Simon lives a boring life in the underground village of Jeeha, where his main job day in and day out is to dig tunnels. His close friend Kamina, however, longs to bust out of their oppressive existence and reach the surface world where open skies and adventure await! One day, during his usual digs, Simon discovers a robot with a big face buried amongst the rocks. No sooner has he shown Kamina his mysterious find when two beings from the surface crash land into Jeeha Village - one is a gun-toting woman calling herself Yoko and the other is a terrifying mecha piloted by a Beastman! Seeing their chance to escape village drudgery, Kamina rallies Simon and Yoko to defeat the invader using their new robot, Lagann. However, upon breaking out onto the surface world, Simon, Kamina, and Yoko encounter enemies more powerful than they could have envisioned. Their fight for adventure just turned into a war for the survival of the human race - will their lust for freedom hold out against such terrible odds?
Bust Through the Heavens With Your Drill
I Said I'm Gonna Pilot That Thing!
Who Do You Think You Are, Having Two Faces!?
Having Lots of Faces Doesn't Make You Great!
I Don't Get It, Not One Bit!
Sit in the Hot Tub 'Til You're Sick
You're Gonna Do It!!
What, Exactly, Is a Human?
Who Is This Bro?
Simon, Hands Off
Yoko, Will You Do Me a Favor?
StoryThe 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.AnimationIn 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.SoundThe 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.CharactersTengen 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.OverallApart from an inelegant time leap and a slightly drawn-out ending, this series packs in many high quality elements. Combining gung-ho action, comedy, ecchi, zany animation, and witty characterisation, Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann has something for everyone and is a safe bet for anybody looking for something accessible, all-round fun, and with a heart-stopping sense of adventure.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is 27 episodes of an action-packed, sci-fi, comedic shounen anime about mecha. And what a roller coaster it is. There a so many hilarious, cheesy, awesome and thrilling bits of this anime, but there are also parts that are infuriating. This isn’t the best anime for me to pop in a review when I’ve said I won’t be writing any, but I just had to put my thoughts and critique down. One thing for sure, Gurren Lagann is very unique and goes where few anime dare. It’s one of the best shounen anime around and among all anime it is one that many folks regard as a cream of the crop. But are they right to think so? This anime also has two movies which will be reviewed another time. Be warned this review is being written by someone who hates ecchi and pointless fan-service. This review is also very long! Animation The animation quality of this anime is sublime. I can barely believe it was made in 2007. However, this perfect quality is non-existent in episode 4, for reasons unknown. The animation style is very colourful but not actually too unique. The characters look like characters from other anime and so do some of the quirks here and there. The mechas look unique, with the exception of the Gurren Lagann, which looks much more typical. I will say that the overall design of the villains is rather distinguished. But the worst part of this anime… the pointless, shameless fan-service. I’ve rambled on about this so much before. The skimpy, revealing outfits kinda make sense given the setting, but shoving breasts into folk’s faces and the perverted antics of the horrendous hot springs episode are a step too far. I will admit, Kamina swimming a circuit through breasts is kinda funny. And while there is no indecent exposure from the female cast, this anime does something equally as terrible. A child’s privates are visible in a scene or two. And context can’t be used as an excuse in this case as they quite obviously censor, in an amusing fashion, the other guys’ bits. Thankfully this stuff is limited to early episodes, thus it can be forgiven for improving. Overall a tad disappointing but still pretty good, the high quality animation is let down by a few early mistakes. Sound The intro music is awesome! Some metallic rock by Shoko Nakagawa sets the action here and the outro tune is pretty good too. The second outro gets even better. But it’s not just the intro and outro, the main anime itself has a variety of appropriate and awesome background music. At the time of writing this review, I’ve been unable to download the soundtrack, but you know I will! The sound effects are also pretty funny and add to the great sound design helping the scenes give off their respective atmospheres: comic, thrilling, serious and more. This anime is available in both English and Japanese, though the movies are Japanese only as far as I can tell. I don’t really have a place to comment on dub quality, but here I thought it was pretty good. They have some big names too such as Johnny Young-Bosch who did Lelouch from Code Geass, voicing Rossiu and Michelle Ruff whose roles include Euphemia from Code Geass voicing Yoko. Kamina is voiced by Kyle Herbert who voiced Gohan from DBZ, Simon is voiced by Yuri Lowenthal who voiced Suzaku from Code