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Gurren Lagann Vol. #02 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

Gurren Lagann Volume 2
Gurren Lagann Volume 2
The rollercoaster ride is really here.

What They Say:
Team Gurren’s Journey Continues… Team Gurren is formed with Kamina as leader! The human rebel army continues their journey to the Gunmen’s headquarters, but they are challenged by Thymilph, one of the Four Generals. At the end of that fierce battle, Team Dai-Gurren held the Dai-Gunzan in their control. However, the price they paid for their prize was all too high. Having lost Kamina, their emotional support, the members of Team Dai-Gurren are beginning to lose sight of their goal.

Then, Simon, who blames himself for his bro’s death, is thrown into self-destructive despair. As Simon wanders through the valley, a new container lands in front of him. When he opens the lid, he finds a young girl sleeping inside…

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty good as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language adaptation, both of which are done with the uncompressed PCM design. The show is one that has a good bit of action about it throughout, and some good music as well, which gives it a pretty lively forward soundstage mix. The action covers it well throughout with the back and forth of the action and the impact of the manly machines hitting each other and there’s a decent bit of bass to it to give it a bit more oomph. The dialogue works in a similar manner as there’s a good bit of yelling and intense vocal material that definitely helps to elevate it in a way that completely fits the material. Both tracks are pretty good and the sound design overall is spot on for this series with what it’s trying to accomplish.

Video:
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This portion of the series has five episodes to it that are spread across a single disc. Animated by Gainax, the show is one that definitely has a great design to it even as it works a kind of flat color design. There’s a lot of wild takes and loose animation in a sense where it’s not tied to being spot on realistic in its mechanical sense, but it has a very vibrant and strong look overall. Having watched this in the movie form previously in high definition, a lot of what we get here matches that, though there’s simply more lulls and quieter time here rather than the condensed features. That gives us a more variable bit rate throughout which in the end has us looking at a pretty solid show that really shines in the high impact scenes the most. Colors are strong and solid throughout with nothing in the way of problems such as cross coloration and line noise or anything else of note.

Packaging:
The packaging for this release doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises when it comes to the artwork or design, though they do try to class it up a little bit since we’ve seen the overall look before a few times with prior releases. The show comes in a standard Blu-ray case with a slipcover for it that also holds the couple of extras packed in. The front of the slipcover uses the familiar image of Kamina with his cloak on and sword in hand as he looks at the viewer while being set against a pretty standard background with nothing to it. The wraparound on it has the discs information and details with it all done cleanly on the front through text while the back side has the technical information. The back cover gives us another good image with Viral wielding his weapon and looking all fierce. The case itself inside does pretty much the same thing with the front wrapping around the back while the reverse side has Yoko on it underneath the disc. Inside the box, we get a pretty good booklet that does a breakdown of the episodes in full color and then has a multi-page interview with the character design that’s certainly illuminating. We also get a few great images of the cast and a look at some of the Japanese box set packaging. Also included is a great doublesided poster where each side has the core trio together with one being a very polished and slick piece while the other goes for the raw, fanservice image for Yoko that’s just blatant.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is kind of standard in a way but it also hews a bit towards the Nightjar menus we saw before as we get an angled piece with the red and black spiral stripes moving across the screen while between them we get various images from the series. It does start up with Kamina’s symbol in red against a black background with the volume number on it and it has a slick and polished look to it that definitely fits, but it also feels too familiar in a way. The navigation along the bottom is a small black strip that has the basic selections and individual episode access and it all loads quickly and easily during startup and as a pop-up menu during playback.

Extras:
The extras for this release bring us just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.We also get the original on air version of the sixth episode, which you can consider an extra, but it’s just an alternate version that is good to see still being included.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gurren Lagann had a whole lot to do on its first volume and it largely did it well as it introduced us to the speck of the world that Simon and Kamina knew and understood and then gradually expanded it as they got out into it and met other preople. With a big, bold feeling to it, we got lots of giant robot action and outlandish character stances and dialogue but we also got a lot of humanized material across the various characters we met and particularly with Simon. Kamina tends to get undervalued in a sense as a character in the series, but there are a lot of really good bits of nuance about him that help throughout that even though he’s known for his big scene here and his visual design, the character has immense influence on the series in general and in Simon in particular, becoming a values focused.

