Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
[Warning: There are some spoilers so if you have not yet watched read on at your own risk]
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The last year I didn’t watch much anime but got caught up on some manga such as reading all of Death Note and everything up to date for Bleach and Naruto. I watched a few anime over the past year but nowhere as much as the first year or so of college. How I usually pick anime to watch is to go on sites such as AnimeNewsNetwork and look at the most highly rated anime and watch ones that I haven’t seen yet and look interesting. I had heard of this anime before because of the popularity of one of the main characters, Yoko. When I saw that it was on the top anime list I thought I would give it a try.
I was watching this at the same time I started Code Geass and truthfully the first few episodes of Gurren Lagann just did not draw me in enough so I watched a lot more Code Geass than Gurren Lagann. After finishing Code Geass however, I didn’t have any other anime I was watching so I just went ahead and kept on watching Gurren Lagann. This proved to be a very good choice. After the first few episodes a major character dies in battle, which really confused me since it seemed odd to kill off someone so important so early.
If I had noticed before the end of the series that it was made by Gainax I would not really question anything that happened with the plot since they brought us something as brain hurting as Neon Genesis Evangelion. One of the main themes throughout the series is the belief that you should believe in yourself.
“Listen up, Simon. Don’t forget. Believe in yourself. Not in you who believe in me. Not in me who believe in you. You should believe… you should believe in yourself!”
The concept of believing in yourself is one that is called upon a lot in the series since several of the characters get stuck in rough situations and begin to doubt their abilities.
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Another cornerstone of the anime is the humor that is used. It’s not quite the type of humor that just uses a bunch of jokes, but is more humorous in that there are a lot of ridiculous situations. The mecha in the series is capable of merging with other machines and throughout the series it gets bigger and bigger, especially in the last few episodes. Each time this happens they have to modify the name of the mecha to something more and more epic, with the final transformation being the titular “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.”
I really liked the animation style as well since it used a lot of rough strokes and did not look as smooth as a lot of the more recent animes. The style fit really well with the anime, especially the action since a lot of the time the fighting is very improvised and not very refined. The “special effects” do not use the CG style but uses a lot of different colors and sparkly effects which makes it hard to take the fights seriously.
While there is a lot of humor, the main story contains lots of heavy themes. The main theme is the liberation of humans and begins with trying to defeat the Helix King in order to allow humans to live above ground since the Helix King forced all humans underground. Later in the anime the humans begin to fight a race of beings known as the Anti-Spirals which seek to eliminate the human race. The Spiral refers to the capability of humans to evolve through DNA (spiral of the double helix) and reproduction. Spiral beings are able to draw on this energy, which happens to be able to power up various things within the series. The Anti-Spirals seek to control the expansion of Spiral beings since they believe drawing too much upon Spiral energy leads to the eventual destruction of the universe.
The concept of Spiral being leading to the destruction of the universe can be taken to be a commentary about the current state of the human race and how if we continue our destructive habits it could lead to a lot of detrimental effects. Both the Spirals and Anti-Spirals have their own arguments about who should be the ones to survive and when you think about it both sides have valid arguments. The Spiral beings believe that the Anti-Spirals are rooted in trying to keep the past state of things and do not want to think about the future since that means that change will happen. The Spiral beings counter the Anti-Spiral argument by saying that the future is uncertain and that if they want they can be sure to protect the universe.
Gurren Lagann really grew on me the more I watched. The character development is well done and they use a time skip in the middle of the series to show how many of the characters matured and how in some ways they still have not changed. This contrast allows greater emphasis of the traits of each character and is done is such a way that it is not too sudden. The humor is well done and the anime is not nearly as philosophical as Neon Genesis Evangelion. I am guilty of watching a lot of anime that doesn’t require any thinking such as Naruto and Bleach, but it was nice to watch something different for a change.