Gurren Lagann is a legendary anime that can even compete with DBZ with its reputation. It’s famous for many reasons and one of those is the fact that it’s known to have the strongest fighters in all of media. This is not counting abstract beings like the One Above All or the Presence because these guys are still physical (for the most part) beings who rely on good ole punching and shooting. It may or may not have the strongest fighters out there, but that’s the general conception that you’ll get as you prepare to watch this anime. After the abomination that was FLCL; I’ll admit that my hopes for Gurren Lagann had definitely sunk. Luckily, this was nothing like that show and once the action really got going, things started to click. Is it the greatest anime of all time? No, but it does have some of the greatest fight scenes of all time and you won’t be forgetting the show once you’ve seen it!
The show is basically divided into two arcs. The first arc is longer and that’s where we shall begin to discuss the plot. Simon is a part of an underground colony of humans and his digging skills have proven to be very useful. Humans were chased from the surface eons ago and now they live underground. The world above ground is ruled by a being known as the Spiral King. He is protected by legions of Beastmen as they incinerate any human that dares to go above ground. Beastmen pilot giant mecha robots named Gunmen that have pretty impressive abilities. One day, Simon finds a robot named Lagann and he uses it to fight off the Beastmen that infiltrated his village and makes his way for the surface.
I should mention that he was goaded on the whole time by his pal Kamina. Kamina is the rebel of the village and he’s always telling Simon about how they should get back onto the surface. He got his wish and the two of them make their way to the planet’s surface along with a girl from another village named Yoko. She works with a group of humans who have some mild experience fighting Beastmen and they actually know how to deal some damage. The heroes deal with small threats for a while, until Kamina takes over one of the Beastmen and uses it to fuse with Simon’s Lagann to form…Gurren Lagann!
This is essentially when the series really starts and they face many enemies. The Spiral King has several generals at his command and a big character from his side is a Beastman known as Viral. Viral is very impressive and he will be discussed more as the review goes on. Needless to say that he’s a very cool character! Can Simon and his friends take down the Spiral King, or have they been destined to fail all along?
The second arc has a pretty big timeskip and Simon is now a lot older and more experienced. The world is now at peace and humans have managed to advance a lot in such a short amount of time. They’ve created many cities and have a lot of futuristic equipment. Is this a little too fast to be realistic? Well, I wouldn’t expect much realism in a show where robots can crush Galaxies, but there actually was something off about it. It’s because the humans all have the ability of the Spiral within them.
The Anti Spirals decide that Earth has grown too powerful and now that the population has reached 1 million, they are to be eliminated. After incinerating the city before Simon can stop them, the war begins. Arc 2 can be annoying at times because a traitor by the name of Russio has usurped control of the government and he nearly jeopardizes everything. Eventually, Simon and his pals are forced to team up with Viral as they head off to face this new threat. The leader of the Anti Spirals is a being that is made from the consciousness of billions of people and his powers are absolute. The Spiral King pales in comparison to this threat, but they must fight on!
Simon is the main character and he definitely improves as the series goes on. He starts out as Simon The Digger and he’s not a confident person. He relies on Kamina to help him through whatever problem arises and his catchphrase is basically “Bro!” It’s a catchy phrase, but Simon would always lose his confidence when things got dangerous. Kamina would usually have to snap him out of it with a speech or a punch, but what about when Kamina would no longer be around to help him? Luckily, Simon met a girl by the name of Nia. (Whose cosmic abilities were not fully explored until the second arc)
It was already near the end of Arc 1, but Simon quickly did a 180 and his attitude became more like one that you would expect from a fighter like Ichigo or Naruto. Simon was now brimming with confidence and he never looked back. From then on, Simon quickly rose up the character ranks until he finally became my favorite hero in the series. In Arc 2, Simon stayed as a very cool character. He made some errors and I don’t agree with his very ending, (Hermit) but he continued to inspire those around him until the very end. Breaking Galaxies is no small feat and Simon went up against some pretty steep competition, but he never let it stop him! I dare say that Simon is the best main character that I’ve seen in quite a while!