Geass and Daedalus from Ergo Proxy. Great sound and IMO, the best bit of this anime maybe. Characters This section is a tad difficult due to the extremely progressive story, which makes spoilers all too easy. I’ll talk about the characters as they are in the first half. For the second half, I’ll likely redo the character section when I review the second movie. The main character, without question here is the orphan kid Simon (pronounced See-moan for some reason). He is skilled at using his hand drill to dig and his actions set off the plot of this story. I’d hazard a guess that this guy is no older than 12. He hates earthquakes as one took the life of his parents. His best friend and brother in spirit is Kamina and together they grew up in the underground town of Jeeha, where the surface land and the sky is but a myth. This character is the typical shonen protagonist, gets lucky and is essential for many battles, but he is also somewhat cowardly. He lacks self-confidence and Kamina usually has to sort him out. He can be insecure at times but as the plot progresses, events shake some sense into him. Immediately following that, I could really empathise and understand with his character, maybe because I felt the same way. From there on, I feel his character improved. Especially after episode 16, his character becomes a lot like another. Kamina is in my opinion the best character in this anime. This crazy, charismatic, hot-headed, often dumb, nutcase of a man is a lovable and funny character. He was the one pushing everything forward in the first several episodes, his recklessness powered the progression of the early plot. He regards Simon as his brother and Simon the same, calling him ‘bro.’ He talks of being a manly man, wears stupidly pointy sunglasses, runs shirtless with naught but a cape and wields a sword that he stole from the chief of Jeehaa. Kamina can sometimes be obnoxious, but he means well. He is excited at the prospect of leaving Jeeha and wishes to follow in his father’s footsteps and reach for the skies. His charisma compels the other characters to follow behind him and he is the one to formally name Gurren, Lagann and the team Gurren, who later becomes team Dai-Gurren. He is strong-willed and refuses to give up, sometimes to his own disadvantage where Simon has to come in and save his arse. Most importantly, he provides moral support and assists Simon to push above his weight. At times his stupidity makes you want to slap him in the face, leading the team blindly into trouble and getting up to perverted antics in the forsaken hot-springs episode. But despite all this, his character does the job, the charisma and bravado of his even reaches the viewers at times and you can’t help but cheer him on. I salute him. The next of the main characters is curvaceous gun-toting babe Yoko, whom some people jokingly nickname You-Only-Kiss-Once (watch the anime to find out why). I would have a problem with the skimpy outfit of this character but it makes sense given the setting. Yoko is a typical girl (apparently 14 which I refuse to believe) and gets often gets mad at Kamina for his stupidity. She is also capable of doing dumb things, lack of modesty most of all. She’s perfectly fine with Simon’s pet pig-mole Boota hiding in her big breasts and isn’t afraid to thrust Simon into them (in the first episode) or get into questionable poses at times. On some fronts she is a bit slow (and too late), but she is skilled in her use of a rifle, which can even be loaded with arrows to go hunting for her village Littner. Thankfully she isn’t as stupid or annoying as some female leads in other shonen anime and does her best to keep the other two in check. Not a bad character overall. Gah there are so many characters so I’ll slow down a bit now. As much a main character as Kamina, Nia is a girl around Simon’s age who has unrealistically colourful hair and impossible eyes since her pupils are flowers. She’s that cutesy character that all the other character’s love and as a princess, daughter of the spiral king, she’s been taught to behave with benevolence towards all. She really doesn’t understand the feud between the humans and the beasts and desires a peaceful place where folks can get along. She has the character trope who seems to enjoy cooking but is so terrible at it, that others will eat her food and not tell her how it really is. However, after episode 16 she is not the same. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers. Time to talk about a villain, the beastman Viral (pronounced Vir-rill). At first he seems like a typical rival villain, but this character is something much more. He holds honour dear above all else and seems to enjoy his fights with Kamina, a worthy opponent. He is persistent and somehow, very lucky. Despite his personality, he isn’t pure evil as it may seem. This reflects the main villain Lord Genome, who is his dictator ruler. He doesn’t like winning fights in any underhanded way and eventually his curiosity gets the better of him and he starts to question what is happening. Back to protagonists, Rossiu is another young man from an underground village where gunmen are worshipped. This guy is a very serious character and it takes a while before he becomes significant and starts to stand out. Like Kamina, he wants