(This review may contain spoilers for the following series. If you have not seen the series before, please exercise caution before viewing this post. You have been warned.)
Back in 2007, I was given the opportunity to watch a series by Gainax, entitled “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.” It was filled with thrills, laughs, tears, and rage. I fondly remember my disappointment mid-way through the show, and how my impressions of the show crashed and burned, without fully recovering. I still fondly remembering and enjoying the show, just not as much as I feel I should have. Now, 7 years later, going back and watching the show yields some new results, and let’s see how the re-viewing fares for the popular anime.
The show begins with a village outcast by the name of Simon. This young kid often finds himself ostracized and ridiculed due to his fascination with digging holes using his trusty drill, an important job in this village which lies under the surface. The only one in the village to treat Simon with respect is Kamina, a mischief in the village often scheming to make his way through the ceiling to the fated ‘surface,’ a concept that many in the village consider a myth and Kamina often finds himself in trouble with the village chief due to these schemes. However, Kamina’s strong will and charasmatic personality melts the relationship between Kamina and Simon, who looks up to Kamina as an older brother, though not linked by blood.
One night, an earthquake occurs, scaring Simon and the villagers, who are worried of the ceiling collapsing on them. This earthquake leads to the ceiling caving in, revealing a giant face-like mech and a young girl. This girl, later named Yoko, fights the giant mech and soon finds herself joined by Kamina and Simon, who lends his aid with a smaller face-like mech. This leads to the journey to the surface, and soon after, the journey to change the world. This begins the journey of Team Gurren.
What Gurren Lagann uses for its story is basic and designed solely to push the audience’s attention to the characters. The story contains many aspects of a general change the world setting, but uses unique and lovable characters that enhance and touch up the story. While the show centers around Simon, Kamina often steals the spotlight with his outgoing attitude and robust nature. Simon, on the other hand, withdraws himself from battles and will rub his inferiority complex in everyone’s faces. Yoko often displays herself as the level-headed one of the group, and generally questions the methods of both Kamina and Simon. As others join the trio on their quest to change the world, their personalities blend and create not only comedy relief, but also the bonds of a great team.
Of course, Gurren Lagann not only introduces many character types, but the show also shows that these characters not only start off with different personalities, but they also grow and develop. Gurren Lagann promotes one central concept, with the concept being growth. In a shock episode, the closest character to a main character, Kamina, loses his life during a battle, leaving the rest of Team Gurren to figure out what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to do it. Every character realizes that life is no game, and there are consequences to each action they take. With this opportunity, Simon undergoes the biggest character change in the series by taking on responsibilities, and protecting what he holds dear. No matter what happens, life goes on, and each person must learn what it means to continue living.
Surprisingly, the show actually continues after the main goal is reached. This ‘third act’ provides insight to the adventure after the adventure, and shows that not all stories end happily. This ‘third act,’ taking place 7 years after the original adventure, offers insight into the consequences of the actions by Team Gurren 7 years ago, and shows what peaceful times can do to change a person. Of course, due to further events, Team Gurren is forced to fight further evil to protect the human race.
Story and Characters aside, the animation gives a very rough impression to the viewer, and honestly this messy stylized art gives Gurren Lagann a very unique feel to it. No episode or character looks out of place in the show, and the fight scenes feel dirty, clustered, and full of movement. Every episode looks good, and while the story gets wacky at times, this dirty look only supports the story in the most positive way.
In terms of music, Gurren Lagann contains some amazing tracks to flow with battles and monologues. Happily Ever After, which I consider Simon’s Theme, plays when Simon finally accepts his role of protecting his friends, family, and future. The main theme, Sorairo Days, lays out the overall theme of Gurren Lagann and excites the viewer for the episode. In fact, Gurren Lagann also uses Sorairo Days during the last battle, a technique I wish far more series did. In a sense, it’s kind of like going full circle, starting and ending at the main theme song. The other BGM in the series fits the tone, and really sets the mood for adventure.
As far as my thoughts from my first viewing to my second viewing, I enjoyed the series a great deal more than my first watch. While I loved the series my first go, I hated the fact that Kamina was gone, and I looked at Simon as more of a ‘replacement.’ However, watching the show again, I enjoyed Simon’s growth and development into the character and the end of the show. The story was always focused around Simon, even when Kamina was alive. The story has always been about growing up, taking responsibility, and becoming the person you need to be. No matter how much you must suffer, you must overcome those challenges and learn from them. The show’s job was to inspire, and damn, it’s a feel good show when you think about that.
Closing thoughts, I will say that everyone should at least check this show out. I understand it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the show definitely raises some questions, and strives to make a better person in all of us. The show has its flaws, but still remains a solid anime to this day.