Nia didn’t enter the series until the end of Arc 1, but she’s a decent character. Her personality isn’t one of my favorites for a character as she does not know much of human cultures and acts a lot like Starfire. It’s just not too amusing after a while, but Nia was the one who gave Simon the push that he needed. That is enough to make her a good character in the show, but she reached her height in Arc 2. She gained pretty impressive abilities in that part of the story and her personality did a 180. This was the true Nia, before she lost her memory…or even before that. It was her personality that was hidden inside of her until the time was right. The Perfect Double Agent technique! She gets one of the more tragic endings in the show, but she had a good run.
Viral is a character that was awesome right from the start. His theme music is easily the best theme in the show and you won’t be forgetting it. It’s only fitting that a character of his skill level should get such an incredible theme. He’s a solid hand to hand fighter and he also gave Gurren Lagann a pretty good fight back in the day. He was also around for the end arc fight in the first chapter and even had a hand to hand match against Simon in Arc 2. His abilities definitely outrank the average Beastman’s and he’s a great rival for Simon.
Yoko is the main heroine of the anime and she is one of the few main characters to not use a mecha. She does use them occasionally, but she prefers to just use her rifle. It’s not a bad gun, but I don’t see why she would use that against such powerful beings. She’s a decent character, but she associates with Kamina and he naturally drags her down with him. Once he’s gone, she manages to move past that and continue to help save the world. She’s a good character, but she would have been a lot better if she had decided to use her own mecha. Becoming a teacher was a solid idea and she can make a difference in the world!
Kamina is the worst character of the series and I can’t stand him. It’s unfortunate since Kamina is basically the fan favorite character of the series and he had the potential to be cool. Kamina never runs away and he’s always confident that they will succeed, no matter what the odds are. He defies authority and he might be the only human capable of fighting a Beastman on equal footing without the power of the Spiral. Those all sound like good qualities and he could have been the best character in the series.
What drops Kamina drastically down the ranks and into James Bond territory is the fact that he’s a very perverted character. He’s one of the main reasons why I can’t give this show a 9/10 like it would have gotten. Kamina falls for every trap in the book that involves Yoko and friends and he made for some pretty excruciating episodes. The Hot Springs episode is basically the only episode that you need to mention in order to know that Kamina is one of the worst characters out there. Kamina is pretty despicable and the show got so much better once he died.
The Spiral King is easily one of the cooler characters in this show as long as you remember that he is a villain. The thing is, The Spiral King is pretty awesome, but you have to ignore certain things to realize that. He does throw away his kids after he’s bored of them and he obtains many kids throughout the years. Automatically that means that he’s a really bad character and almost as bad as Kamina. It’s just easy to forget this because he is very cool when he fights Simon and he looks good throughout Arc 2. Still, we can’t just forgive and forget in this case, so I have to say that he’s not a good character overall. That being said, his sob story was very hard to sympathize with and I didn’t buy it at all. He basically just lost hope and fell for the old trap of believing in legends. His main fighting robot is Lazengann.
The Anti Spiral Leader is the final boss of the series and one of the best villains that you’ll come across. He is the will of his whole race as they went into eternal slumber. His goal is a little intense so try to keep focus as I explain. All creatures have the potential to develop the Spiral power and humanoids are able to use it best. The Anti Spirals believe that the Spiral Power will eventually destroy the universe because they can just tell. When you have the Spiral Power and are at a high enough level, you just know that the Universe will ultimately be destroyed. The power just becomes too great and the universe cannot contain it. After seeing the final battle of the series, you can also tell that the villain is right.
That being said, he is a villain. His race decided to go to sleep forever so that their spiral power would not destroy the universe and then they merged their souls into one being. The being was given infinite power and he can essentially wipe out reality with a thought. He erases any race that starts to grow too powerful with Spiral Power. When Earth cracked 1 million in their population, the Anti Spirals knew that it was time for them to die. The leader could have incinerated Simon and his pals instantly, but he wants them to know despair. So, he took a physical body and made his own mecha to fight the heroes. He reasons that humans will keep on trying to reach the stars unless they feel total and complete despair. Thus, it was time for the final battle to begin. I don’t agree with the Anti Spirals, but they are a really cool race of beings and the leader is pretty awesome!
Behind Kamina, Rossiu is the worst character of Gurren Lagann. He’s completely unlikable and also a total traitor to the cause. He was decent in Arc 1, but he quickly became one of the most despised characters that I’ve seen in quite a while. He ends up taking Kinon down with him and she becomes one of the worst characters in the series as well. He doesn’t learn from his mistakes and makes every possible mistake. He believes that it’s okay to sacrifice people for the “greater good” and he also starts to act exactly like the Spiral King.
