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Gurren Lagann Complete Blu-ray TV/Movie Box Set Anime Review

8 min read

Don’t stop believing: 10 Year Edition

What They Say:

Gurren Lagann returns in a complete TV series and 2 movies in Blu-ray box set. One of the most cherished animation titles lives in your memory forever!

This is the story of a man who has yet to realize what destiny holds in store for him….

In the distant future, mankind has lived restlessly underground for hundreds of years, subject to earthquakes and cave-ins. Living in one such village are two young men: one named Simon who is shy and naïve, and the other named Kamina who believes in the existence of a “surface” world above their heads. The destiny of these two starts moving drastically when the ceiling of their village falls in, and a gigantic “Gunmen” and a beautiful girl named Yoko, wielding a superconductive rifle, come from the surface. Together, Kamina, Simon and Yoko ride the mecha “Lagann” that Simon digs out of the ground, and fly up to the surface!

The Review:
Audio for both the original Japanese and the English dub are in 5.1, which is beneficial, especially for a series like Gurren Lagann. The series’ blend of dialogue, explosions, and crescendo-ing music play well off of each other regardless of Japanese or English audio track, and as a whole add to the experience without coming off as too over-the-top or distracting. On the contrary, for a series filled with screaming and hot-blooded action, the audio feels thoughtfully leveled—never getting too loud or too quiet, even during the faster/slower paced scenes.

Having originally aired back in April 2007, the series has since then been re-rendered on Blu Ray for true HD. As per the Studio Gainax norm, characters and backgrounds are beautifully bright and detailed, all while maintaining a thoughtful sense of motion both during action as well as dialogue-heavy scenes. When darkness creeps its way into episodes, it’s equally intentional, with deeper hues never compromising the amount of detail put into each and every background. And with the sheer variety of locations the series goes through from start to finish, the visuals remain a sight to behold, even ten years later.

© Gainax, Kazuki Nakashima / Aniplex, KDE-J, TV TOKYO, DENTSU

Before getting into packaging, it should be noted that this hasn’t been the first time the series has been released in its entirety on Blu Ray. Back in 2013, Aniplex had another complete set for the series, filled to the brim with special features and frills. With an over-sized packaging containing concept art, behind-the-scenes production footage, as well as 5 CDs in addition to the 10 Blu Ray discs, this 2013 release totaled at $500+: A price not worth anyone’s time no matter how solid the series itself is.

This recent release is essentially a watered down version of the 2013 one. Housed in a standard-sized chipboard box, this 10th Anniversary Release re-uses the (what was then) exclusive packaging art from the 2013 release against a simple black background. The three cases within the chipboard box are slightly thicker than your standard Blu Ray cases, and are in a stylistically clear white, each holding between 2 and 3 discs each for a total of 5 discs for the main series, plus 2 more for the movies. Box art on each case is also from the 2013 release, re-sized to fit a Blu Ray case, depicting the cast both pre and post-time-skip as well as art for the compilation movies. Inner sides of the cases make use of the transparent casing with reverse cover art of highly detailed mechas from the series.

The only slight oddity with the packaging is the obi wrap, which is the only place any of the disc’s technical specs can be found on. It’s slight and insignificant, but still strange to note that things like total run-time and encoding are on something meant to be tossed upon unpacking.

Menu art is consistent throughout each disc, with the screen split up into multiple frames with portions of the series playing in the background. A red and black striped fringe separates each video frame, while the actual menu options appear at the bottom of the screen. It’s not the most economical in terms of screen space, but the menus themselves are clearly labeled and get the job done.

In addition to the English dub for the series (both movies are only in Japanese), the only other extras for this release are the textless opening and closing credits, which are admittedly sparse. While one could argue the movies themselves are extras, including some noticeably different takes on key fights in the series, they still don’t amount to much more than different takes on something the main series already covered.

While it’s understandable that CD extras from the 2013 release would not be included, I would have at least hoped the Blu Ray extras from that release remained. Checking the list from that release, I don’t see why those extras couldn’t have been consolidated into a single disc and included this time around, especially considering this is meant to be a release to commemorate the series’ 10th anniversary.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Inspirational words of encouragement are hard to come by nowadays without a noticeably unhealthy dose of cynicism. Now more than ever, we live in this world where overthinking ourselves into non-action has become the norm, absorbing and disregarding any positivity as quickly as we’re able to scroll past them.

