characters Simon and Kamina.  Both live underground with a bunch of orphans and due to earthquakes, they developed a system of people using manual drilling holes in order to move around.  But one day, the life of a young driller named Simon discovers a small mini drill underground. Simon is a shy young guy.  Not too confident in himself and hates how his parents were killed during an earthquake.  So, he works hard in order for everyone to live but also to collect whichever treasure he can find.   While continuing his digging, he discovers a small drill and not long after, he discovers a huge robotic face.

As for Kamina, he’s the cool leader of a gang.  He once saw the atmosphere with his father a long time ago and dreams of making it up to the surface but no one underground believes him.  He comes up with a plan to get to the surface with the help of Simon’s drill.  The plan backfires and Kamina is put into a jail.  Meanwhile, a big monster robot-like figure comes out of the sky and lands in the group’s village underground.  A girl sporting a bikini top and tight short shorts with a large rifle starts fighting with the monster robot.   Her name is Yoko and all of a sudden both Kamina and Simon try to assist her.

As the monster grows vicious, Simon introduces Kamina and Yoko to what he found underground.  It happens to be a small robot that Simon takes control of and eventually the three fight the robotic monster and end up defeating it. Also, end up making it above the surface where they discover sunlight, blue skies, mountains and more…monster robots.  It is learned that these things are called “Gunmen” and are piloted by Beastmen who have a hatred towards humans.  The three must survive and outwit and defeat the Gunmen and with Kamina’s leadership and willing to take anything head on with his machismo ego, he calls Simon’s robot Lagann.  Kamina eventually comandeers a Gunmen robot and calls it Gurren.  As a duo, the group is called Gurren Lagann.

Vol. 1 consists of the following episodes:

  1. Episode 1 – Bust through the Heavens with your Drill! The main episodes that introduces us to Simon, Kamina and Yoko.   The three join forces to take on the monster gunmen.
  2. Episode 2 – I Said I’m Gonna Pilot That Thing!! – With Simon having his own robot and more Gunmen showing up to fight, Kamina decides to get a gunmen mecha all for himself which he names “Gurren”.  But they get some support from the people of Yoko’s village and the village’s top mechanic, Leeron (a savvy and intelligent mechanic but who happens to be gay and not afraid to flirt with Kamina and Simon).  But with Kamina and Simon now having their own mecha’s, they name their team “Gurren Lagann”.
  3. Episode 3 – Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces? – With the defeat of the Beastmen and their Gunmen, Simon, Kamina and Yoko go to hunt for some food but while Kamina retrieves some food, he runs into a Beastman named Viral.  A savage warrior who becomes the major rival for Kamina.  But Viral pilots a Gunmen with a second head that shoots out a devastating attack.  Kamina feels that Gurren Lagann can combine and by unifying, they can become unstoppable.
  4. Episode 4 – Having Lots of Faces Doesn’t Make You Great!  – After the battle with Viral,  Simon, Kamina, Yoko and Leeron decide to destroy the Beastmen’s base.  By eliminating it, the group might have that peace that they wanted.  But while looking for food, the group run into another group known as the Black Siblings…friend or foe?  We are introduced to Kittan Bachika, the leader of the Black Siblings who is accompanied by his three younger sisters as they try to eliminate Beastmen.
  5. Episode 5 – I Don’t Get It, Not One Bit! – As the group continues on their travels, they end up in another underground village and brought their by a teen named Rosiu.  But in this village, they have their own strict religion and strict rules in which they can only keep their population  at 50 people or less.    Well, things change when a couple has a set of triplets, thus going over the 50-person mark.  So, each person must draw a stick and whoever has a colored stick must leave the village and create a new life up in the surface.   This group also prays to a head (which happens to be a Gunmen) and Kamina goes ballistic.  He doesn’t understand why their beliefs are like this and the young Rossiu is influenced by Kamina, Simon and Yoko.  Because the civilization must keep their population down to 50 or less, the two youngest twin orphans from the village, Gimmy and Darry have two colored sticks and thus they will be kicked out of the village and dforce to survive in the surface alone.  But because Kamina and friends happen to be there, the village chief wants the kids to join Kamina, Simon and Yoko and in order to watch the children.  Kamina still can’t understand why the village behaves this way but somehow a Gunmen infiltrates the village which leads to Rossiu joining the team.