He forces people to live above ground and chases them out of their safe homes. He also arrests Simon so that Earth can be defenseless and locks away Gurren Lagann. Making things even worse is the fact that he decides to destroy the mecha. He also steals Simon’s drill so that he can rub it in. He also kept the Spiral King’s head so that he can force him to do whatever he wants. Rossiu just keeps on sinking and sinking as the show keeps going further. Finally, he gives up on Earth and leaves everyone to die as he takes some people with him and they try to flee into space. Luckily the Anti Spirals were around to stop them, but it can be painful to watch him act as leader. Right up to the very end, Rossiu continues to show his true colors as he tries to leave Simon to die after Simon ends up saving him once again. He’s definitely not a true pal and I consider him to be a traitor. He gets a second sob story and a very happy ending, but I don’t think he really deserved one and Simon was way too nice to him. His second sob story was also one of the fakest things that I’ve seen in a while. It was added to make him sympathetic, but I didn’t buy that for a second.
Boota is around for a while, but he is just a supporting character that is around for a while. I never cared for him and his plot twist at the end came out of nowhere. He thought that he could fight the Anti Spiral Leader, but it was not to be. Boota is the animal mascot of the series, but I didn’t like when his tail was eaten and he wasn’t really needed in the show. Chalk up another negative hero for the series!
Kittan started out as a rival for Kamina and once Kamina died, he managed to become the field leader for the team. Simon is still the true leader, but Kittan leads the charges when he needs too. He wasn’t a bad character and I’m glad that he managed to make Russio look bad as always. He had his Hero moment at the end and he managed to do a lot of good. His robot may not have been my favorite, but it was still decently tough for a side character,
Leeron is the genius of the series, but he’s not likable either. He likes to mess around with the main characters. Simon typically ignores him, but he tended to get on Kamina and Viral’s nerves. I can see why and his character design can also be a little off putting. He is decently smart, but it’s not enough to save his character. So, in the end we had several “Heroes” that were not likable. Kamina, Boota, Leeron, and Russio were not good characters while Simon, Yoko, Nia, and Kittan were solid. That’s a little too close for comfort if you ask me! It can be a little tough to root for the heroes, but it’s easy to root for Simon.
Cytomander doesn’t appear for very long and I can barely remember him. He’s a decent villain, but you shouldn’t expect him to be a match for someone like Simon. Cytomander is tough in his own right, but by the time he is ready to fight…it’s too late! He is nice to the others and doesn’t fight unless he really needs too. Well, that didn’t really turn out so well for him.
Thymilph is another one of the generals and he is responsible for taking Kamina down for the count. He’s a decent villain and there’s nothing wrong with him. That being said, there isn’t much for him either and you’ll mostly just end up enjoying his mecha fights. This guy can definitely fight, but that’s all I can really say for him.
Adiane is the water general and she is able to create large amounts of water that help her mecha to have the advantage. She nearly defeated the heroes during their first encounter, but she had to leave because of the Spirit King. She beat up on Viral a lot and could only be considered as a decent villain. Again, there’s no real reason to root for her and her abilities are only a little impressive. She did manage to almost terminate the heroes, but Simon wasn’t quite himself at the moment.
Guame is the first of the four generals to be defeated (Or at least it felt that way!) and it’s easy to see why. He completely depends on his mecha because he cannot fight for beans. He is not a fighter and you can’t take him seriously. He’s just completely unlikable and you’ll be eagerly awaiting for the heroes to take him down so that the next villain can arise. His ship was also far too big to be a real fighting threat.
All right, characters aside…it’s time to talk about what kept this show from being a 9/10 and one of the greatest anime of all time. It all comes down to the Fanservice. There is just too much of it in the show to warrant such a high rating. This is at its worst during the first few episodes. The Hot Springs episode can be pretty traumatic in this area and Kamina doesn’t help matters. After Kamina’s death, the fanservice definitely dies down although there are still moments where it’s present. Unfortunately, like To Aru Majutsu No Index, it will always be present with the series. Still, if the first few episodes with Kamina had been completely erased; the series would have been that much better. I just can’t get past that Hot Springs episode because it was FLCL levels of awful. That’s definitely something that can pull a series down.
