I’ll admit that while I’ve been a fan of this show for years, until literally early this morning I had never FINISHED it. I knew the beginning of the show as I’d seen it plenty of times and I knew the jist of the plot but never really went through from start to finish. Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a Gainax show frequently associated with TRIGGER! as its director, Hiroyuki Imaishi, was one of the co-founders and is famous for making things like Drills in this show and Life Fibers in Kill La Kill one of the strangest if not interesting plot points in anime.
The show begins with the introduction of the meek and shy Simon the Digger, who lives underground with his blood-brother-but-not-really-blood-brother Kamina. Kamina serves as a motivational figure for young Simon as well as the leader of Team Gurren. The two of them live underground with other humans and seek to pierce the heavens and see the world above their village. Their lives are thrown for a loop when a beautiful and scantily clad woman with a massive sniper rifle appear combating a giant robot termed a “Gunmen” in the middle of the village. Kamina rushes to combat it alongside the woman named Yoko as Simon begins to dig towards a giant face in the earth he had found. This turns out to be another smaller Gunmen that Kamina names Lagann and that Simon can power using a Core Drill he found. Lagann enables Team Gurren to combat the Gunmen and save the village, as well as see the surface.
Through the power of Lagann and the leadership of Kamina, Team Gurren grows in size and power as Gunmen are hijacked from their Beastmen pilots. This movement leads Kamina to rename the group to Team Dai-Gurren and they see success against the Beastmen forces led by the formidable Viral. By combining into the powerful Gurren Lagann, Team Dai-Gurren grows to include individuals from different villages including the young and serious Rossiu, and the brash Black Siblings. However around 8 episodes in, Viral and one of the Four Beastmen Generals, Thymilph attack Team Dai-Gurren with the massive Dai-Gunzan, and while Team Dai-Gurren defeat him and capture Dai-Gunzan, Kamina is mortally wounded after literally knocking some sense into Simon.
Depressed with the loss of Kamina, Simon spirals into a nearly suicidal state of mind and the rest of Team Dai-Gurren are on edge. Simon finds a box in a pit containing a beautiful girl named Nia and rescues her from the Gunmen in the area. While still moping, Nia begins to slowly incorporate some self-confidence into Simon by citing the fact it was Simon, without Kamina, that saved her. It is later revealed that Nia is the daughter of the Beastmen’s leader, the Spiral King Lordgenome. Later combating the rest of the Four Beastmen Generals and continually beating Viral, Team Dai-Gurren find themselves besieging the capital of Teppelin. By this point, Simon’s manly spirit has come forward and enabled Team Dai-Gurren to come out on top every time and Gurren Lagann becoming more and more powerful each time. Finally meeting Lordgenome face to face, Simon is seemingly defeated until he utilizes his Core Drill to finally beat him, but not before Lordgenome provides the cryptic warning “When the land overflows with a million apes, the moon shall become Hell’s messenger and completely destroy the world of the spiral.”
Seven years later, we find humanity prospering based out of the ruins of Teppelin now named Kamina City. Simon was selected as the Supreme Commander of humanity, Rossiu serving as Chief Advisor and second in command, and the rest of the members of Team Dai-Gurren serving as other senior cabinet members except for Yoko who departed a year or so into the restructuring of humanity’s government. Rossiu continues to be the logical member of the leadership and all seems well, with reports of the effectively immortal Viral fighting out in the desert and Simon being kept from fighting on the front line. Surprisingly, Viral was combating for the right of some humans to live underground as they wanted, and leading Simon to confront Rossiu with Rossiu justifying the need for an accurate census and thus why they were being forced onto the surface. Upon hitting the million census mark, a strange mecha with no face appears and begins to lay waste to Kamina City. The new Grapearl mecha that replaced the Gunmen are no match for it and it is discovered that Gurren Lagann and the old Gunmen were able to combat this new threat with their Spiral Power. Nia is subsequently possessed and it is revealed that this threat is the Anti-Spiral race and that now that humanity has achieved critical mass, they now summon the moon to strike the Earth and destroy it. Nia then disappears as she was in reality a genetically coded alert system for the Anti-Spirals, and Rossiu discovered all of this through his use of a cloned bio computer of Lordgenome’s remains.
The next few episodes continue to escalate with Simon being convicted and sentenced to death for the destruction in Kamina City by Rossiu, who then makes the tough calls to try to save what he can of the human race. As the Anti-Spiral fights continue to escalated, Viral meets Simon in prison and the two obtain a mutual respect after all their interaction over the years. They join forces and head off to save the day and the earth and uncover that the moon is really Lordgenome’s battleship, the Cathedral Terra, which Simon subsequently captures and powers through his Spiral Power. The Team Dai-Gurren then embark on a multi-dimensional journey to rescue Nia and defeat the Anti-Spirals. I won’t go into more details on the final episodes as they are too epic to describe in words and do them justice.
One reason why I love this show is the themes of never giving up and that through enough hard work and dedication, anything is possible. Another amazing aspect of this show is the fantastic impact and delivery of the lines. So many of their lines and recurring statements and sayings are memorable and just hit you hard. Lines like “Believe in the me that believes in you” and the constant and appropriate use of “Who the hell do you think I am?” in such great context deliver so well throughout the entire show. The music is all really good and I dare you to listen to Libera Me From Hell and not just feel 110% motivated. There is so much more to this anime that what I’ve discussed and the best advice I have to you is to go out and watch this masterpiece of a show. Like I said, the main theme that Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann drills home is that manly spirit and determination will always win out in the end and that love can transcend time and space. You just need to believe in the you who believes in yourself.