Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann by Niner

Also Known As: Heaven Shattering Gurren Lagann, TTGL, Gurren Lagann
Genre: Action
Format: 27 Episodes
Allegiance: Gainax
Director: Imaishi Hiroyuki
Vintage: 2007
Intelligence Agency Report by: Niner
Simon is a simple driller, mining away underground, content with living his life like the rest of humanity, hiding from the oppressive Beastmen that rule the surface world. Kamina is a passionate young man who yearns for something more, and who knows that he is destined for greatness. Both of their lives are turned upside down when Simon discovers a small drill in the ground, a drill that will lead them towards an adventure full of action, suspense and ultimately, their destiny.

Field Agent Report by: Niner 
Overall 10.00

GAINAX has often disappointed me in the past. Whether it be the final two episodes ofEvangelion or the wholly disappointing He Is My Master, suffice it to say that I didn’t really have a very high opinion of the studio going into Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. However, all that doubt and skepticism was promptly booted out the window by the first few episodes – as the series grabbed hold of me and took me through an amazing, awe-inspiring ride that stretched quite literally to the ends of the universe – single-handedly restoring my faith in GAINAX.

One of the major motifs of Gurren Lagann is the drill, and the series is very much like one, in that it starts out small and innocuous, but from that inauspicious start, spirals out into something bigger, something grander and something more powerful. Simon’s development as a protagonist typifies this, as he starts out a timid youngster wholly unsure of himself and his abilities, but through adversity and seemingly insurmountable odds, learns to kick reason to the curb and evolve into a legend who can do anything he sets his heart on. But it isn’t just Simon who overcomes everything stacked against him; almost every character in this series learns that they too can pierce the heavens if they give it their all. This isn’t a new concept in anime, but Gurren Lagann executes it with such style and panache that it feels truly unique. The Gurren Brigade’s bravado is so unwavering that they often ask of their enemies, “who the hell do you think we are?!” demonstrating a supreme confidence in each other that is matched only by their will to survive.

The music and visuals are two big reasons for the exceptional feel of this series. Composed by the venerable Iwasaki Taku, the soundtrack provides an exciting and engaging accompaniment to the slick animation. The mecha are stylish and pay homage to many of the great robot shows of the past and even manage to surpass them in both looks and sheer scale. During the climactic final battle, it is impossible not to be drawn into the vivid and stylized action along with the resounding chant of “roh, roh, fight the power” as Simon and company duke it out with their enemy on an immense, galactic scale and take their destinies into their own hands.

As with most super robot shows, the plot is easy enough to decipher as Simon and Kamina take on enemies of increasing size, learning and adapting as they go along. It’s a tried and true formula that has been seen many a time before, but GAINAX realized this and instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, focused on doing it so well that this series sets a new standard for its genre. Each fight is epic in scale, yet the one after it always seems to be able to find that extra gear and ramp up the ante exponentially. Reason is truly thrown out the window as the conflict stretches from the first skirmish on the desert sands to the ultimate battle at edge of the known universe. Towards the end of the series, each episode managed to trump its predecessor in terms of sheer tremendousness and magnitude that I was often left in complete and utter awe. I cannot remember any other anime that has elicited such a powerful response from not only myself, but seemingly thousands of other fans as well, many of whom shared my often incoherent reactions.

Despite its ever-increasing scale, Gurren Lagann never strays from its core message; that of overcoming the odds with sheer will and belief. Indeed, Kamina’s axiom of “believe in me, who believes in you” is consistently repeated throughout the series and provides all the motivation needed for the characters to reach for and take hold of their destinies. It’s a basic theme to be sure, but who said anime needed to be complex to be great? Sometimes the best approach is the simplest one, and Gurren Lagann is one of the finest realizations of that concept.