This batch of episodes is a mixed bag in a lot of ways as it has some of the best material of the series and some of the worst. In fact, it opens with my least liked episode, the hot spring episode. While I know they’re playing to tropes here and mocking it at the same time, it’s just so unnecessary and pointless that it takes you out of the series in general as they get caught up in a speciality Gunmen that tries to take down the team. What really harms the series with this episode is that prior to this, even with the fanservice and sexuality it has from Yoko, you could show it to a lot of people and they’d get a kick out of it. With this one, it’s just so out of left field and doesn’t fit in with the narrative so far that it bothers me a lot. That’s not to say there isn’t some beautiful fanservice here, but it’s just so misplaced in this series, to the point of serious distraction. And it also goes for the completely unnecessary finger up the butt joke, which literally made me groan out loud when it happened.

Thankfully, once we get past that, the show gets moving in a good way as Team Gurren is on a roll and doing its whole adventure thing. What the show wants to do from here is definitely solid as it starts to expand what’s going on once again, kicking it up to the next level rather than resting on its laurels. With a variety of Gunmen out there, we get to see Viral show up once more, which leads to some definite shaming for him as Kamina and Team Gurren is proving to be unpredictable in a way that they can’t figure out, which comes from what Simon has found that allows them to use the two machines. But the Gunmen certainly have a lot of things up their sleeve, which includes the Dai-Gunzan, a massive battleship-like Gunmen that has two legs and runs around in the wasteland with a whole lot of firepower at its disposal.

The arrival of the Dai-Gunzan brings a number of different things into play, outside of the copious amounts of action. One of the key takeaways here is in the effort to defeat it, we see a further examination of just what Simon can do with the Lagann in connecting it up to other machines and taking control of it. That’s a natural evolutionary step based on what we’ve seen so far, but this takes it to the next level and it does it with a good bit of humor because of the visual of it all, and the surreal aspect of it when those on the Dai-Gunzan realize what’s actually happening. Another piece that it brings to the table is that there is someone up above that’s orchestrating everything as we finally learn about this Spiral King, though we don’t get much time with him just yet. The visuals are again enticing and we see a different kind of person from what the Gunmen pilots, generals and Beastmen that we’ve had running around are like. That helps to enrich the world overall and leaves you asking more questions of how this all came to be.

The other two pieces are connection and are a bit more chronological in fashion. The first is that we get the death of a character in a way that really does help the show. So many series are risk adverse in doing things with its characters that everything feels so safe. Gurren Lagann loses that feeling at this point with the loss of Kamina and the fallout from it is wonderful. Prior to it, we see him and Yoko getting closer in a very serious way, corny as well, and with Simon thinking he was getting closer to Yoko, it sends him off on a shame spiral. So when his big bro dies in battle, it puts him through the absolute wringer. Everyone is suffering in different ways, but with the way Simon was so reliant, it’s a character changer. Kamina’s style and impact cannot be understated in this series as he was largely the driving force in the opening act and his spirit is what guides things from there.

And a lot of that goes through Simon, whose youth and wishy-washy way is working against him as the loss has him turning in on himself and compounded by the dismissive nature others have towards him as a potential leader, unsurprisingly. Simon’s a hard character to get into at this stage because he’s been attached to Kamina’s hip, but it’s where he starts coming into his own. While Kamina’s death is what drives him down, it’s the discovery of the girl in the box (or, the girl in the fridge) named Nia, the daughter of the Spiral King that was thrown out of their headquarters for reasons unknown. Nia, as they discover, is a pretty innocent girl who has never been outside before and was a caged beauty until she started asking the wrong questions. Simon eventually gets to be fairly protective of her and it’s her innocence and light that helps to draw him out. There’s good and bad to that, but it’s at the beginning stages right now.

In Summary:
Gurren Lagann is a series that consistently has a lot going on and this second batch of episodes from the first half of the series reinforces that. The path is big and bold here as the story of Team Gurren is starting to circulate among some of those on the surface and that’s becoming a rallying cry. But while that goes on, it’s the smaller and more personal stories that excite. Yes, I enjoy the Dai-Gunzan arc and what it brings to the table in terms of visuals, humor and the change in how Team Gurren now has a mobile place to call home. But it’s the story of the original team (and Boota!) in the form of Simon, Kamina and Yoko that connects the best here. Others are starting to establish their position and there is a void to fill, but the story of these three and what they go through here is definitely strong and enjoyable. Even with that foolish hot spring episode here.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Opening and Ending,

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: December 9th, 2014
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 125 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 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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