For Volume 2, we get the following episodes:

  1. Episode 6 – There are Some Things I Just Have to See! – There are two versions of episode 6.  The unedited version and the TV version which is part of the special features.  For the unedited version, the group really smell bad and it seems they met some luck as they are invited to the hot springs with food galore!  The group run into their friends, the three women of the Black Siblings and as the group relaxes in the hot springs, both Kamina and Simon can’t stand hearing the women talk about their breasts.  Being the horny guys that they are, both men do what they can do get a peek of the ladies nude.  But awaiting them is some trouble as well courtesy of the Beastmen.
  2. Episode 7  – You’re Gonna Do It! – With the defeat of the Beastmen, Viral makes his return but this time, one of the four leaders who pilots a giant Gunmen fortress.  While Gurren Lagan tries to fight them, they are joined by some old friends who have followed Kamina’s lead and stolen some gunmen for themselves.
  3. Episode 8 – Later, Buddy – With Simon’s quick thinking in the last episode, the group manages to get the Gunmen fortress to be trapped.  But Kamina wants to take control of the fortress in order to protect everyone and this time have a super combination to create Dai Gurren Lagann.  So, one major battle in order to take the Beastmen leader’s mega fortress.   But while Simon starts to think about Yoko and tell her his feelings for her, he sees both Kamina and Yoko kissing.  So, as they go into battle, Kamina depends on Simon to have Lagann penetrate the fortress but because his emotions all out of whack due to seeing the kiss, it’s going to cost someone’s life.
  4. Episode 9 – What, Exactly, Is a Human? – With the events of the last episode, everyone is in mourning.  Meanwhile, a new character named Nia is introduced.  Who is she and why is she so curious about humans?

VIDEO & AUDIO:

Each episode is  featured in 1:78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen.  The character designs by Atsushi Nishigori are fresh and very different.  I truly dig the character designs and the whole anime is quite colorful and looks stylish and pretty cool.

As for the audio, I’ve watched both episodes in Japanese 2.0 and English 5.1 and as much as I enjoyed the Japanese voice track, when I watch an action-packed mecha, Digital 5.1 sountracks make a big difference for me in terms of enjoying a series and with that being said, I am very pleased with the English vocal dub.  You have some quality voice talent with Kyle Herbert as Kamina (does the voice of Son Goku  in “Dragon Ball Z”), Michelle Ruff as Yoko (does the voice of Rukia for “Bleach”) and Yuri Lowenthal (does the voice for many video games and anime such as Sasuke Uchiha for “Naruto”).

There is a lot of action, so you do get some good usage from your front channels and some surround usage.  But the dialogue comes quite clear and overall, both video and audio were well done.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

This is where you can find some very awesome special features.  Let’s start with the volume 1 DVD:

  • Yoko Goes to Gainax – Voice actress for Yoko (Marina Inoue) goes to GAINAX and sees how people create “Gurren Lagann”.  This lengthy featurette features Marina  learning the difference between “Key Animation” and “In-Between Animation” and “Composition”.  She actually takes part in doing in-between work for the first time and also, learning some of the jobs the staff did for “Gurren Lagann”.  A very fun featurette!
  • GAINAX Staff Interview – A very cool featurette with director Hiroyuki Imaishi and other staff on the concept of “Gurren Lagann” and what their goal was in creating this anime series.  Another cool featurette!
  • Preview of Episode 6 – A preview of the upcoming interview
  • Bandai Previews

With the second volume, the special features are:

  • Televised Version of Episode 6 – With this episode being quite a bit sexual as Kamina and Simon try to get a peek at the women without their clothes on in the hot tubs, this version that aired on the Sci Fi Channel features more of a flashback episode and edited with less focus on the horniness of Kamina and Simon and more about them working together as a team.  This is presented only in 2.0 Stereo.
  • Textless Opening and Ending themes – For those who love the cool music of opening theme “Sorairo Days” by Shoko Nakagawa and ending theme “Underground” by High Voltage.
  • US & Japanese Trailers
  • Bandai Previews

I can’t help but think how awesome this series was to watch!  From the stylish presentation, the wacky humor, the adult-like humor and pervertedness and the imaginative mecha Gunmen robots and attack modes, the battles and the fun characters and the music, there is just too much to like about “Gurren Lagann”.  I absolute found the series to be quite fantastic!

The character of Kamina is just so wild and crazy with how he is just so carefree and just doesn’t plan for battle, he just does what he believes in and what he thinks is right and decides at the spur of the moment.  He has a way with his words, no matter how crazy it may sound but it makes his character so cool!

As for Simon, he is simply the underdog.  He is a major component to the team because he pilots Lagann but at the same time, his fear and his emotions get the best of him.

Yoko, her character is sexy and cool.  Sometimes you wonder if GAINAX or the character designer Atsushi Nishigori created such a sexy character for the purpose of being sexy or for the fact that many cosplayers will try to emulate the character and not wear much clothes.  Nevertheless, her character is cool as her body features somehow provide the fan service and also gets Simon distracted.

And of course, you have a group of other characters that are starting to come their own and as we become supportive human characters, you take special notice of their mecha (Gunmen).  They have a sort of character themselves because they are an extension of the people that pilot them but the amount of power demonstrated by them and what is unknown about the gunmen they pilot is just amazing.

And of course, this anime series is action-packed.  In fact, there is a good balance of humor and action and each episode keeps your eyes glued to your television set and when it’s all done, it leaves you craving for more.

This first box set of “Gurren Lagann” is highly recommended to mecha fans, anime action fans and those who just want to experience an anime that is stylish in presentation and just enjoyable and fun with it’s storyline more!

“Gurren Lagann” can be described in one word and that is “Fantastic!”






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