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Gurren Lagann Vol. #04 Blu-ray Anime Review

11 min read

Gurren Lagann Volume 4Fast track to the future!.

What They Say:
Seven years have passed since Lordgenome’s Teppelin fell and Simon and Team Dai-Gurren fought to liberate humanity from their lives underground. Peace has returned and humanity is once again thriving on the surface. Simon is now Supreme Commander of the New Government and he and Nia are engaged. But, just as Lordgenome predicted, as soon as the population hits one million, their peaceful world is once again faced with destruction.

To Simon’s horror, the one who brings their peaceful time to a shattering halt is none other than Nia, who is now the Anti-Spiral messenger. Citizens panic as they learn that the moon is rapidly falling out of orbit and will soon collide with earth. Rossiu, now the chief advisor, decides that the only way to appease the terrified citizens is to order for Simon’s arrest and sentence him to death. As the moon continues to descend upon earth, Simon must cooperate with a past rival to save the people he loves.

Contains episodes 17-22 plus a double-sided poster and a 16-page booklet featuring creator interviews and an illustration gallery!

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 six 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 Nia and Simon together with bright colors while a shadowed version of her on the left from when she falls under the control of the Anti-Spirals. 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 Rossiu and his crew from this time period that lets them have their bit of time in the spotlight s well The case itself inside does pretty much the same thing with the front wrapping around the back while the reverse side has Rossiu’s image 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 director and some of the designers that really goes into the show and its concepts well. We also get a few great images of the cast and a look at some of the Japanese promotional artwork. Also included is a great double sided poster where one side gives us Yoko in a few of her different forms together while the other side is pure fanservice with a few of the girls in swimsuits that has them pretty much showing it all off.

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 only extra included this time around is the clean version of the third opening and ending sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gurren Lagann had a strong enough sixteen episodes with the story there that it could have easily ended and would have been a great show. I’m sure there are people that are all in favor of that as well, that may not care for the back half of it. For me, it’s the second run that begins here that really wins me over with the show. I liked the show with all it did, playing big and fun, but this side of its run is where it feels like we get a good taste of Gainax storytelling by leaping forward seven years and showing different sides of the characters as they’ve changed and adjusted to new situations. So many shows are just a small slice in the life of things that even when they do grow and change, it usually feels limited. A seven year leap offers some good stuff to work with.

For those that defeated Lordgenome, the world has certainly changed as more and more people have come to the surface and technological advances have moved ahead in a way that’s wholly unrealistic, but works well as it takes us to a visually engaging world. The changes have brought about an era of peace and progress that has a dangerous underside to it as well. While most people are moving along and going through their lives, they’re also getting complacent and selfish in a lot of ways as they just want to be satisfied with their lives. Within the government side of things, Simon has become the Supreme Commander and Rossiu works hard at maintaining everything since there are so many different parts running throughout the main city. There’s a decent working dynamic and most of the old crew seem happy, but we also see how the next generation has started coming up and moving into positions of power, which has the older crew feel like they’re being relegated to the junkyard in a way.

Naturally, things can’t be peaceful for long and the threat that was made with Lordgenome’s demise has Rossiu really nervous. With the warning that if over a million people are on the surface, humanity will face exctintion in his mind, he’s worked to try and figure it all out. But it all happens anyway with a new birth. And that birth introduces us to the plan that the Anti-Spirals have set up to eliminate any threats to their existence. With Lordgenome’s head having been saved and now given a new lease on life through science as a data repository, they’re able to grasp what’s going on relatively quickly. And the whole world gets clued in at the same time as the Anti-Spirals, in their overall attack plan, commanders Nia’s body to use her as an emissary that informs them that they’re going to crash the moon into the planet in three weeks time to eliminate the threat. The idea of the Spiral based lifeforms have been a threat for ages untold to the Anti-Spirals and being fought off and dominated all this time is one that’s highly intriguing, especially since it alters your view of Lordgenome who was a Spiral Warrior himself that opted for this path for mankind in order to save them. The scale of events are ratcheted up very quickly here with what’s going on and having the Anti-Spiral attack ships ravage the lands and cities only reinforces just how outclassed everyone is, as they’re pushed back into hiding before the end comes.

The obvious path to go would be to bring the old crew together with the new crew and go after the Anti-Spirals and save everything. Unfortunately, Rossiu essentially sets up a coup since he wants to play things safe and Simon goes off and just makes things worse. There’s a really interesting dynamic at play between the two as they go about their own goals much as they always have, but now they’re very much in conflict. Simon’s reckless approach is one that has some real fallout here as a lot of people die and the carnage is significant, but we also see how Rossiu’s approach has its own faults as events get even more dire and those he’s trying to save lose all hope, which is what Simon represents. Simon even gets to call Rossiu out on his ways as it reminds him of how Rossiu and his people were when they first found them with their population control policies that Rossiu is now trying to implement again in order to, in his view, save as many people as possible.

What draws me into this arc as it gets going is that it opens us up to the bigger world and puts the cast into the positions having to deal with the realities of winning and the way the population can become complacent. Simon and Nia’s time is fun as they’re a pretty decent couple and there’s good friendships formed, which makes her being controlled by the Anti-Spirals all the more heartbreaking. The politics side certainly plays things loose as you’d expect for a show of this nature, but it helps to drive events along very well. Seeing how the main characters have to deal with the fact that the way they did things years ago doesn’t work now is also definitely engaging as Simon has to watch things go horribly wrong before admitting it, and paying for it, while Rossiu doesn’t see it until it’s almost too late and he’s about to bring about the end of humanity through his actions.

This block of episodes does play to a few other areas as well, some better than others, though enjoyment may come from how much you like the characters. As much as I do like Yoko, her position has been less engaging since Kamina died as she turned more into a supporting character than a primary one. She gets most of an episode to herself here where we see she’s changed her name and teaches to little kids far outside of the city, but gets drawn back in when events turn into a worldwide issue. The other piece I did like in this set comes towards the end when Simon, having been locked up for his crimes, has some great one on one time with Viral, who himself had been captured some time ago. The two have a really engaging relationship to watch and the way they push each other definitely is what’s needed as the main event of this half of the season gets underway.

And Lordgenoome just has some of the best moments in general as his head comes back online and we see his Cathedral Terra ship unearthed.

In Summary:
Gurren Lagann has been a show that has won me over a few times with its various releases over the years, but each time I watch it, it’s this segment of episodes that really gets me excited about it. Moving from the smaller stories about just trying to get to the surface and starting to understand the scale of events at hand – and proving that even the smallest of people can have an impact on such events – is what really does it for me. There’s fun with the fast and loose politics and technology, the quickly changing relationship dynamics at times as the events twist and turn amid the chaos, and the really great action sequences that takes us away from the comical Gunmen that we’ve had to give the cast a threat that’s beyond their understanding, that can’t be fought the way they did. It’s all growing them up to a new level, one that they really have to understand how to deal with in different ways. Seeing those first steps amid it while also seeing such heartbreak and despair hits all the right notes for me.

Features:
Japanese 2.0 PCM Language, English 2.0 PCM Language, English Subtitles, Textless Ending, Textless opening

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

Released By: Aniplex USA
Release Date: February 3rd, 2015
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 150 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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