Gurren Lagann. One of my absolute favourites of all time — but anime and I have had an interesting relationship over the many years that I have been a fan.
I got into the medium around 15 years ago and at the beginning, anime was all I watched. Day in, day out, no matter what the series was, I would give it a shot. The seasons, in general, were a little bit shorter on average, and so was the number of actual series that were released each season — so you could actually get around to watching each series you were following without having to set aside significant chunks of time in your calendar just to watch anime.
Nowadays, I feel like I barely even have to give a series the “rule of 3 episodes” before I can determine whether or not I’m going to like it. Maybe it’s just because I’ve watched a lot of different anime over time that some series feel like retellings of something I’ve already seen. Maybe it’s just age and free time being more limited, or maybe it’s something else.
Today though, I want to talk about the anime series that made me into an anime fan in the first place. Perhaps my fellow writers here on Rice will piggyback onto this piece and show the series that made them into anime fans. And be sure to check out a piece here about Panty and Stocking — a series created by the minds behind Gurren Lagann.
Oh man, where do I begin with this series? If you asked me to list off my top 5 or top 10 anime ever I would probably have a difficult time making that list, but when I’m asked the question of my favourite anime of all time, Gurren Lagann is always the one that comes straight to mind.
It was shortly after I had finished marathoning Naruto, Bleach, and then One Piece back to back to back — I was truly powerful back then — and I remember watching an AMV (Anime Music Video, for any of you non-boomer anime fans out there) and seeing one of the characters from Gurren Lagann, Yoko Littner, looking hot as hell. Yep, I’ve always been a degenerate. I then immediately looked up which series she was from, and then I had one of my greatest experiences in anime — Gurren Lagann.
I definitely did not think I was about to jump into one of the most intensely hype series, nor that beneath all of that action and mecha madness lay an incredible story about character growth and not only accepting yourself, but becoming the best version of yourself. But that’s what I got.
Consider a series like Dragon Ball, where Goku never really changes and grows — but everyone around him, like, say, Vegeta, develops considerably; Gurren Lagann is the exact opposite of that. It’s a series in which every side character is made to somehow insist on the growth of the main character, Simon: a young boy living in the shadow of a friend and striving to be just like him. He eventually learns to stop chasing a shadow and instead become the best version of himself — and then continue to grow and evolve more and more.
The soundtrack and the animation quality was massively ahead of its time, and the action… while it is incredible, it goes further beyond that. The sense of the characters learning to overcome the person they were the day before, the insistence on always believing in yourself — and if you don’t believe in yourself, believe in someone who does believe in you — it’s all wonderful.
The way that the mecha become these wildly over-the-top things that move and adapt in ways uncommon for the genre almost makes sense when it’s tied into the way the characters are pushing themselves further and pulling every bit of power that they can.
I think that one of the best things about Gurren Lagann is that on the surface, it is a series that reaches levels of hype other series can only aspire to reach. It has an incredibly memorable soundtrack and a main cast of lovable characters that stand the test of time — and that’s enough. If you want to watch the series just because you’re after something that gets your blood pumping and heart racing, then it will do that!
However, beneath all of that is a story about characters and their growth. It teaches you about not trying to be someone you’re not; it says that you should learn to accept yourself, and to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be — and then be even better. The messages the show tries to get across are all relatable — and things we have all struggled with while growing up.
These are things that we should always strive for in life, and I think it’s because of these that the series has become so beloved and is still held in such high regard even today. The series is full of heart and it genuinely inspires people — and what better can a show do than that?
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