to do what he feels is best for the safety and the good of the people and similarly he may not always be right. Unlike Kamina, he tackles problems with logic and he is a religious man too, believing in god too. This section is already long but, please stick with me for a couple more characters. Kittan Bachika is the only brother of the black siblings. No idea why they are the black siblings, but Kittan is similar to Kamina. He shares the same views and is just as adventurous. He does his best to protect his three sisters, Kinon, Kiyal and Kiyoh. Like Kamina, he can be hot-headed and tackles problems with brute force. He loves to speak his mind and he’s actually very capable, making the right decisions at the right time and often these decisions save the day. At first I felt he was nothing original, but as the anime progresses he ends up developing as his own character. Last one, a rather unique character is Leeron, also from the village of Littner. This quirky and camp guy with a strange look is actually gay. Initially I felt offended with his depiction, but I eventually warmed up to him. He’s pretty funny and he actually plays an important role. He is the brains of the group, the mechanic who does the repairs. Thus he doesn’t fit in with the usual nerdy science guy tropes, a good thing in my book. While he likes to joke around and scare guys with his sexuality, he can knuckle down and get serious when he’s needed to. Story Remember when I said sound might be the best bit of this anime? Well this is the reason for that reluctance. The story of Gurren Lagann, is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Yes, the whole mechas fighting to save the world has been done before, but Gurren Lagann puts a good twist on things and the part that surprised and excited me the most… this anime does what few other anime do. Passage of time. And best of all, it’s a complete story with no sequels/prequels required. So the plot goes that Simon finds a mysterious object when digging in his hometown of Jeeha and together with Kamina, they escape to the surface with the newly formed team Gurren. Team Gurren are fighting against the tyranny of the Spiral King Lord Genome, who wishes to suppress humanity. Human’s vs beastmen. Sounds good right, bad guy doing a clearly bad thing. I’ll just say maybe it isn’t as black and white as it seems (without spoiling it). The plot is full of laughs and campiness, early on you can’t help but not take it seriously. The hunting episode had me in a laughing fit, those animals looked ridiculous. Lord Genome himself is a mysterious character and more than just humanity’s oppressor as you find out approximately 10 or so episodes in. Team Gurren steal and use gunmen, huge mecha which look like faces with limbs. Of course one gripe of mine was how ridiculously unlikely and BS some things would be. An object bombarded like hell survives with minor damage, very heavy objects manage to fly just by being propelled along a slope (imagine pushing a car over a ramp) and power seems to come out of nowhere (though that one is explained very late). But if they were to scrutinise such things and take it seriously, it wouldn’t be Gurren Lagann now would it? So stuff happens, battles, explosions, yada-yada-yada and suddenly, the unexpected happens. If you thought this a simple plot, you are so wrong. This plot throws curve balls, has twists, turns and unexpected developments all around. Like a good story should. The climax of the story appears to happen very early, that all-or-nothing moment, but it ain’t so simple. My feelings towards the story were a rollercoaster, finding the start cool, hating Simon being shoved into boobs, discovering interesting characters, wanting to burn the world as a result of the hot springs episode, the plot started doing great things and then… that happens. At first I was upset and thought it was a dumb move, but the story and characters showed it was capable and continued to move forward with that same bravado. I was reminded of the likes of Death Note and FMA. Episode 16 is the token recap episode and it’s done in a nice way and following that, the whole thing changes even more than before. Stuff actually happens. Progress is made, you start to notice all the cool developments and little unexpected tweaks. And like Death Note, the second half is a different kind of story. Heck, they could have ended it at episode 15 and called it season one. But they went the whole hog and but everything into a single season and that needs praise. Now down to the nitty gritty. The romance in this anime at first seems non-existent but in usual shounen fashion, it soon becomes apparent that feelings are bubbling under the surface. Were this the average shounen anime, it would never come to light and it would be yet another shoehorned-in terrible attempt at romance. But… you’d be surprised. Even when it all seems over, down the line characters get shipped as couples you wouldn’t see a mile away. Which is a slight shame, they could have done some foreshadowing and shown that the emotions were there beforehand. And now I take this light-hearted bonkers anime seriously. The social-commentary/subtext. There’s quite a bit of war in this anime. War should be an obvious topic so I won’t talk about it, but it is questioned