Gurren Lagann

Humans have been forced underground by a tyrant king who uses Beastmen and mechs called Gunmen to rule the surface. The world is barren and the underground caverns that the humans live in are in constant threat of earthquakes caused by the Gunmen. Kamina has recruited a young digger named Simon to drill “into the heavens” to escape the confines of the villages.

Characters

Simon does not believe in himself, but he does believe his self-proclaimed brother, Kamina. Where Simon is driven by a primal and desperate desire to live, he looks up to those who are strong and powerful of their own volition. He is a bit strange in that sense. There seems to be an awareness and an appreciation for those who seek more in life than the volatile life in the villages, while at the same time, he has no vision of the future. Perhaps then, it shouldn’t be surprising that he aims to develop into a Kamina-like character instead of his own person. Instead of simply rising to meet the occasion of freeing humanity from the clutches of the beasts, he adopts the example given to him by another.

Kamina is the lifeblood and the personality of the show. When Kamina is the focus, his incredible overconfidence, nonsensical screaming, and hyper-masculine attitude elevates the show to a level of absurdity and fun that reminds me of FLCL (My highest rated show to date). I was pretty quick to label Kamina as a one note character. And while I think some elements could have been handled better around his pursuit to put himself on the same level as his father, the show used Yuko decently to show another side of Kamina.

Yoko is an incredibly tired trope of the fiery, scantily dressed, gun girl who becomes docile once she falls in love. There is nothing else to her. The character that matched the craziness of the beginning of the show really struggled to be compelling in any way. Other than the constant sexualization, she really faded into the band of rebels acquired throughout the show. It’s frustrating for a character to be half-heartedly invested into after showing that she was supposed to be impactful. 2/6

Emotions

Never before have I stopped watching a show because I liked a single character. The reality for me was that the story wasn’t compelling. The world was barren and uninteresting, so I looked to the characters. Kamina was the fun and engaging part of the show. All the characters oriented themselves in a way that made it seem like Kamina was the main character. The only indication we got that Simon was important was Kamina’s focus on him, partnered with the screen time he got. But when the focus shifted from Kamina to Simon, the fun was gone. The crazy mech transformations stopped being absurd and quickly became stock standard. The mood that anything and everything was possible turned sumber and procedural, inevitable no for particular reason other than the show must go on. Yet at the same time, all the characters try to fill the same hole left by the deprioritization of Kamina, to no success. So I stopped, because it felt like there was nothing here for me any more. 2/6

Ideas

At some point while I was scrolling Twitter, I saw a thread talking about men only supporting each other during “Battle”. Oversimplification aside, this show reminded me of that thread. Kamina latches onto Simon almost solely because of their incredibly dire situation at any given time. Simon’s determination, even if out of fear, was appreciated by Kamina, but I don’t see that being the case should there be no danger. It made me think about how fortunate I am to have many men around me who support me, and whom I support, without any kind of “Battle” or team activity needed. It begs the question whether men only support each other during those times, or if the nature of the world demands that men support each other during those times, so the lack of those situations has been creating a skill deficit. 

“Don’t believe in me. Believe in the you who believes in me who believes in you!” It makes about as much sense as it seems, but you understand the idea that Kamina was going for. Simon’s entire development was surrounding who believed in him and how he believed in himself. I don’t have much to say other than this idea, at its worst, is only a half step above the power of friendship, and at its best can really make you look around at how people are treated and nurtured in life. Gurren Lagann falls somewhere in the middle where it felt inappropriate not to mention but not exciting enough to write a significant amount for. As someone who is writing their own story, seeing such a core focus backed up by so little is very frustrating. If you want to explore the idea, then fully explore it. Turn it on all its angles and hold it up to the light. I did not get the kind of exploration that I had hoped for, so we can’t be crediting the show too much. 

Perhaps the most glossed over interaction in the show is that the beast men actually get to interface with their creator in a way we never do. What frustrated me was that while they clearly wanted to highlight this interaction, there was no difference in how they acted towards the king then a normal subject would act towards a king who demanded that much reverence. How do the Beastmen react to the king? How do they feel about knowing their creator? Does the fact that they see him make a difference? How do the normal Beastmen talk about the king? So many facets of the relationship are left like my untouched pork chop after my grandma overcooked it on Easter. 1/6

Pacing

I must mention again, that this review is based on half of the whole show. So while I did not want to continue to watch, I did think the pacing worked up until I stopped. It was clear that we were being taken on a fast ride. So as long as it felt intentionally fast, life was good. But there came a time when we slowed down the show and started to feel bad for itself. But still demanded that viewer accept new characters, new fights, without supplementing the speed of the show with any good substance. Like most of the rest of the show, the original formula got lost and the pacing suffered as a result. However I think this was largely a substance issue, not a pacing fault. 3/4

Animation

Everything that feels like it would come with a “Power Rangers Bullet Hell,” is this show. Late nights and early mornings at Grandma’s house meets my masochistic taste in video games for twenty-some minutes for twenty-something episodes. Gurren Lagann takes an absurdist approach to mech combination and combat. Where something like my childhood Power Rangers takes mechs and combination seriously, Gurren Lagann has one mech nearly split the head of its one mech co-driver open by drilling into the mech to combine. Later fights remind me of some sort of Enter the Gungeon level of absurdity, fired by Beastmen pilots (another Power Rangers callback). There is something about the blues and reds used in the show that trigger the dopamine receptors in my brain for reasons that I can’t explain but also have me excited most episodes. I won’t sit here and say that the animation is perfect. Many consecutive scenes have continuity errors that somehow came around and added to the hormonal fever dream that this show felt like sometimes. 3/4

World

I found myself not curious about the world at all. The world in the underground village is modest and interesting and transitions into a western-mesa style wasteland. In this sense, the world is treated like a battlefield, where destruction, aside from excitement, has no value or consequence. So while this helps animation from the standpoint that artists can go wild, when it means nothing, it has no lasting impact. There seems to be an attempt to shroud the mechs (called Gunmen) in some sort of mystery, but any mystery in the world feels so quickly revealed or unimportant that we don’t have to dwell on it for very long before we get lackluster answers. And the answer is always more or bigger. The team beat an enemy and the next general is positioning to attack? I wonder what their thing will be. Bigger mechs, abilities, guns, or more faces, strength, or guns. So when the story is clearly man versus world based, and the world lacks compelling elements, it doesn’t work super well. 1/3

Music

The first listen through on the Gurren Lagann soundtrack screamed Megalobox hip-hop drum hits and record-scratch adjacent sounds that make you want to bop your head, accompanied by  the deeper, more abstract sounds and ambiance that was in the marvelous Gundam: Hathaway soundscape. Listening to the soundtrack on its own was critical for me. Between the action of the show and taking in everything for these reviews, music often gets drowned out in my mind. Once I focused on the tracks, the emotional diversity of the show opened up wider than the collective ensemble that the show provided. So that begs the question on if the music did its job. Same with the pacing, the rest of the show felt like it took away from the music. Over busy scenes cause elements to fight with each other and characters screaming at each other create some fun dynamics but drown out the music. So taking music alone into account and ignoring how the show handled the highlighting of it best element… 3/3

CategoryPoints GivenPoints Possible
I am interested in the characters in the story26
I liked the emotion the story made me feel26
The story brings up interesting ideas16
I felt the pacing of the show was appropriate34
The animation in the show is beautiful34
I am interested in the world that the story takes place in13
I felt that the music added to the story in a meaningful way33
Overall Score

15/32

Published by Marshal Brummel

Anime Amateur

One thought on “Gurren Lagann

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: