Gurren Lagann is one of my favorite anime of all time. When I first saw it, I was floored by its over the top story, memorable quotes, loveable characters, amazing art, and unforgettable action scenes. It is difficult to watch a show so awesome and to fall in love so deeply with it without having taken away something from the experience.
These are the things I learned from Gurren Lagann:
(Warning, Spoilers Ahead)
Having the biggest breasts and the biggest gun doesn’t mean you can’t have the biggest heart too.
The first episode of Gurren Lagann contains a lot of eye rolling fanservice primarily centered on one of the series major characters, Yoko. A barely dressed marksman with a sniper rifle that only seems to increase in size, Yoko seems like your typical over-the-top anime heroine.
As such, initially I didn’t expect much from her character other than jiggles, panty shots, and a big gun that makes robots explode. If Simon and Kamina weren’t so outrageously charming from the onset, Yoko might have been a reason I stopped watching. I can stomach fan service when the rest of the show is good, but beat it over my head enough, and my Western sensibilities will take me elsewhere.
I would have been completely wrong about Yoko if I had quit.
While she may not be the deepest of female characters, she is one of the most important members of the cast. With Kamina and later Kittan, she does serve as a typical female romantic interest for our show’s major heroes. Still, given the fate of both Kamina and Kittan and her personal journey as a whole, it is difficult to look at Yoko as just arm candy.
Size matters when you’re having fun.
Gurren Lagann’s single best handled element is the constant increase in size and scope. Both in plot and in the overall size of the mecha, each episode seems to introduce something bigger, better, or bolder. From the beginning in a tiny village underground to the end when galaxies are being used as weapons, there is a huge range is size.
More than that, the story changes in size as well. As Team Dai-Gurren grows to be the champion for the entirety of humankind, the stakes get raised further and further. By the time the final fight has begun, you begin to realize that Simon and friends are fighting for an infinite amount of spiral lives scattered across the universe to have the right to be in control of their own destinies.
The laws of the universe, time, and space are all meaningless as long as you have an incredible surplus of willpower.
Other than an ever increasing size, the dialogue and speeches of Gurren Lagann are incredible. Instead of another couple of long-winded paragraphs explaining my position, here is a selection of incredible quotes:
“Listen Simon… Don’t forget. Believe in yourself. Not in the you who believes in me. Not the me who believes in you. Believe in the you who believes in yourself.”
“Go beyond the impossible and kick reason to the curb!”
“Force your way down a path YOU chose to take, and do it YOUR way.”
“The tomorrow we’re trying to reach is…not a tomorrow you’ve decided on! We…by ourselves…choose our tomorrow from the infinite universe! We will fight through it. We will fight through it and protect the universe! We’ll show you we can do it!”
If you can’t believe in yourself, believe in everyone that believes in you being able to believe in yourself. That is until you realize that you should just believe in the you that believes in you. Believe.
Simon’s character arc takes him from being a self-hating, shy, and honestly useless person to easily the most badass person in the entire Gurren Lagann universe. He even bypasses his mentor and biggest fan, Kamina, by series end, which seems completely impossible for the first fifteen or so episodes.
How does Simon change so dramatically? Through sheer belief and faith, at first in Kamina who had nothing but blind faith in his favorite digger and later in himself. “Believe in me who believes in you” does sound cheesy, but is it really such a crazy idea? The entire series explores the power of having faith in one another to its most absurd level. With the fate of all of humanity at stake, the series’ epic conclusion rightfully involves an entire planet’s faith being put to the ultimate mecha test.
Plus, having faith enough to do the impossible leaves you with a good feeling. Watching Guren Lagann again and again, I always walk away happier for being a living, breathing human being surrounded by friends, family, and community. It gives me faith in humanity, which is something most shows do not do.
Depressed? Suicidal? Just down? Then let me see you grit those teeth.
Even if Guren Lagann always perks me with its over the top action, positivity-focused speeches, and lovable characters, the characters in the show aren’t always happy.
If I lived in a world where my entire race was subjugated by a series of more and more bizarre villains, I would be depressed too. Throw in the everyday wear and tear of living a mostly normal life with all of the losses and memories and regrets, and its amazing that most characters in the show aren’t constantly bummed out.
Still, Guren Lagann has perhaps the best known cure for depression and self-loathing: a hard punch to the face. So if you are ever down, let’s hope you have a friend who can bypass time and space to give you your wake up call. I’d volunteer but my knuckles are too delicate.