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Recently I’ve been watching the anime Needless. It sucks, don’t watch it. But in episode 14 it goes from just being a mediocre show, to being an insult to one of anime’s greatest moments, episode 26, “Let’s Go, Buddy,” of Tengan Toppa Gurren Lagann. And since I expect it’ll be a long time before I’m ready to talk in depth about the greatest mecha anime ever made, I’d like to take this opportunity to at least talk about one of its best moments. Spoilers inbound. If you haven’t watched Gurren Lagann, I highly recommend you stop now and do it, it will make your life better and your spirit manlier. If you haven’t watched Needless, I envy you.

So, I’ll try to go through the terrible “homage” quickly, so we can get to why this episode was originally so freakin’ amazing. In episode 14 of Needless, “Lilith Temptation,” one of the antagonists uses her powers to send our heroes’ minds to different fantasy worlds. Sounding familiar? How about this; the main character’s fantasy world has him reunited with his dead, badass heroic sister. Oh, and one of the good guys is immune to this because she’s not fully human; yeah, even the details weren’t safe from plagiarism.

If you’re still lost, this is a play for play recreation of Gurren Lagann’s episode 26. However, while Gurren made this into a spectacular exploration of character, truth, and metaphysics and multiverse ethics, Needless kinda didn’t. First, the small details.

Part of what made this work in Gurren Lagann was that these different worlds that the characters were sent to were sold to us. Whether you believed these worlds were real or not didn’t matter, anyone watching understood the appeal of them, and part of why they appealed was some basic directional choices. Settings were lively and scenic, the pacing was more relaxed and set aside from the chaotic battles the character were just in, and the music was pleasant. This is the first key distinction between this scene, and Needless’ cheap rip-off of it.

The second key distinction, what these worlds show us about the characters. In Gurren Lagann, each fantasy world appeals to the character’s deepest human desires in very specific and relatable ways. Viral’s world gave him a wife and daughter because, in the real world of Gurren, Beastmen like Viral can’t reproduce. Not only that, Viral was the last Beastman, so he had no one else of his species to love. He probably didn’t even understand the concept of love until years after the rest of the Beastmen were wiped out. It’s terribly tragic, but watching the show, you wouldn’t even know Viral wanted this fantasy until you see it.

Then there’s Yoko, whose struggle as a character is how to deal with being so damn awesome. I’m serious. She’s a brilliant sharpshooter, an unrivaled beauty, a bit of a scholar, and cares a lot about people. For her, the problem is figuring out how to use all of that in the best way she can. In the real world, she settles on being a teacher once the fighting is over, but that has most of her talents go to waste. In her fantasy world, she is able to be it all. Shaving kids from criminals with her rifle, winning beauty pageants, and even marrying Kittan (aww, ain’t that cuet).

Speaking of Kittan, he didn’t actually get a fantasy world, on account of being dead an all. But I always imagined that if he did, it would be one where he gets to be the main character. Not because he’s big-headed or anything. Like I said, these worlds express the deepest desires of these characters, and none of them are that shallow. I think Kittan would have him be the hero because his deepest desire was to be as courageous and determined as Kamina and Simon are; because he wants more than anything else to have the virtues of a hero. Come to think of it, maybe there’s a reason why this all happened right after his death scene (hint hint).

Finally, there’s Simon’s fantasy world. Simon’s world wasn’t just about how much he missed Kamina. That was part of it, sure, but it was much more about why he missed Kamina. Simon was about to face not just an enemy of humanity, but the enemy of all spiral life, the Anti-Spiral. So when Simon’s fantasy world brought him back to his life as a kid, following Kamina around, it was about how much he felt he still needed his big bro for guidance, as a role model. That’s why the fake Kamina in Simon’s world being a total dipshit changed everything, and why the real Kamina had to come in and explain to Simon that he can’t be his role model anymore. Because it’s Simon destiny to create a new path for humanity, not follow in someone else’s footsteps.

When did you get tallerGod, Gurren Lagann is freaking awesome! And, hell, for anyone wanting to finish this article happy, there you go. There’s yet another reason to love Gurren Lagann! You’re free to go. For those of you who don’t mind going back into the stuff that oozes from the bottom of a full garbage bag that is Needless, let’s look at what it gets wrong. It gets a LOT wrong.

While Gurren set these worlds in pleasant atmospheres with nice music, Needless does the opposite. The background art is either just as drab and dusty as the battlefield, or non-existent. The show as a whole doesn’t understand pace management. And the music is off-putting, making you know right away that something is wrong, and not even letting the audience try to enjoy these supposedly perfect worlds. How the hell do you expect viewers to feel the emotional struggle between happy fantasy and hard reality when you can’t even make the fantasy happy?!

Then they take it a step further, and rather than make the worlds about the deepest desires of heroic badasses, the show makes them a reflection of mankind’s shallowest desires. One character saves the day, not because of a Kittan-like desire for courage, or because of a Vegita-esque desire to keep up in an allies’ rivalry, but just because he wants praise and glory. Another character’s fantasy is finding a bunch of money, and a third’s is becoming an evil overlord.

But then there’s the main character, Cruz’s, fantasy, which is a copy of Simon’s. Big shoes to fill, so how does Needless handle it? If I said that Cruz’s sister gave him the same revelation Kamina gave Simon, that would be bad enough, but at least it would be character development. Nope, instead Needless somehow gets even worse and has Cruz somehow just sorta realize it’s an illusion. End of scene.

How? How can you suck this bad? How can you copy and paste a premise designed around exploring character depth and growth, and suck it dry until nothing but a few bad jokes and cheap animation are left? Calling this anime “needless” is a compliment. “Needless” implies that the world is no better or worse off for it. But in this episode, this show has trampled on anime greatness! The world is worse off for its existence! No, I am not over-reacting to a dumb Japanese cartoon! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to fly to Japan, to protest at the front door of whatever rinky-dink little crap animation studio made this pile of piss! What studio was that anyway… MADHOUSE?!

Don’t Lose Your Way

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