It’s been a while since I’ve watched a mecha-based anime. As storylines go, Gurren Lagann starts really fresh. It’s just a humble digger named Simon, the eternal underdog, who lives like all humanity in small underground communities. His only friend is a brash and impetuous young man named Kamino. At the start you might be fooled it’s Kamino taking advantage of shy Simon, but their relationship is really one of mutual support and admiration.
Simon will find a key to Spiral energy, a small device called a Core Drill that he can use to power on a Gunmen – a mecha with a large face. One pops right up, which Kamina decides to name Lagann. The Gunmen are originally piloted by humanity’s enemies, the Beastmen, who serve the Spiral King, Lordgenome. As one attacks the village, Simon and Kamina battle it using Lagann. Fortunately for the rookie pilots, help arrives in the shape of Yoko, an expert sniper from another village. The three of them end up on the surface as they embark on an adventure to liberate humanity from the scourge of the Beastmen and their Gunmen.
Rather than overwhelm you with information, the series is pretty good about breaking you in gently as more characters, more Gunmen and the explanation of the Spiral Energy is revealed. You can start watching this series without a clue of what’s it about so I’d rather not explain what happens along the way. The art is sometimes simple and sometimes shines into something amazing. As mechas go this one doesn’t stop for characters to learn or train as pilots. This is from the school of “get mad enough and it will work”. The technology itself mutates with high dosis of emotion, so when Kamina decides to combine his Gunmen, the Gurren with Simon’s Lagann, every rule of logic would’ve predicted a disaster. What happens is the actual birth of Gurren Lagann.
The series has a high dosis of drama and overzealousness about bravery that contrasts with complete hijinx. Tragedy at some point strikes Team Gurren, and although this is an anime from 2007, I feel I would rob you of the experience if I let you know what happens. Suffice to say that after the first part, the dynamic changes almost completely – to the point that it almost becomes another series. Still, the characters are very engaging and you want to know what happens to them in the end. The series doesn’t leave any loose ends, and by the end it will have pay homage to a lot of anime tropes.
The constant evolution of Gurren Lagann into bigger and most powerful forms becomes over the top and then some but either you accept it or you don’t. At some point the saturation of bravado is a bit much but you still want to see the heroes come up on top in the end. You will have to sit through a bunch of victory speeches and pep talks, each more preposterous than the last. Most of them are endearing, but they do grow a bit thin toward the end.
Recommended if you’re up for a bit of mecha, some cheese, and over-the-top drama. I liked the first half better than the second one, and would much rather have ended the series after the battle with the Spiral King, but then again Gainax opted for giving us a lengthy epilogue to cap off the series.
That will do for now.