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Samurai Flamenco is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann v2 (only better) while Kill la Kill is ANTI-TTGL

February 28, 2014

pandariderFirst, let’s get Kill la Kill out of the way. It is NOTHING like Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann except in the most superficial aspects. From a story perspective, both the tale and the telling of it, it’s pretty much the opposite of TTGL.

If you want TTGL v2, then Samumenco’s your hook up.

The thing with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was that it used one very simple formula, known as the “Hulkamania”. In wrestling, from the early days until this very day, the basic formula is that the good guy is beaten down, only to make an underdog comeback and ideally, win the day (sometimes they still lose, but that’s another storytelling discussion). Where Hulkamania differred was simply that it highly dramatized the comeback. Hulk Hogan made it ridiculous yet cool when he “hulked out”. In short, he kicked reason to the curb and did the impossible, row row whatcha gonna do? And when you get down to it, that’s what Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was.

Don’t get me wrong; having one gimmick that worked and using it repeatedly, is not a bad thing. TTGL was all about being beaten down, then “hulking out” in order to overcome impossible odds. All while escalating the conflict in order to compensate for the diminishing levels of threat. They started from underground mole people to galactic and even universal scale entities.

If you broke it down, then like a Hulk Hogan match, TTGL was pretty darn repetitive, especially once Simon overcame Lord Genome to win Mia (gasp! spoiler!), much like how Hulk Hogan overcame the Iron Sheik to win the title (double gasp! double spoiler!). But like Hulk Hogan, TTGL was able to pull the viewer in again and again, despite how it pretty much used the same formula again and again.

So, why is Samurai Flamenco TTGL v2 but BETTER? When you get down to it, like TTGL, Samumenco started out normal… hell, below average, considering he couldn’t beat a middle teen in a fight. He was demi-human, just as Simon was part of a race of demi-humans. But as the show progressed, things escalated, and well, episode 18 had things escalate pretty far too. Coincidentally, Alien Flamenco’s even pretty much the Anti-Spiral.

Why Samumenco’s “objectively” BETTER than TTGL, is all due to one simple tweak. Samumenco’s a love letter to Japanese superhero tokusatsu. It played with the tropes associated with the various series it paid tribute to. But as a result, it has one major advantage over TTGL… it wasn’t repetitive. It still followed the basic storytelling tool of the underdog overcoming overwhelming odds, but each arc gave us a whole lot more to sink our teeth into. It’s got the same escalation as TTGL and it’s got the same emotional manipulation of TTGL, but where TTGL had to pad the story and stretch out events until they concluded with the Lord Genome showdown (after which, they sort of just went “fuck it! let’s just row row faight dah powah!”); Samumenco actually just went and skip all the padding.

I mean, take for example the Bird and Armadillo generals from TTGL. We all knew there was only one way things were gonna end for ’em. We knew they were gonna die. TTGL didn’t even bother building up their deaths all too much, but it still stretched out several episodes before they both bought the farm. But Samumenco? It skips right to the conclusion, because it knows that we know that those general-type characters were destined to die. Rather than teasing us with the pay off we knew was coming, Samumenco just gave it to us, but in exchange, it kept us guessing where it was gonna go next?

And that’s the thing ain’t it? Samumenco kept us guessing. Tokusatsu has a crazy number of tropes, and Samumenco kept us wondering which tropes they were gonna go with next. We could guess the general direction of things, like once we knew Samumenco was about tokusatsu, it was a cinch to predict that it’d eventually escalate to Ultraman (shh, spoiler), but where to next?

Personally, I’m thinking episode 19 onwards might explore the post-series movies trope. There’s always a movie toward the end of each toku show, and heck, the next season’s main character(s) tend to make a cameo there. So we might see that. They’ve already done the multi-generational mega-crossover trope, but I can see that happening again.

So in conclusion, TTGL was good, don’t get me wrong. I liked it. But Samumenco hits all the same notes and more. It gave those in the know on matters of toku, reasons to squee. And it keeps the viewer guessing on how it’s gonna go next. It uses the same tricks that TTGL did but with just one tweak, it expanded the variety in which those tricks could be presented to the viewer.

The thing is… when I look around the INTERNET and read comments about Samurai Flamenco, especially the comments of those who said they started off liking it and then hated it, but then they said they thought it returned to form in episode 16 but were disappointed that it went downhill again… see, the thing is… the episodes that they liked, were pretty much the homo-episodes. I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I guess the internet just really likes its lesbian and gay fucking (to be fair, it IS the internet).

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2014 3:08 PM

    The only un-awesome thing about Flamenco is the quality of the animation. If only they’d gotten a decent budget…

    • February 28, 2014 7:52 PM

      I tend not to notice the animation unless it’s truly egregious, but I can’t disagree with you. A bigger budget would have been nice.

  2. Bloodshotdaze permalink
    March 1, 2014 6:48 PM

    Gotta say I had a similar thought watching it this week; Samurai Flamenco really reminded me of Gurren Lagann, the quest from being basically nobody to being able to take on god-like feats. The only thing Kill la Kill and Gurren Lagann have in common plot-wise is the shipping of ugly/annoying and attractive/endearing characters, that and their fanbases being annoying enough that you avoid them in order to actually find some enjoyment out of the show.

    • March 1, 2014 9:21 PM

      Indeed.

      Oh, and I forgot to mention that Gurren Lagann did have one thing going for it. The music, which was pretty darn good as far as getting the viewer into the feel of the moment.

      Anyways, thanks for reading.

  3. March 15, 2014 11:50 PM

    Apparently this post got linked or pingbacked or whatever to reddit, which from what I hear (I actually don’t even know what reddit is precisely), reddit is a more horrible iteration of 4chan. This makes me happy.

    • March 16, 2014 7:27 PM

      Read the reactions. Nothing too hilarious yet (hilarious = trollish in Reddit land). Hope it gets more popular and more people from that godawful side comment on it.

  4. tamerlane permalink
    April 1, 2014 8:51 AM

    What? KLK’s script very obviously apes TTGL in several key ways. According to an interview with Kazuki Nakashima, the screenwriter, KLK’s script was revised over four times as opposed to TTGL’s which only underwent a single rewrite. A lot of themes brought up in the first half and discussed in the interview (the fascism motif, the second half being Ryuko vs Naked Beach, post-apocalyptic setting, clothing being a reflection of one’s personality, the revenge story) are dropped for an “epic” final battle with Ragyo. Most of what occurs in the second half mirrors Gurren Lagann explicitly; the villain of the first half becomes an ally for the second, the final battle taking place in space, etc. It isn’t surprising that Trigger, a fledgling studio, would try to bank on a proven formula, but it’s still disappointing. More reason that Imaishi should never be given creative control of anything.

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