The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann

Title: Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Gainax
Format: 27 episodes
Dates: 1 Apr 2007 – 30 Sep 2007

Synopsis: In a world where much of humanity lives in underground cities, there are those who aspire to go up to the surface where there is no ceiling. The ever eccentric Kamina is such a man, and with his insane confidence, he plans to go to the top with his younger brother Simon. Though not blood related, Kamina and Simon share a deep belief in one another which allows them to boldly charge ahead when they find an opportunity to escape. However, all is not rosy at the surface. Humanity is stuck in a perpetual battle with an enigmatic opponent, the beastmen, and their giant robots.

The Highlights
Animation: Bold, colorful and relentlessly dynamic.
Characters: Strong-willed and larger than life, but still human.
Story: Absurd.
In a nutshell: Unplug all higher brain functions and let the adrenaline rush in.

Wow, just wow Gainax. Here I was thinking that FLCL was the last throws of a dying legacy when the company unexpectedly ripped out a bombshell: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. This show is the anti-Evangelion. Pessimism, realism and everything in between is blasted out the window with unfettered energy and optimism placed in its stead. The show jumps all around like rabbits hyped on Ritalin, boldly shouting its motto of believing in oneself. I’ve seen my fair share of bravado driven anime, but as far as super robot shows go, Gurren Lagann pushes the bar far above the heavens.

The series is a coming of age story where the lead character actually comes of age. This nonstop adrenaline rush is driven by strong characters and mind-blowing imagery. The monster of the week formula the show employs is overshadowed by the insane amount plot movement, character development and creativity. Amazing protagonists are thrown against equally amazing villains in a kinetic clash where self-confidence is all the power the characters ever need. Ignore all the crap that whizzes past your head, the show hits you with such a heavy sledgehammer of epic that all the corny clichés and downright stupid elements seem perfectly acceptable.

As far as the visuals go, Gurren Lagann not only steamrolls through uncharted boundaries, it also makes everything feel completely off the wall. Gainax is still the king of giant robot fight scenes, and goddamnit, they prove it over and over again in this anime. Absolutely no expense is spared in the animation, and the grandiose music definitely captures the sheer magnitude of events.

Despite all the show’s accomplishments, it’s not without its flaws. The first fifteen episodes is an amazing display of creative storytelling that has become my personal standard that I expect all future anime to follow. In fact, the first part is so good that much of the final twelve episodes look like a fanfic in comparison. No, the show never stops being cool. In a sense, the show continually grows even more ambitious with each passing episode, but actually accepting the story of the second part requires near brain death (not that this is hard considering how jaw-dropping epic the final episodes turn out to be).

Gurren Lagann requires a heavy dose of tolerance for the absurd. This cup of tea is supersaturated five times over with pure caffeine, so fasten your seatbelts and push your suspension of disbelief as high as it can go. If you are the type of person willing to scream “hell yeah” as the protagonist gives a bombastic speech about self-confidence in a massive, sunglass totting robot, then be sure to check out this anime.

The Rating: 8

Reviewed by: Shadowmage

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