2007 was the first year where I actively followed stuff as it came out in Japan. Before that I depended on a buddy of mine to download stuff at his leisure, since I hadn’t taken the plunge into high-speed internet stuff. I just couldn’t afford it while getting my teaching certification, and even if I could I was way too preoccupied to care. Then I watched the likes of Baccano and Lucky Star as they got subbed and I finally got sucked into the world of entitlement-filled “where the fuck are my subs, this episode came out two hours ago” fandom.
Gurren Lagann’s a generic “super robot” show. It has all of the trappings of these over-the-top robot shows, with ridiculous weapons and melodramatic plots. It does it all pretty well, but yeah, if you’ve seen one of these shows before seeing Gurren Lagann you weren’t getting anything new. I chalk the show’s fame up to a lot of fans being unfamiliar with the genre, so when they finally saw a show in that vein they got caught up in something they’d never seen before. That’s cool, but yeah, this shit wasn’t new to me so I didn’t fall head over heels for it. But the show does one thing pretty awesomely: escalation. Each eight episode arc increases the scale exponentially. The first eight episodes lead up to the defeat of one general dude. The next eight blow through the other generals and take down the ruler of their planet. The final eight go cosmic and results in a universe-shattering battle. It’s a fucking Fibonacci Sequence put in anime form. In the regard Gurren Lagann is pretty cool, I just wish everything else was more than a serviceable but generic giant robot show.
The actual show is pretty meh. Those first few episodes are a whole lot of nothing. As the series goes on it gets a bit more witty, but it never really goes beyond “hey, that was kinda funny.” But the ending credits made this show. The first half of the series ended with the girls singing really bad covers of other anime openings and closings. And the second half had one of the voice actors making a fool of himself in real life. While I watched this series, I’d usually skip ahead to the credits to see what amusing thing they’d do that week and then regrettably go back to the beginning to actually watch the episode. Not that there weren’t a few good gags in the series, but whatever enjoyment I got out of it was largely contained in the end credits.
Man, with the second season, my affection for the series as a whole has really dropped. It’s a case of the sequel marring my opinion of its predecessor, since you can’t help but take the whole thing into account. The first season is still pretty damn charming, what with the cute microbes doing their thing, and I still enjoy most of the characters and how they interact. But damn, seeing where the series goes makes all of that seem so fluffy and pointless in all the wrong ways. I still enjoy it quite a bit, but it just isn’t quite holding up anymore.
Every year seems to need that one awesomely repugnant, repulsive, ultra-violent piece of trash. Shigurui is that piece from 2007. Two dudes come to hate each other. They sword fight. They kill. They kill a lot. Women are treated horribly. More people are killed for no good reason. The ending may kinda suck in that “where the hell is the actual ending” sort of way, but what happens to get there is grotesque exploitation goodness.
Kaiji has pacing issues. It could easily be 13 episodes instead of 26 and still have the same impact, but at the same time I appreciate its attention to detail. The games of death Kaiji plays are meticulously explained, and we actually see the games played. It’s a bit like watching the World Series of Poker on ESPN, except that guy who goes all in and loses is probably gonna die. The whole futility of the thing is great, and it makes Kaiji endearing in a sick puppy sort of way. I don’t really sympathize with him so much as I want to see his suffering end. It’s all really quite moe, in that you wanna protect this dude and tell him to give up while he’s ahead. Gambling with your life is the pinnacle of moe. The only real problem with this series is that it peaks with its first arc. That rock paper scissors game is brilliant. The rest? Not so much.