Nope/ Slightly / Some of them / Get out of here!
Animes of mechas (a.k.a. robots) exist since Mazinger Z and beyond, but the genre isn’t as popular as shonen, for example. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t famous mecha series around: we have Evangelion as the father of them, but the one I’m focusing on is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (TTGL to shorten). What can be seen as a chaotic mess of explosions and crashing metal is a well structured story with life matters like existence itself.
I won’t be comparing the anime with Evangelion because, to begin with, I haven’t… Watched it.
TTGL offers a smooth animation and colouring: battles feel fast, exciting and trepidant. Spiral power fills the robot UI and suddenly the big machine is able to operate at its maximum power, leading to more and more metal fighting. As far as I’m concerned, we all agree on that point, so let’s go through a brief synopsis of the plot:
So, you called it: Simon, Kamina and the inhabitants of the village are living underground. Simon lost his parents in an earthquake some time ago, and Kamina acts as his big brother, even without blood correlation. Their relationship is particularly deeper than at first sight looks, having the big guy constantly finding ways of strengthen Simon self esteem, but it’s not an easy task: he’s shattered in a thousand pieces, digging all the time. This activity has the purpose of expanding the village limits, but Simon uses it as a way of forgetting about everything. The earth he’s drilling can be seen as his own mind, because the boy doesn’t want to see things as really are. Hiding is his best chance, even with Kamina helping him.
When they escape from the underground thanks to Yoko, part of Simon’s childhood stays there. He starts to feel useful after an unexpected victory against a Gunmen, and discovering the amazing world of outside warms his heart. However, we don’t have to wait many episodes to receive the first shot. Kamina dies.
No one said it was a fairy tale, right?
When this tragedy happens, not only Simon loses the remaining sanity, but the spectator is shocked too. Kamina is the cool guy, the big brother, the one who everybody can count with. But he’s gone. Not only it’s a tragic death in the anime: it’s a direct hit to the flow of the show. Since then, TTGL goes through a darker direction, but still manages to give Simon a victory against Lord Genome (after a lot of struggling). Fact is: was it a pleasant triumph? No. It didn’t feel like. There was something else missing, but Gainax gave us some episodes to chill a bit.
Watching Simon and his friends become older isn’t something we want, but it is required to understand that time passes even if we don’t want it: Yoko’s a teacher, Viral is around trying to disturb the human race and Rossiu becomes some kind of ‘leader’. In the second part of TTGL, when everything points out that humanity is still in danger and said hazard comes from the space, it’s impossible to not think of that quote:
“Your drill is the drill that will pierce the Heavens!”
Kamina, of course, didn’t know a thing about the Spirals stuff. However, Gainax did and they were throwing the same message every single time, rejoicing on we couldn’t understand its deep message. After blinking, we realise Simon is in the space, fighting against the huge menace coming to destroy every sign of living life. He’s not alone, though: every character able to fight is next to him, giving their best. And Kamina is there, or didn’t you see Simon’s glasses?
MARK MY WORDS…! This drill, will open a hole in the universe. And that hole will be a path for those behind us. The dreams of those who have fallen! The hopes of those who will follow! Those two sets of dreams weave together into a double helix, drilling a path towards tomorrow! And THAT’S Tengen Toppa! That’s Gurren-Lagann! My drill is the drill, that creates the HEAVENS!
We all agree on how messy, titanic and chaotic is the final fight in the middle of the universe, where guts and friendship are the fuel of the spiral power and the Anti Spiral is throwing galaxies as if they were knives. Despite the epicness of the scene, it’s not a cheap victory: many Simon’s friends die, leaving widows behind them and sadness (have you noticed that every man that kisses Yoko dies?). On top of that, when Simon finally hits the Anti Spiral, Kamina’s glasses break, because the big brother job is finished. Indeed TTGL is a more mature show than people think.
Well the films have a quite different endings. But damn Simon’s a badass
Along the adventure we got a powerful, jazzy soundtrack energizing every punch and explosion. I remember listening to this track without having watched TTGL, and it didn’t amazing at all. It was like meh.
After watching the show, I smashed the replay button. I could relate to every moment of TTGL where the song played, feeling its epicness inside me. Same goes with ‘Libera me from hell’.
I can’t end the review without mentioning how depressing feels to watch Simon as an elder. It just gives the final dot to the show, a thing necessary to end a well structured story. No forced open endings to leave the door open for a second season, and that’s, despite we love TTGL, perfect.
If I had to point out something I didn’t like much was the overuse of fanservice, but it was commonly mixed with humour so it could be more disturbing than it ended being. But overall TTGL is a great anime with a tasty mix of adrenaline and feels that left a drill in my heart.