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ANIME REVIEW: “Gurren Lagann” Volumes 1-5

ANIME REVIEW: "Gurren Lagann" Volumes 1-5


The fantasy-adventure Gurren Lagann (Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan, or “Pierce the
Heavens, Gurren Lagann,” 2007) bursts onto the screen
in an explosion of color, energy and slapstick. The sleeper anime hit of 2008
in the US, Gurren Lagann mixes the
madcap energy of FLCL, the escalating
metamorphoses of a Gundam epic and
the self-reflexive parody of Martian Successor
into a spinwheel collage of action and insanity.

Centuries earlier, humanity
retreated below ground to vast but claustrophobic caverns, leaving the arid
surface of the Earth to the Beast Men, creatures who pilot mecha called “Gunmen.” Simon (pronounced See-mon) is a quiet,
resigned young grunt: He works as a driller, expanding the caves that house his
subterranean village.

One day, he finds a glowing drill
bit that serves as a sort of ignition key for a large humanoid robot. At the urging
of his bold, nutty friend Kamina, Simon fires up the mecha and the two misfits leave the their confined existence for
the forgotten realm of the Earth’s surface. While Kamina yells half-baked
proclamations about what a man’s gotta do, they travel through an endless
desert, picking up an assortment of allies, including Yoko, a buxom red-head
who’s a crack shot, effete technical wizard Leeron, and the mismatched Black

As the adventure continues, the
story splits into three arcs. The first, in which the newbie explorers learn
how to fight with their increasingly powerful mecha vehicle, ends with the surprising and moving death of Kamina.
Crushed by the loss, Simon finds himself unable to power up his mecha, let alone do battle. But his comrades,
especially Princess Nia, rally his spirits, reminding him of Kamina’s credo:
“Rejecting common sense to make the impossible possible is the Team Gurren

  The second arc focuses on the war
against Spiral King Lordgenome, and climaxes in a spectacular battle at
Teppelin, the King’s combination capitol city and mecha. But, like Simon and his friends, the viewer can’t
help missing the irrepressible Kamina, who added so
much élan–and so little sense–to Gurren

The final arc takes place seven years
after the defeat of Lordgenome, when mankind has returned to the Earth’s surface.
But when the human population passes the one million mark, the Anti-Spiral
forces arrive from space and try to crash the Moon into the Earth. Simon
rallies his mecha-pilot friends to
join him in a fantastic battle that will determine the fate of the universe. The
conflict between the Spiral and Anti-Spiral fleets takes the cast across space,
time and additional dimensions they weren’t even aware of. Of course, their dedicated
fighting spirit triumphs, even when the fabric of space itself distorts. Simon,
who began as a withdrawn teen-ager, grows with each challenge until he
resembles Kamina, his beloved, outrageous

Director Hiroyuki Imaishi pushes the visuals over the top,
using Day-Glo colors, wonderfully off-beat designs, jazzy CG effects, and
rapid-fire cutting. Simon’s robot fuses with each mecha it defeats, creating an increasingly extravagant piece of
compelling, yet off-the-wall design. Aniplex has remastered the series in HD,
and the Blu-ray format showcases the filmmakers’ boldly skewed vision.

The story may not make much sense,
but when the adventure is this much fun, who cares?

Gurren Lagann Volumes 1-5 Aniplex: $49.98 each: one disc plus a booklet and mini-poster

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