Friday, July 23, 2010


Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Grade: B+
Studio: Gainax (Neon Genesis Evangelion, FLCL)
Writer: Kazuki Nakashima
Genre: Adventure, Mecha
First complete run: 2007
Regular episodes: 27

Gurren Lagann has one of the most fascinating settings I've seen in an anime, and the show's lore paves the way for an incredibly fun-filled ride. The anime takes place in a future in which human beings have been forced to live in isolated, underground villages. Humans are hiding in these primitive villages because the surface of the Earth has become dominated by a race foes called "Beastmen" who pilot powerful mechas called "Ganmen." As the show starts, the main characters Kamina and Simon find a small Ganmen named Lagann buried underground and use it to escape to the surface of the Earth. Combatting the Beastmen in order to survive, they capture a second Ganmen named Gurren. The show's name comes from the Power Rangers style combination of the two Ganmen, a new Ganmen formed by attaching Kamina's and Simon's rides into the new, all-powerful Gurren Lagann.

I must stipulate that the anime series is broken down into very two distinct arcs separated by a period of several years. The first arc was one of the most fun 15 episodes I've ever experienced in an anime. Gurren Lagann has an incredible blend of hilarious comedy and serious drama, making the show a journey that will leave you shaking with laughter after one episode and clinging to your TV with suspense after another. The characters are charismatic and enjoyable to watch, the action scenes are fun, funny, and exciting, the motto is fun fun fun. Then the second arc happens...and it sucks. The show totally loses its comedic feel and slips into a pathetic shadow of what it once was: all drama and no laughs. The unique lore that formed one of Gurren Lagann's best qualities disappears in favor of what is basically junk Sci Fi. The clever twists and turns of the anime's plot are left behind for a dull, uninteresting journey whose plot is unpredictable only when major dei ex machina are employed. And they're used so often in the last few episodes that the show actually regains some of its hilarity...but only because it's so bad.

I'm not really sure what to do with an anime like this. I would recommend watching only the first arc and then stopping, giving Gurren Lagann the honorable burial it deserves. But the first arc is so enjoyable that you won't want to take my word for it, you will insist on seeing the carnage firsthand. So love the show, love the first half...and appreciate how much more incredible it feels after you've seen the second.


  1. I can't believe that you were unable to grasp the epicness of the "second arc". The latter part of the series exemplifies the principles set down in the beginning of determination and fighting spirit. In fact it developed to a point of pure unpredictable awesomeness that the final episode still gives me goosebumps. If you are too immature to appreciate the seriousness of the plot at the end then I guess that's your loss.

  2. I certainly agree the second arc was epic, and I do not mean to suggest that there is no continuity between the plot of the two arcs: I will admit that the ending, absurd though it is, is a highly satisfying end to the narrative which the first episode begins.

    But I must reiterate my point, and it is not an immature one, that the second arc does depart from the first stylistically. Humor, for example, is used extensively in the first arc, and gets drowned out in the bleakness of the second. In general, I think the second arc lacked the fresh, shonen-with-a-sense-of-humor feeling of the first. And I think this general bleakness permeates the entire second arc, including its less-than-suspenseful action scenes and extensive overuse of deus ex machina. Not to feed the trolls but, there's my justification in plain English!