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Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann

a.k.a.Break-Through Heaven Gurren-Lagann

aa-gurren-1
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Gainax
Format: 27 episodes
Dates: 4/01/2007 to 9/30/2007

In the far future, humanity has retreated into the Earth, as villainous Beastmen raze the surface world. Simon, an adept digger, and Kamina, a rabble-rouser, spend their young lives in their underground village. As Kamina pines for the day when humans can reclaim the surface, Simon finds something buried in the soil: a destiny. Together, along with a motley crew of adventurers, they make a break for the surface…and everything that’s beyond.

summary by Ender

 

Reviewed: 02/21/2008 by
Grade: 93% av-Ender

Highs: Terrific animation; easy-going characters and story; a modern throw-back to past epics

Lows: Spins its wheels

Something becomes quite apparent when watching Gurren-Lagann: logic is for sissies and everything can be solved with a good, solid, dynamic punch. Gurren-Lagann is a much-needed new direction for Gainax, and a wonderful throw-back to days long forgotten and sorely missed.

Directed by Dead Leaves creator, Imaishi Hiroyuki, and written by Nakashima Kazuki, the series captures the manic energy of FLCL and the epic nature of Gunbuster, reminding us of the inherent love for anime the Gainax founders had. By combining elements from old-school epics (the titular mech looks like Gaikingand Zambot 3’s love-child, there’s a Macross-esque ship, etc.) Gurren-Lagann treads familiar ground, but it understands the genre it inhabits and uses these cliches for a greater good. The ever-escalating battles, little-to-no filler episodes, operatic themes, and the simplistic message of “believing in yourself and others” all provide an entertaining drama. Also, the fact that this story is told within 27 episodes (most mech-operas stretch past 50+ episodes) is something to note as well.

The show’s aesthetic is represented by an almost-graffiti art style with smooth-yet-bombastic animation. Most of the mechs stray away from the Gundam/Evangelion sci-fi vein and plunge into the angular, disproportioned, muscular designs of Nagai Go, maybe even The Transformers. Imaishi does bring his deft hyper-style to the movements: the robots (and characters) move in unrestrained leaps, dashes, and dives, so nothing is held back; every scene is a joyous assault.

However, the charm of the show’s shounen “fight-fail-fight-win” formula might be too much for its own script. It turns into a repeating trap for the story, and a convenience for the writer: there’s a block, a realization, a power-up, bad guy blows up, wash, rinse. However, the results are spectacular and there is genuine growth in the characters. Typically, characters in the mecha genre are born into their roles — despite the changes they experience in their respective series, they stay relatively the same. Simon, on the other hand, begins the series as a timid boy and ends it as a mythological figure. The supporting-roles provide the same kind of furtherance as previous genre figures (the older brother figure, the rival, the hot babe, etc.) but it’s the strength of the storytellers that keeps these archetypes endearing — remembering the past and using those strengths in the present.

Cynicism and commentary have somehow become more acceptable than innocence and charm. There are times when one must look towards the simpler, more accessible forms of art and see the grand-scale entertainment in front of them. Those who would snub this story are too busy looking at upper-echelon anime. They need to see past that, because it is over the top where Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann resides.

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