"Who the hell do you think I am!?"
-The hilariously cocksure Kamina-
You're really not paying attention if you can't see Gurren Lagann (2007) for what it is. Okay, you might be paying attention but not really getting the point. Alright, scratch that, you are likely very astute and it's simply not your cup of tea. Quite frankly, Gurren Lagann, as delicious a guilty pleasure as it is, just isn't for everyone.
Gurren Lagann is a volatile mix of testosterone-driven men (mostly) kept in good company by a voluptuous babe that would make Barbarella proud. The healthy, lung-intensive Yoko with her two mouth-watering scoops of flesh is on full display to tantalize men everywhere.
There must be something about redheads too. First, Asuka Langley Sohryu had me at hello in Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995-1996), despite her major personality defects, and now we have Yoko Littner, a wholly likeable hot-blooded, red-headed female warrior with a killer personality to boot if ever there was one to project desire.
Gurren Lagann makes no apologies for its delightful assault on the senses in almost every fashion. Macho men, babes and mecha. What more could one want from a more perfect anime formula given the full-on Studio Gainax treatment as, once again, they break all the rules along the way as only Gainax can.
Writer Kazuki Nakashima remembers planning the series with director Hiroyuki Imaishi. "From the outset, Mr. Imaishi said, "I want to make it a show with a high juvenile delinquency rating. I want it so bit by bit, none-too-bright folks would come to Team Gurren and form a team." Check!
Gurren Lagann is truly replete with a cast of colorful characters certainly blessed with a high delinquency quotient, but they are ever so likable despite these major deficiencies.
Nakshima added that the team wanted to make "Gurren Lagann a man's man anime." Check! Amen. If you don't believe it look no further than the exclamatory titles of Gurren Lagann. In this day and age finding an anime or anything in pop culture whereby the men don't check their balls in at the door is becoming something of a rare find. Kamina is indeed a charming representation of all that is good in a throwback to the world of men. He is a man's man not a shrinking violet or shrinking Shinji (Neon Genesis Evangelion).
Now, I've said before, Gurren Lagann, as a mecha anime, is completely retro in some ways, despite its break from conventions or cliché, to the classics of the 1970s. Gaiking. Great Mazinger. Getter Robo. And the list goes on. Gurren (piloted by Kamina and commandeered away from beastmen is introduced in this entry) and Lagann (piloted by Simon and was introduced in the debut episode here) combine like so many of the classic mecha anime and carry the torch and legacy of the 1970s greats in Gurren Lagann. Yet still the energy is indeed something wildly explosive for a new generation and the writing keeps things unpredictable for old school and new fans alike with a quick wit.
Though Nakashima makes additional interesting points when it comes to defining man here in Gurren Lagann juxtaposed against the inspiration of the 1970s. We learn more from Nakashima in the liner notes to Volume 1.
"You see a pattern a lot these days where 1970s-era passionate characters are being reduced to parodies, you know? In Gurren Lagann, we don't want to do that. We want to convey the message, 'Passionate men who have inherited the spirit of the 70s are alive and well in our show." So not only does gunmen Gurren and Lagann combine to inherit the spirit of mecha like so many of the 70s greats (see Gaiking here), so too does its characters and general vibe though this is indeed a much smarter affair with incredibly expert animation quality.
So the 70s homage in play is indeed one aspect of the series that allowed this Sci-Fi Fanatic entry. It is easy to identify with the energy, enthusiasm and spirit of this series. Raised and reared on a steady diet of Battle Of The Planets, Force Five and Star Blazers, a time when men were men and sheep were scared, informs the person I am today and Gurren Lagann connects with that person through its child-like energy and writing smarts. Gurren Lagann is one sharply executed mecha anime. Ironically, there is nothing juvenile or dumb about the achievements the series makes through its richly rendered characters and vibrant story appeal.