The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: Lagann-hen

Title: Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: Lagann-hen aka Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann the Movie 2: The Lights in the Sky are Stars
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Gainax
Format: Movie, 125 minutes.
Date: 25 Apr 2009

Synopsis: Seven years ago, Simon successfully defeated the oppressive Lordgenome and was left with a foreboding message. The message by Lordgenome before his demise stated that once mankind reaches space, Earth is doomed and humans shall perish. In the present, mankind has vastly flourished around the former battle ground, now known as Kamina City. Just when Simon is about to take the next step in his relationship with Nia, she transforms into a messenger for an unknown force called the Anti-Spirals, followed by a ruthless siege on the city. Simon and the rest of the Gurren Brigade realizes that their long-ended war has revived, and their quest to save Earth takes them to the far edges of the galaxy.

The Highlights
First half: Verbatim rehash of the original cult series.
Second half: An all-out war of intergalactic proportions.
Event changes: A mixed bag; some paid off while others backfired.
Theme: The “roh roh fight da powah!” effect still lives.

In 2007, Gainax produced a series that became arguably the most influential anime series of the year. That show is Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, and it has created a legion of fans that firmly supports the show that hurls common sense out the window with authority, and embodies what it means to live freely and believe in yourself. A year later, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann: Gurren-hen was released, and turned out to be a mixed bag for a TTGL fan such as myself. It’s basically a verbatim rehash of the first-half of the series, with some changes made to both major and minor events. Paradoxically, the movie is enjoyable yet disappointing because while it reignited the sense of overwhelming empowerment I experienced during the series, I had to sit through practically the same familiar scenes that merely went through a cosmetic makeover. The following year saw the debut of Tengen-Toppa Gurren Lagann: Lagann-hen, the continuation story post-Gurren-hen.

While Gurren-hen focuses on what happened in the first-half of the series, Lagann-hen simply highlights what happened in the second-half. Lagann-hen is, sadly, not drastically different from Gurren-hen; it’s a word-by-word recap of one-half of the original cult series as well. Watching the same post-Kamina scenes and events isn’t a bad thing per se; I get to relive the same moments that catapulted protagonist Simon into the all-heroic fearless leader he eventually becomes. However, as much as I enjoyed watching those moments again, the sense of weariness begins to creep up to me gradually, and it’s because of the same reason that bugged Gurren-hen. Lagann-hen is still just a recap with only superficial changes; it’s not an alternate retelling that would otherwise give the story a breath of fresh air. As epic as these moments can be, its original awe is long gone because a second viewing of the same thing just can’t replicate the same overwhelming impression the viewers had while watching TTGL. It certainly is nostalgic to watch those events once again, but it would hardly the blow the viewers away at the second running.

Cosmetic changes are made to certain events in Lagann-hen, and these events are important in either keeping the plot cogwheel in motion, or being significant triggers in the direction of the story. The changes render different effects on both the story and viewers, being either beneficial or counter-beneficial. Though they are the only source of originality, while some would delightfully surprise viewers, others are adversely affected as a result. Case in point, the original series sees a major event involving a major character getting blindsided for attempting to atone for his blunders. That same scene is recreated in Lagann-hen, and it unfavorably makes the scene underwhelming and “epic-less”. For revamps that did work, however, the changes made them more magnificent than they already are. The climax contains many changes that actually work for Lagann-hen, and eventful moments are intentionally prolonged to “soak the viewers in the moment”.

After Lagann-hen ended, I can’t help but question the true motives of director Imaishi Hiroyuki. Why rehash the same series that defined a year and even redeemed Gainax‘s reputation, when he can opt for an alternate retelling? Is he trying to do what critics have been slamming director Anno Hideaki for: milking his brain child for fistfuls of cash? Nevertheless, like the original series, Lagann-hen is a highly enjoyable piece of work. Though there are the same old scenes that would tire viewers, it redeems itself in some ways by taking risks in changing some momentous scenes. This “roh roh, fight da powah!”-themed movie, though I wished could have benefited from a completely new retelling, knows how to entertain the viewers; I know it has entertained me for an entire two hours.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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