Thursday, March 24, 2011
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; Animated science-fiction/ action/ comedy/ drama series, Japan, 2007; D Hiroyuki Imaishi, S: Tetsuya Kakihara, Marina Inoue, Yukari Fukui, Noboyuki Hiyama, Katsuyuku Konishi
In the future, humans live in underground tunnels while their leaders tell them that the sky doesn't exist and that there is no surface. However, the unpopular 14-year old Simon, his mentor and "bro" Kamina and fierce girl Yoko prove otherwise when they discover a giant robot, "Gurren Lagann", and break away to the surface. They assemble a team to fight the mysterious "Beastmen" and their commander Genome who sealed humans underground - and win thanks to Simon. 7 years later, however, as the humans repopulate Earth, mysterious beings known as "Anti-Spirals" threaten to destroy them, fearing their "Spiral" evolution might cause an entropy and collapse of the Universe. Simon and his Gurren Lagann defeat them in another dimension.
One of the most popular anime achievements of the 2000s, "Gurren Lagann" has a 1/4 effect of "Neon Genesis Evangelion". Thematically, they are actually quite similar (hero Simon in the first half truly resembles Shinji; the leitmotiv that a weak individual can, thanks to a powerful robot, rise in development socially and psychologically...), but are stylistically very different since "Gurren Lagann" is incredibly optimistic and comical, even during darkest episodes you can find a hidden gag (for instance, when the whole Lagann team is captured, they decide to dig they way out, and one of them even uses a man as a spade), which sometimes turns almost too wacky. This anime received high praise, though not completely deservedly - basically it just shows robots fightin' and heroine Yoko "shaking" her breasts (the action is masterful, though: in one episode, Gurren Lagann in superior fashion rips the "crown" of another giant robot, piloted by Viral, and puts it on his own head; in another, while Gurren Lagann was clinched in a duel fighting with Genome's robot, Genome himself exits it, walks down its metallic chest to Simon (!) and personally hits him).
Still, in episode 18 there is a huge shift in the story that tips it more than planet Uranus. Even though some complained about that last third, it is the best ingredient of "Gurren Lagann" by showing a surprise storyline that the viewers never anticipated - a one where Simon actually becomes something like Tito in post-war Yugoslavia. The character of Nia is probably the weakest and poorly developed, with some moments that seem like elementary school writing. The best episodes are number 1, 2, 8, 18, 21 (an incredibly sweet one involving Yoko as a teacher, lecturing about history while the classmates can't believe they recognize her photo in the history books) and the finale - even though by that time the "Lagann" spent too much time on dry action and too little of real characters, it is exquisite by featuring arguably the most epic robot fighting battle to date (with robots so gigantic that they walk on the horizon of a galaxy!). The story is rather vague, yet contains a few clever touches: it starts as an Allegory of the cave, then turns into an action comedy only to finally reach a few deep contemplations about the power of "Spiral" (Qi, evolution) and "Anti-Spiral" energy (conservatism). All in all, "Lagann" is a fun and surprisingly motivating story, though it still lacks something to be considered a true classic.