The sci-fi shounen genre has never had it this good. Okay, not never, but Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann is one of those rarities which has clawed its way out of the pile of junk that stinks up the shounen genre to provide something truly refreshing. Tengen Toppa is Gundam on speed, Dragon Ball with brains, Code Geass with sentiments, and has a liberal dose of Toward the Terra TV's epic feel; it's loud, it's brash, it's explosive just like all the others, and yet it actually spins out a mature and compelling story with deep characters and moving subplots.
Tengen Toppa progresses in what can be described as two distinct chapters separated by a time leap. The first chapter is a breathtaking and - dare I say it - flawless introduction to a unique setting and immediately likeable protagonists; moreover, the ‘quest' structure means the story progresses at a steady and logical pace, whereby every power-up feels natural and every victory is truly epic. The second chapter is an unexpected clever twist to the initial set-up, and, as such, will not be discussed for fear of spoiling.
Needless to say, Tengen Toppa's focus shifts from providing a series of power-ups and simple good-versus-evil battles to a fairly complex weaving of political and philosophical ‘grey areas', human empowerment, and romance. The overall effect of this style of plotting is shockingly effective; what starts off as a hyperactive conglomeration of concepts, such as mecha combining and fighting with giant drill-shaped arms, and primitive societies living in caves, actually takes on real meaning in the grand scheme of things.
However, while the second chapter smoothly builds on all the concepts developed in the first, what mars Tengen Toppa's largely excellent achievements is the jarring transition point in the middle and a somewhat drawn-out battle. With the three episodes of transition in the middle, the pacing suddenly becomes awkward, the characters have undergone some drastic changes and so have to be reintroduced, and something about the extravagant style appears to fade; with the ending, the problem is just the length and unimaginable metaphysical scale to which the battle evolves. Luckily, what stays with me long after having finished Tengen Toppa, is not the flaws, but the indomitable energy and eccentricity with which the tale is spun.
In all honesty, I haven't enjoyed a world concept like this since Jyu Oh Sei. The effort put into developing both a believable and yet wholly refreshing universe is admirable; the eye gets to feast on a quirky colour palette of primary colours, inventive animal species, bold outfits, and truly unique mecha designs.
As well as motion that is fairly smooth, the animation allows for hilarious facial expressions and enough juvenile creativity (did I mention the giant arm-drills?) to appeal to the child in anyone. Moreover, the distinct ‘comic book' use of light and shadow and extreme camera angles makes for an excellent dramatic atmosphere during many of the climactic scenes. Also watch out for an episode early on which is actually directed and animated by the same studio that created Beck - the animation style is just unsuitable and may call for an uncomfortable adjustment.
The pop-rock opening theme is suitably lively and fun to listen to with every episode, and the second more punky ending theme does grow on you after a while because of the catchy chorus. Furthermore, the score during the episodes is a good mix of instrumentals, hip hop, metal, and electronic beats; in particular, I enjoy the epic ‘Libera Me From Hell' which moves from rap to opera to instrumental all in one song. In terms of voice acting, everyone performs well, although Kamina and Viral stand out as being the most dynamic vocally.
Tengen Toppa would not be half the anime it is without Kamina, the thread that holds the entire fabric together, both literally and symbolically. True, Simon is in fact the central protagonist, but being cocky, charming, invigorating, tragic, and fearless, the star quality Kamina brings to Tengen Toppa is unrivalled.
Simon, on the other hand, does not show his mettle until quite late into the series; much of the beginning and middle episodes are used to peel off the layers of his innocence one by one until what is left is the determined core. In the end, despite riding a powerful mecha and making some great speeches, Simon turns out to be only half as charismatic as might be expected. He is certainly not as fun to watch as some of the other less central characters.
Those others would include Yoko the sassy sharpshooter, who becomes the sole victim of the tiresome ecchi shots; Rossiu, a former priest's apprentice whose development is one of the most complex; and Viral the beastman, who turns out to be far more than just an amusing recurring antagonist. Actually, the high number of fully developed and memorable characters is commendable considering Tengen Toppa is only twenty-seven episodes.
Lets just say, this show commited a sin that I will not spoil for those of you actually wanting to see it. Though it grates on my nerves that I can't forcefully enough steer you clear of this show.
My only real warning is if you're really into the Disney style story book ending, look elsewhere, you won't find that here.
Everything else about this show was average at best, and I'm thinking about the only thing that's made it so popular is bouncing boobies on a scantilly clad tsundere. Bout sums it up... I don't feel like writing up a typical review... this show doesn't deserve one.
