Anime Reviews: Gurren Lagann the Movie: Childhood's End
While it retains the first half of the series' best moments, Childhood's End is ultimately a lazy cash-in that offers too little new material to be worthwhile.
Title: Gurren Lagann the Movie: Childhood's End a.k.a. Gekijouban Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Gurren-Hen a.k.a. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the Movie: Crimson Lotus Chapter
Film Length: 112 minutes
Air Dates: 9/6/2008
Age Rating: 13+ (mild violence, brief partial nudity)
Summary: In the underground village of Jiha, Simon is a talented digger who loves finding hidden treasures, while his "big bro," Kamina, passes the time by trying to find new and inventive ways to break through the village's canopy and make it to the surface. During another one of Kamina's hare-brained plans, the canopy collapses under the weight of a large mecha with a giant face. The intruder is being fended off by Yoko, a lovely young woman who came from the surface. In order to survive the fight, Simon leads them to one of his recent finds: another, much smaller, mecha with a seat for its pilot. "You found it, so that means it's yours," Kamina says, urging Simon to pilot it--not just to defeat the ugly mug in the village, but to break through the ceiling once and for all.
The Good: Serves as a decent bite-sized introduction to the series
The Bad: 90% of it is recycled from the TV series; the new scenes don't mesh well at all; goes by way too quickly
The Ugly: They really should've gone the Rebuild route and redo everything instead of copy-and-pasting
It really ought to be no secret that I love Gurren Lagann. I adore it. I adore its high energy and its manic animation and its endless devotion to the notion that bravado is all you need to overcome all of life's obstacles. It is basically everything I love in anime rolled into a ball and shot onto the screen through a loaded paintball gun. So of course, you could guess how excited I was when GAINAX announced that they would be cramming the series into two films with new scenes and updated animation. My drill was certainly aiming to pierce the heavens, let's just say, but would my expectations be met? Let's take a look, but the short answer is "no."
So, what about Childhood's End works? Well, if you're new to the series, it certainly serves a useful purpose as an appetizer for the main course that is the TV series. We get the first episode in almost all of its entirety, we see all of the crucial scenes that episodes 1-13 covered, and many of those scenes retain their intensity and mood. If you're just curious as to whether Gurren Lagann will be your cup of tea, then you'd just need to give this movie a whirl. It features the same voice actors, the same soundtrack, and many of the same scenes, so if you like the film and want to see more, then there you go. Childhood's End did its job, and unfortunately for us fans, that's its only job.
While the movie serves a crucial function for those unfamiliar with Gurren Lagann, it is positively superfluous for those who have seen it. Roughly 90% of the film is scenes from the TV series lifted, cleaned up a little, and shoved onto the big screen. Scenes from the infamous 4th episode are even included, and that episode fits as well on the big screen as one of Disney's direct-to-video sequels (as in NOT AT ALL). Now, I'll be the first one to say that the original TV series had fantastic animation...for a TV series. When you place it in a movie and show it in theaters, however, it's just not up to par. They really should have done what they did with Evangelion 1.0 and reanimate it from the ground up, even if they do copy everything else 100%. That, at least, would have the benefit of looking amazing while summarizing the series, and if it worked for the former, it most certainly would have worked here.
The previous paragraph is very closely related to what I'll discuss here: the new material. The climax of the film, Simon's "reawakening," as well as Yoko's one-on-one clash with Adiane, are done with entirely new animation and for the most part, these scenes look spectacular. Why is this a problem, you ask? Well, since the rest of the film is comprised of the TV series' animation, these new scenes stick out like a sore thumb and, even worse, break the flow of the original scenes. You get accustomed to how the film looks, and then BOOM! Some new scene appears that looks almost nothing like everything that came before it, and after about 30 seconds, reverts back to the style you were getting used to. New scenes and improved animation are only beneficial if they blend in with the rest of the film. Here, on the other hand, it's distracting and unnecessary and I didn't like it.
Last but not least, what just happened? I just looked off to the side for a second, and I think I just missed something. That, of course, is because Childhood's End moves at a ridiculously fast pace that completely renders character and story development unintelligible. In the original series, Kamina was a critically important part of the story, and his departure was a massive loss. In the movie, however, he's just some guy. We don't get to spend any appreciable time with him, and then he's gone. Kami-who, again? And that's one of the major characters; side characters are given a single line of introduction, and then are promptly forgotten until...well, they're just forgotten, left to sit in the background for the sake of sitting in the background. Don't worry, guys! Kinon, Kiyoh, and Kiyal are still in the movie! They're back there, see? ...Whaddaya mean you don't know who they are?! You looked off to the side for a second, didn't you?! Well, that's what you get, you side-looking plebeian!
So yeah, I was super-excited for this film when it came out, but it ultimately let me down. As I've mentioned before, Childhood's End is perfectly adequate as a litmus test to see if you'd like the series, but make no mistake: that does not, in any way, mean that it's an adequate replacement for the TV series. Quite the opposite, really. It's usefulness is limited only to testing the waters, but beyond that, it's entirely disposable and not really worth anyone's time.
Final Score: 4.5 out of 10. While Childhood's End does include some great material from the Gurren Lagann TV series, almost all context is lost and it all amounts to little more than a shamelessly lazy clip show without any regard for its own story or characters.