The fanservice is really the only big negative of the series. The fact that Simon and friends eat Boota’s tail can also be nauseating, but the scene is quick and you can try to forget it. I also place most of the blame of that scene on Kamina since he was the one who was complaining the whole time. Russio can also be considered a negative since his scenes were very cringe worthy and his ending is undeserved. He gives the viewer someone to dislike, but he got away with just about everything.
The series definitely started on an iffy note with the first few episodes. After seeing them, I also had to say that I thought their reputation was undeserved. After all, until the very final episode, you couldn’t really call them Star Busters, much less Galaxy Busters. The fial episode threw everything out of the window and that was epic. The series reached its high point during the climaxes of both arcs. Arc 2 was really epic since the scenario took place during a futuristic city and we got to have another hand to hand fight. If you can bear through the first part of the series (AKA, the part where Kamina is still alive) then you should enjoy the rest of the series. It only goes up from there after all! Arc 2 starts with a bang and part of the reason why it’s so cool is that it’s very different than Arc 1. It’s night time towards the beginning and we have to deal with an alien invasion. That is enough of a reason to love Arc 2 immediately, but the plot is also more engaging. Arc 1 had the best Simon, (Once he manned up) but Arc 2 definitely had the better plot. As far as final fights go, they were both really close so that’s harder to gauge. Still, how often does the main villain throw galaxies (Or was it universes?) at the main hero? It’s awesome to see how intense the power levels get in the final episode!
The Animation for this show is leagues ahead of FLCL and you won’t even know that it’s the same company. (Except for an extremely annoying character in the final seconds of the show who looks like Takun and I instantly didn’t like him) The animation really gets to shine during the fight scenes. Gurren Lagann’s fight against Lazangann is epic and one of the best anime fights out there. The same could be said for Simon’s fight against the Anti Spiral leader. Both of these fights can easily hold their own against any other anime fight and should not be missed. The anime may have come out years ago, but it holds up against any current anime and puts all of Marvel’s new animated adventures to shame. This is what I call true animation and it’s something that should be remembered.
The soundtrack is also pretty solid. The theme song is one of the best in the biz and it makes for a perfect insert song during the aftermath of the big battles. The lyrics also make sense and it’s very upbeat. Nikopol is another big song and it’s known as Viral’s theme. It’s definitely a solid battle theme and when it pops up in the show, you know that things are about to get real. The only part of the soundtrack that can be annoying is the “Fight the power” that they add into the mid episode bumpers towards the end of the show, but they wisely cut it out for the final. It can quickly get on your nerves and make you wince a little inside.
One of the reasons why the show is so fun is because it’s very upbeat. A lot of sad things happen like most of the cast being destroyed in one of the final episodes, but there’s always an underlying message about believing in one’s self and always trying. Failure is not an option and no obstacle is impossible to overcome. Those are the messages that the show continues to shoot out, but not in an obvious way as they’re just hidden in there. You’ll typically walk away from the show feeling good and ready for whatever comes next.
Overall, I can see why Gurren Lagann is known as a legendary anime. The fight scenes are definitely epic and will not be forgotten anytime soon. It may have started on an infamously low start, but once Kamina died, the series skyrocketed very quickly. (Ironic that the series got good once the fan favorite character was destroyed. He was my least favorite characters in the series though, so it makes sense) The very final timeskip may be a little sad to some and I definitely didn’t like how things ended up for Simon and Russio, but it could have been worse. The series definitely needs a sequel since Simon should be even stronger at this point. They’ll need to think up a really tough villain to fight him! The soundtrack is very good and the animation was definitely ahead of its time. The main cast may not have been too likable, but as long as we have great characters like Simon and Viral it’s okay. The series is fun enough to give it a 9/10, but I still have to deduct points for the fanservice and Kamina. That being said, I recommend it to mecha fans who can endure such negatives because the fights are really cool. I won’t say that they’re the strongest beings in media, but they are likely the strongest robots in media. (If you want to see the ultimate robot, you’ll need to watch the final movie, since that’s his only appearance) You can expect Simon to be fighting on the blog soon as well. When watching the series, make sure to be on the lookout for the alien invasion scene. (It was pretty awesome!)