This is what makes Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann more relevant than ever.

Initially airing in April 2017, Gurren Lagann was a breath of fresh air not only for mecha enthusiasts, but anime enthusiasts in general, taking everything the media had to offer and cranking things up to 11. Not only does Studio Gainax create entertainingly bombastic and colorful fight scenes, but episodes are also rife with quotable quotes meant to inspire even the most downtrodden. Just witnessing protagonists Simon and Kamina punch their way through hordes of mecha to reach a better tomorrow is so classically Saturday Morning cartoon, yet uniquely refreshing.

© Gainax, Kazuki Nakashima / Aniplex, KDE-J, TV TOKYO, DENTSU

As contrived as early episodes are, they remain an absolute delight to watch because they’re so soaked in this strange mixture of machismo and awe-inspiring encouragement. Kamina’s inspiring words walk the line between idiotically optimistic and nonsensically insane that you can’t help but blindly cheer him on. And it’s this unyielding in the face of impossible odds that pushes the series forward, literally lifting itself out from the underground and propelling itself into the stars.

Themes of tossing logic out the window and making the impossible possible; crashing through any and all ceilings in your way even at the expense of the bigger picture at hand; it’s all so naïve and garish, yet Gurren Lagann is able to take on such cheesiness so matter-of-factly. It embraces past influences of Ashita no Joe and titles from Go Nagai among countless others to create a world filled with hope even in the most absolute of despairs. Furthermore, it approaches all this with a certain level of self-awareness, knowing when to go full-throttle and when to pause for dramatic effect. It’s the kind of show where even when you stop and realize you’re essentially watching fantastical tank fights, you don’t care because it’s all so masterfully handled. Even during its growing pains as it adjusts to its world post time-skip, I will not hesitate to say that Gurren Lagann remains one of anime’s best series in the last 10 years with an equally solid English dub that is able to take on the original’s scream-laden script and treat it with just as much respect.

Even its two movies, which simply re-tell the story of the main series, have more to offer than your standard anime compilation film. While at the end of the day, both movies recycle an uncomfortable amount of footage from the series to hastily re-tell the story over a shorter time, Studio Gainax does deviate enough to provide a significant amount of new footage where it matters. Seeing the final fight between the Four Generals re-animated to better incorporate all of Team Dai-Gurren as well as an opening animation starring a younger Lordgenome were welcome additions. Likewise, the second movie’s revised version of the final fight against the Anti-Spiral is far superior to the original anime’s version, really bringing home the series theme of humanity moving past its limitations into levels of godhood. Even with that in mind, though, both movies serve more as fun extras than standalone films worth watching in their entirety, still suffering from the pitfall of compressing 10+ episodes into a 2 hour movie.

© Gainax, Kazuki Nakashima / Aniplex, KDE-J, TV TOKYO, DENTSU

Now as spectacular as the series itself is, I’d be remiss to speak of this release without acknowledging its price tag. With an MSRP of $189.98, this is yet another in the long list of Aniplex-released anime with a price well above that of standard anime releases. While the set itself is quite snazzy, and significantly cheaper than Aniplex’s previous Blu Ray release of the series, that doesn’t make it cheap by any means, especially when the only advertised extras are simple textless versions of the opening and ending credits. Of the Gurren Lagann Blu Ray sets available for purchase as of this writing, the one most affordable still goes to Anime Ltd’s UK Blu Ray set, which while flawed is still much more affordable even when including the price of a region-free Blu Ray player.

In Summary:
Aniplex is notorious for its over-priced releases of anime stateside. And while Gurren Lagann remains a solid series that hasn’t lost any of its luster from 10 years ago, the fact still remains that this release—a watered down equivalent of the 2013 Blu Ray set—is still quite the price to have to pay.

Episode 6 Broadcast Version, Textless Openings and Endings.

Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: D

Released By: Aniplex of America
Release Date: August 8, 2017
MSRP: $189.98
Running Time: 951 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1920x1080p High Definition (HD Native)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 HD Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Samsung UHD 6700 64” Curved Smart TV, Sony Blu-ray player BDP-S6500 via HDMI set to 1080p

© Gainax, Kazuki Nakashima / Aniplex, KDE-J, TV TOKYO, DENTSU
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