How do you review a movie that's mostly stock footage?
Guren-Hen is predominantly material ripped right from the TV series without so much as an airbrush, and while there are a couple of changes there's absolutely nothing major plotwise. If you expected a complete visual overhaul for the screen and full-blown remake with numerous plot tweaks like the new Evangelion films, well, that's not what Guren-Hen is. As such, it's a lot easier to compare it to something like Death Note: The Visualizing God; which is basically just the TV series with a slightly different beginning sequence and a different ending.
Only Guren-Hen's ending isn't all that different. It's louder, more epic (and incoherent) but it still delivers the same results as the TV series - or rather, the first half of the TV series. Guren-Hen leaves one dangling for the inevitable sequel, which I'm sure will be more of the same.
I guess the question would then be: Has the material been condensed well for feature format, and is Gurren Lagann really worth watching a second time?
To the former I'd say: Mostly. The only real sacrifice is some material involving secondary characters, regrettable but somewhat understandable. I think this is as about a good translation as one could expect.
As for the latter I'd give a resounding 'hell yeah!' The Death Note movie was a complete waste of time because it was Death Note without the suspense, and without that there's nothing interesting about Death Note.
Gurren-Lagann, at least, has a heart. I was touched by those same heartwarming moments, wanted to pump my fist at the awesomeness, and so on - everything that's made Gurren Lagann an instant classic also lends it real rewatchability value.
Gurren-Lagann's garishly colourful visual style sets it apart from so many of its mecha peers - it owes more to FLCL and Dead Leaves than any Gundam title. I found the series almost as much fun to simply look at as it was to watch, and the same is true here.
Truthfully I'd mark this a little higher but, as I've said, this is mostly the exact same animation as the TV show. Not even the wonderful opening sequence about the Spiral King is original - that was taken from the best of the Gurren Lagann Parallel Works shorts.
Aside from the entirely new, explosively excessive ending and a handful of other sequences that have been touched up quite late in the film, Guren-Hen never feels any more cinematic than its predecessor on the small screen.
Aside from the song at the ending (clearly there to sell some more CDs, folks) the music is completely unchanged from the series. The music remains pretty good - as does the voice acting - but I would have liked to see more variety here.
The only sin here is that of omission and redaction. In the series, when Kittan shows up for the second time Kamina's inability to remember him was funny - here, his introduction is so perfunctory someone who hadn't seen the series is likely to agree with him. The Spiral King's generals get so little screentime there seems to be little point in even including all of them; Rossiu is basically a supernumerary.
Well, no matter. The principals are there in force and are just as fun and memorable as they were in the TV series (er, because a handful of lines aside they're exactly the same as such).
Basically, if you feel like rewatching half of Gurren Lagann - only shorter and with some new animaton - then you'll likely be reasonably satisfied with this movie. If you want anything more you simply won't get it.
Simon lives a boring life in the underground village of Jeeha, where his main job day in and day out is to dig tunnels. His close friend Kamina, however, longs to bust out of their oppressive existence and reach the surface world where open skies and adventure await! One day, during his usual digs, Simon discovers a robot with a big face buried amongst the rocks. No sooner has he shown Kamina his mysterious find when two beings from the surface crash land into Jeeha Village - one is a gun-toting woman calling herself Yoko and the other is a terrifying mecha piloted by a Beastman! Seeing their chance to escape village drudgery, Kamina rallies Simon and Yoko to defeat the invader using their new robot, Lagann. However, upon breaking out onto the surface world, Simon, Kamina, and Yoko encounter enemies more powerful than they could have envisioned. Their fight for adventure just turned into a war for the survival of the human race - will their lust for freedom hold out against such terrible odds?
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