Category Archives: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Year in Review: Giant Robots Play Musical Chair

I think one thing that sets TV anime far apart from any other kind of TV animation is the focus on soundtracks. Sometimes even for a crappy TV anime. It costs good money, and sometimes it shows.

And this year the choice is easy. If I was to pick out an anime title for its original soundtracks, it would definitely be the Heroic Age. But that would only be true if I was picking an anime title for its original soundtrack. And that might be a little harsh (and sort of a repeat).

If I was picking it based on how the music is integrated into the show as well as the quality of the stuff itself, it would happily scratch my itch about, heh, Gurren Lagann.

There's more to this picture if you didn't know...

This much is true–Gurren Lagann, whether you like it or not, made a big splash this year. Gainax went back and tried to reinvent the giant robot genre (again) for the 21st century. I don’t know if they were successful, but I know they did paint a fun and colorful montage of the history of giant robots from their perspective.

In this retrospective I’d definitely like to talk about the fan response to Gurren Lagann, both the good and bad. But to save this post from overly-TL;DR, I think just mentioning it is enough to jog your memories about the LOL mixi controversies, the staff changes, and on the record I’d like to say I liked how episode 4 looked.

(As an aside, Gainax shows that they consistently listen to the fans and devise rapid responses. I wish I could say the same for the majority of anime corporate bodies out there.)

While I’m at it, I’d also like to mention the ending to Gurren Lagann, and I liked how it treated Nia and Simon. Why? Because life is lived by those those who hop, jump, skip and run its length to their ends, and not those who quietly tiptoes towards death. And Nia and Simon sure lived. It may disappoint but it’s honest in its own little deceptive ways, like how the epic montage of the first half of the series leads into ambiguity, a losing-and-finding of purpose for men who only knew how to fight and love, or why this is redemptive for them even if only hardship and heartache await at the end of it all.

Along the same lines, I’d also like to mention how Gurren Lagann is glowing with a really artificial notion of manliness. I mean if I watch old samurai films, the societal norm of manliness is a much more subtle and tempered concept than this “ROW ROW FIGHT DA POWAH” nonsense, and yet both take that realistic approach towards the fate of a swordsman who outlived his purpose. There’s a beautiful parallel here that I’m not sure if anyone drew–just like the samurai went the way of the past after the modernization of Japan in the Meiji era. I guess, so are childhood dreams that vanishes with adulthood. Fighting robot fantasies have little space in an adult world. People like Simon are not this world would like you to be, this day and age, they are rugged, uncouth, drunk, or act like a loser.

Lastly, right, the music. I like the rap tie-in, if just for the exploitative effect and tension between the background orchestra with the foreground dialog within the show. I find it fun (and slightly annoying) that how the soundtrack is mixed like an OST but the vocal tracks sticks out like sore thumbs if I make my own mix, requiring some normalization. Still, Taku Iwasaki worked his magic with his usual competent instrumentation and orchestration. And it’s rather diverse stylistically as well. An epic-spanning sense of sound garnishes an equally large work.

If we can ignore the image album crap (as I’ve been making a habit of doing, no thanks to the barrage of Kyoani anime-related products), Gurren Lagann’s only fault was not making all of its sounds available to buy. But that’s one fault not uncommon and one I can sort of forget, because the handful of tracks that memorializes this show for me personally was on the Best Sounds CD.

With all that said and done, there are probably quite a few runner up soundtracks I could mention (and should mention). A starting place is j1m0ne’s top 3 soundtrack for 2007. For example I’d make more nods to Asatte no Houkou if it was actually a 2007 show, but it’s still a great soundtrack. There are many more to mention that it’d be a blog post all on its own, so you ought to go find others to read instead ;)

This post is the fifth in a series of posts, to highlight my most memorable and remarkable moments in 2007. Or just soundtracks sometimes. If I wasn’t musically illiterate (well, sort of) and can read (Japanese) I would probably do an anison blog. I cannot get tired talking about it.


DNAra +4

It deserves repeating.

