-Kamina, summing up the entire series
Genre: Mecha, Action, Comedy
Creators: Hiroyuki Imaishi & Kazuki Nakashima
Length: 27 episodes
Highlights: Giant mechas. Drills and sunglasses. Utter insanity.
Originally established in the early 80s, Gainax has become known for several different things over the years. Initially, they were known for… let’s say well-endowed female characters. Then they switched over to existential angst. Then they changed to… I suppose it’s what slapstick would be like if made by people on a whole bunch of hallucinogenic drugs (which is quite possible). And then this show, well it’s all of the above. The only constant with Studio Gainax is that there is no constant.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (known simply as Gurren Lagann in America), or TTGL for short, is the story of Simon (pronounced SEE-moan, for some reason). He lives in a small underground village with his self-appointed older brother Kamina, a confident and hot-headed idiot. One day, while digging tunnels to expand the village, Simon finds a strange glowing drill and an unusual red robot with a rare human face. Soon after, Simon and Kamina’s ordinary lives are shattered by the arrival of two things from the mythical “surface”: an enourmous mecha (piloted anthropomorphic robot) called a Gunmen, and a woman named Yoko with a very large gun and very little clothing, who is fighting the Gunmen. In order to defeat the monstrous mecha, Simon must learn to pilot the mecha he dug-up (which Kamina names “Lagann”), and so begins his epic journey.
And I do mean EPIC. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann was made as an affectionate parody of what are termed “super-robot” shows. These are shows where giant robots feature heavily into the plot and act as basically a superhero, and where these robots tend to be heavily influenced by the emotional state of their pilots. In TTGL, this is taken to the logical extreme: basically of all the characters are defined by their willpower and determination above all else, to the point where the mechas are powered by fighting spirit and the heroes can win fights literally solely because of their own willpower, no matter the odds. The writers of the show even said that if something is awesome enough, it will break the laws of physics in the show.
However, this doesn’t make the characters two-dimensional caricatures, even if they sometimes seem that way in order to get laughs. Even though the show itself is absurd, all of the characters are written so that they stay completely earnest even during its most absurd moments. For a show that is so insane, the characters are amazingly well-fleshed out, with strong characterization and motivations for their actions. In addition, a strong element of character development means that many of them drastically change and evolve over the course of the show.
Even though the only proper way to describe the show is through words such as “epic,” “absurd” and “insane,” this is not a simple comedy series. There is a serious plot that runs through the whole series; rather than feeling at odds with the insanity of the series, it only enhances it, giving the heroes a compelling reason for even their most ridiculous moments. In addition, there are a couple of huge and completely unexpected plot twists over the course of the show, which brings me to my next point: if you have interest in watching this series, then don’t do a Google search on it after you read this review. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann got massively popular on the internet during its initial run on Japanese television, and as such it is extremely easy to find images, videos, or articles that will spoil major plot points.
Out of all the media I’ve seen, not just anime, I’ve never seen anything that can compete with Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in terms of sheer insanity, absurdity, and just plain fun. This show makes even the most ridiculous Hollywood movies seen tame by comparison, and it is absolutely glorious. This show truly goes Beyond the Impossible and kicks logic to the curb. It goes beyond what anyone’s expectations of even the most insane piece of fiction could be, and it kicks any kind of reason or logic out of the way. Or really anything that tries to impose any sense on it or tries to reign in its fun. Studio Gainax has produced a series that has to be seen to be believed, and even then you may not believe it.
So what are you waiting for? Go watch Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann right now! Your mind and expectations will never be the same.