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The Evolution of Gainax

I was going through the search words again for the blog, and came across another gem that just begged for another write-up; and this time it isn't about dating Otaku Women, or subs versus dubs. It's about a topic that I have actually been pretty vocal about over the past four or five years, and it has to do with a particular pebble in my shoe; a company by the name of Gainax.

When I was a young fan of anime--by that I mean new to the fandom--I had heard the name, and marveled at the power they wielded over the anime industry; it seemed as if their influence was boundless. I mean, come on, they had created such instant classics as Evangelion and Gunbuster, these were the fans of anime that became their own creators of anime, and in less than a decade, their production company was a name known by almost any self-respecting fan of anime, both in the industry and out.

Unfortunately for me, I avoided most of those so called "Giants" of the anime industry, if not because of the hype, for the fact that I was one of those fans that was constantly looking forward to the advancement of the anime media. I wasn't really interested in giant robot anime, or a lot of the early big-hit shows that seemed to me to infest the fandom. I just wanted to watch what I thought would be good shows, and to me that meant a firm resolution to never look back.

It didn't take me long however to eventually find my way into the video store holding the DVD case of This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, and my next chapter in the fandom and my love/hate relationship with Gainax would be underway for the better part of this past decade.

The cover of the first volume of This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, was a pretty interesting piece of artwork, and it had all the great elements a fan of my maturity wanted. The only really damning thing about it, was that it was clearly labeled as "From the creators of Evangelion and FLCL". What also probably didn't help me very much was that it featured hot semi-nude anime girls, and impressive artwork, and at the time I was a huge follower of most of ADVs titles; I just didn't see how I could go wrong with such a combination.

Well, sometimes reality and the harsh truths that lie therein are much easier to cover over if we convince ourselves that something is one way or another; and I had firmly convinced myself that after the first volume of this show, that I owed a huge apology to Gainax. First for having shunned them for so long, due to my inability to cuddle-up to classic anime, and second because this was one of those shows that seemed to throw o many great genres at me that I was reeling from the one-two punch from their deft cleaver delivery.

As the volumes of the show slowly emerged, and the waiting game started I found myself doing what most fans do during those times, and that was to buy more anime. At that time, I made it a common practice to go and buy as many box-sets of anime as possible, since those were like boxes of pure gold, and gave me a chance to grab the whole show at once, and not just wait around for the singles—like I was doing with This Ugly Yet Beautiful World.


One such title that I managed to snag while waiting on the rest of my singles just so happened to be another series by Gainax, called Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, or just Abenobashi for those that don’t like really long titles.

It was one of those rare surreal shows that managed to cross almost every genre and boundary with each and every episode, and yet as I watched it, I noticed that there was a slowly progressive serious tone that was ever-so-slowly working its way into the series. Something, that at first I was fine with, but the further it progressed the more aggravating it became.

I had to ask myself, “Why take such a lighthearted series, and begin to make it dark and moody?”

While the series is probably one of the best that I’ve seen from Gainax, it had something of a strange and unsettling ending; one that made me bring all that I had seen prior into firm doubt, and this twang of uneasiness followed me closely while I made my way through the rest of This Ugly Yet Beautiful World; which it would take me almost another year and a half to actually finish, for lack of being able to find the last volume at any of the places I visited, and it would be a random internet order that would finish out that collection.

Now I want to say for the record that Abenobashi did not have the worst of endings an anime can have, in fact compared to some of the other giant floating pieces of crap out there is had a pretty decent ending; but the about-face that Gainax had done to throw in its bit of seriousness was what had made me question the filmmakers to begin with. And once I finally got my hands onto the final volume of This Ugly Yet Beautiful World, I knew right away that this was something that I just couldn't forgive.

For days afterward I pondered the ridiculousness of Gainax, and I vowed that from that day onward I would be hard pressed to ever watch another of their shows. And I stuck to that firm resolution till an article in a anime magazine had me second guessing myself. It was about a new up-coming series called Gurren Lagann, and it was supposed to be the return of Gainax in all of their glory.