whether such force needed to be used. Then there’s the grave matters like the situation in Adai village. When there isn’t enough to go around, a population limit is enforced. It may seem harsh, but it’s one of few options. Population and control becomes a bit of a theme in this anime. Some people may feel strongly about this topic and others don’t care. Funny thing is that it will become an issue in the near future for humanity IRL. Then there’s some interesting stuff later on about government and public reactions. People en masse can be very dumb and feel like throwing blame on folks unnecessarily and violently rioting at the worst times. I’m reminded of politics IRL, people complain about one party and then vote for another. Then they still complain about the new one and go back again. IMO, the truth should always be revealed, but the reaction of the general public towards the truth may be inappropriate. So I understood how certain characters felt, when they were faced with certain problems. There is also the idea of spiral power. This aspect of the anime is entirely fictional, thus shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s just a story as far as spiral power is concerned. Conclusion I’ll be honest, my opinion of this anime was low at the start. But like many of the recent anime I’ve seen, the more I watched, the more I started to enjoy it and realise what all the fuss is about. It is without a doubt, up there among the top shounen anime. It is funny and campy at times, it reminded me of Power Rangers from my childhood though in a bad way. It isn’t perfect, it does have plot elements that don’t make sense, pointless fan-service, a questionable change in cast and more. But it pushes above all of that and ends up being very enjoyable. It goes without saying that shounen fans should watch this, but I also recommend everyone else to give this a try. Brace yourselves for the crap early on and then enjoy the rest. It’s nowhere near terrible. But I wouldn’t say it’s one of the best anime ever. Because of those imperfections and because, they did something I really didn’t like. By having read this review and watched the anime, you can figure out what (and it’s not the fan-service because I’ve mentioned that). Family-friendliness Rating: 5/5 Let down by some male nudity and fan-service early on. Would be a mere 2 after episode 6 (lower is better) Overall Rating: 8.5/10 (higher is better)
Despite being too demanding with what I watch today, that still doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up watching dozens of super robot (SR) shows, which were at least described as silly. I still liked them for that time though. I mean, WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK I AM; I was too a kid once who liked them and was getting excited with what was going on in them. Yet as I was growing older I was gradually getting fed up with them since most were practically minor variations of one another, almost entirely episodic and had very little actual tactics or strategy in them. No wonder as soon as I watched Legend of Galactic Heroes I was thereafter even playing Frisbee with my SR CDs… Yes, I was collecting anime so many years ago, when CDs were still in peak. I even used floppy disks in my early years at work. But that’s a different story; my point is that I eventually got bored with the whole genre, besides a few specific Gundam and Macross seasons. This kept on until TTGL came to be and my interest in SR rekindled and I even found the mental stamina to go watch lots of retro mecha I had missed over the years. I didn’t enjoy any of them too much but the show managed to get me interested again and that is all that matters by the end of the day. Although I usually don’t share the opinion of the majority, in this case I do agree that TTGL is currently the best pure SR anime ever made. And by “pure” I mean it is not to be compared with other mecha anime that have lots of extra philosophical or even religious allusions, such as Neon Genesis, Zegapain or Rahxephon. Those demand a lot more thinking from the viewer while TTGL is pure, almost mindless, entertainment like in the classic shows we all grew up with. At the same time it is not completely shallow either (that is why I have that “almost” word in the previous sentence) as there are several elements in the show that on a basic level do give food for the mind. It is partly a rebellion against oppressive authorities, partly an essay on how people need to sacrifice a few for the well-being of the many, partly about the loss of loved ones, partly about the reason for living and struggling for improvement, partly even about the meaning of life on a universal level. All the above are otherwise not exactly presented too serious and in the long run they are not even the meat of the show (which is good old mindless robot action). Yet they do help to give an extra pint of something more than just that and most people are actually very fond of that. It is a lot more interesting to have some tragedy and social criticism hidden in a ton of anecdotes because this way the show has an identity; in case the main audience agrees with the ideology it is even better. It is the same recipe that made other shows like Urusei Yatsura, One Piece and Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei