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Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann The Movies – SideReel Review

Posted on: November 19, 2009

BURNING!The greatest strength of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann isn’t in its burning-hot fight scenes, though those are epic in scale and filled to the brim with awesomeness. It isn’t in the animation, though that’s vastly improved in the movies and gorgeous. It isn’t in the mech designs, either, even though the Gainax designs are impressive in their scope and inventiveness.

No, the strength of Gurren Lagann is its ability to make you stop caring about the bounds of reality. It doesn’t just invite you to suspend your disbelief – it tells you to toss it by the wayside, because there is no rule it won’t break in the pursuit of pure fun, and it plays it so straight that you can’t help but get caught up in its enthusiasm.

My enduring impression of the Gurren Lagann TV series comes from just after the last episode, when a friend of mine – a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley in the field of astrophysics – came up to me with a gigantic grin on his face and said “That was a great ending! It was so cool, and I have to tell you, if you stood on a galaxy and threw another galaxy as a throwing star like that, that’s exactly what would happen!” We all stared at him in shock after his patently stupid statement, but his grin persisted for a whole day before he sent me an IM saying “Okay, yeah, that’s probably not what would happen at all. But it was still awesome!”

That’s the power of Gurren Lagann – it never gives you the time to stop and think about what’s happening on screen, so just like the unquestioning characters, you accept it and allow the events to play out on Gainax’s terms, which have an almost child-like quality to them. In the world of Gurren Lagann, robots run on the fighting spirit of the pilot and can be repaired by the pure force of manliness. It’s perfectly okay for these robots to be made for the purpose of piloting bigger robots, which in turn pilot even bigger robots, which power battleships that are masquerading as the moon. And, by the end, you’re so caught in the anime’s spell that you can accept battleships being sunk by space water and robots the size of galaxies throwing nebulas at each other.

Simon, of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Simon the Digger, AKA the Anti-Shinji.

The movies take all of the sheer power of the TV series and condense it into 4 hours with surprisingly thorough results. While there are a few rushed scenes – most notably, the character introductions from the early part of the series are condensed into a few minutes of a montage and the supporting cast’s dialogue essentially consists of “Hi, this is my name! I’ll be important later!” – the direction and the pacing are crisp and tight for both movies. For newcomers to the series like me, the movies do a great job of covering all of the important parts of the story without bogging down in needless explanation. Of course, it helps that most of the characters are unthinking, unquestioning buffoons who just accept everything that they’re told (in one telling scene, the mechanic spends less than a minute talking about what’s going on and why, and the rest of the cast falls asleep between cuts) and they get to ignore the little details by having robots that are powered by guts and awesome instead of normal things like engines and reactors.

So, in the final estimation, let me give say that Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is required viewing for all anime fans. It will show you what it means to look at the world with a child’s sense of wonder, and leave a grin on your face that will probably last for a day.

The Good:
– Gainax and the mecha genre at its finest – you can feel the enthusiasm from the entire team as they poured their souls into making Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the epitome of the giant robot genre’s spirit, and the robot clashes will be indelibly etched in your memory.

The Bad:
– That rap song they use in the trailer is pretty jarring in contrast to the rest of the soundtrack, and they use it twice in the movies.

The Ugly:
– You can tell when Gainax started running into budget problems right at the end, with more re-used footage and an extended still shot after the climax of the movie.

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3 Responses to "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann The Movies – SideReel Review"

But Dom, how can you not love “ROW ROW FIGHT DA POWER!”?

I haven’t seen the 2nd half yet, but I’m hoping (now expecting, from your review) that it will be just as manly and awesome as the ending of the tv series. I refused to write in anything other than ALLCAPS for a week after it ended (needless to say, my teachers were pissed), and I’m hoping the movie will invoke something similar.

[…] know, as much as I enjoyed the movies, I can’t get excited about this trailer for the latest Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann music video […]

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