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Gurren Lagann? More Like License to Drill! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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July 16th, 2009


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07:22 pm - Gurren Lagann? More Like License to Drill!
From Gainax, the madmen who brought us Neon Genesis Evangelion and FLCL, comes Gurren Lagann, the show whose motto is "The only thing better than a mecha is a BIGGER MECHA."

My brother had been telling me to watch it for a while, and allsunday recommended it as well, so she let me borrow her DVDs in exchange for 100 Bullets. Coincidentally, the last anime she lent me, Last Exile, I watched with my brother, so clearly there is something going on here. And luckily, I loved Gurren Lagann much more than Last Exile.

Gurren Lagann begins in an underground village where the people are told never to go to the surface. Naturally, there is one ruffian, Kamina, who is just crazy enough to try to go to the surface. He enlists the help of Simon, an expert driller but just a young teenager. Then they're attacked by giant robots and saved by Yoko, a hot redhead with a big gun who basically drops out of the sky (as it were). Together, they reach the surface...only to discover that it's a wasteland plagued by giant robots called Gunmen piloted by creatures called Beastmen. Kamina will have none of this, and he and Simon team up and lead the resistance. I have not watched many classic mecha series, but I gather it's a fairly standard set-up: rag-tag group of humans fight against oppression with giant robots. Gurren Lagann, however, takes this basic plot and multiplies it over and over. About a third of the way through the series, there's a paradigm shift, and then another third of the way, there's an even bigger paradigm shift, so that it ends up being a lot more than it seems from its first few episodes. The stakes keeping getting raised, and the scope rises to the occasion. And, as usual, I hesitate to expound in more detail because part of the appeal of anime, to me, is that it's so much about discovering what the fuck is going on, and I normally go into each series having little idea what the fuck is going on. Which is great fun when, two-thirds of the way through basically any anime, they pull the rug out from under you.

The characters are quite likable and fun to root for. Kamina, for all his bluster and obsession with boobs, is fiercely loyal and has a big heart. He's charismatic enough for his team to buy into his motto of "Reject common sense to make the impossible possible!" His awesome catchphrase is "Who the hell do you think I am?!" (usually preceded or followed by a litany of awesome names he made up for his awesome self), and it's picked up by other characters as the supreme embodiment of "Do you know who the fuck you're messing with?!" Every single time someone said it, I thought it was awesome; it never got old. I love when characters find their inner strength. Which is what Simon needs to do when we first meet him. He's insecure and looks up to Kamina; they're both orphans, and Kamina takes him under his wing. Kamina believes in Simon when he doesn't believe in himself, and it's totally sweet and adorable. Yoko, despite her impractical, fanservice-y outfit, is totally badass. Not only does she constantly rail on the men who perv at her jiggly boobs, but she single-handedly takes down giant robots with a gun that's bigger than she is. She's agile and a great shot, and she frequently saves Kamina and Simon's asses. She really is a great character, and I cringed at the various boob shots because she deserves better than that. (She explains that she wears a bikini and short shorts because she doesn't want clothing that restricts her movement in combat situations. Clearly, she doesn't care about, you know, protecting herself.) There are a great many lively supporting characters that join the team, and, goshdarnit, I couldn't help falling in love with these underdogs fighting for the fate of humanity!

Gurren Lagann is notable for being awesome in ridiculous ways. For instance, in Gurren-Lagann's signature move, the GIGA DRILL BREAKER, the mecha conjures up a ginormous drill that is BIGGER THAN ITSELF. Truly, the law of conservation of matter does not hold in this show. This show hates physics (and it hates astrophysics even more). But mecha is much more fun when it's completely over-the-top, given that piloting a mecha involves screaming a lot. The battles in this show are pretty damn awesome, even though in some cases I couldn't figure out what was going on because it was just so nuts and drills were appearing out of nowhere and things were being thrown around and everything was exploding and yeah.

But in the end, it's a show about, quite literally, the human spirit. Our drive to progress, our refusal to stagnate, our ability to reject common sense to make the impossible possible. It's a rather inspiring story, in a way.