I debated and debated, and wrestled with the notion of watching it, and when the first double-disc box-set was released, I picked it up. I mean, I rationalized that I was a changed fan. An older fan now, and there wasn't any way that I could succumb to awkward endings or even some silly studio's angst.

Well, again. The events of my experiences with This Ugly Yet Beautiful World seemed to have a complete and total repeat. I watched the first two discs, and despite all my self-warnings I found myself sucked into the narrative of the series, and by the time I went and purchased the second two-disc box-set, I had abandoned all my doubt, and my misgivings about Gainax, their shows, and any sort of bad or terrible plot they were going to throw at me.

Gurren Lagann was one of those shows that managed to transcend its own style, its own genre, and it made an open mockery of everything that made those shows so great by taking the enormous, and making it ridiculous. Of course, little did I know that by the time I saw the main character bite the big one, I was too far gone to turn back. I thought "Oh, how tragic for a comedy action adventure anime.", and I wasn't phased... until I noted that somewhere around the end of the fourth disc, things radically changed.

Now people tell me all the time that I am being obstinate and stubborn; and that may very well be, but the gimmick of the series, was completely shit on by its creators, it was supposed to be farce, and a parody... not death and despair, and once I got to the end of that disc, I knew that Gainax were the worst of the worst. Somewhere in their evolution they had taken on a random insanity gene that made them trash and ruin their own shows, because it was not in their mental capacity to provide the audience with a good ending.

I dropped Gurren Lagann never to finish it. I figured Gainax could kiss my ass on that one, and ironically I figured they were stupid enough to do it with pleasure. I didn't need to see the end of the show to know that Simon was going to be alone, and a decrepit wondering fool, and that everyone you loved were either going to die, or be gone after it was over. It was like taking a beautiful comedy and a stand alone work of art, and slapping the fans in the face repeatedly screaming "We are the reason you like anime, LOVE US YOU FREAKS... LOVE US!!!"

Needless to say I was flamed miserably by my fellow fans of anime, those that hailed it as a masterpiece, and a work of art. Well, I'm sure the Gladiatorial arena was a work of art to its designers, but it didn't stop the fact that it was a tragedy and a lost cause.

It was at this point that I pretty much decided that Gainax as a collective had lost their minds. I didn't have any doubt that everything they did was cookie-cutter to this piece of trash. And so when the opportunity arose, I purchased the Gunbuster vs Diebuster blu-ray combo pack, for one reason, because it was the only way to get the Diebuster film in America, and for two; because I wanted to see the origins of the most notoriously vile studio in the history of anime.

To my utter shock the films were great. They were classic giant robot anime, and I could appreciate them for that. I could admire the overwhelming odds, the angst and the drama.

So where the hell did Gainax go so terribly wrong with me? How in the name of God had they gotten so conceited?

The answers would lie in the next three productions of theirs, and boy what a couple of odd birds they managed to fly straight out of their collective asses.

The next thing that I watched by Gainax--still looking for some clue as to their mental handicap and affliction--was a brand new series they had made called Hanamaru kindergarten which roughly translated means "Gold Star" Kindergarten.

Well, despite the fact that the show looked animated by a couple of grade-schoolers, and the series itself was a direct rip-off of America's Rugrats, it made no sense why in the world Gainax would make such a show. It had nothing in it that should even remotely be Gainaxian worthy. But yet, for once they didn't manage to wreck it with a tragic ending; I mean come on, how could they, we're talking about a show that has kindergartners as its stars!

Interestingly enough I really liked Hanamaru Kindergarten, it was one of those rare lighthearted shows, that didn't feel threatened by its own existence, and it while it had some rather unorthodox themes, it was a very well executed series that actually had me wanting against all odds to appreciate Gainax. Though their next two productions would have me busting a gut, and holding a barf-bag in front of my face.

Now far be it from me to ever point a finger at another fan and call them odd for liking an anime, but the simple fact is that I am one of a few minorities that took one look at Gainax's newest anime series and face-palmed myself nearly to freaking death. I've been flamed for this one as well, but I honestly don't give a crap anymore, I think the show is garbage, and the humor is filthy, and it's a great indicator of the mentality of the fanbase, since deep developed plots are not what they wanted, when they begged and screamed and creamed themselves over Pany & Stocking with Garterbelt. And yes, they misspelled "Garter Belt" as one word instead of two.

