25 August 2009

Review No. 1 - Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann!

WARNING: THIS BLOG POST DOES CONTAIN MAJOR SPOILERS.

Well, this is my first review, so I figured I'd start off with a bang. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (translated as "Heaven Piercing Gurren Lagann", yes, I know it's a bit pretentious.) is a 27 episode Shounen Mecha anime that ran in 2007. It was produced by Gainax studios, famous for Neon Genesis Evangelion, and won several awards. It's also got 2 movie adaptations: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Gurren-hen, and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Lagann-hen, which cover the first and second halves of the series respectively.

Plot Outline: The plot of Gurren Lagann is separated into 2 halves. The first half introduces all the characters and details their struggle for freedom against the oppression of the Spiral King. It begins in Jeeha Village, an underground village where all the residents dig holes to expand their territory. Simon, the protagonist of the story, finds a 'core drill' and a small mecha buried one day. He, Kamina - his best friend and the leader of Team Gurren, and Yoko, a girl from the surface, use the mecha, christened 'Lagann' to break through the ceiling of the village and get to the surface - a barren land populated by the vicious Beastmen and their Gunmen - Giant mechas out to kill all humans on the surface. Throughout their adventures they meet up with many more characters; Leeron - a homosexual (and hilarious) mechanic, Dayakka - the leader of the Littner Village resistance group, Kittan, Kiyal, Kiyol and Kinon -  the Black Siblings (a group of beastmen hunters), Rossiu, Gimmy and Darry - 3 villagers from Adai Village, and many others, including Viral -  a Beastman who is a member of the Human Eradication Squad. Viral fights Simon and Kamina multiple times, and sees Kamina as his primary rival. A large group of other humans take Kamina's idea to steal Gunmen from the Beastmen and all come together to form Team Dai-Gurren. Around halfway through the first half, Team Dai-Gurren tries to take control of Dai-Gunzan, a mobile fortress Gunmen. Simon is distracted during the fight, and subsequently Kamina is killed after the battle. Simon falls into a depression until he meets Nia, the princess of Teppelin (the beastmen capital). Through clashes with the Spiral Kings four generals, Simon regains his confidence and becomes the new leader of Team Dai-Gurren, leading them to victory against the Spiral King in episode 15.



The second half is set 7 years after the first, and deals with their struggles against the Anti-Spirals - a race of beings against the rapid evolution of human society. Rossiu and Simon now lead the human population, and their civilisation has advanced rapidly. The old gunmen from the war with the Spiral King are locked away, and a new type of gunmen, The Grapearl Squadron (Mechas based off of Gurren Lagann). The surface population reaches 1 million people, and the Anti-Spirals launch an attack on the Earth to destroy the humans much like the Spiral King. They take control of Nia, turning her into the Anti-Spiral's messenger, set the moon on a decaying orbit to crash into the surface of the planet and take Nia to the far end of the universe. The population revolts out of fear, and Rossiu deems it necessary to blame someone for these events. He removes Simon from power and throws him in jail. Rossiu then uses the newly built spaceship "Arc-Gurren" to take a significant portion of the human population into space to try and avoid the destruction of the world. Unfortunately, he walks right into a trap (Cue Admiral Ackbar). Simon meets up with Viral in jail and, after being busted out by Yoko, joins forces with him to get back Gurren Lagann and defeat the Anti-Spiral fleet in orbit above the Earth. Combining Gurren Lagann with Arc-Gurren to form Arc-Gurren Lagann, Simon and Viral destroy the Anti-Spiral fleet and try to stop the moon from falling. Finding out from Lordgenome's head (which has been turned into a bio-computer) that the moon is actually his flagship -  the Cathedral Terra, Simon combines with it and morphs it into the Super Galaxy Dai-Gurren. With this ship under their control, Team Dai-Gurren goes on its last mission - to destroy the Anti-Spirals and save Nia. Travelling to the far reaches of the universe using a Spiral Teleportation system, they get caught in a trap and dragged into an area of super-dense space. Kittan heroically sacrifices himself to destroy the field (MOST AWESOME SACRIFICE EVER) and Simon turns the Super Galaxy Dai-Gurren into Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann, defeating the Anti-Spirals in the area. Team Dai-Gurren then teleports to where Nia is and confront THE Anti-Spiral. After breaking out of the Anti-Spiral's "MIND CRUSH!" thanks to the help of an old friend, the members of Team Dai-Gurren form TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN. A mecha the size of MULTIPLE GALAXIES and have an all out fight with the Anti-Spiral, eventually defeating it.


Characters:

Simon - Yuri Lowenthal (Eng),  Tetsuya Kakihara (Jap)

Simon (Shimon) is the main protagonist of the story. He is introduced as a 14 year old boy, who has a knack for digging holes with his drill. He is initially quite nervous and constantly looks to his best friend and "Aniki" (Bro) Kamina for support with most things. Throughout the course of the series, he grows into his role as Team Dai-Gurren's leader, becoming self-confident and powerful.
Post-Timeskip, he has become the leader of the Earth's human population, and his personality is much like Kamina's in many ways. At the end of the anime, Simon is nothing short of AWESOME. You cant help but want to be like him. Hell, HE cant help but want to be like him, given how often he says "Just who the hell do you think I am!?"



