Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Pierces the Heavens in more ways than one

by eternal on February 15, 2010


I missed a lot of the buzz surrounding Gurren Lagann when it first aired. I knew about the drills and the dramatic quotes and episode 8, but that was it. It seemed like one of those shows that my friend was always talking about: big, colourful robots that fuse together and punch the lights out of other big, colourful robots. To be honest, I expected to hear cheesy brass-filled BGM when I finally watched it, and I was more focused on how over-the-top it was instead of on the story it was trying to tell.

Of course, it’s a bit late to be talking about a series as popular as this, but the pair of summary movies allowed me to see the story in a different light. It’s interesting to see how much sense it all makes when you’re not caught up with Kamina’s manliness and Yoko’s breasts. In fact, when I witnessed the epic conclusion for the second time, something clicked in my head that hadn’t clicked before.

I don’t want to force my own reading of the story onto seasoned super robot fans since I’m anything but that, but when I thought about the style and tone that surrounds popular classic mecha shows like Giant Robo, I latched onto an idea that I’ll never be able to let go of.

Let me start with this: what is the super robot genre about? This is just a theory on my part, but I think it’s about passion. It’s about the emotions and sentiments that are associated with the term “GAR,” though they have existed long before the meme was born. Manliness is a legitimate way of interpreting the over-dramatic characters and idealistic passion, but it’s also a tad shallow. Passion can run a lot deeper than mere heroism. Some shounen/seinen series deal with coming-of-age and others star a scarred protagonist with a tragic past, but one element remains constant: the hero possesses the idealistic passion and desire to win at all costs, and the sheer force of his passion leads him to victory against all odds.

When you look back at Gurren Lagann with all of the spoilers in place, a handful of symbols make themselves visible. The most notable one is the drill, which was explained at some point in the story. Simon and Kamina use their drills to drill past anything and everything. It represents their unbreakable passion. Do the impossible, see the invisible… right? And there’s no need to explain what ROW ROW FIGHT DA POWAH is supposed to mean.

The so-called “spiral” power of humanity is also a reference to the drill symbol and its implications. The spiral is a motif in the story and a very relevant plot device. Spiral power is literally the strength of humanity: it represents the undying will of the human race to live. As humans evolved biologically and as society developed uncontrollably, civilization was split into the “spirals” and “anti-spirals”. The anti-spirals sealed away the spirals, repressing their growth, because they knew that growth would eventually lead to their demise.

And as you well know, the anti-spirals are the main villains of the story.

The implications are obvious. Simon’s spiral power is symbolic of his desire; of humanity’s desire. Spiral power touches the untouchable and breaks the unbreakable. Even if, as sci-fi novelists persistently remind us, the development of the human race will eventually lead to its demise, nothing justifies the erasure of life. Live life to its fullest, meet your challenges head on, and have no regrets – these are the basic sentiments behind the super robot genre and shounen anime as a whole. Gurren Lagann isn’t just manly: it’s figuratively and literally a showcase of the passionate idealism that defines its genre.

When I came to this realization, I knew that the series would never be the same. It had always been an exciting experience, well worthy of a high grade on MAL, but I couldn’t attach any meaning to it. I labeled it as nothing more than a revival of the classic super robot genre without searching for more. In reality, the show’s symbols and motifs are well thought out, if not a little obvious. The story makes sense thematically, and it’s an incredible visualization of everything that it stands for. Believing in the you who believes in me; saving the world with the magical power of who the hell do you think WE are?! It pierces the heavens with its unyielding passion to see what lies beyond, just because it can.

And let’s not forget that it’s epic.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

digitalboy February 16, 2010 at 1:16 am

Congratulations, you now understand the heart of a giant robot fan.


kadian1364 February 16, 2010 at 5:24 pm

To all the children, congratulations!


kevo February 20, 2010 at 4:35 am

Agreed 1000%.

I also constantly convince myself that the reason my TTGL movie post has no comments because it is too epic for mere comments, but this post has now shattered my psyche.


Hack Crack June 4, 2010 at 9:07 am

the bette serie of world


Foxxy G. July 5, 2010 at 3:35 pm



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