[This post is infested with spoilers]
Paying homage in the context of a media work is the recreation of one work of fiction in the context of another, with the referencing done as an ‘inside joke’ or an ‘easter egg’ for those familiar with the referenced work. Often this is done with the intention of honoring or paying respect to the referenced work as being the direct inspiration for the referencing one. When done well — that is when the execution of the sequence becomes more than just a derivation and becomes a powerful scene on its own, without making familiarity with the referenced work contingent to the enjoyment of the scene. Familiarity with the original work though, can and does add significant value especially for a dedicated fan.
Recently I’ve had conversations and have read random articles noting the trend of referencing anime, and how the value of these works are not necessarily correct relative to their acclaim and/or popularity (e.g. Lucky Star, Kannagi). Against a universal measure or standard, I can sympathize with ‘correcting’ the assessment of the value of these shows, but on the whole I like them a lot, Lucky Star in particular precisely because of the light-hearted referencing of anime, manga, and other otaku cultural products. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is another highly acclaimed and very popular title that indulges heavily in referencing and homage. Very few (if any at all) complain about TTGL’s referential behavior, I do however believe that it is exceeded by far by another work.
TTGL referenced themes, visuals, and ‘trademark moves’ of it’s subjects. From the TV Tropes wiki [->]
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is full to bursting with homages. There’s a reason why people have said that the show parallels trends in the mecha genre:
- The Action Prologue is an homage to Captain Harlock (especially the clanking noise the captain makes when moving), which lead to fanscalling the figure “GARlock“
- Several parts of the aquatic fight against Adiane where an homage to the fight against the aquatic angel from the eigth episode of Neon Genesis Evangelion, most noticably defeating the aquatic Gunmen by firing at it with battleship cannons at point-blank range and the cross-shape explosion it makes.
- There’s also the arms crossed pose that the Chouginga Gurren Lagann has when it appears, the look of the Lazengann, the 8th parallel work with Ganmen that look like Getter Robo, Mazinger Z and other classic Humongous Mecha, having a city built around a giant robot ship, Simon holding Nia while covering her in his cloak ( ), the Gurren Lagann’s helmet.
This is all good, and I do think that these visual and perhaps superficial references are the loving touches that make them entertaining and/or significant. But yes, there’s more. In a previous post I’ve attempted to demonstrate how Eureka SeveN is an excellent demonstration of love remembered for Mobile Suit Gundam through it’s character Holland Novak as a play on iconic Gundam characters Bright Noa and Char Aznable/Quattro Bajeena. Here I will highlight a different homage, a personal favorite due to the strong opinions I’ve had both positive and negative for the referenced material.
Rals, Beams, Runaways, Revenge, and failed Redemption
Amuro runs away, Renton runs away. From my earliest articles on Gundam I’ve written about Amuro’s flight from the White Base as one of the more deplorable actions done by a lead character.
I was particularly upset with Amuro in this arc. I do believe that his running away was an atrocious act. Not only did he desert in the desert, he stole the Gundam and buried it in a hole. He had no plan and didn’t even know where he was headed. He didn’t even bring provisions! Conveniently for the plot the town of Sodon was near enough to walk to which set up the meeting between Amuro and Ramba (and Lady Hamon) in a small saloon. LOLTOMINO plot convenience.
Amuro runs away primarily because he overheard Bright and Mirai discuss the pitfalls in highlightning how Amuro is the only person who can pilot the Gundam. Amuro takes this as a betrayal and runs away, taking the Gundam with him. Eureka SeveN thankfully chose different motivations/reasons for Renton to leave. It’s important to note too that Renton is the only person who can pilot the Nirvash with Eureka (or even without her, which is significant); even more importantly, Renton is treated far, far worse in the Gekko-go compared to Amuro in the White Base. Renton is hazed and picked on from all fronts, trolled and bullied even by his own sympathizers.
Renton left due to an amalgamation of the following events and his resulting emotions:
- He believed Holland was not doing enough to save Eureka who was ill. Talho straightened him out: “For him, Eureka was always more important. More than the waves, more than me… and probably more than his own life too!”
- Renton runs away because he felt smaller than Holland — who is one of the two things Eureka trusts (Holland and the Nirvash). He felt unworthy of Eureka. Amuro ran away because he felt unappreciated and held on an overvalued sense of self. Renton ran away because of guilt, saying: “I’m just a kid. I don’t know anything! I’m just a kid!”
- But first, he saves holland! He utters a refrain: “I’m just a kid. I’m just a kid who can’t do anything. But… I didn’t know anything, about Holland… about Eureka… about anything. I knew nothing!”
- Renton hates himself for acting in his ignorance, and kills many pilots in their LFOs in a fit of berserk rage. This is something that he will deeply regret.
- While the guilt for not taking care of Eureka in a way that will earn him her reliance (the way Holland does it) is the initial impetus for running away. He actually gets to protect her (and Holland). However, his guilt becomes horrifying after he realizes that he has become a ruthless killer. The image of the severed arm with a wedding ring among the corpses he left on the field got to him (a refrain sung again in Ray Beam’s final moments).
I’m not suggesting that Renton is a superior character than Amuro, only that he is a more nuanced and developed character than Amuro within a context of a 50 episode anime. Amuro will undergo a lot of growing up and do a lot of awesome things in the sequels (Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, and Char’s Counterattack), which is not to say that Amuro doesn’t kick ass in Mobile Suit Gundam.
