Editor’s Desk: Pearls Before Swine? An opinion on the Gurren affair

To set the stage, the first thing we need to remember is that this show airs at 8:30 on Sunday mornings. As such it is being presented alongside shows like Pretty Cure, the audience for which is primarily composed of children, adults with childlike mindsets, and sexual predators (along with the handful of normal people who like Pretty Cure and are reading this post, to whom I apologize). Anime presented in this time block is roughly equivalent to America’s Saturday morning cartoons, aside from the intensity of the fandom surrounding it.
As such, any producer with half a brain would anticipate the lack of audience comprehension if a show in this time block presented a drastic change in artistic direction midstream. If the audience was particularly wedded to the initial presentation, one would well expect an uproar at the change. And if one had earlier insulted that very audience on ones personal but semi-public blog, well, one would think that things would get very ugly very fast.
The most mystifying aspect of this whole affair is that no one at Gainax seemed to understand this. Putting Kobayashi Osamu in charge of an episode of Gurren Lagann was like casting a (rather ugly) pearl before swine, or putting Pablo Picasso on lead art duty for an episode of Loony Tunes. Regardless of potential artistic merit the target audience just wasn’t going to appreciate it.
It would have been one thing if Gainax had realized this and deliberately produced episode four to provoke discussion, or with a Charlie Parker “play to the plant” philosophy (I can turn my back to the audience while I perform and people will still eat it up because I’m just that damn good). But all signs point to this not being the case – the staff were utterly unprepared for the shitstorm that emerged in the wake of both the episode and the anti-fan comments.
In summary, to quote Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof: if you spit in the air, it lands in your face. This affair was an exercise in otaku being otaku and Gainax being stupid, not because they aired a really ugly episode of anime or because they insulted their fans, but because they weren’t prepared for the consequences of either – sadly, the only really unpredictable aspect of the situation.
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Shingo is a proud member of the otaku proletariat who didn’t “get” episode four (though he has nothing against Kobayashi Osamu’s other work). He fervently hopes the series can be brought to a successful conclusion without Akai Takami at its helm, and hopes that no further loss of employment (or worse) occurs in the course of its production.

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0 Responses to Editor’s Desk: Pearls Before Swine? An opinion on the Gurren affair

  1. hashihime April 29, 2007 at 10:35 am #

    Despite the fact I apparently liked the animation in ep4 more than you did, I agree with most of what you write: they should have known what kind of reaction they would get, especially since it’s a “Saturday morning cartoon.” But I still sympathize with someone having to quit because of opinions posted in a place she (wrongly) expected to be private. I wouldn’t doubt that similar things are said face-to-face around the offices of most studios.

  2. CMWilly April 29, 2007 at 10:47 am #

    I just recently watched episode 4 and I was shocked on the production value and change in the show. It shows a complete lack of professionalism from a studio in the industry. Sure, people behind the scenes talk trash on our audience but they do it out of fun and appreciation…..what an embarassment for Gainax. When it comes to having another director do an episode, theres no excuse to have characters off model, animation timed horrendously and drawn poorly even if its for “artistic merit”.
    I don’t know if this adds anything to the plate but from what I was told, directors are idolized and sometimes become divas which the production hails to. This leads episodes and series to go in directions that trail off to failures and controversy. My guess is this was the case for GL episode 4.
    So hows ep. 5 Shingo~!?

  3. Kurushimi April 29, 2007 at 11:05 am #

    Considering that storyboards have been done for all episodes up to 18, I wonder if this fiasco will have any impact on them, since there will be other guest directors for upcoming episodes.
    On a related note, someone from BONES studio is rumored to be involved in a future episode – this show could become a creative vent for many industry stars, but again, considering the timeslot it’s in, I can’t say it’d be the best of choices…

  4. Dio April 29, 2007 at 11:07 am #

    I’m surprised that people actually enjoyed the art and animation in episode 4. I definitely respect your opinions on the matter but seeing the episode before hearing about this epic shitstorm, I found it to be incredibly disappointing and horrendously done. Is this a case of people making crap and then calling it artistic expression so that others have a harder time saying it sucks? If I just don’t get how incredibly “artistic” it is I really don’t care. The series had a great art direction before this, and I think it would do well to return to it. I guess we’ll see with episode 5, won’t we?

