Weekend Review – Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Well, most of the anime I’ve reviewed fairly recently has been older stuff. However, I’ve now watched Gainax’s most recent mecha series, Gurren Lagann. So, does its drill pierce the heavens, or does it kick good taste to the curb and make the horrible possible?

Cast, Crew, and Other Info

Katsuyuki Konishi as Kamina
Marina Inoue as Yoko
Tetsuya Kakihara as Simon
Yukari Fukui as Nia
Daiki Nakamura as Dayakka
Kana Asumi as Kiyal
Kana Ueda as Kinon
Kishô Taniyama as Kittan
Masaya Onosaka as Leeron
Narushi Ikeda as Lordgenome
Mitsuki Saiga as Rossiu
Nobuyuki Hiyama as Viral
Rina Satou as Kiyoh
Shizuka Itou as Boota* & Darry

*Yes, even Pig moles noises need a voice actors, why else would Megumi Hayashibara get cast to play Pikachu

Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi
Written by Hiroshi Yamaguchi (Ep 4, 14, 25), Kazuki Nakashima (Ep 1-3, 6-9, 17-23, 25-27), Kurasumi Sunayama (Ep 12-13, 15, 24), Masahiko Otsuka (Ep 6), Shouji Saeki (Ep 5, 10-11)
Animation by GAINAX


In the very far future, humanity is forced to hide underground, living in various cave villages. When digger Simon finds a drill that is the key to some kind of small mecha, his friend Kamina persuades him to use the robot to allow them to escape to the surface. In the process, they encounter a beautiful girl named Yoko and learn that humanity is oppressed by the Beastmen and their leader, Lordgenome. With a group of resistance fighters, Simon and his robot or gunmen, named “Gurren” and Kamina’s stolen gunmen, “Lagann”, set out to free humanity from the Beastmen once and for all!

The High Point(s)

Okay, right now we’re currently at what would be, in dramatic terms, described as “the top”. Now, I want you to look at this picture from the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, do you see that? No? Let me get my magnifying glass. Do you see it now? Still no. Okay then, let me runs this through the CSI Uber Photo Enhancement Software Of Doom. Now do you see it? No? Let me get the magnifying glass again. Okay, now you see it. No, it’s not a speck on the page. That’s Gurren Lagann. That’s how over the top it is. No, I’m not exaggerating.

But seriously folks, this show never really slows down. This is the old-school super-robot show boiled down to its very essence. They took out all the unnecessary Monster Of The Week shows, re-paced the character development, and basically took the story (or types of stories) that (basically) actually took 92 episodes of Mazinger Z and all 56 episodes of Great Mazinger to tell, and told it in 27 episodes. The first half of the show covers the defeat of the Beastmen by Team Gurren, and wraps things up excellently, and the second half covers the war with the Anti-Spirals and wraps things up pretty much just as well.

The Low Point(s)

If there are any super robot shows you want to see, whether it’s Getter Robo, whether it’s Ideon, whether it’s Mazinger Z, or whatever it may be, I recommend watching it before watching this. It would be cliche to say that this show spoils them for you, but it really does. Because of the pacing of this show (and the fact that you really can’t do a 50+ episode Super Robot show these days), Gurren Lagann takes all that made those super robot shows great, or generally appals to people, and puts it in there fairly quickly. While it doesn’t feel rushed, what it does do is make the other super robot shows seem more plodding, with generals in the villain’s army taking 15 episodes to beat instead of 2-4 in Gurren Lagann, and developments in the relationships of the main characters (with female supporting cast members) taking the entire length of older super robot series to reach a point that I could only reasonably describe as “stepping up to the plate” – if they get that far at all – happens fairly quickly in Gurren Lagann (Simon and Nia’s romantic relationship gets started fairly early after their meeting, now that I think about it, and after the second time-skip they’re at the point where Simon’s going to propose marriage. Dayakka, on the other hand, over the course of the second time skip not only gets married, he becomes a father.).

Nudity & Violence

There is minimal blood this. It’s there, but nowhere near as bad as in, say, Patlabor WXIII, or even Bleach. There is no female nudity, and no frontal male nudity, though we do see Kamina with nothing on but a strategically placed pig-mole. There is copious amounts of male rear nudity during the Onsen episode. Oh, and there is Gainax Bounce, but only clad.

The Scores

Originality: As I mentioned previously, this show treads ground many super robot shows have gone over before, but, to put it another way… if Neon Genesis Evangelion did to the Super Robot show what Watchmen did to superhero comics, Gurren Lagann is the Super Robot Show equivalent to Kingdom Come. 4 out of 6.

Animation: With the sole exception of the episode that introduces Rossiu, this show looks excellent. 5 out of 6

Story: The story of the show is well written, and very engaging, with excellent pacing. Again, after watching this show, you may have difficulty watching any longer super robot show. 6 out of 6.

Voice Acting: This is some of the best anime voice acting I’ve heard in quite some time. Seriously. 6 out of 6

Emotional Response: My reactions during this show varied from “heart in throat” to “Holy S***”, with these reactions occuring several times per episode. 6 out of 6.

Production: The sound design in general is alright, and the music is pretty good too, through there is some deliberate Engrish in there. 4 out of 6

Overall: This show is on par with Cowboy Bebop, Record of Lodoss War, or Neon Genesis Evangelion – this is one of the anime series that will define a “generation” of Anime fans – and I will say that there will probably be a very large number of anime fans who, 10, 15, 20 years down the road, when asked “What show got you into Anime,” will answer “Gurren Lagann”. 6 out of 6.

Overall: 37 out of 42.