I could go on and on and profile the distinctions and nuances of the primary players in the respective anime arcs of these shows, but at this point I will submit a summary of the references and some of my impressions.
Table of Similarities/References
|Lead character runs away||Amuro runs away and steals the Gundam, buries it in a hole in the middle of nowhere.||Renton runs away, steals Moondoggie’s backpack which gets stolen anyway by another vagabond while Renton sleeps at a pedestrian shelter.|
|Chance meeting between lead character and enemies||Having run out of provisions (not having brought any) Amuro steps into a saloon, where Ramba Ral and Hamon Crowley bring their unit for a meal.||Renton wanders to a daytime rave party where Charles Beams was partying. He takes him along with him.|
|Enemies take a liking to the lead character||Ramba admires Amuro’s guts when he sees him armed and prepared to fight when Fraw Bow was in apparent danger at the hands of Ramba’s troops.||Charles and Ray Beams take to a very strong liking to Renton and treat him very kindly and responsibly contrasting sharply with the treatment he got in the Gekko-go.|
|Female enemy longs for a child, like the lead||Ramba asks hamon directly: “Do you like a child like that of your own?”||Charles and Ray insist that Renton call them ‘Papa’ and ‘Mama.’ In addition, the two of them behave with such kindness and understanding Renton has never received in his life.|
|Male enemy has a blue mecha||The MS-07B Gouf:||Spearhead SH-101|
|Enemy mecha is superior to commonly fought units||“This is no Zaku boy, this is no Zaku.”||To begin with, the Spearhed does not require a ref board to acces trapar waves and therefore fly.|
|Enemy(/ies) have a past with lead’s crew members||Ramba Ral raised Core Fighter/Gundam pilot Sayla Mass (Artesia Deikum) while she needed to be hidden from her father’s assassins.||Charles, Ray, Eureka, and Holland are all former SOF members who fought together. Charles and Holland were friendly rivals.|
|Female crew member fights/threatened by enemies (connected by past)||Sayla makes it clear to Ramba that she opposes the Principality of Zeon by affiliating with the Earth Federation, despite her feelings for him.||Eureka is vehemently despised by Ray Beams. Ray associates Eureka with the Seven Swell event which resulted in her inability to bear children. Revenge on Eureka is a powerful motivation for her.|
|Enemies besiege the lead’s ship in a boarding maneuver||Ramba takes an assault team and takes on the White Base, but fails to control it.||Charles and Ray (awesomely) assaults the Gekko-go but are ultimately thwarted after an intense struggle.|
|Male enemy is blasted to bits via explosives||Ramba leaps from a hole in the White Base and into the Gundam’s palm screaming: “This is what it means to meet defeat in battle!” He then detonates a bomb on his person and is blasted to bits.||Charles is killed by Holland who pumps his guts full of submachine gun fire at point blank. A captured Ray later asks to get close to the body, but detonates a bomb on it. She uses the explosion to get away from her captors.|
|Female enemy valorously continues the mission at decreased odds||The remnants of Ramba’s command isn’t really much to challenge the White Base with, considering that the WB did not incur significant human or material losses. Hamon does well for herself actually, which was awesome to witness.||Ray took on the Gekko-go in a frontal assault all by herself. This woman is bad-ass. The battle that ensued was very intense viewing for me.|
|Female enemy gets killed while performing a suicide attack||It took Ryu’s suicide attack with a core fighter to stop Hamon from destroying the Gundam and killing Amuro by firing an explosive shell at point blank range.||Holland shoots Ray in her cockpit while she almosts succeeds in ramming the Gekko-go with her own mobile base. Her final moments reaching for her severed arm to hold on to her wedding ring for the last time is heartrending.|
Part of what I love about Gundam is that its stories are such fertile ground to grow other stories from. The Beams’ story arc in Eureka SeveN is one of my favorites and elements such as Eureka being the cause of Ray’s inability to conceive and that being such a big deal for the Beams add a powerful layer of tragedy to the story. Even more, how they treated Renton as a son with such heartbreaking compassion, understanding, and maturity really tore me up. Even to the very end, when the Beams let Renton go and make the choices of a man, and yet love him to their deaths… these things will never leave me. Contrast this with how wretchedly Holland treated him up to that point (and a little further beyond) and you have even more pathos.
Mobile Suit Gundam had some of this too, with Sayla Mass growing up with Ramba Ral’s family and he getting shot trying to call out to her, which led to his eventual death. So Eureka SeveN had to do much more than copy the elements. The characters they introduced are far more sympathetic (to me at least), and were allowed to behave in very fallible ways (without tarnishing their charm). Their portrayal allowed far-reaching characterization that set up the tragedy quite beautifully. I didn’t care much for the Ramba Ral arc save for Ramba being of a class of manly soldier seldom seen in contemporary anime. Eureka SeveN made me remember Gundam with more fondness, made me appreciate Ramba and Lady Hamon and their place in the Gundam mythology.
I’m very fond of the idea of newer works serving as an entry point to discovering older creators and works, an entire genre, or even an entire medium. Outside of anime we have video games such as Rock Band, and Guitar Hero who introduce ‘classic’ rock to a new generation of fans; related to this is how many mecha fans are familiar with a large number of robots, and a fair bit of their backgrounds and stories without actually having seen them yet through the Super Robot Wars franchise of video games. These games make the older works accessible. I think shows like Eureka SeveN, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann can be used awesomely as introductions to mecha anime in general. The love is strong in these shows.
Holland remembers love for Bright and Char [->]
What is an Itano Circus? [->]