Simon and Kamina were born and raised in a deep, underground village, hidden from the fabled surface. Kamina is a free-spirited loose cannon bent on making a name for himself, while Simon is a timid young boy with no real aspirations. One day while excavating the earth, Simon stumbles upon a mysterious object that turns out to be the ignition key to an ancient artifact of war, which the duo dubs Lagann. Using their new weapon, Simon and Kamina fend off a surprise attack from the surface with the help of Yoko Littner, a hot-blooded redhead wielding a massive gun who wanders the world above.
In the aftermath of the battle, the sky is now in plain view, prompting Simon and Kamina to set off on a journey alongside Yoko to explore the wastelands of the surface. Soon, they join the fight against the "Beastmen," humanoid creatures that terrorize the remnants of humanity in powerful robots called "Gunmen." Although they face some challenges and setbacks, the trio bravely fights these new enemies alongside other survivors to reclaim the surface, while slowly unraveling a galaxy-sized mystery.
Gurren Lagann received widespread critical acclaim since its release. The series received an Excellence Prize at the 2007 Japan Media Arts Festival. Its director Hiroyuki Imaishi received an individual award for "Personal Best" at the 12th Animation Kobe Festival that same year for his work on the series.
In 2008, during the 7th annual Tokyo Anime Awards held at the Tokyo International Anime Fair, Gurren Lagann won the "Best Television Production" award. In addition, the "Best Character Design" award was given to the character designer Atsushi Nishigori for his work on the anime.
There was a time.
When men were men. They were screaming like crazy speeches, faced the impossible, and said things that made no sense, but that even so we did say "EPIC".
There was a time.
A time of captains Harlock, a master time Asia, a time of Domons.
Logic was not important. The strategy was not important. If you believe in the impossible, impossible would be nothing in front of you.
The time is gone
A wave of animes that have to be "realistic", "philosophical", "adults" around us. Are good? Are. Meet your purpose? Meet.
However, however ... I miss something.
Characters idiots who laugh in the face of death, and not
to be shaken by anything. Characters that I remember that, in essence, in the beginning, were not meant to be realistic.
No wonder that I am addicted to shonens: manga as One Piece, Fairy Tail remind me that there are heroes who still believe that boundaries are bullshit, and that men should talk about crazy dreams with a smile on his face.
Few original anime (non-manga based) can pass this spirit, and if I had to indicate a Studio to produce an epic-without-notion, "Gainax" probably would not be the first on my list.
But they did so. Oh, how did.
Ladies and gentlemen, forgiveness for the lengthy introduction: Let's talk of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
Many have already heard things about this series of 27 episodes. Effusive praise. Discouraging reviews. And you may already have heard the following phrase: "compliments to the Gurren Lagann are exaggerated"
And let us be clear: Yes. ARE.
But it could not be otherwise.
Gurren Lagann anime is not the type that parses. Is the type of anime to which you manifested with exaggeration and passion. "Overkill" is the key word of the anime: everything is extremely Titanic, extreme, "over-the-top", "larger than life", etc.
With certain exceptions (some Gundam, some Macross, tss), never been a fan of mecha anime. Would be far from the top of my list and, being this a recurrent genre in every new season animes, I believe my dismay is understandable: it is both anime mecha clamoring arrogantly that will "revolutionize the genre", "overcome Evangelion", "be the new Gundam" and other things that many simply die on the beach, lost in own mediocrity.
Gurren Lagann will by reverse path: doesn't take itself seriously. Does not involve complex plots policies or attempts to "explore the essence of the human being". It's about guys inconsequential facing death in colorful fuses (and often ungainly) and BLOWING THINGS UP. Many things.
The series is a species of "giant parody mecha", a spoof so well done that took an undeniable brilliance. As the series develops, over the hump "70 years" (frantic action and episodic with colored robots), "80 years" (frantic action and sequential with specific enemies ... and colored robots!), "90 years" (frantic action with colorful robots ... in space!) and Century 21 (IE ... a tribute to the series, where the hype coming into the extreme).
The series features a climate extremely pure (remember One Piece in this sense) that does not match the latest productions of Gainax (with the exception of perhaps Diebuster): in Gurren the Studio tries their best to tell a story extremely positive, bright, boiling the blood-is as an antithesis of Evangelion.
The cast features some of the most best ever seen in recent years, with big names like Kamina ("do not believe in yourself. Believe me, I believe in you "), Kittan (" no, this is my soul! You will regret it! "), Simon (" my drill is one that PIERCES the HEAVENS! "), just to name the most unbelievable (after all, we still have Viral Genome, Dayakka-" My wife is the best of the universe-SWING! ").