  5. TheBigN April 29, 2007 at 2:38 pm #

    I think it’s all a matter about people getting used to something, and then having it suddenly change. I personally didn’t mind episode 4, and I can understand why it can piss off others. I don’t really see it as such a bad deal though.

  6. tj han April 29, 2007 at 3:08 pm #

    Perhaps they picked the wrong time slot? I very much welcome GL’s style as an experimental platform. I guess otakus just want their normal anime. And moe. Is that why eroge with the same formula sell well?

  7. Agent Wax April 29, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    Never having watched an episode of GL before, my 2 cents on this issue boils down to simply:
    It is often a bad idea to disproportionately insult the demographic which is primarily responsible for putting food on your table. Especially when they have arguably valid grievances against something you did.
    That’s all.

  8. Tsubaki April 30, 2007 at 3:09 am #

    I agree with you Shingo, and personally I didn’t like the new art style. I don’t hate it, but rather, I prefer the previous one.

  9. omo April 30, 2007 at 5:54 am #

    I think what was unpredictable was the uproar. Your typical Saturday morning kiddy audience isn’t going to crowd at 2ch (and 2ch really is the “source” of all this bitter outcry). I think it’s perfectly acceptable to sneak in a guest director for a show like this if you know your audience are going to be kids for the most part. They probably didn’t have in mind GL being a show that stole the focus of all this otaku attention.
    The unprofessionalism OTOH is something entirely divorced from the episode itself. “Ugly” or whatever, the episode itself wasn’t really poorly done IMO.
    But I guess it was just too ugly?

  10. Sydney2K April 30, 2007 at 12:33 pm #

    Hmmm… sounds like episode four is the “Love and Monsters” of anime.
    (Long-term fans of Dr. Who will know exactly what I’m talking about…)

  11. DrmChsr0 April 30, 2007 at 11:47 pm #

    Well, I’m of the camp to raze Akihabara to the ground and dragging out otaku into the streets to kill them in cold blood in front of international television (with a tape specially sent to the UN), so my comment really means nothing.
    Shingo, good points all around. But I’ll play Devil’s Advocate and side with Gainax. Sure, they were pretty stupid to not consult their PR department before saying anything that could insult their consumer base (Heck, this ranks with Nintendo being stupid enough to stick to the Cartridge Format for the N64), but we all gotta remember one thing: Everyone has an opinion. Like it or not, it’s their opinion, not yours. Don’t like it? Tough. You can’t make him eat his or her words, inscribed on hot glass or otherwise. Disrespect that basic freedom and you are no better than a fascist.
    And I’ve had enough of fucking ‘fascists’ for a lifetime. I’ve living in a fascommie (that’s fascist-communist) country (that’s Singapore, and enough of the LOL FINE or Chewing Gum jokes, I get the picture) and I have to face ‘fascists’ (self-proclaimed ‘otaku’ who are nothing more than people who are assholes who love forcing their will down people’s throats) in the daily course of the current stage of my life, and it’s about time we teach them a lesson.

  12. karasu May 1, 2007 at 9:41 am #

    DrmChrs0: An unfortunate thing is, when your opinion can cost the company you work at millions, you probably shouldn’t go around saying it, with whatever common sense a person has (well, i don’t have common sense, and I’m assume most people do). You want to voice your opinion? Tough luck, not every place is like Heaven, your opinion can get you in deep sh*t.
    Though, I have to sympathize with you (I have visited Singapore once…twice, and well ^_^” yeah..)
    wow, you don’t like otakus? Other than the fact that they are one of the biggest group of consumers and indirect anti-enviromentalists, I don’t really see them as bad people…more like misguided =\
    seems like ep5 looks similiar to the original style. Great..i guess.

  13. Anonymous May 2, 2007 at 4:22 am #

    You think Gainax has a PR department?

  14. rocket May 11, 2007 at 1:33 am #

    I had read of the uproar and was prepared for cool artsyness.
    Ep4 = teh suck.
    My God, if looking like that is high art then Johnny Quest pwns the Louvre and the original Space Ghost can take on all the TMNT’s namesakes.
    Gimme a break! A great series gets totally thrown off by some retarded art direction…
    GL was supposed to *harken* back to a day when giant robot anime was cheesy, miss-proportioned and done n a shoestring, tap into that raw creative energy, and update it with kick ass modern production values.
    Instead we get a pie in the face and a painful reminder that the past does suck.
    Boo! Almost makes me stick to Xenoglossia and Gigantic Formula…


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