When I first got wind of this series some months before its debut I actually wrote a little something about it here on Western Otaku, and despite my best efforts it remains one of the most singularly popular blog posts on this site. Which blows my mind really.

So what did Gainax do?

They made Panty & Stocking a show about whorish angels that have no restraint, no morals and no manners. They are vile, they are disgusting, and the comedy in the show is designed to out-do America's South Park in almost all ways. Sex jokes are the staple of this series, and that's all just the first episode too.

The fact that this show is so loved and beloved by the fanbase is a mystery that I have not been able to solve, and you guessed it... I hate Gainax for it. I thought before that they were just crazy, and had somehow lost their minds along the path of their own journey; but now I know... they aren't crazy they are worse. They are sell-outs!

Despite all its dirty skankiness and its vile humor Panty & Stocking is nothing more than the Powerpuff Girls on some sort of Ecstasy trip, with a little bit of shit-humor thrown in for good measure. Bravo people, bra-freaking-vo! I think somewhere around the shows launch, and what with all the group masturbation over this title is when I lost a lot of respect for the collective fans of anime; which isn't that hard to do considering my views on most of the nerds anyway.

But despite all that, I did give the show something of a view. I mean, I'm not about to stand here and tell you something is a giant piece of crap, unless I've seen it first hand right?

So how am I so sure that Gainax are industry sell-outs doing anything for money?

Well, it's when they are willing to do anything to make a buck that I am convinced, and earlier this year when Gainax and Subaru joined forces to make a anime automotive auto-ad tie-in that I had no longer any doubt about it.

Afterschool Pleiades was some great corporate kiss butt's brain-child, and an attempt by the Japanese to do some more of their cross merchandizing with the anime industry. A tactic that has gone on for quite a while actually. In fact it's clear that a lot of the anime shows are used to push consumer product, and with a billboard out there showing Sgt Frog advertising for Coca Cola or something, I imagine it does well.

However, selling a coke, and making an entire 25 minute anime--that has absolutely nothing to do with the car Subaru--and using it as a marketing strategy for a car by naming the lead girl Subaru, is beyond insanity. Sure its original, and sure it's kind of a cute magical girl anime, but it is just off the rocker insane.

I know it seems that I have a lot against Gainax, and from a lot of you reading this, maybe I do. But I know that the only thing that can ever threaten an entity of Gainax's size will be Gainax itself. I would love to tell you that I've seen everyone of their shows, and though I have a few on my shelf un-opened, I just haven't seen them all. There may be other really good ones, but my hands are pretty scarred and burned from all the times I've had a title of theirs strike back at me when I least suspect it.

For me, the "Evolution of Gainax" is one that I wish would have stayed back there with their roots of the 1980s anime. But like all things, we grow and we get power, and we come undone.

Maybe, their next anime will be something I'll want to watch, and I can continue my love/hate for them some more.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the post, you've pretty much articulated everything I've been thinking about Gainax since my Gurren Lagann/Panty&Stocking watching experience. It's good to know the anime fan base isn't completely made up of idiots who will continue to worship a production company's crap just because some of their other shows were good. This trend of forcing an unfitting plot twist into many of their shows just makes them seem melodramatic to me, and will (as you say) lead to their own undoing as soon as the fans realize that.

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  2. I'm sorry but just because you have a different opinion does not give you the right to call other people brainless. I am a mature straight A high school student and was ahead of my grade for several years, and quite frankly I don't like anime or western television with long ongoing plot lines or too much action. I happen to be a big fan of crazy acid trip shows like Panty and Stocking, or Dead Leaves, and the stupid humour of shows like South Park etc.
    I don't mean to lecture but everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and a persons opinion should never be a reason to degrade them. I'm not saying either opinion is correct because they are just opinions. I'm just saying that there is no such thing as a right or wrong opinion.

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