Start with the man himself, YAMAGA Hiroyuki, president of GAINAX and longtime Fanime attendee. One year he spent all his free time in his hotel room, crafting an elaborate set of samurai armor out of paper. When he appeared wearing the thing on the third day, he introduced himself and said, "Despite the way I am dressed, I am the president of a company."
And if anything, Yamaga-san's one of the saner personalities involved. In some circles GAINAX is known as a legendary company of madmen, spoken of in hushed tones, lest we draw their attention upon us. One thing I heard at the con: "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was a GAINAX production, so we knew from the beginning that it would be made without regard for cost."
Fanime has always respected that (Sometimes it gets them in trouble, but that's neither here nor there.) Little-known fact: Fanime always opens with a showing of Otaku no Video, GAINAX's legendary love song for the otaku. At this year's Fanime, though, all the attention was on GAINAX's most recent bet-the-company venture, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. And I do mean bet-the-company. It was claimed — and I may believe them, in the most metaphorical way — that, if the series were poorly recieved, they would have quit. It was to be their magnum opus. And it was.
So. Yamaga-san and several of the Gurren Lagann staff came to Fanime to relax for a while — and incidentally to show off the first Gurren Lagann movie for the first time in the United States. Yes, premiere. I was looking forward to it.
Fast-forward to Saturday afternoon, when we all piled into a video room to watch the movie. Packed house. Enthusiastic chatter. Yamaga stands up and announces that there will be no subtitles. We're a little surprised, but we can roll with it. One guy yells out "It's okay, Kamina's easy to understand" and instantly becomes my hero.
The movie starts. And — surprise of surprises — people are watching and enjoying it. Everyone's following along with rapt attention. (And Kamina really is easy to understand.) The room started out packed, and stays packed throughout, and in the final moments everyone is cheering along.
At the end of the film we give GAINAX a standing ovation. I don't think we had much choice in the matter — I was jerked to my feet like some amateur's clumsy puppet, and the air was full of thunder. Yamaga-san waits for the applause to die down, and comments that he is amazed and overjoyed at the magnitude of the response. As am I.
I mean, really, I've seen otaku sit through work without subtitles. It's hard, and I have no doubt that they wouldn't have sat through this one if it weren't Gurren Lagann. The work itself is so grand, such a paen to manliness, that it seems only proper that we decipher a foreign language to recieve it. Things this great are not attained without sacrifice.
That's what I jokingly think, anyway.