anime, misc.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, or How A Show About Super Robots Improved My Outlook.

Last night, after hitting my 200th anime completed milestone (post coming soon!) I decided to finally watch the second Gurren Lagann movie. I don’t know why I’d put it off for so long, maybe I just didn’t want the series to end. There I sat, tears streaming down my cheeks, a smile reaching my eyes – all the feelings I experienced when I first finished the original series. How does a show about mechs, of all things, manage to bring out such strong emotion in me?

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Before I talk about why I believe Gurren Lagann resonated with me so much, I guess I’ll preface with a little about me. For as long as I remember, I’ve suffered with depression and severe anxiety. I held myself back from everything out of the fear of not being good enough, or that something would go wrong, and drove myself mad with my own thoughts. Whilst I improved slightly after going to therapy in my teens, I’ll never be free from my thoughts, and to this day still find myself rocking back and forth on my floor in panic about a situation that may or may not happen. So, to say I need a boost sometimes is an understatement.

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Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann translates to ‘Pierce the Heavens, Gurren Lagann!’, with Gurren Lagann being the gigantic (seriously, 52 lightyears high) mech Team Dai-Gurren come to pilot during the series. Pierce the Heavens in this case can be seen in a number of different ways. Whilst Team Dai-Gurren literally find themselves piercing the heavens to the metaphysical universe with a Giga Drill Break in their final battle, one can view Gurren Lagann’s primary message as symbolic also.

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If we view Simon at the beginning of the series, many people (such as myself) can definitely see a little of ourselves in him. He doesn’t have a lot of faith in himself, and finds himself shunned from his small community. The only thing he has is a drill, and prides himself on being a great digger. However, with the help of his older ‘bro’ Kamina, who repeatedly tells him that ‘YOUR DRILL IS THE DRILL THAT WILL PIERCE THE HEAVENS’ (it doesn’t feel right to type such an iconic line in lowercase!), Simon slowly builds up the confidence and courage to come out of his shell, and of course, eventually become the saviour of mankind and the entire galaxy.  This line, coming from Kamina, who serves as the entire driving force behind the entire series can again, be interpreted in two ways. We may take it literally, following Kamina and Simon’s desire to see the surface of the world they live in. Or we may take it more personally. Simon’s belief is in his drill, but the drill cannot operate without its owner – which is what makes Simon’s drill so special. Piercing the heavens in Simon’s case (or if we use the other translation of Tengen Toppa, which is Heavenly Breakthrough) is to break out of the shell that he’s hiding himself in and to reach his full potential. Seeing Simon doing this resonated with me, for after all, he is just ‘Simon the Digger’.

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Many argue that Simon is nothing without Kamina, and at the beginning, that would be true. And as I mentioned before, Kamina truly does serve as the driving force behind all the events in Gurren Lagann. It is his spirit that pulls Team Dai-Gurren out of despair (because who the hell do you think they are?!), and resonates with them long after his demise. To say his influence on Simon is important is correct, but the series shows that Simon is just as inspirational and important as Kamina. Kamina surely awakens Simon’s spiral energy (another metaphor, representing human spirit), but it is Simon at the end who has the power to harness this energy, and it is Simon’s soul and energy that powers Team Dai-Gurren’s signature move.

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For someone who had previously accepted death and despair after the loss of his closest friend and family, who was ready to admit defeat to get back on his feet and become essentially Humanity’s Greatest Warrior…it really makes you feel some way.

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Kamina is of course, the poster boy of Gurren Lagann, and serves as a huge source of inspiration. The iconic line ‘Believe in the you that believes in yourself’ is incredibly important not only to the characters to the show (for this is the line that essentially pushes Simon to believe he can be a hero without Kamina in front of him), but also to the viewers. Those who have no belief in themselves will never be the heroes that they admire (such as Simon initially having belief in Kamina in absence of belief in himself), and therefore it is critical to believe in yourself first and foremost.

Taking this all on as someone with little self confidence and faith, Gurren Lagann really triggered a whole wave of feelings inside me. Sure, I’m never going to pilot a mech that’s going to save the entire universe. But how could I admit defeat to the smallest things, and rely on others only, when I can just be my own hero? Even stepping out of Simon’s shoes, and looking at the rest of Team Dai-Gurren as inspiration. Every single one of them had a role, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant it may seem. Even the team’s mascot, Boota, managed to carry the team out of safety when they needed it.

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Gurren Lagann is often described as a mech show for people who do not care for mechs due to its deconstruction of the genre. Whilst this still rings true, Gurren Lagann should be considered important viewing to non-mech fans purely because it goes beyond mech. The mechs are simply an aid to the story, and whilst they’re cool and serve an important purpose, it is the characters and their development behind the mechs that ultimately creates both the stories and the amazing mech fights. I laughed, cried and everything in between for the characters of Gurren Lagann, and refer back to the show almost every time I find myself falling into an abyss of self pity.

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My rating – 10/10

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Until next time!

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11 thoughts on “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, or How A Show About Super Robots Improved My Outlook.”

  1. ‘Believe in the you that believes in yourself’, I am pretty sure it was , “Believe in the me that believes in you”. Beside that, the article was pretty concise and I guess personal. Hmm, therapy, must be some complex stuff. But if the show gave you a good boost, then as long as it pumps the gears of life into you then you have at least taken in what I think really counts from the show. Anyways keep posting more new stuff. I wonder if you have seen Darling in the Franxx. FYI, I am still banned from My Anime list discord.

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    1. It had variations! It started as ‘Believe in me’, then ‘Believe in the you I believe in’, before finally ‘Believe in the you that believes in yourself’.

      I’m watching, and liking FranXX. I’ll probably post about it at the end of the season. 🙂

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      1. I am pretty sure you’re hyped for the last episode which has Miyazaki Hayao directing it. Man, A1 pictures can get the great director to direct tv anime, freaken amazing.

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  2. I find the themes and discussion that come from this show more entertaining than the show itself. The reason for this I suspect is because I had already seen it done before and better in Gunbuster. That scene in which Simon crosses his arms is a reference to the ‘Gunbuster pose’

    http://gunbuster.wikia.com/wiki/Gunbuster_Pose (I would post images in the comment if I knew how.)

    ‘How does a show about mechs, of all things, manage to bring out such strong emotion in me?’ Don’t underestimate the mecha genre! Check out Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gunbuster and SDF Macross. Although let me warn you that it will make it much harder for you to enjoy most anime because of how good they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ah, TTGL, a mecha that drilled its way into my soul. Reading this reminded me of the feelings after each climax in the show. Perfect review of one of my all time favorite shows. Thank you so much for reminding me of the feelings this show gave me. Keep up the amazing work!

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