I would like to thank Chris Pranger for being such a good sport lately. And not just for giving me full position here at Toy-TMA, this goes way beyond that. Back as a guest writer, I never thought he’d actually approve of my DBZ article, as it was so long and unexpected. Not only that, but I finally convinced him to watch my personal favorite show, Avatar the Last Airbender. It only took me about three freaking years, but I did it (of course, I probably have my other good friend Kyle Martinak to thank for giving him the final approval, but I can still pretend I had something to do with it). So to show my gratitude, I would like to begin a new segment for the year 2011 called Triple A [Authentically Awesome Anime] in which I recommend other shows that Mr. Pranger and those like him will undoubtedly enjoy, and as a small experiment for myself, see just how long it actually takes him to give it a chance. For my first segment, I recommend this short animated series that is available right now on Netflix instant play. A show that not only made me fall in love with anime all over again, but became my benchmark reference point for what makes a perfect animated series. A show that does in 27 episodes what Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and nearly every other Shonen Anime takes seasons to accomplish, if they’re lucky. A show that takes the word “epic” and beats it to a pulp, tenderizes it, and shreds it to pieces before redefining it and rendering all previous uses of the term meaningless. A show that… well you get the point. This is Gurren Lagann.
From the studio that brought us the ludicrously overhyped series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a lean 27 episode mech-anime series that was licensed and dubbed by Bandai in 2007. The story involves a future where the earth’s surface is ravaged by an army of vicious “beastmen” commanding deadly machines called “gunmen” (easy enough to learn). What’s left of the human race lives their lives in underground tunnels across the globe, forever in danger of the earthquakes caused by the gunmen above. Then one day, a 14-year-old drill-digger named Simon unearths a hidden treasure. A treasure that he soon discovers is the key to a very special gunmen he also finds deep underground. With the guidance and unrelenting impulsiveness of his “Bro” Kamina forever pressing him forward, Simon takes control of his gunman and with it, drills strait to the earth’s surface. Together, the two bros meet a tenacious rifle-savvy redhead named Yoko and a brilliant yet uncomfortably flamboyant mechanic named Leron. These four set off on a journey to spark a revolution that will inspire all of mankind to crawl out of the dirt and fight any and all dangers on the other side.
And that’s pretty much all I’m going to tell you. Go see it for yourself. The plot is one of the most compelling and well thought out I’ve seen of any show in the same genre. You WILL be unprepared for what happens to these guys. The characters are fun and unique, and they experience real genuine drama and emotional depth. The action is insurmountably hardcore. The best way to describe it would be to imagine your favorite show featuring giant robots as a kid, be it Power Rangers or Transformers, then crank it up to 11 so that it more than appeals to you as an adult. The animation, with the exception of one particular episode (ep.4), is some of the most beautiful Japan has to offer. There is one shot in particular in the first episode, when Simon, Kamina, and Yoko burst out of the ground and we see the surface for the first time. That one shot has to be one of the most gorgeous shot I’ve ever seen drawn on paper.
The original uncut Japanese run with subtitles can be purchased in a 3 part DVD set here, here, and here. As said before, the whole series is also available, fully dubbed in English on Netflix Instant Play. However, if it’s at all possible for any of you, I would strongly recommend contacting your local anime nut and finding the original Japanese version on DVD or online. I’ve watched both, and while the dubbed version isn’t terrible like some anime, (cough~4Kids) some of the voices and translations in English didn’t feel authentic to me. It’s just not as good.
Despite however you watch it, Gurren Lagann is the drill that pierces the heavens in action, characters, story, and all out design. It wins my approval, and in do time, it will win yours.
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