Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is one of the anime that most people consider to be a “classic”, I finally watched it for myself in order to find out why and if it would live up to the hype.
天元突破グレンラガン Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
|Simon the Driller & Nia Teppelin.
The story starts off with showing how people live in an underground village by the name of “Jeeha”. It shows the two main characters of the first arc, which is Kamina and Simon. Simon being a driller, supposedly the most talented one that they have. Drillers whole goal is to dig downwards or sideways in order to expand the village and hopefully provide safe havens from earthquakes so if the roof of their village collapses so there will be no fatalities (His Mother and Father both died during a cave-in from an earthquake). Kamina is a wild, rampant youth who constantly challenges the authority of Jeeha villages and believes in heading towards the outside world were there is no restrictions (No ceiling); he’s determined to go see the sky his father showed to him when he was a kid and to eventually join him there, calling himself the tenacious demon leader of the Jeeha Village’s “Gurren Brigade”. After a foiled attempt at escaping the village, they finally get a chance to do so.
Yoko, a young woman from the neighboring village of Littner appears through a hole right after a huge mecha known as “Gunman” which are piloted by “Beastmen” crash through the roof of Jeeha Village. Yoko seems to have actually been pursuing the Gunman, using her high calibur rifle in order to combat it. Immediately after meeting her Kamina compliments Yoko on her body only to immediately insult her when she says she’s from a neighboring village like he was rather than on the surface, where he wanted to go. After saving both Kamina and Yoko from the Gunman’s attack, they proceed down a tunnel dug by Simon in which he shows them the mini-type Gunman he found that Kamina would name “Lagann”, which after inserting a drill type necklace known as “The Core Drill” which he found on an earlier dig, he’s able to pilot it. After a fight with the Gunman that would protect the people of Jeeha Village and liberate Kamina and Simon all at the same time, they are introduced to the outside world and the dangers and promises it holds. Yoko explains the situation of what goes on between the humans and Beastmen in an attempt to reclaim the surface. Kamina throws himself and Simon into the fray and finds their will intermingled with the cause to fight for the surface; this is the single most thing that begins to drive the entire plot of 天元突破グレンラガン Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
Kamina eventually steals a Gunman and uses his Fighting Spirit in order to take control of it, calling his Gunman “Gurren”. As they continue to fight for the surface, Leeron and Yoko head with Kamina and Simon and begin to head towards the base of the Beastmen in order to destroy it and bring about peace for humanity. Eventually they come across Viral, an artificially made Beastman that the “Helix King” (Spiral King) created and tells about the Helix King’s army and about the royal capital city of Teppelin in addition to the “Big 4” Beastmen who each control a type of Gunman fortress. As they fight him and his robot, the Enki, they combine into “Gurren Lagann” to mimic the Enki’s two heads, showing the power of Lagann and thus finally letting us understand that name in the series title. Eventually they fight for control of the Dai-Ganzen in which Kamina dies in this decisive battle not long after Yoko had confessed her feelings and they became a couple; they won the battle and a new home base with the Dai-Gurren (Dai-Ganzen renamed) but Yoko had lost the man she loved and Simon, his brother.
Marching forward they continue to fight in order to free humanity from the Beastmen’s policing of them and to make sure that Kamina’s death was not in vain. A new character “Nia Teppelin” is introduced as Simon finds her within a coffin-type box that uses his core drill necklace to open; she seems unfamiliar as if she never has seen another human. Soon enough they find out that Nia is the Helix King’s daughter and the Princess of the Beastmen, but as he gives orders to kill her and the rest of the humans, it shows just how cruel Lord Genome, the Helix King, truly is. Soon enough they take down Adiane the Elegant who was tasked with killing Nia and she is an accepted part of the Dai-Gurren Brigade.
From that point forward Simon steps up as a sort of leader and begins to take down the “Big 4” steadily and gains allies and the true meaning of what “Spiral Power” is in regards to believing in yourself. Finally taking down Teppelin capital city and having one last stand against the Helix King, they are finally free. Though, through all of this victory something sits in the back of everyone’s mind from what Lord Genome said right before he fell off the building after being pierced with Simon’s core drill, talking about when “One million monkeys inhabit this land, the moon will be the harbinger of your destruction”.
