Gurren Lagann, Remembering love, Part 1

by RP on June 30, 2009 · 8 comments

Simon and Gurren Lagann

Apologies to ghostlightning for ripping off the title, but it felt like the most appropriate choice of words. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Hopefully my post does the name some justice. ;-)

Real life had been bringing me down. All around my I see people affected with "pussyfooting" disease. Decisions that should take a day, instead take a month – and for no reason but to fret over frivolous and insignificant details. Work that could be done in 5 days, instead takes 5 weeks for no good reason. And all I can do is get bogged down in the mire. It’s in moments like these where I want to yell "FUZAKENNA! Who the hell do you think I am?" and then blast all the inertia to smithereens with gattai power.

But lacking the cajones to do something like that (and probably having too much good sense as well), I decided to do the next best thing. Rewatch Gurren Lagann. And vicariously experience "going beyond the impossible and kicking reason to the curb!"

Here are some of my thoughts as I rewatched the first half of the show.

Needless to say, there’s plenty of SPOILERS from episode 1-15, so proceed at your own risk.

Episode 1: Love at first sight

Amidst all the anime I’ve seen, two introductory scenes stick out in my mind.

One is the first scenes of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya’s, when Kyon is walking up the hill talking about believing in espers and aliens when he was younger. I could relate to this completely. It was as if he was describing me. And it was in this brief, quiet moment that I connected with TMoHS, and knew Haruhi was going to be something special.

The other moment, as you can guess, came from Gurren Lagann, when Simon talks about his job and reason for digging. I don’t exactly know why this particular scene is so affecting for me, because unlike the scene in Haruhi, it seems much less personal. Maybe it’s the simple, but unique animation. Maybe it’s because of the sparse piano in the background. Maybe it’s because it’s such a contrast to almost every other scene in Gurren Lagann. Or maybe it’s because of the sound of Simon’s voice – which harkens of both hope and hopelessness. It’s a shounen archetype – to take an average guy and turn him into a superpower – but despite the strange scenario, there was something about this scene that just felt very real and very relatable. To feel like you’re doing something menial, but to do it, not for the man, and not for the pig-mole steaks, but because you have a special reason of your own. And when I saw this, I felt the same thing I did when I was listening to Kyon talk – this anime was going to be something special.

Episode 8: Death of a legend

Has any character ever made such a huge impact in such a short period of time? Kamina’s MAL favorites-to-episodes ratio handily beats out even Haruhi and L Lawliet. It took 8 episodes to become a hero, and one moment of silence to become a legend. My only regret is that this episode didn’t end in complete silence.

Kamina and SimonKamina and the Gurren Lagann crew

Two years after the fact, I’m not going to say anything new about Kamina’s death that hasn’t been said already, but I think killing him – and keeping him dead – was probably the 2nd boldest decision that Gainax made with this show.

It’s worth noting that for all of the "making the impossible, possible" moments in Gurren Lagann, coming back from the dead is the one thing in which the impossible remained impossible. I think that’s one of the more understated reasons for why Gurren Lagann was so powerful, and why even though it seemed like the heroes had a neverending level of power-ups available to them, each battle was a tense, heart-racing affair.

"The dead do not suffer the living to pass." If you die, you stay dead. What a simple, but powerful concept.

Episode 11: Birth of a legend

There were a bunch of things I realized I missed the first time I watched Gurren Lagann. But it boggles my mind that I didn’t give the following scene the justice it deserved on my first watch through.

Kamina had some fantastic lines. It seemed like every word out of his mouth was tailor made for the GAR hall of fame, but I think the greatest line in Gurren Lagann – and possibly ever – was uttered by Simon. I’ve watched this scene, in which he faces off against Guame, delivering the coming-of-age speech for the ages, about 40 times. And each time I watch it, I get the same goosebumps and a tear in my eye.

I don’t know if I have the words to give the speech justice. When Simon talks about accepting Kamina’s death, but vowing to continue with him in his heart – that was crazy moving. But then Tetsuya Kakihara takes it another level by delivering the most perfect lines with the most perfect mix of coolness, GARness, and emotion ever – "Digging a hole to pierce the heavens. Even in a grave, I can drill on. And if I can breakthrough, it’s my victory." And then brings it full circle by using Kamina’s line "Who the hell do you think I am." is just… incredible. The setting is perfect, the delivery is perfect, the insert song is perfect. Am I just saying it’s perfect, because I lack the ability to describe it more appropriately? Yeah, probably. But I’m just simply astounded at how great, how powerful this one scene is, how it boils up all that Simon’s been holding back, and lets it loose so brilliantly.

Nia, hontouni daisuke!

Nia TeppelinNia and Simon

I loved Nia before – but my love is now completely off the charts after rewatching the first half – and it’s not just because I love the design of her eyes, her colorful outfit, her cute voice and her unfailing optimism. She may have served as a replacement for Kamina of sorts, helping Simon grow and become the man that he becomes. But she proved herself to be more than just a handy shounen plot device. I think she loses some respect because she has that moe thing going, and I guess because she lacks Yoko’s curves, revealing outfit and big gun. But I think Nia has proven herself to be one of the best female characters ever. Case in point:

  • When she finds out that the crew considers her to be the enemy and that she may be hated. She doesn’t worry or get down on herself, she doesn’t whine about the unfairness of her situation. She recognizes their views and vows to take steps of her own to understand more about them.
  • When Adiane attacks the Dai Gurren, and Kittan is berating Simon, it’s Nia who takes the initiative and challenges Adiane, defending the plight of the people she just met (and who’ve deemed her the enemy). She stands for what she believes is right and questions Adiane’s willingness to following the Helix King’s orders blindly.
  • When she learns that her father has abandoned her and ordered for her to be killed, she doesn’t mope and fall into depression, instead she challenges him and his generals, and fights for herself, as well as the people who now support her.
  • When the Dai Gurren’s allies are hopelessly dying by flying into the Helix Tornado, and the comm systems are down, she thinks and reacts quickly, projecting herself and her words out to the group.
  • When she and Simon finally confront the Helix King, and they realize talking won’t fix the problem, she doesn’t hesitate to fight against him. There’s no hand-wringing, no pussyfooting, she makes a decision and acts upon it.
  • And finally, when her father falls to his death, I was incredibly impressed by the resolve on her face and her choice of words "Sayonara, I will face towards tomorrow." No regrets, no wallowing. Acceptance of the inevitable, the unchangeable. And the strength to move on. That is true greatness of character. That is true GAR.
  • Oh, and she’s a wonderful cook. ;-)

Her endless optimism may be a stereotypical trait, but she’s proven to be much more than just a girl with a cute design and a bright outlook on life. Rather, she’s one of strongest characters I can ever recall seeing.

Those fricking magnificent eyecatches

I want every one of those magnificent eyecatches as paintings on my walls. Every one of them is just busting at the seams with bad-ass style.

And while I’m at it, the scenes below weren’t in eyecatch format, but I would want to hang them on my wall regardless. Seriously, if someone has the skillz to paint something these on like a 36×24 canvas, I would totally buy it. May I create a house of GAR and inspiration.

Simon digging a hole to pierce the heavensNia digging a hole to pierce the heavens

Episode 16: The most necessary recap episode ever

I’m not a fan of recap episodes. I usually just skip over them. But if there was one show that really deserved it, it’s Gurren Lagann. Partly because you really need a breather after everything that had happened, and partly because a recap is actually helpful to get the story altogether in our heads. It also serves as a natural break for what I think was the boldest decision Gainax made with Gurren Lagann – to not end the show on a triumphant note and to tell the story of what happens after the hero "wins."

To be continued…

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