It never fails to amaze me how people can look at another person's opinion and consider it incorrect. Or to say that voicing that opinion is incorrect. Sin, or no sin, right or wrong, this review is what it is because that is how this show made me feel after watching it. Changing it to suit the needs of the many is probably the last thing I would ever do.
As it stands I no longer respond to nonconstructive or plain rude comments on this review. I derive a bit of sick pleasure that I upset so many people over such a stupid thing simply because my opinion differs from others. If you have something interesting to add then by all means, everyone else can bite me. Until Sothis decides that user reviews need to have certain standards I have no reason to conform to you all's idea of suitable review format. If you're just another fanboy that hates me because I don't like what you like *points and laughs*.
If this series stopped at the first season I would give it a nearly perfect score, sadly this is not the case and during the second season they fuck everything up completely as far as the story goes, as well as any speck of physics. Everything gets really fucking stupid... They even breath in space.... If you really like this series during the first half but don't like anime that take things way too far and get WAY too far fetched. Like... WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY over the top, then stop at the first season before the time leap otherwise the second season will ruin your good memories of this anime because it takes "over the top" to an unbelievable level. You'll just be left thinking "wow, this is just getting stupid". However don't let that stop you from watching the first 14 episodes. YOU WILL LOVE THE FIRST 14 EPISODES.
Man, I look at the other reviews and I actually see people taking this show seriously. How do they do that? This is the most awesomely ridiculous show I've ever seen in my life. Every single action scene had me roaring with laughter. The entire thing is one impossibly over-the-top ball of cheese. I just had to laugh whenever Simon fights. He starts losing, then "No! I believe in myself! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH....GIGA DRILL BREAAAKEERRRR!!!!!!" And then he blasts through everything and everything in the entire universe explodes. I seriously think the director of this show took all the tired old standards of mecha and shounen fight shows and exaggerated them all beyond all belief just to show how truly ridiculous it all is. But make no mistake, this show is very, very fun to watch. Tons of stuff blows up. There's tons of really funny-looking mecha. There's cheesy lines galore and impossible stunts. The main character basically blows through the universe with the strength of his will. Everything imaginable transforms/combines into a mecha. Giant drills pop out of nowhere and suddenly embody the hope of humanity. And there's even Yoko, who is pretty much the personification of ecchi if you like that sort of thing.
As for plot, characterization, script, and all that, it's not too impressive. Above-average for a shounen mecha show I guess. But that's not why you watch the show. You watch this show to see everything exploding and watch one man take on the whole universe and win. With drills.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS WRITTEN FOR THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY FINISHED THE SERIES.
I'm not going to be commenting on individual stats. You can find that elsewhere. What I'm going to do here is point out something that everyone seems to have missed.
In case you didn't know, the same studio produced the legendary EVA and TTGL series. And urban myth has it that they mystically extracted all the emo out of TTGL and stuffed it into EVA, then mystically extracted all the GAR out of EVA and stuffed in into TTGL.
That's what they want you to think. I'm here to tell you the truth!
It's obvious once you think about it. TTGL IS THE SEQUEL TO EVA.
Think about it. At the end of EVA, humanity becomes some giant blob of self-depressed goo right? Or they call it 'primordial soup' or something. THAT'S THE ANTI-SPIRAL.
What weapon does the Anti-Spiral employ in its war against the Spirals? Despair. What's the one recurring emotion over and over in EVA? Despair. IT FITS.
Everyone knows that mecha runs on emo. You don't? Well now you do. Think about it. In Gundam SEED, the most powerful pilot (Kira) is also the angstiest sonofabitch to ever make the TV screen. Then in Destiny he gets his ass handed to him by Athrun. It's because in Destiny, Kira is much less angsty! Athrun is the one with the galaxy on his shoulders now, so he's the better pilot!
And before that, in Gundam Wing, the least angsty mobile suit, Sandrock, was also the most piss-poor compared to the others. Even outside the Gundam metaseries, Suzaku Kururugi of Code Geass is also a guilt-ridden wreck.
See that's why the most powerful mechs ever to walk animated Earth are the EVA ones, because they have the most emo pilots. And at the end of EVA, their emo-ness coalesces into the Anti-Spiral!
Which leads us to the setting for TTGL, doesn't it? With a new generation of mecha that literally runs on GAR.
And so it's settled. GAR kicks emo's ass. Period. FIGHT THE POWA!