Heroes who face the impossible again and again, like real men. The psychological development of some of them (Simon, to quote) is monstrous: the series managed to combine and traces of human "weaknesses" with the "iconic" of characters (courage to sacrifice himself when necessary, never retreat, and other elements worthy of legends).
Council to watch this anime: turn off your brain. One of the best quotes of the anime is "Go beyond the impossible and kick the logic to corner" (Kamina), and this is often taken in a sense more than literal. Gurren Lagann is about ridiculously scenes with epic songs -Sung playing in the background (and I know that many of us love this type of scene, feeling rather lack thereof in the current anime), is about characters screaming attack names aloud, and gigantic explosions. If you allow "get in the mood", you will be taken to an unbelievable journey. And smile like a fool, knowing you made the right decision.
The animation is jaw-dropping. To get an idea, 40% of the money used in the production were dedicated to the last 5 episodes, creating sequences that make many films out there go shame. The soundtrack contributes with the light/climate: epic songs sung, rap and Opera hybridizes to give a special glow to several of the best scenes of the series (many of these will be marked for those that see).
Perhaps the only factor of production that is worth being criticized is the episodes "reprise" (there are two of them, a long piece of episode 6 and episode 16 integer), but it is worth remembering that this is part of the "joke" that Gainax proposed to do, saying that "kick the logic to corner" with this series: 27 episodes rather than 26, the protagonist being voiced by a man (many of the previous, as Shinji Ikari of Eva, were dubbed by women), etc.
"you're praising too! You're exaggerating! "-
I 'M. But as I said earlier, this is an anime that does not allow cold and calculating analysis. The very premise, the first episode, it doesn't make much sense. It is a classic "love or hate". Or you enter the atmosphere of "OW MAN, WAY TOO EPICNESS" or so says "This is not my type." Despite the success that had (yielding promises of future projects), Gurren Lagann is not for everyone.
It's about courage.
Struggles that make the DBZ characters seem Wimpy
It's about heroic speeches and exaggerated.
If you are unable to watch something that cannot lead to seriously, I recommend more sober, more series "feet-in-the-ground".
If you are willing to embark with the crew of the Gurren-Dan, welcome to war.
By the human race.
Through The Universe.
To quote the slogan of a well-known epic film: "Prepare for glory".
Perhaps no other show I have viewed have I gone into with higher expectations and hype than with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Practically everyone I know has told me about how awesome it is, how its epic ending is the best thing since the invention of the internal combustion engine. Looking back I suppose that made it inevitable for me to be let down and disappointed.
A message to the rabid fanboys probably is in order. If you are incapable of accepting anyone’s opinion that differs from your own then you might as well stop reading this right now. What follows is
a critical and perhaps a bit harsh analysis of a series that at its best was one of the best things I have ever seen, but at its worst made me want to punch a hole in my television. I certainly did not hate TTGL. I can clearly recognize its achievements and its place in anime history and its influence. But it also has some unforgivable warts that many of which were unnecessary. It's typical of a GAINAX project which always seems to be high on presentation and build up and piss poor at conclusions.
There is nothing remarkable about the story in TTGL. It borrows from familiar themes and unfolds in a pretty predictable and formulaic manner. It’s the presentation of the storyline that makes it so unique from most anime of this type. TTGL is really two anime in one. The series is divided into two major story arcs. Both are full of balls out macho testosterone filled awesomeness. The scale of the story grows exponentially as each battle and each Gurren Lagann transformation becomes more and more epic. Taken at that, TTGL succeeds at an unrivaled level. The first arc has a perfect mix of comedy, tragedy, drama, and GAR. I loved it. It totally worked at every level. Until...
Where things start to come undone is in the second arc which starts at episode 16 and is set seven years after those events. The feeling is totally different. First you’re trying to get used to characters that have grown up, at least physically, and a setting that is completely alien to the apocalyptic wastelands of the first half of the series. But where things unravel is that it starts to get away from what made the early parts of the series so successful. It begins more of a romance arc, which you expected given the way things went in the first part and frankly I would have been disappointed if this hadn’t developed. However it’s so ridiculous that all it does it make you think the characters are completely retarded. I mean seriously, how can you be in a relationship with someone for seven fucking years and never kissed that person? Really? You expect me to take this seriously or actually care? The second is the addition of a political drama that does about as much for the story as the unrealistic romance elements. All it does it take a cast that was almost entirely likeable from the first half and make half of them asshats and douche bags.
