Archive for the ‘Anime Reviews’ Category

Here we go, guys: an anime review by yours truly, just as promised. And I’ll immediately start with a big one: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. WARNING: I’ll try to keep the spoilers in this review to a minimum, but if you really want to view this series completely fresh, then you might want to stop here.

Honestly, as I looked through my list of a hundred-or-so anime’s, I had no idea which one to start with to review, so I simply ended up picking the one I had re-watched recently. So without any further meandering, let’s get to the review itself.

I feel I should start by saying this: Gurren Lagann is absolutely RIDICULOUS – but then why does it work so well?!

The story takes place in the far off future. The first episode reveals that, for unknown reasons, humanity has withdrawn to living under the surface of the Earth (think Zion from ‘The Matrix’, except a lot smaller and with mole-pigs). The focus is Simon: a young digger from an underground village who works tirelessly with his drill to try and expand the place. However, as Simon tells us, the people live in constant fear of earthquakes, as it’s only a matter of time before the entire cave collapses and they all die.

Simon is quickly introduced as an unlikely protagonist: he is young, an orphan, has no confidence in himself at all, liked by the village elder for his obedience but shunned by most of his peers and, by all accounts, kind of a weakling. His only comrade is revealed to be an older teen named Kamina, who is almost the exact opposite: ridiculously macho, charismatic and not only full of belief in himself, but also constantly encouraging Simon. Kamina’s greatest desire is to leave the village for the surface-world (said to be uninhabitable), which he visited with his father once as a child, but was too scared to go with him at the time. After one of his latest, hilarious, escape-attempts (which he, of course, drags Simon into), Kamina is jailed. Meanwhile, Simon has found a strange, spiral-like key and a small mecha while digging beneath the earth,  which he’s eager to show Kamina. But suddenly, shortly after helping him escape, there’s a huge earthquake and a giant mech crashes into the village, along with a hot, rifle-wielding girl named Yoko, trying to stop it. By teaming up and using the small mech Simon found (named Lagann by Kamina), the three are able to defeat the enemy mech and bust their way triumphantly to the world above.

From here, we learn more about the surface world from Yoko and friends and the adventure continues.

While the first episode is highly enjoyable and a great start to the series, it’s actually rather tame compared to later episodes, which almost become a parody of the mecha-genre in anime and at the same time, somehow rises above it. My views may seem a little paradoxical, but that’s because Gurren Lagann is hard to judge: the mecha fights with more explosions than a Michael Bay movie and blatant use of Anime Law #44 (“Attacks are stronger if you name them and shout them out in a manly way!”) are often ridiculous and, for those not into this sort of series, probably hard to swallow.

However, upon closer inspection, the seemingly-simple story is actually very well-structured. The symbol of the series and Simon is the spiral and it feels like the series itself was structured with that in mind: Simon, Yoko and Kamina’s group of eclectic weirdos push on and on, against all odds, coming closer with one revolution at a time. Similarly, the obstacles grow greater and greater, but throughout all this, the protagonists don’t falter.

Special note should be made of the characters: no matter how bizarre the situation’s they’re in, you can’t help but love them. Contrary to some anime’s, many of them are surprisingly well-developed, even the minor ones (favourite’s of mine include the deliciously evil yet honorable antagonist, Viral, and scientist Leeron). Yoko, too, is much more than just the obligatory fanservice of the show. Of course, I can’t end this section without discussing Simon and Kamina, particularly Simon.

I feel like Simon is almost the shadow, the antithesis, of another very well-known, anime mecha-pilot: Ikari Shinji, from ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ (which I’ll also review later on). Both show remarkable similarities and both start off as rather pathetic characters; there are many moments throughout both shows where you just want the two to grow a pair and stop whining. But whereas Shinji remains neurotic and barely changes throughout the whole series, the changes in Simon are extraordinary. Gradually, Simon grows from a scared young teen to a crucial asset of the team and from that, to a leader, and even to a saviour of mankind – while still remaining the same person at heart. All this is the result of the interplay with Kamina, at once a friend and a role-model – eventhough Kamina himself has inner demons. This is shown very well in a sequence in which both Simon and Kamina recount a story from the time in their village, each from their own perspective and each is revealed to have felt weak and inadequate. Without Kamina continually pushing Simon forward to face his fears, he could have ended up the same ways as Shinji. Instead, he defeats his inner and outer demons.

This theme of ever pushing forward binds the whole of ‘Gurren Lagann’  together and, despite all the crazy mecha stuff, makes it a very powerful story, with a powerful message. It remains crazy and over-the-top right to the very end, but that doesn’t matter – this series knows exactly what it wants to be. Again, like how ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ ended with complete insanity in which you have NO IDEA what’s going on, ‘Gurren Lagann’ is the exact opposite: straight and to the point.

The story is sound, the characters memorable. The voice-acting, music and animation (except for one episode) are all very solid. This is one of those anime’s you’ll either love or hate, but if you’re willing to give it a try and watch it to the end, I’m confident you’ll end up loving it.

My rating: 4,5/5

Well, this was one! I had a lot of fun writing this, but please leave comments on what you thought about the review. I probably ended up going on too long, but whatever, I’ll improve that in the next review.

Until next time,

Celestis Ruthwen


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