so famous. Even without the extra, down to it TTGL is still at its core a classic SR show where the only thing that matters is willpower. It doesn’t matter how smart or cunning you are; you simply need to SHOUT, SCREAM AND YELL louder than your opponent and you automatically mend all the damage on the robot and create a bigger energy beam that defeats anything. This is the main grip which will define if you like it or not; you just need to get all excited with SCREAMING youths and then miracles happen. The people I know who don’t like the anime admit it is because it felt impossible to like screaming your lungs out as panacea to any problem. A second requirement to like this show is to be fond of high idealism. Like in any shonen series, the protagonists want to be the best in the world. No, make that the best in the universe as they claim they even want to “Pierce the Heavens” with a super drill. So ok, there are oppressive forces along the way too but they are just obstacles in the way of accomplishing the whole piercing business. It is still about protecting the world and your loved ones from evil aliens but the ideals don’t stop to something so unselfish; such premises feel too boring and no longer sell today. All the characters do want to help their world but also never forget to have their own selfish agendas along the way, a thing that help you not to view them as robotic servants of some imposed political correct ideology. That is what makes American superheroes such as Batman and Spiderman more interesting than Superman or Captain America; they act upon selfish impulses and not just impersonal ideals. And anyway, the target audience is teenagers, of course and rebellious, selfish, political incorrect characters are cooler than some boring Superman variant. A thing that TTGL does better than any other in its category is the feeling of empowerment. In most such shows a power up is mostly “supposed”. The heroes would get new uniforms or a new weapon, or a new robot and they seem to fight better with the current villain before it all becomes meaningless after a few episodes since the size of their robot or the choreography in battles is exactly the same. Yet this show does a much better job at fooling you there is progress, as the characters begin as a bunch of unarmed tunnel diggers and steadily turn to some sort of intergalactic superpower. Things keep growing in size and importance on almost every episode and again it prevents you from feeling bored to wait for the next development to take place in 20 episodes. But wait; I did say “fool you” didn’t I? Well yeah, it really still is just a trick by the end of the day as no matter how much the heroes progress in technology or manpower, they still use the exact same method of fighting: SCREAMING !!! It is still the exact same thing, they begin by throwing rocks and end by throwing galaxies; it’s just the size that changes. Not a bad thing as it still looks very cool but it sure doesn’t feel too convincing (not that it had to). Another thing it does better is the use of its characters. Although all of them begin as stereotypes and act as such for most of the series, there are key events that change their role in the show. Someone may begin as a sidekick but later on he can become a lot more important, he can turn from enemy to ally or even the reverse, he can be killed, he can grow old and change perspective. Even the villains have motives that go far beyond being generic incarnations of evil. The cast if fluent in the way it acts throughout the show and for that reason far more interesting than static archetypes that are the same from first to last episode. They are also memorable as far as appearances and mannerisms go; I will never forget Simon, Kamina, Youko, or even their arch-nemesis the Anti-Spiral for their ideology. Not many shows can do that. Furthermore, the production values are very good and keep you interested in watching further. Studio GAINAX has once again created a highly dynamic and fluent show, full of motion and vivid facial expressions, huge energy beams, and gigantic explosions, backed up by huge robots that change, shift, merge and battle in extremely cool ways. Backed up with lots of humorous scenes, subtle fan service, good voice acting and a catchy soundtrack, this show is extremely easy to appeal to most people. Even if you don’t like the story or the convenient SCREAMING panaceas, you will still get to enjoy the way everything is done. You also gotta love the guy siting on the director seat. Imaishi Hiroyuki has honored the industry with some of great titles, such as Kare Kano, Dead Leaves, RE Cutey Honey, and Panty & Stocking. In all, I found TTGL to be the perfect example of how much more a SR show can be than just a Mazinger variant. I was entertained by it at almost every step of the way with its animation, fast pace, fluent roles of the characters, the humour, the action, the ideology behind the heroes and the villains. It is a worthy addition to the Hall of Fame of any top list for making the best of what it had and even messing with the mold at points. And don’t forget to check out Gunbuster in case you haven’t. It is practically the father of this anime and also a GAINAX show.
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