As usual, my penchant not to give away too much has led to an ineffective pimping. Gurren Lagann is about dudes and dudettes in giant robots engaging in awesome battles with other giant robots, and then they save the world. It's funny, it's sad, it's ludicrous, it's surprising, it's addictive, it's good times. And I say you should watch it! Is my recommendation not good enough for you? WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK I AM?!
Current Mood: anxiousanxious
Current Music: Emm Gryner - Christopher

(24 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:July 17th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
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Heh. Didn't even try to rhyme that title, did you?

I've seen tons of over-the-top, silly mecha anime, and they're pretty much all about the triumph of the human spirit. Just saying.

(Eh... don't mind me. I'm just very fed up with shounen anime of late.)

And I still say that if Gainax is claiming that they're reconstructing the mecha anime after Eva, they're more than a decade too late: Nadesico did that the very next year after Eva came out, and the genre has achieved a happy medium between fun and serious for a long time.

(If they want to deconstuct shounen anime, how about a series where "manly determination" does not allow people to triumph without proper training and with no plan or thought? Oh wait, that's been done.)


Anyway, what's next?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)
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Heh. Didn't even try to rhyme that title, did you?
The best I could do was Durum Wagon.

I've seen tons of over-the-top, silly mecha anime, and they're pretty much all about the triumph of the human spirit. Just saying.
Heh. Yeah, I don't know what differentiates Gurren Lagann from the others except that it's one people have recommended to me. I really enjoyed it, so I'm good!

And I still say that if Gainax is claiming that they're reconstructing the mecha anime after Eva, they're more than a decade too late: Nadesico did that the very next year after Eva came out, and the genre has achieved a happy medium between fun and serious for a long time.
Well, I don't know what Gainax claims. I know what scifantasy claims. And, huh, I'm not sure I realized that it only came out in 2007. It's pretty popular!

If they want to deconstuct shounen anime, how about a series where "manly determination" does not allow people to triumph without proper training and with no plan or thought? Oh wait, that's been done.
Oh, interesting. I was wondering whether anyone had tried to do a realistic mecha series.

Anyway, what's next?
No idea. Still deciding. I've got a busy few weeks ahead of me, so I won't be starting a new series until the middle of August anyway. Probably won't be anime, though. Unless it is.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:18 am (UTC)
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The best I could do was Durum Wagon.
You definitely went with the better option.

I was wondering whether anyone had tried to do a realistic mecha series.
There have been a number of them. Some manga/anime creators have a better grasp of science and more of an eye towards those sort of details than others. Masamune Shirow, for instance, is just way too obsessive about being realistic with those little details for any of his cyberpunk to not be as realistic as he can make it.

No idea. Still deciding. I've got a busy few weeks ahead of me, so I won't be starting a new series until the middle of August anyway. Probably won't be anime, though. Unless it is.
If it is anime, then I recommend one of the following: Noir (you know why), Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (cyberpunk based on manga by the aforementioned Shirow: social theory, the internet, terrorist memes, transhumanism, brain-hacking, information warfare and not being able to trust your own senses) or Seirei no Moribito (low-magic fantasy written by an anthropologist). All very intelligent series with badass action and complex plots, and with the exception of GITS:SAC have very little fan service. Pretty much my three favorites right now.


Finished the first season of Leverage, by the way. T'was quite entertaining.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:22 am (UTC)
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Yay!! I just watched the new episode. Wheee.

And I have your three favorites in mind, no worries.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:July 17th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
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I just finished it myself. Very fun stuff. "Why are you in here? ...You bought my building?"


You will not be disappointed by those three series, I think.
[User Picture]
From:scifantasy
Date:July 17th, 2009 07:16 am (UTC)
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if Gainax is claiming that they're reconstructing the mecha anime after Eva, they're more than a decade too late

Well, as spectralbovine said, I've been saying something along those lines.

And while yes, I know that there have been reconstruction-type shows after Eva (hell, GaoGaiGar was the same year as Eva, and that was literally a '70s-era "courage is the key!" throwback), I think Gurren Lagann is significant specifically because it's Gainax. The company that deconstructed giant-mecha shows so thoroughly, and pissed off so many fans with End of Eva, is doing its reconstruction. There's something significant to that.

