I guess I should get around to this show; after all, it is #4 on my fan service list. “Gurren Lagann”, known in Japan as “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” (“Pierce the Heavens, Gurren Lagann”) is a giant fighting robot show, but it is done differently than most GFRs, so I personally was able to tolerate a bit better, despite some pacing problems. But let’s get down to brass tacks, eh?
We are on Earth. Well, I assume it’s Earth. Does it matter? But we aren’t ON Earth; rather, underneath it. Simon (but pronounce it as ‘Simone’, he’s front and center) is a digger and may be the best one that they have in our underground enclave. He dreams of a better life, but he ain’t gonna get it. Stick to your drill, boy. He is befriended by Kamina (Mr Flashy up there in the Oakley or Maui Jim or Ray-Ban shades), who needs people to recruit into his dream of visiting the surface world. Oh, you should hear the guffaws around that one! One day, Simon finds a drill-shaped key. Well, it’s cute, so he hangs onto it. (You can just see it under his crossed arms).
OK, it gets a bit involved here, but stay with me. A few days later, a Gunman crashes into their village and begins to destroy whatever and whomsoever. (A gunman is your giant fighting robot). In hot pursuit is Yoko Littner (can you find the fetching vixen up there?), who is going to wipe it out. Simon uses his drill key to turn on a smaller Gunman (that one looks like a big head), to 86 the larger Gunman and break through to the surface. It is here that we learn the folks who choose to live upon the surface are under constant attack by these Gunmen, piloted by beastmen. These are creatures who serve the evil, wicked, cruel tyrannical Spiral King, Lord Genome. The series is two broad story lines: our team fighting Lord Genome and taking control of their own destiny, and then what happens WHEN you take control of your own destiny.
I do want to bring to you attention that flaxen-haired wonder to the left. That is Nia Teppelin; she plays two crucial roles, in the ending arc of the first series and the driving force of the second series. I don’t want to tip too much now, as her character is a marvel to behold and I wish to let her story unfold before you.
The demarcation line between the two arcs is very clean, as the jump between Episode 15 and 17 is seven years (Episode 16 is a recap episode, in preparation for the second season. I assume it was there when you were not able to run all 27 episodes straight through). However, both seasons suffer from the same problem: the Dragon Ball Z Syndrome. From Episodes 7 to 15, it is endless fighting, to the point where you are honestly ready to throw in the towel. It also had the Bleach Problem, in where we pull something up from the depths of the deepest depths and defeat our enemies. Again. Again.
The second season is how everyone involved has built a society, but events beyond their control are triggered and the human race is threatened with annihilation. Again. Again. And from Episode 19 to 27, it is more or less endless fighting. Again. Again.
Look, it’s not a bad series overall. Kamina is one of the most interesting over-the-top characters you have ever seen in anime and Yoko is some of the funniest comic relief out there. And, yes, we have endless boob jokes, but they are really funny. It’s just at some points, it got a bit too didactic in explaining the Spiral Kingdom and the Anti-Spiral Factions that seek to enslave the worlds, the rather naked ambitions of some of those in power, the openly fickle nature of people and the actually fighting. Now, this is some of the best-looking fighting sequences I have seen, but it just got to be too much all the time. You could afford to dial it back a bit.
I also want you to track down the Directors Cut of Episode Six. It can go by two titles: “Sit in the Hot Tub ‘Till You’re Sick!!” or “There are Some Things I Just Have to See!!” It is your typical hot springs episode, but the uncut version, aside from having the fan service you were looking for, also has better dialogue than the ‘normal’ version. You also have to contend with a slip in the art style. It appears that Episodes 4 and 5 changed the art style, although it gets back on track for Episode 6. It was just a bit of a jarring action.
If you enjoy GFR shows, I would strongly recommend checking this out, as they do approach things in a different manner. If you are curious, I suggest you stick it out for three episodes, as it takes a bit longer for this show to get moving. I’m glad I saw it.
On a scale of 1 to 10:
Artwork 7 (Some design choices are questionable)
Plot 8 (Nice execution of the story)
Pacing 7 (Fighting sequences get a bit much)
Effectiveness 8 (Good overall approach to an involved tale)
Conclusion 7 (It reaches a ‘coupler’, but hasn’t ended)
Fan Service 4 (A similar show would be, oh, how about “Gurren Lagann”)
Overall 7 (Just a bit too many fighting scenes for my tastes)
And remember, it’s first run until you’ve seen it. Believe in the me that believes in you.