Eventually though things get back on track with what made the show so completely awesome before. The problem is by time they do will you be so angry and pissed off that you even care anymore? That was the situation I found myself in. As much as I wanted to be angry at it the feelings I had for it do start to pop up again. The battles are even more epic and literally galaxy shattering. It’s so totally masculine that I am surprised I didn’t grow a pair of balls myself. But... it seems I always have to say that, just as it manages to redeem itself and make me swoon with delight; GAINAX delivers their final fuck you to the audience and frankly, it is unforgivable. Sadly it completely ruined any enjoyment I had for it.
TTGL characters are pretty much what you would expect from shounen anime. However it manages to carve out a few legendary ones. Pretty much anyone who is a fan of anime knows who Simon, Kamina, and Yoko are. I can say that they aren’t overrated by the fandom either. Kamina is pure awesomeness. A man’s man and a woman’s dream. His single minded determination and love for his comrades makes him the kind of friend that any man would want. While he may not be "husband material" to us girls every one of us would want to put our arm in his and be protected by him. He’s the kind of guy that can really only survive in a world of conflict. A true hero for the ages.
Simon has many of Kamina's traits. As the main protagonist in the series he does well to overcome the obstacles in front of him. I loved him, as a boy. It was after the time skip that he has grown up that he becomes less interesting as a character. He evolves into something he’s not, a virtual clone of Kamina that they are almost indistinguishable from one another. The weaknesses and more reserved nature of the younger Simon which made him for me a much more real and interesting character disappear. Instead of the thoughtful and cowardly boy we have a guy who is as reckless as Kamina ever was and goes into everything with all guns blazing and damn the torpedoes! Its so uncharacteristic of him that it takes away from his character. The final events of the story in particular are needless cruel and unnecessary and a further example of how out of character he has become. By the end he is Kamina, complete with the ending you would have expected of him and all traces of the likeable kid all but erased.
Yoko is the ship that launched a million wet dreams from boys and probably a few grown men alike. You might think that a character with eye popping measurements that spends the majority of the series in a bathing suit would be simply a tool for exploitive fan service. But that’s not the case, as she really shines on her own and manages to be sexy without feeling like she’s just a prop. Yoko is one of the few characters in the story to actually grow up. She takes on responsibility as opposed to the rest of the cast who seem intend on riding the coattails of their past glories instead of contributing something to society. Overall though she's treated poorly by the story and while she is very important to the first part of the series it’s almost like she became just another face in the crowd later on. Being a big fan of hers I found that to be particularly disappointing.
The rest of the main and supporting cast is a bit of a mixed bag. The reason my score of them as a total suffers is that the vast majority of them are very static and unchanging. Most of them are not all that interesting and are more like the background. With few exceptions when one of them dies in the story's epic death count you are left with little emotional reaction because you didn’t feel anything for them when they were alive. The time jump also affected my enjoyment of them as I mentioned many of them had total personality changes that really had no justification. Some initially charming and interesting characters such as Nia I found myself just despising or becoming apathetic towards.
One thing that TTGL does not fail to deliver though is heart pounding and eye-popping visual effects and artwork. This series is truly a masterful work of art. Everything about it screams epic goodness. GAINAX always has a bit of a unique and cartoony art style. But what I really love is the bright colors and quirky designs. It totally works for this series perhaps like no other ever has. This is truly an achievement that I can find absolutely no flaws with.
Not to be outdone, the musical score and voice acting is just as exceptional. The actors manage to bring out all the macho characters and the often screaming dialogue and make it all work. The music is some of the best I have heard in an anime. The OP/EN themes rock hardcore and will have you moving your feet and singing out loud.
So did I like TTGL? The answer is yes. Did I enjoy it? Not really. Because of that it just can’t go down as one of my favorite series as it really should have thanks to that retardation at the end. I know I am going to be in the minority here. The story is not meant to be taken seriously and for the most part I didn’t. However I was expecting more and I didn’t get it. Chances are if you’re male, and under the age of 30 you just might watch this and think it’s the best thing ever. For us girls your experience may vary. It’s definitely worth the viewing but beware the trap of unrealistic expectations and hype.
Gurren Lagann was breathtaking. An endlessly thrilling ride from the most humble beginnings to the most fantastic of ends. Absolutely inspiring and a must-watch. There are so many memorable moments in this series, and lines and ideas that it imprints into your very soul.
I will admit this is one of the first anime I had ever watched, except Miyazaki films. And its ridiculousness shocked me as a newcomer. Even so, I was enraptured, drawn by the infectious energy and the constant adrenaline rush from this show.
Because it was unique. It was so very unique.
