(Anno August) Studio Gainax: Of Love and References

If you have ever watched something from Hideaki Anno’s or Studio Gainax’s discography, then you know how much of a passion they have for science fiction, art, anime, animation, or whatever they can get their nerdy eyes to watch. That’s the reason why that studio existed, as you can tell from the Daicon opening animation. When that passion left Gainax in it’s later years, it moved onto that Studio Trigger who also are big fans of art, animation, anime, science fiction, and whatever they can get their eyes on. Because of this, Studio Gainax’s shows have such a different feeling then what most studio produced. There is this consistent energy through out their shows that tells you they absolutely loved putting together what they produced as much as you are going to enjoy watching it. Each studio has their own sort of tone or feel consistently through out them and that was Gainax’s.

So what is the difference between just putting references into an anime and doing what Gainax is doing you may ask. In my eyes, any anime could just simply have references to other anime put into them. Especially comedy and slice of life anime that can have that episodes that blatantly reference popular media or multiple anime or something for those specific anime’s stories. Gainax anime are built around the frame work of different anime series. Those elements aren’t just references anymore, they are a part of that anime’s plot and story elements which can’t be taken away anymore. Otherwise, the anime itself would break apart and refuse to function. That doesn’t make anything you feel from Gainax invalid in anyway. That anime itself is a completely different thing from the source material it’s production team wanted to put into them. They are their own anime with it’s own characters, and plots.

Anybody going “will, this anime is pretty much this anime with this anime’s robots from it piloted by these people” couldn’t be more wrong and instantly dismissing that anime are wrong in my eyes. It’s horrible to dismiss anything just because something it isn’t original or is influenced something. Why? Because most media and fictional story telling borrow so many ideas from older anime stories that probably borrowed ideas from even older series and so on and so forth. Gainax anime are just a massive reminder of this because the production crew and the anime wear its influences on its sleeve much more then other production crew and anime do. Once again, from what I’ve said in my first paragraph, this is Gainax’s feel and style. Growing up stories with tons of love and heart.

All of this is part of the point of why I planned on worked on Hideaki Anno month. You know, other then talking about some cool anime that I haven’t talked about yet on this blog like Nausicaa or Macross and acknowledging a certain famous anime creator. With that, I want to at least talk about how a few Studio Gainax series and the influences and references built into those series’ DNA. Sticking with the theme of Hideaki Anno anime, at least two of the three examples that I bring up will be Hideaki Anno Gainax anime. I need to at least try and stick with the theme I presented for this month, right?

Let’s look at some of them. .

Gunbuster (1988)

Can we talk about how Gunbuster is just filled to the gills with all sorts of references? Plus the fact that it set up how Gainax approached shows from that point on right? I think I touched upon that point a couple weeks ago. But anyway, the main plot set up, besides the high school girls training to pilot a super robot ala Aim for the Ace apparently, is pretty much Space Battleship Yamato and Super Dimensional Fortress Macross? Why do I say that? Because Humankind losing a battle because they are completely out matched and human kind fighting back against them with one special machine. The Exelion, the main ship on Gunbuster is a combination of the Yamato and the Macross with the captain/admiral of the ship being a Captain Okita from Yamato like character. The main protagonist’s plot feels like a sports anime start up coming of age story that somehow turns into a super robot plot and it’s pretty exciting too. Very unique story.

Then there is the Gunbuster whose design is a combination of a Zaku from Gundam, the Getter Dragon from Getter Robo, and the Ideon. So a lot of Tomino influence in it’s design. Each one of the Gunbuster’s attacks are based on a different super mecha series and it makes me so inferior because my knowledge is lacking when it comes to super robot anime. I have some work to do still. Thank you, Hideaki Anno and friends. Time to go to the otaku mines to learn everything.

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)

Many people would call Neon Genesis Evangelion a mecha anime, but it’s a tokusatsu show disguised as a mecha anime. From what I’ve even seen from a super robot anime perspective, the fights aren’t standard mecha fair, they are more people wearing rubber monster suits and strange costumes like Ultraman then mecha fighting each other. The “robots” being what they are is a fact that gives this aspect away more. Then you could say that the plot and story were influenced by Space Runaway Ideon. You know, a Tomino work involving a robot slowly waking up through out the course of the series and eventually destroying the universe to unite it together, except Neon Genesis Evangelion has better characters then the lackluster Tomino characters. Characters that were prototyped by Gunbuster, but coming into it’s own here. Honestly, it’s hard to tell where the references stop because there are so many other super robot references that get seen by seen homages here and there along with some Miyazaki works like the God Warrior in Nausicaa.

Terran Toppa Gurren Lagann (2007)

Ready for this one? In some ways, Gurren Lagann is an expanded Gunbuster with it being a growing of age tale while also pushing for humanities freedom using a super powerful robot that responds to blood and guts. Still, the members of Gainax’s production committee have said that TTGL uses Getter Robo’s skeleton to create an amazing series. Getter Robo is about humanity emerged from the underground after an apocalyptic event to fight against an occupying force using the Shin Getter Robo machine and Getter Rays that the invaders also use. That’s a very brief explanation, but sound familiar? There are also tons of Eva references, Mazinger Z references, Captain Harlock references, G Gundam references, and so many other super robot references. Some I could pick up, some I couldn’t. These could be the opening scene of TTGL was very Captain Harlock, visual references from Evangelion like cross explosions, some enemy mecha designs, and endless amount of super robot transformation sequences that TTGL uses because it could. It’s just Gainax. They know what they like.

Once again, I just want to emphasize that just because these series reference other series so heavily doesn’t mean that anyone’s feelings toward them are invalid. They aren’t. Every feeling of sadness, happiness, or explosion of “YES” energy you get out of each of these series is genuine because they are their own series with their own running parts, heart, characters, and so on. The love of anime and adding references into their anime are the things that make Gainax Anime will Gainax Anime. That’s it. That’s the whole point I wanted to bring up here. I honestly love all three of the shows I mentioned too, even if they are similar in some ways or just homage each other. It just makes the experience of watching Gainax anime even better for me. Man, I need to rewatch TTGL, don’t I?

I don’t have that much to add here other then I hope you are all enjoying Anno August so far. I’m not sure if I will be doing this again next year for Hideaki Anno, but what anime creator do you think needs some more spotlighting? I would specifically thank any person that gives me some sort of option to dive into more creator specific anime. Thank you, everyone! Next week, I finally dig into Neon Genesis Evangelion in some for so keep an eye out for that. I’m splitting it in parts, so part 1 will appear on Wednesday and part 2 will appear on Friday.


  1. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi is another entry in Gainax’s catalog that has a ton of Easter Eggs of not only their own projects but also parodies nerd culture, media, and other series. Wouldn’t call it anything special by today’s standards, yet enjoyable and a nice love letter to the time period when it aired. Even though Anno had no part in the series and it was co-produced alongside Madhouse, it still carries the same snarky spirit you would associate with Gainax.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s