Gurren Lagann fans, your six-year wait is finally over.
What They Say:
Ryuko Matoi is a vagrant school girl traveling from place to place searching for clues to the truth behind her father’s death – the “woman with the scissor blade.” The journey had led Ryuko to Honnouji Academy.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For the past six and a half years, Gurren Lagann has been a force to be reckoned with. From its beginnings as an original series on Japanese TV to the worldwide phenomenon it became to the pair of compilation movies that took the incomparably epic scale of the TV series to even further heights to the incredibly creative Parallel Works animations set to several of the key songs of the wonderful soundtrack to countless live events covering all different spectrums of the franchise to the eventual magnificent mammoth of a Blu-ray box that gathered all of it together in an HD presentation and packaging worthy of the $550 many of us on both sides of the ocean shelled out for it when it was released just a few months ago, this power of this series hasn’t let up once in all the time since it came out of nowhere to define a new era of legendary studio Gainax. But in the six years since the original TV series ended, there hasn’t really been anything like it. No team can truly create something worthy to be compared to Gurren Lagann except the original team behind it, and while most of them reunited to bring us the only original Gainax TV series since it in Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt exactly halfway between Gurren Lagann’s ending and this current point, it was crazy in a way beyond even Gurren Lagann, and some fans may not have found quite what they were hoping for.
Fortunately, earlier this year we got the news that main creator Hiroyuki Imaishi would be bringing us another original TV series, and as more news began to come out between then and now, it was revealed that he would be bringing back pretty much everyone who worked on both of those shows, along with Gurren Lagann writer and a man who hadn’t collaborated with Imaishi or even hardly done any anime work at all since Gurren Lagann, Kazuki Nakashima, and as the trailers began to come out, it was clear that they would be returning to the animation style of Gurren Lagann after a drastic departure in Panty & Stocking. While the studio may not be Gainax, it’s still much more accurate to consider it “the studio that brought you Gurren Lagann” than Gainax at this point, as it was formed by this very tight-knit team of collaborators as they left Gainax. The studio is called Trigger, and this is its first TV series as well. With anime powerhouse Aniplex producing the series just as it did Gurren Lagann (and not Panty & Stocking), the budget is there to back up the talent of Imaishi and his team, and it also means Aniplex of America is bringing it to an American audience just as immediately as it did for that Gurren Lagann Blu-ray box. After months of growing anticipation, the wait is finally over. The new anime “Kill la Kill” is finally here. And it’s exactly what you’d expect.
If you’re averse to crazy, back out now. This is a show that revolves around a school ruled by its Nazi-like student council with superpowers stemming from skin-tight school uniforms of varying levels. The protagonist is a mysterious transfer student who wields a giant half-pair-of-scissors, looking for the other half as it belonged to her father’s killer, and the god of the empire this school has become, the student council president, seems to have the answers she’s looking for. She’s no match for the overwhelming power of these uniforms until an equally mysterious teacher drops her down a trap door and she ends up being attacked by a living sailor school uniform that insists she wear it, stripping her down to make her do so, and taking a form that makes Gurren Lagann’s Yoko and Panty & Stocking’s Panty look modest by comparison. Despite how little of her body it actually covers, the fact that its straps stretch over most of her body prevents the powers that almost killed her earlier from touching her whatsoever, and between her unique weapons she easily defeats the first of clearly many obstacles in what will surely prove to be a full-blown revolution akin to that of Gurren Lagann itself.
And that plot description doesn’t do the level of crazy this show displays near enough justice. Read early plot synopses of Gurren Lagann or Panty & Stocking and they’ll both seem very normal, but watch them and there couldn’t be a less accurate descriptor for either. Imaishi’s direction and storyboarding, as well as the general animation style of the studio he co-founded, are among the most recognizable in all of anime. Watch scenes of episode 5 of FLCL, watch episode 3 of Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, watch Gurren Lagann, watch Panty & Stocking, watch this – any number of those in any order, and it won’t take more than a few seconds to see all of his incredibly unique characteristics shining through in every frame and, more importantly, how they all come together. The energy is kicked up to eleven at almost all times, making it constantly both exhilarating and beautiful to behold that you have to wonder how this man can produce this kind of content in such volumes. The over-the-top style combines meticulously detailed animation skills with overly simplistic and cartoony depictions to give a sense of wonder and humor simultaneously, and for those versed in Imaishi’s creation, it all feels like a warm welcome home.
Nakashima is handling both the series composition and script, the main two writing functions, just as he did for Gurren Lagann, in which he started from seemingly simple beginnings to grow to an unimaginably epic scale that complemented Imaishi’s stylistic preferences perfectly while maintaining a sense of consistency that was actually quite brilliant when you finished it all and took a step back to admire. He doesn’t skimp out on heart, as Gurren Lagann had you feeling for the characters with just as much love as for the spectacle of the action and comedy scenes. This first episode is all about setting up a world that lives up to its pedigree, so beyond Ryuko’s character motivation, not much character exploration is done just yet, but I wouldn’t doubt its potential in this regard at all.
Rounding off the main staff are fellow Imaishi BFFs and lead Trigger staff such as Yoh Yoshinari (known for the mechanical design for Gurren Lagann, basically all roles for the far-and-above winner of the Parallel Works project, and for directing Trigger’s one main project before this, OVA Little Witch Academia) helping out on the storyboards and handling set design, Sushio (constant collaborator on these projects but never in a very significant capacity) notably handling character designs and animation direction, and official head of Trigger Masahiko Otsuka helping the gang out here and there as always.
The most notable staff differences from Gurren Lagann are the music and the character designs. Sushio’s very different character designs are perhaps the riskiest aspect of the production compared to the very safe character designs of Gurren Lagann, although not nearly to the extent of Panty & Stocking, and once they’re in action, they all channel Imaishi’s same crazy vision that nothing else can compare with. His animation direction clearly draws an immense amount of inspiration from his team’s leader, as you wouldn’t have guessed it was anyone behind them but Imaishi without being told. Imaishi always chooses different music composers for each of his series, but always makes sure to choose those who are ready to think outside the box and be as creative and impressive as his productions deserve. Vocal background songs are some of the most notable examples of this in both Gurren Lagann (composed by Taku Iwasaki) and Panty & Stocking (composed by Taku Takahashi), both of which have resulted in some of the best soundtracks for listening to in any situation. While doesn’t share the same given name as the previous two, he does share it with the director himself, and he’s sure to inspire little doubt after spending the past six months accompanying the masterpiece of the year Attack on Titan with the kind of music that would feel right at home in an Imaishi series. Hiroyuki Imaishi and Hiroyuki Sawano are indeed as perfect together in production as in name, and while this first episode only gives the slightest taste of that, there are certainly no complaints to be reported so far, and if Gurren Lagann is any indication (which it is in all other respects), things will get a lot more epic.
Okay, so I just spent a few pages gushing about how this is the worthy successor to Gurren Lagann in every way, but does that mean I’m about to plop it up there among my all-time favorites? Of course not; nobody’s going to tell you that it can actually compare after only one episode. What we did get is a good use of time to indicate that, yes, the team is as crazy as ever and they’re returning to the style of Gurren Lagann in almost every way, while still keeping it as bizarre and original as possible to ensure they not retread any old ground. That’s enough to have me excited for what the future of this series will bring. It seems unlikely to measure up, but Gurren Lagann’s first episode didn’t indicate how great it would be, and this is at least a spiritual sequel.
Streamed By: Crunchyroll
Toshiba Satellite L655-S5191 PSK2CU-1C301U Notebook PC.