Tengen Toppa, while
it does have an amazing story, is not about the story. It's not about a logical progression, strategy, conflicts of interests, world building, exploring the sci-fi or the other ideas in it. In fact, it is about the deconstruction of all those things. I usually like smart anime. But Tengen Toppa is unique, managing to be good without trying to be smart. Because it isn't about being smart. Its about feeling. Everything else is just a plot device. Its abstract almost, like a legend or an epic. You don't need to believe it. TTGL takes your ideas and your expectations and says fuck you. The only one idea that matters is feeling and spirit. It delivers on an emotional level. A primal instinct; willpower, that adrenaline rush and madness that overcomes you as you resolve to beat an impossible challenge in pursuit of what you want.
Every aspect of the show work to arouse and reinforce this zeal in the viewer. Its art, with a clever use of angles, bold lines, exaggerated designs and at times simplified drawings personify its brazen self-confidence and panache. Its soundtrack oozes fearless charisma with a liberal use of energetic horns, drums, opera, rap(!), violin ensembles, and forceful sound effects... all the while also reserving a soft, passionately delicate side for its emotional moments. Its vibrant characters(especially one of the manliest leads in anime I know, Kamina) are among the most unforgettable I've ever encountered, and how far they come by the end, and indeed how much they grow on you is amazing to behold. Every single one of them, in the span of 27 episodes(yes, TTGL hates norms, even season counts), manages to surprise you and show you the many faces of human nature. In a way, they are perfectly chosen to represent the show's central theme of the struggle between human "spirit" against the abyss of "despair".
I like to think of Gurren Lagann now as at least in part, as a light hearted jab at various overused tropes in anime(such as copious amounts of fanservice, plot arcs that escalates from small to unbelievably huge and so so many more). Gurren Lagann takes every cliche trope there is and ramps it up to 11, in a way that it feels strangely new and enjoyable again. If I could describe this show in one word, it'd be "ridiculous"... and I don't mean that in a bad way in the slightest.
The blatant and ridiculous sexual innuendos everywhere(the Di-gurren has a gigantic dick for a hull for just one example), the in-your-face approach to fan service, the seemingly boundless main plot arc, the battles, the set pieces, those outrageous VILLAINS, Nia and her moeblob eyes, the cheesy dialogue(it actually seems to work quite well in TTGL for some reason although it wouldn't anywhere else), the over-the-top speeches and declarations, the attack names... the list goes on and on. It presents these obviously un-serious things in the most serious and cocksure way possible. And somehow... manages to be convincing. It shocks you and grabs your attention with nothing else other than its unique spirit and confidence. TTGL feels like its taking an adult and making him play pretend, dragging him about in a crazed rush, and learn again what its like to be mad with drive and child-like passion for your dreams.
For deus ex machinas, there were so many in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann I couldn't count them all. But it played into the show's theme "Kick logic out and do the impossible" perfectly. I didn't get the impression from the rest of the narrative that the show was taking itself very seriously at all(viewed as a parody, TTGL is pretty damn good), so they actually felt natural and strangely uplifting, instead of disappointing.
Tengen Toppa is also excellent at emotionally moving you. They even state in the anime itself, "kick logic out... it's all about spirit!" And it delivers. It will move you, fire you up, make you cry, laugh. But it will most definitely not intrigue you, or make you race the characters in deductive reasoning like in other shows. But it will leave you exhilarated regardless.
And maybe... just maybe... etch itself into your memory for a long time to come.
EDIT: Now, as much as I know it is strange to say now, right at the end, especially after(rightly!) emphasizing the ridiculousness so much, I think it is dishonest to give the impression that this is just a mindless show intended to make you scream. Believe it or not, how epic it manages to be despite the absurdity is actually the result of very clever writing, brilliant implementation and noticeably passionate production values and attention to detail. In fact, I would even say this is one of most subtly intricate and thoughtful series to come out in recent years. This doesn't take the form of philosophical debates and pretentious sci-fi however. In true TTGL(and Gainax) style, it defies expectations. Everything thats silly is in your face, and whats clever is hidden for those who care to look.