The whole world then jumps forward about 7 years to a city named “Kamina City” after Simon’s fallen Aniki and Yoko’s love interest. The world is now technologically advanced and humans are now living on the surface world rather than below, advanced breakthroughs in Gunman (Now called “Grapearls”), and having a type of government structure in order to organize the people (With Simon as “Supreme Commander”). Leeron is ahead of the Science department, having a drone deployed and finally reaching the moon to investigate it further, afraid of what Lord Genome said and even taking census of the humans alive to know exactly when the 1 millionth human is born.
The main antagonist of the series now show its ugly head and tells them that “Spiral Power” has reached level 2 and the moon will fall to destroy humankind in order to limit them. Mugen, exploding masses of anti-spiral energy show up nearly immediately after Nia is found out to be the messenger of the Anti-Spirals; it is found that taking them needs to be done with more care as they self-detonate upon being destroyed. Later on, to deal with the panic of the masses caused by the message of the Anti-spirals in order to maintain order, Simon was brought up on war crimes by Rossiu, who piloted Gurren during the battle with the Helix King and is now taking over and is making Simon take all the responsibility for the moon falling, sentencing him to death.
Eventually Rossiu finds out that the moon falling will make the earth inhabitable for the course of a full year from a conversation with Leeron, so he uses the Ark Gurren, a giant vessel to travel into space developed by the Helix King, in order to take animals and people to survive the crash into earth; eventually Simon, who is now in imprisoned (With Viral and other Beastmen), use the combined effort of himself, Kitten, Yoko, and other members of the Dai-Gurren Brigade to repel the Anti-Spiral forces on earth as well as in space. Turns out the moon is actually a replacement and is a giant Gunman made by the Helix King and taken over by the Anti-Spirals, and Simon uses Gurren Lagann to stop it.
Coming back to Earth, Simon promises to save Nia and everyone heads off for one final fight against the Anti-Spirals, traveling into space and coming into a false universe. Fighting again and again, they find out that they are not the only Spiral beings to have challenged the Anti-Spiral and many have died before him in order to do so. Facing what seems to be an impossible situation, they begin to make their stand against the Anti-Spiral regime, many died, including Kittan who used his own form of Giga Drill Breaker in order to destroy the core of the Death Spiral Machine in order to allow the transformation of Chouginga Gurren Lagann.
Eventually this ensuing fight allowed everyone to face the Anti-Spiral who trapped everyone, including a now humanoid Boota, inside of a dimension created of their own fantasy. The spirit of Kamina helped to return everyone to their normal states, eventually allowing Simon and the Dai-Gurren Brigade to find Nia and face the Anti-Spiral, using their power to transform into Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, an entity so huge it can walk on entire galaxies. Facing down the Anti-Spiral, destroying craft after craft, even letting out power to the point the universe they were fighting in collapsed upon itself; and Lagann piloted by Simon and Nia is what destroyed the Anti-Spiral in the end. Simon pledged to defend the entire universe and for the Anti-Spiral being to “believe in us humans”.
After the ordeal, Nia disappears after her and Simon are wed because she was made by the Anti-Spiral all along. In the future after the conclusion we see all Yoko as the principal within the school she taught at, Simon as a wandering driller, and finally Gimmy and Dary as pilots of Gurren Lagann.
|The “Big 4” of the Helix King. Adiane, Guame, Cytomander, and Thymilph.
Going in I did not know what to expect from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, nor did I even know what the show was really about. I remember walking around the A-Kon convention here in Dallas, Texas and seeing many “Yoko” cosplayers to the point I knew her name before I even heard of the anime, but it did have me curious as to what anime would have a woman wearing very little clothing…maybe something along the lines of Ikki-Tousen (Battle Vixens)? From hearing my friend Rasean talk about it with a friend in an Xbox live party and about giant robots and how “GAR” it was, I decided to check it out and it was not a disappointment!
It was pretty much a thrill ride all the way through, when Kamina was alive he had enough antics to keep you involved with the series long enough for the story to take off because of his charisma and brashness. Later on after Kamina died, you were already with the story and you are empathetic enough towards Simon and Yoko to allow Simon to come into his own “GARness” a little bit down the line when defending Nia from Adiane. I would say this series was thought out in that it has climaxes at just the right times so it feels like the series is not completely over kill and yet still has enough action at critical moments to keep you interested in the series. With that being said, the story in itself is one that actually evolves far beyond anything I have come to witness, even beyond that of Dragonball Z’s universal scope of events. You start off in a very humble beginning with barely any technology and what appears to be a world of old that is archaic and nearly tribal in its roots, only to wind up at something that goes far beyond what even the best of modern technology can accomplish.
