|Article by Ben Huber
Gurren Lagann was one of Gainax's last shows before their core staff migrated onward to new jobs (hello, Trigger!), and it was one of their best. While Panty and Stocking topped off their illustrious careers, Gurren Lagann wrapped up all their influences, iconography, and trademark over-the-top action into one excellent package. Here are some reasons why Gurren Lagann should be considered a modern classic:
Simon and Kamina start out as simple villagers in a cave, digging for days. I don't know if anyone would expect them to be piloting giant robots or saving the world, but as is often the case, fate is shoved upon them when a gunmen (mecha) crashes down into their lives.
The Lovable Characters
Gurren Lagann has no shortage of exciting and unique characters. You'll find plenty of people to root for; from the lead quartet of the forever-optimistic Kamina, nervous drill-wielder Simon, princess Nia, and sassy sniper Yoko, to their backup crew of memorable folks like Kittan, Rossiu, Viral, Leeron, and of course, the pig-mole Boota.
Everyone wants to pose all the time! They point to the stars with passion, cross their arms and scream at oncoming attacks, or simply punch each other in dramatic fashion. You can feel the energy radiate off the screen as Kamina gives a dramatic speech or as Simon vows to keep moving forward, no matter how silly the lines might be.
The Action Scenes
Gainax is in top form in Gurren Lagann, feature high-level work from skilled animators like Yoh Yoshinari and Hiroyuki Imaishi as well as the rest of the studio. Every kick and punch hits hard, every sword slices like butter. You might find yourself moving closer to the edge of your set with each exciting moment.
Eyecatches are the short image or animation that displays when a series heads to or returns from a commercial break. You might think eyecatches aren't anything special, but Gurren Lagann's stand apart. Drawn by the skilled hand of Imaishi, each episode featured two these iconic illustrations, dressed in heavy black inks and sharp, angular lines. There's a reason why so many anime fans have these drawings as their desktop backgrounds!
What's Yours Is Mine
In Gurren Lagann, Kamina and Simon take parts from other gunmen, and integrate them into their own. How do they do it? Well, even they don't know, but it doesn't matter to them, because it's just plain cool. That neat helmet? We'll take that, thank you very much. Oh, those wings and jetpack look nifty! Don't mind if I do! Soon they're equipped with every possible weapon they could want, but it doesn't stop there.
Yes, drills are the spinning, accelerating heart of Gurren Lagann. Everything that happens is filtered through the lens of a drill -- metaphorically. Always spinning upward, forward, and faster! Sometimes this just refers to the characters and their story, but often it's very, very literal. And when one drill doesn't work? Well, just get a bigger one!
Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger
Everything gets bigger in Gurren Lagann. The mecha get bigger, till they can reach across the stars. Physics? Who needs to be constrained by physics when you have an ocean in outer space and a mecha the size of the Milky Way? Trust me, physics go out the door very early in the series.
Amazing Mecha Designs
Gurren Lagann features some of the best mecha designs out there, rivaling iconic designs from Gundam and Evangelion. Lazengann in particular is one of the coolest mecha designs we've ever seen. Of course, it helps to have some beautiful animation to back it up, too. But we still don't think we'd mess with Lord Genome.
How can you talk about Gurren Lagann without mentioning it's most memorable song -- a rap beat featuring the lyrics "Row, row, fight the power!" It's just the right amount of energetic silliness. The rest of the soundtrack from Taku Iwasaki is no slouch either, featuring intense guitar riffs, epic opera solos, dainty piano pieces, and jazzy battle themes.
Yoko Littner and Her Rifle
A lot of people might be tempted to put Yoko into that obvious box: the firery redhead, the eye-candy that every Gainax show has (and hey, there's a reason that it's called the "Gainax bounce"). But Yoko has much more to her character than just that. She grows up along Simon and Kamina during the journey, and she's never anyone's damsel -- in fact, she's usually the one saving them!
There comes a time in every anime's life when it needs to dump an inspirational speech upon its characters, encouraging them to get up and do something amazing. Gurren Lagann does this with an intensity and spirit unmatched by most other shows. Plus, they're memorable: how many times have you recited "don't believe in the me who believes in you, believe in the you who believes in yourself" when no one was around?
Magically Appearing Glasses
Gainax loves their glasses that appear from nowhere, or especially ones that suddenly "level up" and become even cooler glasses. Don't lie: you want a pair for yourself.
Those Yoshinari Explosions
Come on, let's face it: Gurren Lagann wouldn't be the show it is without Yoh Yoshinari's amazing explosions. The man is a master of animated combustion and should be honored as such.
Perhaps the strongest thread running through Gurren Lagann's story is overcoming the death of a loved one. It happens to Simon several times throughout the story, and it's incredibly painful each time. However, thanks to his friends and his own desire to grow, he's able to overcome that grief. Despite all the silliness and over-the-top action, at the end, you might just shed a tear or two.