Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann – Impressions (Ep. 1 – 10)

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Gurren-Lagann is the antithesis of what I should be watching, with all of the fanservice and not too intelligent story (so far), but it’s just so full of burning spirit that I can’t help but love it. It’s definitely a show to watch when you just want to turn your brain off for a while, but for the mindless entertainment that it is, it’s really really good. For the most part.

Read on for some more rambling and my opinions on each episode so far. Contain spoilers.

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I’ve been so anxious to know what was going to happen next that I’ve watched most of this RAW just so I can see each new episode on the Sunday it airs in Japan, which is kind of pointless because by now I’ve fallen behind to watching each episode the following week, so I may as well just wait for fansubs. I can also only understand about half of what’s going on; I get the gist of things but not the fine details. To make things worse, all of the macho, tough guy Japanese that characters such as Kamina and Kittan sprout (sprouted in Kamina’s case) just make things even less easily understandable.
The point of all of that was to say that I’m basically reviewing this thing while not understanding everything and basing my impressions of what in the world is going on on little tads of dialogue that I do understand and levels of manly burning spirit that abound. (And, really, the burning spirit is all that should be needed.)

So. To start at the very beginning, I suppose it’s important to mention that I was originally very cautious of this show because it was made by Gainax. They’ve made some of my favorite series, such as Gunbuster and Evangelion, but more recent shows such as He is My Master and Konomini aren’t exactly the type of thing I’d be watching (In fact, they’re closer to the type of thing to send me running away screaming.). I took a glance at the promo image and decided it would maybe be ok, since there were no maids and I’ve come to like mecha shows. And man, am I even glad that I gave it a shot.

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Episode 1 set the tone for the majority of the show so far: weird and energetic. With weird, I mean the WTF moments such as the huge tower of pig things. With energetic, I mean all of the burning spirit (I’ll be mentioning this a lot, if you haven’t noticed!) and the fighting scenes. It would probably be quite a (or even more of a) generic show if it weren’t for the refreshing mecha designs: a mecha that’s basically a giant head isn’t exactly what you’d find in other mecha shows. In fact, it’s such a distinct featured that I’ve come to call it “the big head mecha show!” when talking to my boyfriend, because I feel silly trying to pronounce the actual title. Aside from all of that, the animation was also not to shabby, particularly the fighting scenes.

Episode 2 gave me hope that this may be a show which doesn’t start looking like crap after the first episode (Speed Grapher, I’m looking at you.). The fighting scenes continued to be impressive, the humor was actually funny, and Kamina continued to kick ass. I don’t know about anyone else, but I was literally laughing out loud when Kamina started with the “This will leave a cute little bruise puuuuunch!” after gaining control of Gurren via his little acid trip. Overall, episode 2 got me even more excited for this show, if that’s possible.

Episode 3 got me really hyped about the whole decent looking animation thing, as the fight with Viral did not disappoint. While ripping the helmet off of Viral’s ganmen and sticking it on Lagann, the most memorable moment of the whole fight was definitely the “Gattai!” sequence. Definitely.

Episode 4 caused a lot of drama between Gainax and a bunch of otaku that seemed pretty silly and pointless. It also looked fairly different from all of the previous episodes, and a good portion of the fanbase got their panties all in a bunch over it. I personally like it; as far as I could tell, it wasn’t a matter of the animation quality suddenly dropping but rather a different art style. Plus, it had the memorable scene of Buta ripping his butt off so Kamina and Simon could have something to eat. If that wasn’t a WTF moment (in a good way), I don’t know what is.

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Episode 5 was only in the “good” category instead of the “super awesome omg” one. Essentially, what makes it awesome is the burning spirit, so when you mellow everything down a bit you take away the best part of the show. On the other hand, all of the muted colors looked pretty neat.

Episode 6 was my least favorite, as it was essentially a recap-y talk-y sequence followed by a standard (as standard as you can get in Gurren Lagann) onsen sequence. Naked Kamina with Buta stuck on his crotch was hilarious, but I don’t like fanservice much at all. The shots of Yoko in previous episodes are about as much as I can take, so an onsen episode is not going to get any love from me. In fact, the version that was aired on TV was apparently tamed down a lot, and for once I’m glad for editing and censoring and whatnot.

Episode 7 sort of returned back to the awesomeness of the first three episodes. “Sort of” because while it was pretty and flashy and entertaining, there weren’t any sequences that really stood out. I don’t even remember much of it. If you can’t tell, by this point, I was no longer as excited about Gurren Lagann as I had been after the second episode.

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Episode 8 made me regret that I ever doubted Gainax, because that was definitely one heck of a memorable death scene. As you can see from the screencaps, I had become quite fond of Kamina as a character, so I was not exactly happy to see him go. They also decided to be extra cruel and make Kamina and Yoko officially a couple of some sort before killing him off right when I was warming up to the idea. The main question thrown up is now “Will/Can Gurren-Lagann be any good without Kamina?”

Episode 9 seems to answer that question – no. It’s not bad, but Kamina’s burning spirit is missing, and to make things worse, Simon has gone all emo. The crazy, zany fun seems to have left. Without the introduction of Nia, this episode would definitely have not even been good at all.

Episode 10 continues in the same manner as episode 9 – Nia is charming, but emo!Simon and the lack of Kamina balances that out so that its overall quality is still just average.

I’ll continue watching, of course, I’m no longer nearly as jaded over it as I was after the first few episodes. I hope that everything will turn back to being awesome after Simon gets over himself (That was him in the opening scene of the very first episode, after all. I think.), but until then I can just wait for that to happen while lamenting the fact that the show that looked to be the coolest one this season no longer is.

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