Gainax is one shrewd animation studio.
With the reuse of 95% of the footage including the “infamous due to crap animation” episode 4 Gainax truly maximized their earnings. In addition to this, there are moments in the movie that felt diluted in contrast to the TV series. Maybe it’s due to Gainax compressing half of the series to an almost 2 hour mark. Maybe it’s poor directorship. I don’t know. To be honest. The recap episode (ep. 16) owns the movie format. Then again. That was a recap.
On the bright side. There is the Spiral King intro and the climactic battle between Gurren Lagann and Dai-Gurren against the 3 generals and virals’s new flagship which is essentially a slightly modified version of Dai-Gurren. There are also some very minor new scenes snuck somewhere in the middle portions as another consolation to the folks who paid money for this.
As a Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann fan, I have to say that I didn’t regret getting this just for completion’s sake. Unless you wouldn’t lose anything in watching this then I would say to go for it. But if you have better ways to spend your cash (or your bandwidth), then set it aside.
My numerical rating (Story, Art, Sound, Character, Enjoyment, Overall) is a grade that sees the movie as standalone with knowledge of the series and not a comparison to the series.
Gainax have turned their series into movies before with Gunbuster vs. Diebuster and more recently the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy, now they've decided to give Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the same treatment. Unfortunately, the runtime doesn't allow for a sufficient amount of development and many elements have been lost along the way, though there are saving graces in the new material.
The original series is twenty-seven episodes long, or - minus the openings and endings - around about nine hours. Gurren-hen follows the events of the first thirteen episodes and so is just over two hours shorter than its source material. As you would expect, much of the development is glossed over and the story proceeds at a lightning pace. The story itself is more or less the same as in the series - much of humanity lives underground until Simon and his 'bro' Kamina break free, to find the surface inhabited by 'Beastmen' who pilot giant mechas - with a movie-original opening and ending that sets things up nicely for the sequel. The plot comes across as - unsurprisingly - very rushed; the characters are offered little development and during the middle act there is a ridiculous - but unfortunately necessary - montage to progress the story. Developmental issues pave the way for an adequate at best plot.
The animation isn't a huge step up from the series - if different at all - but the opening and the ending deliver some exciting new material. The ending, especially, is a welcomed feat. The new climax is both thrilling and well executed, and will have you eagerly awaiting the next installment. Corners have been cut, however, with the music. The score by Taku Iwasaki from the series returns with no new additions, which causes Gurren-hen - at times - to feel something along the lines of a movie-length recap; something you've already seen before. New inclusions to the soundtrack certainly wouldn't have gone amiss.
The main trio and the prime supporting cast return in Gurren-hen, though most have left their depth and development at home, particularly Rossiu and Kittan. Yoko fans are offered more excessive fan service and Simon - in the new sequences - is particularly prodigious. The lack of development to the cast is massively disappointing, however, and causes Gurren-hen to come across as rather disengaged and retrogressive.
Gurren-hen is an enjoyable movie, urged on by its source material, but is let down by lapses in development. The middle act could have benefited substantially from some new material, acting as a bridge between the beginning and the end, offering the supporting characters alternate introductions and addressing developmental issues, but instead the staff opt to rehash the series to a disjointed, disappointing effect. The new opening and ending sequences are both longer and far more engrossing than expected, however, which offer the movie some value. If you enjoyed the series, you'll get a kick out of the movie, but if you didn't, it's best to avoid Gurren-hen. If you're new to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, the movie isn't worth your time, and may come across as completely incoherent, with many characters remaining a mystery; without motivation and depth, just empty shells.