The show that turns boys into men.
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
For now, the rest of you: watch this show.