Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gurren Lagann Ep2: I Said I'm Gonna Pilot That Thing!

"Who the hell do you think I am!?"
-The hilariously cocksure Kamina-
You're really not paying attention if you can't see Gurren Lagann (2007) for what it is. Okay, you might be paying attention but not really getting the point.  Alright, scratch that, you are likely very astute and it's simply not your cup of tea. Quite frankly, Gurren Lagann, as delicious a guilty pleasure as it is, just isn't for everyone.
Gurren Lagann is a volatile mix of testosterone-driven men (mostly) kept in good company by a voluptuous babe that would make Barbarella proud. The healthy, lung-intensive Yoko with her two mouth-watering scoops of flesh is on full display to tantalize men everywhere.
There must be something about redheads too. First, Asuka Langley Sohryu had me at hello in Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996), despite her major personality defects, and now we have Yoko Littner, a wholly likeable hot-blooded, red-headed female warrior with a killer personality to boot if ever there was one to project desire.
Gurren Lagann makes no apologies for its delightful assault on the senses in almost every fashion. Macho men, babes and mecha. What more could one want from a more perfect anime formula given the full-on Studio Gainax treatment as, once again, they break all the rules along the way as only Gainax can.
Writer Kazuki Nakashima remembers planning the series with director Hiroyuki Imaishi. "From the outset, Mr. Imaishi said, "I want to make it a show with a high juvenile delinquency rating. I want it so bit by bit, none-too-bright folks would come to Team Gurren and form a team." Check!
Gurren Lagann is truly replete with a cast of colorful characters certainly blessed with a high delinquency quotient, but they are ever so likable despite these major deficiencies.
Nakshima added that the team wanted to make "Gurren Lagann a man's man anime." Check! Amen. If you don't believe it look no further than the exclamatory titles of Gurren Lagann. In this day and age finding an anime or anything in pop culture whereby the men don't check their balls in at the door is becoming something of a rare find. Kamina is indeed a charming representation of all that is good in a throwback to the world of men. He is a man's man not a shrinking violet or shrinking Shinji (Neon Genesis Evangelion).
Now, I've said before, Gurren Lagann, as a mecha anime, is completely retro in some ways, despite its break from conventions or cliché, to the classics of the 1970s. Gaiking. Great Mazinger. Getter Robo. And the list goes on. Gurren (piloted by Kamina and commandeered away from beastmen is introduced in this entry) and Lagann (piloted by Simon and was introduced in the debut episode here) combine like so many of the classic mecha anime and carry the torch and legacy of the 1970s greats in Gurren Lagann. Yet still the energy is indeed something wildly explosive for a new generation and the writing keeps things unpredictable for old school and new fans alike with a quick wit.
Though Nakashima makes additional interesting points when it comes to defining man here in Gurren Lagann juxtaposed against the inspiration of the 1970s. We learn more from Nakashima in the liner notes to Volume 1.
"You see a pattern a lot these days where 1970s-era passionate characters are being reduced to parodies, you know? In Gurren Lagann, we don't want to do that. We want to convey the message, 'Passionate men who have inherited the spirit of the 70s are alive and well in our show." So not only does gunmen Gurren and Lagann combine to inherit the spirit of mecha like so many of the 70s greats (see Gaiking here), so too does its characters and general vibe though this is indeed a much smarter affair with incredibly expert animation quality.
So the 70s homage in play is indeed one aspect of the series that allowed this Sci-Fi Fanatic entry. It is easy to identify with the energy, enthusiasm and spirit of this series. Raised and reared on a steady diet of Battle Of The Planets, Force Five and Star Blazers, a time when men were men and sheep were scared, informs the person I am today and Gurren Lagann connects with that person through its child-like energy and writing smarts. Gurren Lagann is one sharply executed mecha anime. Ironically, there is nothing juvenile or dumb about the achievements the series makes through its richly rendered characters and vibrant story appeal.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Battle Of The Planets Comics II

In an earlier post focused on the Gold Key comics (1979-1980) for Battle Of The Planets, noted here, I mentioned a resurgent interest in Battle Of The Planets shortly after the turn of the new century when Top Cow comics launched its own interpretation of Japan's classic Tatsunoko series, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, and equally inspired of course by the Sandy Frank adapted property of Battle Of The Planets (1978) for American television.

Alex Ross and others did much to revitalize the property in the hopes others would follow suit. I know I certainly did. Sadly, I was in the apparent minority.

This new comic book series (2002-2003) was initiated but cancelled after an ephemeral twelve issue run due mostly to weak sales. Unsupported a two-part wrap up called Endgame also never saw the light of day. The Sci-Fi Fanatic weeps.

I recall vividly having difficulty finding these inspired books even in a local specialty comic book shop. I would often arrive only to find one copy and if I didn't get it I was shit out of luck as the saying goes and had to pursue other avenues around my state. And if there were slim pickings of maybe two copies and one was bent or stapled wrong, which generally wasn't the case thankfully, again luck of the draw. But honestly thank God they carried the Top Cow Battle Of The Planets books most of the time.

In fact, after the twelve issue run ended what followed became even harder to find. Memory failed me and I had to go back to my own collection and look to see if I did manage to obtain one copy of everything. Well, I'm missing about three variant covers roughly. I took snapshots of all the books I do have to share with you today rather than attempt to round them up off the Internet. It's always hit or miss out there. I even tried to purchase alternate covers and so forth when they were released because, like many comics, they were big on those alternate covers to increase sales. Hey folks, I did my part. unfortunately, it still wasn't enough.

Following the end of Battle Of The Planets there was a six issue limited run of a Princess series focused on the G-3 character. There were a handful of one shots which included Mark and Jason. Who knew Princess would be the go to character for a limited run? Still, you can see where her underdeveloped character could make things interesting especially in a new world of female empowerment. There were a handful of crossovers with Witchblade and Thundercats (two issues), the latter two of which I could care less about, but I had to have my Battle Of The Planets fix at all costs. Okay, maybe not at all costs but a good effort was always made. Who would have thought to crossover with Thundercats? Snarf Snarf Bizarre!

There was also a three issue Manga version released and one Battle Book. It seemed the more random these titles became the more difficult and elusive they became to acquire. Several compendiums followed releasing these many titles in book form. Most can be pinpointed still, but will likely become scarce.

Despite grievances by many toward these releases missing the spirit of the original series and its characters, I applaud Top Cow comics for at least reinvigorating a childhood favorite, giving it a go and doing so in brilliant fashion. I'm sorry to see it didn't endure longer and that more fans weren't on board. Oh well. Honestly, whether its films (the live action Ghost In The Shell) or comics there is just no pleasing some generally miserable sods out there. Sadly some people would just prefer to see things fail. Personally I remain open to interpretations and translations. We'll always have the originals.

Okay this one isn't real, but how cool would a Brave And The Bold with Battle Of The Planets have been?