Kamina - Kyle Hebert (Eng),  Katsuyuki Konishi (Jap)


Kamina is a bit older than Simon, and is very confident in his own abilities. He constantly makes grand speeches about himself and Team Dai-Gurren and how awesome he claims them both to be. He pilots his own Mecha, called 'Gurren', but isnt much of a pilot in terms of skill. I personally think Kamina's one of the most awe-inspiring characters in any anime ever, his speeches are just god-tier. I mean just look at the guy, he's a friggin champion.
As he says often "Kick logic to the curb and do the impossible! That's the way Team Gurren rolls!"


Gurren Lagann

Gurren Lagann is the combined form of Gurren and Lagann (who would've guessed!). It runs on Spiral Power, an energy source stemming from FIGHTING SPIRIT (as Kamina puts it.). It's easily the most powerful mecha in the show, and the primary fighting form used by Simon. It can summon drills at any place on it's body, for example the super-powerful finishing move GIGA DRILL BREAKER.


Arc-Gurren Lagann

Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann


Yoko - Michelle Ruff (woo! Eng), Marina Inoue (Jap)


Yoko is, well, Eye-candy. Other than that, she's the best sniper around, and seems to be the only thing keeping Kamina grounded. She dislikes wearing lots of clothing as its 'restrictive'. Dont let her looks fool you though, she could kick your butt in a second. She serves as Kamina's love interest, and kisses him right before his final battle. In part 2, she disappears for a year where she becomes a school teacher. Upon hearing about Simon's arrest, however, she comes back and breaks him out of jail, rejoining Team Dai-Gurren. In the space battles, she shares an intimate moment with Kittan before he sacrifices himself, leading the fan community to label her kiss as a kiss-of-death, as the 2 characters she kisses both die right afterwards.


Nia - Hynden Walch (child), Bridget Hoffman (adult) (Both Eng), Yukari Fukui (Jap)


Nia is the princess of the Spiral Kingdom, although she is abandoned by her father, the Spiral King. Simon finds her in a capsule down a gorge, and quickly befriends her. She serves as Team Dai-Gurren's cook, although only Simon can stomach the food she makes. She plays a more major role in the second half of the story. Simon and Nia are now together, and Simon proposes to her early in the second half. She accepts, but shortly afterwards the Anti-Spirals take control of her body and mind and she becomes their messenger. After the defeat of the Anti-Spiral fleet above Earth, she is taken to the Anti-Spiral homeworld and scanned for information before Gurren Lagann gets there. She participates in the fight between Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and the Anti-Spiral, when she tells everyone that winning this fight would cause her to disappear forever, as she had become an Anti-Spiral lifeform. She spurs everyone on, and they win the fight. She and Simon finally get married, and minutes after their first onscreen kiss, she disappears, turning a wedding into a funeral. I must admit I teared up.


Kittan - Christopher Corey Smith (Eng), Kishō Taniyama (Jap)


Kittan is the leader of the Black Siblings. He's rash, overconfident, and always trying to be better than Kamina. He pilots the King Kittan gunman. After Kamina dies, he becomes the leader of Team Dai-Gurren until Simon gets back to normal. He is the leader of the Team Dai-Gurren's gunmen squad, giving them orders when Simon is busy fighting the big boss characters. In part 2, he's a part of the government system, but his character remains basically the same. When Team Dai-Gurren goes to fight the Anti-Spirals, he pilots the Space King Kittan. In order to get out of the super dense space created by the Death Spiral, Kittan goes out in the King Kittan with one of Simon's drills, and in the most awesome sacrifice ever, uses a "KING KITTAN GIGA DRILL BREAKER!!!!" to destroy the Death Spiral, then dies while laughing about how awesome he just was.





Viral - Sam Reigel (Eng), Nobuyuki Hiyama(Jap)

Viral is the commander of the Human Eradication Army. He pilots Enki, his personal Mecha, then Enkidu, then Enkidudu (yes, I lol'd too.). He is first introduced in episode 3, as a rival for Kamina and Simon. He initially gives them a good beating before they combine into Gurren Lagann for the first time. He ends up as a recurring villain character, who ends up getting defeated by Gurren Lagann every time they meet. At the end of Part 1, he is given an immortal body by Lordgenome so he can observe the battles to come, and be a storyteller for the Beastmen. In Part 2, he puts aside his old grudges and joins up with Simon and Team Dai-Gurren against the Anti-Spirals, becoming Gurren's pilot.




Lordgenome - Jamieson Price (Eng), Narushi Ikeda(Jap)

Lordgenome, better known as the Spiral King, is the primary antagonist of the first half of the series. He is more than 1000 years old, and is the very definition of raw power. He, like Simon, pilots a Spiral Powered mecha called Lazengann. It rivals even Gurren Lagann in power and speed, and can form its own drills. Although it may seem like Lordgenome is simply evil, this is not the case. He was the first Spiral Warrior of the humans to rise against the Anti-Spirals, 1000 years before the story begins. He was ultimately defeated, so to ensure the survival of the human race, he drives them underground and creates the Beastmen to keep them there.


Review: Well, I must say, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is one of, if not THE BEST anime out there. It completely defies all aspects of realism, and replaces it with PURE AWESOME. It has the right mix of fighting, mechas, comedy, romance, drama, character development, plot, everything! Even the music is leaking awesome! I highly recommend it to ANYONE. Anime fan or no.

Rating: 10/10! No question!

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