Forced to live underground, scraping by just to live out a meager existence with nothing except survival on the mind, this is what humankind has been driven to. Above these digging colonies, out on the surface world, the Beastmen reign supreme, who in turn swear allegiance to the Spiral King – creator and controller of everything one can survey.
A chance encounter and a precious find finally allows the young, insecure digger Simon and the older, precocious rebel-who-fears-nobody Kamina to escape their underground fate and join up with the sharpshooter Yoko from a neighbouring village, heading topside and immediately falling in step with the battle against the Beastmen.
However, Simon’s find and Kamanina determination is exactly what the resistance needed and now with their own mecha to pilot, humankind finally stands a chance to take the fight back to the enemy – and threaten EVEN the almighty Spiral King in the process!
Tengen Toppan Gurren Lagann is a 2007 action/adventure mecha anime series, directed by newcomer to the directing scene, Hiroyuki Imaishi – a man already well known for his particularly high-energy and frantic style in the anime world. The series is animated by the famed Gainax team and stands at 27 episodes long.
Gurren Lagann can at best be described as a completely over the top, madcap, high-energy action/comedy adventure that will quite simply leave you flabbergasted at just the level of craziness it seems intent on going to in order to leave you satisfied at the end of each and every single episode! The premise for the main story is certainly an interesting concept on its own, and the threads that it explores over the duration of the series are certainly worth paying attention to, but to be honest, the sheer unadulterated enjoyment of doing whatever they feel like when they feel like it simply to boost the levels of adrenaline and thrill power throughout completely overwhelms any real serious tones the story might actually be carrying at any one point in time.
Yes, they have a lot of drama, they kill off characters, they inject a little bit of romance, but at the end of it all it is simply the fast-paced, over the top, madcap nature of every single encounter that makes Gurren Lagann such a delight to take in. There is a lot of physical comedy, fan service and just plain explosion worship, but Hiroyuki blends this in with such a skilled hand that it becomes almost impossible to properly compartmentalise and tag this series as any one particular genre of show. In essence it could perhaps be best described as a mecha series of sorts, but to be honest, Gurren Lagann is simply put, much, much more. (Well, to the boys at least. Those enjoying the more deep, mature love interest dramatic stuff should probably stay quite far away from this one).
Visually, Gainax push the boundary by providing non-stop, high-energy visuals that have a beautifully unique, almost angular look at times but at the same time come packaged with the most fluid, frantic and fast-action animations that you will ever come across on the silver screen. The pace of the visuals in intense and often delivers some interesting visual results, but at the same time always comes across as polished and complete, never feeling rushed or sloppy in any place. The colour palette employed throughout the series is bright, vibrant and very funky, complementing the often quite madcap visuals perfectly in my opinion.
Aurally, Hiroyuki has put together a simply fantastic team of voice artists, all of which put in sterling performances for the rather varied character cast. Veteran voice actor Katsuyuki Konishi in particular puts in an absolutely spell bounding stint as one of the main first half leads, Kamina. Similarly, the man behind the music, Taku Iwasaki puts together some great musical compositions and the show is nicely rounded off and complemented by some excellent opening and closing tracks from HIGH VOLTAGE and Shoko Nakagawa amongst others.
Overall, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is simply put, one of those anime series that anyone calling themselves an action lover MUST see. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry and it will have you sitting on the edge of your seat the entire series long thanks to its completely nonsensical, high-energy nature and absolutely thrilling battle sequences. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, that’s for sure, but for the most part I am pretty sure that there aren’t that many people who WON’T enjoy it!
Pure escapism at its finest, without a doubt!