The fifth episode of Gurren Lagann is about to air, but before it does I’d like to get my opinion on the whole mess out in the open. What it boils down to is this: we otaku are boorish and tasteless, Gainax is stupid and delusional, and none of this is very surprising (aside from the extent of Gainax’s cluelessness, but not of what you might think).
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.
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.