The battles of Tengen Toppa are not actually all that great, there really is not a lot of intense fighting scenes compared to other anime like Tekkaman Blade or Neon Genesis Evangelion, but it makes up for that in the sheer “epicness” of the battles: Wide-scale explosions (Giga Drill Maximum, Explosion of the Death Spiral Machine), good speeches to awaken their inner fighting spirit (Simon vs Guame, Simon vs Anti-Spiral), and the overall ridiculousness that actually happens through the course of a fight (Giga Drill Breaker by Kamina, formation of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann). The fights are just intense in a way that it does not need constant combat to achieve the level of epic.
The characters of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann are also very unique, especially the members who make up the Dai-Gurren Brigade, for instance: Yoko provides fan service and is an expert marksman; Leeron is the mechanic, ambiguous in his sexuality, and is easily the most likable of all the Gurren Brigade; and Simon is easily the person you identify the most with. Even the antagonist at the end of each ark ( Lord Genome/ The Anti-Spiral ) was easily likable and very acceptable to face as the “Boss” character. Also, it was not without its twists and turns as far as the characters go. Simon erupted from being a timid and weak character to being able to sustain the morality and shoulder the burdens of the entire human race, Rossiu ended up going from naive villager, to eager fighter, to stuck-up serious politician, into deplorable egomaniac, back to a humble and optimistic leader. Somethings are also quite a surprise, such as Yoko becoming a school teacher or Viral helping out Simon when he was sent to prison by Rossiu. By not taking itself seriously all of the time and focusing on interpersonal character relationships as well as the show of internal struggles through individual personas makes this series easily have one of the best casts of any anime to date.
Though, as much as I love things about this series, it still has quite a lot to be desired, so many questions that need to be answered. Lord Genome has lived for centuries and gave an immortal body to Viral, however, Simon supposedly has more “Spiral Power” than he does, why does Simon age at all? What gave Lord Genome that power to begin with and why is he able to create beings to begin with? Nia Teppelin is supposedly Lord Genome’s daughter, if she is “made” with some of the girls in local villages through traditional means, why did she vanish when the Anti-Spiral was defeated? If she was supposedly a product made by the Anti-Spiral in order to see what beings on Earth did, why did Lord Genome claim her as his daughter and why would the Anti-Spiral do this knowing that Nia, like all the other princesses before her, was going to end up dead and forgotten in an eternal sleep in a valley? If the Anti-Spiral had enough power, by himself, to assume the same form Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann did, why was it able to be penetrated and destroyed by simply Lagann when the Spiral King was able to wrestle down Lagann by himself with no Gunman? There are so many things that remain unanswered that I hope they covered in the two movies that came afterwards because I got no closure at the end of this series.
Even so, there were also somethings in this series that made really no sense to me in how they played out. When Simon was sentenced to death because the moon was falling, why did everyone stop having faith in him and Gurren Lagann and why did no one but Viral come to his aid nearly immediately? Where was the outcry for the person who liberated humanity from Genome’s tyranny? If Lord Genome had equipped the original Gunman to fight in space and be able to battle the Mugen, why were the models that the Dai-Gurren brigade crew have need modification by way of Leeron stealing flight sphere’s in order to have air-to-air combat? There is a slew of other holes in the plot that contradicts itself, including the fact that “Spiral” beings would cause a blackhole that would destroy the universe with their power. Blackholes are normally created through rifts in spacetime or at the end of a star’s life cycle after it has gone supernova… but I will not go into that.
Something I also thought should have been explored deeper is the romantic relationships within the series. You only got to really see one episode of Yoko expressing love for Kamina, Yoko and Kittan’s brief love affair, Simon having a crush on Yoko, Simon and Nia’s relationship and how it built up to that point after the defeat of her father.. all of this. In fact, something I would have liked to have happen is for Simon to have expressed to Yoko his feelings for her and why he thought Kamina’s death was his fault because he was so disheartened by the scene of them kissing, which is ultimately what lied Kamina to his death.
This series lacked in the logic sense of things, even within the reality of anime where no sense sometimes makes perfect sense; but that is not necessary for this series to be awesome and to have a lasting impact on you. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is one of the best series I have seen and one I am not soon to forget.
Memorable characters, over the top action, and the destiny of one man that will take him to the very heights of the universe is something all fitting for a series that has “Heaven Piercing” within its name. I am very glad that I decided to check out this series and I would recommend it to anyone who is even contemplating on watching it, and for anyone who is looking for a good series in general.
Thank you all for reading. Sayanara!