It takes the form of exquisite symbolism, subliminal homo-erotic rap, intricately interwoven themes which the show doesn't always spell out for you(as just one slightly spoilerific example; think about the mistakes of humanity. Think about the Elder in the Face-God Village or the Chief of Jiha village and compare population-control Rossiu and the Anti-Spirals to them... they all are driven by the same thing), the bitter contrasts of war and how they seem to fade once you actually understand the sides, how infectious and inspiring spirit is when it truly refuses to give in to cynicism... hell, when you've finished I actually encourage you to read this: http://wtf.animeblogger.net/?p=140
Only on the rarest of occasions does an anime come along that truly grabs me and elevates itself above mere entertainment and into the realms of gripping television. Gurren Lagann did this with frightening ease, not with complexity or depth of its storyline, nor with its technical excellence, or innovation, but with its boldness, energy, sense of humour, and heart. Some people may be put off with the degree of silliness the show never ceases to deliver, or at least be deterred from becoming deeply invested in the plot or its characters, but being the sucker for just this kind of shameless splendour and over-the-top
theatrics, I took to it with enthusiasm, and came out of it with a strong sense of appreciation for the fun that the show delivered from week to week. Gurren Lagann is the kind of series that you may scoff at while you’re watching it, or laugh at its unapologetically ridiculous antics, but which still leaves you craving the next episode. I became so swept up in the show’s passion and heavy-handed charm that I quickly learned to turn my brain off and just go along with the ride. And this is how Gurren Lagann is best enjoyed, with an open-mind and a desire to sit back and enjoy yourself; if you can’t refrain from cynicism or pretentiousness, you likely won’t enjoy the show. I also recommend that the series is not watched as marathon fodder, in fact I’m not sure you can truly capture the same experience if you missed out on watching it on a week-by-week basis.
But the show is not just for action junkies and comedy fanatics; it may have more than its share of explosion-riddled skies, sexual innuendo and galaxy-sized mecha, but more than that the show is somehow able to endear the viewer to its characters through all the furore and anarchy of the plot - and it is not afraid to cash in on that either. The characters are all really fun to watch, each of them flamboyant and charismatic in their own peculiar way, and on top of that, the series weaves in a good amount of sincere character development almost without the viewer noticing. Kamina, in particular is instantly likeable and memorable as the unstoppable and inspired leader of the group that the show revolves around. His unquenchable determination and guts are what really caught me into the series to begin with - one cannot help but stand alongside the other characters in the show with their reverence for him. More than being a likeable gang, the characters are used to great dramatic effect; the show has a number of dramatic peaks over its course that won’t easily fade from my memory. Simon’s transformation from a cowardly underling of Kamina, to an empowered and confident hero is also a key part of the story, and it is handled acceptably, though not quite believably. For that type of theme, I defer to Eureka 7’s development of its protagonist, Renton.
Furthermore, the story itself, while inarguably simplistic, revolves around a strong moral core, with themes that are challenging at times and rousing at others. The use of metaphor is vastly overdone, but revelations further into the show made me appreciate the central “drill” metaphor a bit more. My actual interest in the plot varied throughout the series, starting off quite high with the intrigue of the mysterious new world and the immediate threat of the Beastmen, and cooling off until the post-timeskip story kicked in, which introduced a more serious and challenging feel to the series and hence boosted my interests once again. The pacing is probably my biggest complaint for the show, as the constant action, ironically, became tedious at times, particularly in the build-up to the climactic episode 15. The show may always have a sense of fun, but it is inconsistently gripping.
The animation, episode 4 aside (whose director was later fired - although that’s another story), is brimming with vigour and vitality; it is not always consistent, and rarely very detailed, but it seems to adjust itself to the mood of the show in a very unsubtle but fitting manner. There were a number of blatant shortcuts that were used during many of the battle sequences that I couldn’t help but notice, but given the ‘epic’ nature of the show, it is difficult to expect top-class animation right the way through. At times, the art and animation are genuinely amazing, and there is no denying that this was an ambitious and costly undertaking by the usually self-preservational GAINAX. An extra boost of cel detail would have welcome but probably impractical from a budgetary perspective.
The music for the show is much like the show itself, in that it’s hard to take seriously, but it is unavoidably engaging. Rather than cinematic type of score work, the show is packed with insert songs and a handful of key piece of theme music. I am appreciative of the way the music was distributed throughout the series, with new music being added to the mix right up until the end. This prevented it from stagnating. A few of the tracks are stand-out pieces of music, and are used in the show to give it a genuine boost of captivation and emotion. In particular, the main heroic theme of the show never fails to rouse me into a high-spirited love for the series.
At times powerful, almost always senselessly fun, and with a strong moral core top its themes and story, Gurren Lagann is the highlight of 2007, and an anime worthy of anyone’s viewing. Far from flawless, yet somehow rarely flawed, this anime series is inexplicably lovable for those who are easily hooked in by unsubtle fun. Gurren Lagann has something for everyone, and as such I recommend it to everyone. However, I think it appeals more directly to a male audience with its badassery and male hero role models.
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