(Plus, I like how since Eva, Gainax has been doing weird upbeat stuff with phallic imagery. First FLCL, now this.)
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:July 17th, 2009 03:17 pm (UTC)
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Plus, I like how since Eva, Gainax has been doing weird upbeat stuff with phallic imagery. First FLCL, now this.
As I recall pretty much everything they did before Eva was fairly lighthearted, too, as far as I know. They're a fairly upbeat studio, from what I can tell. Before they were known for their weird endings, they were known for their bouncing breasts. Eva's kind of the exception.

(Abenobashi was upbeat but as I recall it lacked the phallic imagery... probably because it was more kiddie oriented. It was strange in other ways, tho.)
[User Picture]
From:scifantasy
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
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As I recall pretty much everything they did before Eva was fairly lighthearted, too, as far as I know.

Yeah, I know...but both FLCL and Gurren Lagann strike me as specifically anti-Eva-depression shows. Especially FLCL.
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:July 18th, 2009 01:15 am (UTC)
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Yeah, that was my roommate's theory when he was introducing me to anime back in 2001: "After Evangelion, they were all, 'Okay, now let's make something happy!' So they made FLCL."
[User Picture]
From:scifantasy
Date:July 18th, 2009 02:17 am (UTC)
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Pretty much, yeah. As evidenced by Anno (Hideaki, mastermind of Eva who had a depressive breakdown halfway through the series) contributing only the voice of a non-anthropomorphic cat (yes, he meowed) in that later.

I personally think the planning meeting for Gurren Lagann went like this:

"OK...we've done baseball and guitars. Is there something more phallic?"
"Guys, guys! I got it...giant drills."
"Brilliant!"
"Let's do a mecha series!"
"What, another one? After the last time we did that?"
"No, no...an old-fashioned one. Completely over the top, hot blooded badasses that save the world...with giant drills."
"Perfect!"
[User Picture]
From:the_narration
Date:July 18th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
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As evidenced by Anno (Hideaki, mastermind of Eva who had a depressive breakdown halfway through the series) contributing only the voice of a non-anthropomorphic cat (yes, he meowed) in that later.
Well, honestly, I wouldn't want to trust any series of mine to Anno, either. He's just not reliable: aside from his breakdown on NGE there's also his walking out on Kare Kano halfway through and leaving his protege (who later directed FLCL) to finish it. And then there's, y'know, the depression and undisguised hate for the audience.

I personally think the planning meeting for Gurren Lagann went like this:
Heh! Yeah, probably exactly like that.
From:toastandtea
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:00 am (UTC)
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I am a fan of Gainax, giant robots, awesome battles, AND saving the world! THIS SOUNDS RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:05 am (UTC)
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WIN WIN WIN WIN!
[User Picture]
From:chasethestars
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:34 am (UTC)
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I loved Evangelion and FLCL, and I do enjoy giant robots, big guns, and hot redheads. *adds Gurren Lagann to to-watch list*
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:38 am (UTC)
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Huzzah! A successful pimper is me!
[User Picture]
From:outforawalk
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
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Is it wrong that this just makes me want to watch The Next Doctor again?
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
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Hee!
[User Picture]
From:capnnick
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
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All the cool kids in the school like this one. A winner is you!
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 04:57 am (UTC)
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Yay! Now I am a cool kid!
[User Picture]
From:redsouffle
Date:July 17th, 2009 05:06 am (UTC)
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I toooooolllld you. Anything that involves PUNCHING A HOLE IN THE UNIVERSE has got to be awesome.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 05:14 am (UTC)
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THAT WAS AWESOME.

AND THEY WERE LIKE, "UH. WHAT IS THAT?"

AND LEERON WAS ALL, "SIMON MUST HAVE PUNCHED A HOLE IN SPACE-TIME."

AND THEY WERE LIKE, "OKAY, COOL."
[User Picture]
From:redsouffle
Date:July 17th, 2009 06:53 am (UTC)
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I <3<3<3<3<3<3<3 LEERON OMFG.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 17th, 2009 06:55 am (UTC)
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I found him really annoying in the beginning, but then they toned down the whole "HE HAS A CRUSH ON EVERY BOY!" thing and focused more on his mechanic skillz, and then he was pretty sweet. Near the end, he is speaking completely in technobabble.
[User Picture]
From:ebongreen
Date:July 19th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
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(She explains that she wears a bikini and short shorts because she doesn't want clothing that restricts her movement in combat situations. Clearly, she doesn't care about, you know, protecting herself.)

Surely you know the trope? :-)

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