A nice rap song for a nice clock show. No matter if you liked or disliked Gurren Lagann, in whole or in part, its a show that has a deep message. It inspires, but it also breaks people’s hearts. That’s the power.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been in a “fight the power” mood lately either.

But a English-language rap song for a clock show? Heck, that’s gotta do more for the English-language literacy rate for Japan than any other anime out there right now.

GG Taku Iwasaki. I hope you get my share of monies spent on this little album set. It’s big and proud but also finely sliced like gourmet sashimi. Yummie! Oh by the way I’ll promptly discard the DVD and other CD that may come with it…merf.

On This Rock, Kamina Builds His Church

Simon from Gurren Lagann shares similarities with Simon Peter of the Way. YA RLY.

You can read about Saint Peter here. Shimon indeed.

So it’s not a surprise that on this rock (does the term Cathedral Terra make sense to you now?) Simon builds Kamina’s church? But before people jump to conclusion about Jesus, let’s talk about Simon Peter some more.

For many scholars Peter is one of the most interesting disciples Jesus had out of the original 12. Some of them consider Peter being the spokesperson for the 12, and at least in the New Testament he was a leader of the early Church. We see him most notably when he gave the sermon at Pentecost with the baptism of the three thousand.

But he was not that sort of a man as we could possibly imagine with the brand of Christianity as you and I experience today. Much like Gureen Lagann’s Simon, Peter fished and lived humbly as a fisherman off the Sea of Galilee. He was a little rush-headed and oddly shy at times. Unlike Simon he wasn’t really a great fisher either (as Simon was a driller). But like Simon, Peter had a brother who told him of the good news.

In contrast, Gurren Lagann’s Simon isn’t likely one who would jump to cut the ear off someone; decidedly he was much matured after 7 years since he parted with Kamina. The transformation is also seen with Simon Peter from his moment of denial with the reconfirmation with Christ after the resurrection.

Am I stepping out a little too far with this bit of analogy? Maybe, but far from it be Gainax’s bag of tricks to pull punches from Christian lore. There are quite a few of the superficialities that make sense once you connect the dots. Much of the Gurren-dan can be paralleled with Jesus’ disciples. The transformation of Kamina City under Rossiu’s rule and his eventual redemption may be a little bit out there, but talking with the evangelicals today that might resound a little louder with them.

But is Kamina Jesus? I don’t think I’ll go that far, especially because there are just too many key dissimilarities. But his death was much less meaningful than his resurrection, even if only in spirit.

Darry Buns for Everyone!

They’re the cutest, more adorable ones on the block.

They melt in your mouth, not in your hands.

They’re soft to the touch, like heaven wrapped in plastic.

They’re Darry Buns. Now available at a local anime blog near you!


Despite urban legend, these won’t last forever!

Sweet Aftertaste: A Brief Rundown of Sorts

When the episode ends with putting a smile on your face, I think that’s a good thing.

11/11 always makes me smile

Of course, sometimes it’s just a cheating cheap trick that’s doing the smirking for you. (Hello wawawa wait I forgot what show I’m mocking?) Gurren Lagann’s rather-epic end to the first 13 episodes is a good example of how to do it so honestly, on the other hand. But still, you aren’t sure if you are smiling because you know we’re going into a recap episode and jump forward in time (yay non-loli NonoNia), or because you’re still on the well-animated euphoria of good old battle robot…goodness.

On the flip side there’s this さよなら絶望先生 sort of smile. Shinbo’s show generally does that for me, although lately he’s doing it with a twist. Hidamari Sketch had those sublime and Azumanga Daioh-like moments; Negima mixes adolescent romance with some pretty cool otaku tropes, plus a bit of that Nanoha battle feel to it. But with Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei he goes back to super-overloading the basics of a simple manga adaptation to create a lot of joy for, at least, some of us. I know it’s not the sort of show everyone will enjoy, but like Soul Taker, Shinbo manages to transform a rather mundane thing into something very unique and it doesn’t terribly suck!

Sort of like Sky Girls TV, actually. Although I think, like Yin, I might have to use my fingers for that one.

On a completely unrelated subject, this is pretty cool–and you won’t see it in a street racing anime: