Eiichi KamagataTakami AkaiYasuhiro Takeda
Gurren Lagann, known in Japan as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破グレンラガン, Tengen Toppa Guren Ragan, lit. "Pierce the Heavens, Gurren Lagann"), is a Japanese mecha anime television series animated by Gainax and co-produced by Aniplex and Konami. It ran for 27 episodes on Japan's TV Tokyo between April 1, 2007, and September 30, 2007. It was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, written by veteran playwright Kazuki Nakashima, and had been in development since the participation of the famed animator in the Abenobashi mecha-themed episodes by the same studio. Gurren Lagann takes place in a fictional future where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King, Lordgenome, who forces mankind to live in isolated subterranean villages. The plot focuses on two teenagers living in a subterranean village, Simon and Kamina, who wish to go to the surface. Using a mecha known as Lagann, Simon and Kamina reach the surface and start fighting alongside other humans against Lordgenome's forces.
- Main characters
- Anime series
- Video games
- Anime films
- Western critical reception
- Popular culture
In North America, although initially announced to be licensed by ADV Films in 2007, the license was transferred to Bandai Entertainment in 2008 and then transferred to Aniplex of America in 2013. In the United Kingdom, it was licensed by Manga Entertainment in 2007, then transferred to Beez Entertainment in 2008, and then transferred to anime Limited in 2013. The Sci Fi Channel acquired the broadcasting rights of Gurren Lagann and began airing the anime on July 28, 2008, as part of Sci Fi's Ani-Monday anime block. The anime won several awards at the Tokyo International Anime Fair and the Animation Kobe and Japan Media Arts Festivals.
A manga adaptation was published by ASCII Media Works between 2007 and 2013. Bandai Entertainment licensed the manga and released it in English in North America. A series of four light novels was published by Shogakukan between 2007 and 2008. A Nintendo DS video game was released in October 2007, bundled with a special episode of the anime series. Two animated film versions were produced; the first premiered in Japanese theaters on September 6, 2008, and the second premiered on April 25, 2009.
Gurren Lagann takes place in a future where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King, Lordgenome, who forces mankind to live in isolated subterranean villages. These villages have no contact with the surface world or other villages and are under constant threat of earthquakes. Selected villagers called diggers are conscripted to expand their homes deeper underground. Simon, a meek young digger ostracized by his peers, finds solace in his best friend and older brother figure, an eccentric delinquent named Kamina. Kamina encourages Simon to join his gang, Team Gurren, to help him achieve his dream of visiting the surface world. One day, Simon unearths a drill-shaped key called a Core Drill, followed by a small mecha resembling a face called a Gunmen. Shortly thereafter, a huge Gunmen crashes through the ceiling and begins attacking the village, followed by a girl named Yoko, who attempts to repel the Gunmen. Simon uses his Core Drill to activate the smaller Gunmen (which Kamina names Lagann), and it is used to destroy the larger Gunmen and break through to the surface world.
Simon and Kamina learn from Yoko that humans on the surface are attacked each day by Gunmen piloted by beastmen, humanoid creatures who serve as Lordgenome's army. Kamina hijacks a Gunmen and names him Gurren, combining him with Lagann to form the mecha Gurren Lagann. Their actions inspire other humans to steal their own Gunmen and join Team Gurren, which makes Kamina rename it Team Dai-Gurren. Eventually Team Dai-Gurren captures an enemy Gunmen fortress to use as their base of operations, though Kamina is killed in the preceding battle by one of Lordgenome's four generals. Rossiu, a boy from another village, takes over the job of piloting Gurren, but Kamina's death causes Simon to sink into depression until he meets Nia, Lordgenome's daughter. Team Dai-Gurren is initially distrustful of her but allows her to join when it becomes apparent that she was abandoned by her father, like many who came before her. Nia helps Simon come to terms with Kamina's death, and the rest of Team Dai-Gurren prompt him to take up the role as the team's leader, leading them and other humans, who captured other Gunmen and Gunmen fortresses, to Lordgenome's palace. As the palace itself turns out to be a gigantic Gunmen called the Lazengann and launches armies of other Gunmen, the human forces hold them off while Simon, Nia, and Rossiu pilot Gurren Lagann against Lordgenome, who fights them in a similar Gunmen. When both Gunmen are damaged, he himself fights Simon in Lagann with his bare hands. Lordgenome emerges victorious, until Simon uses his Core Drill to defeat him once and for all.
Over the next seven years, mankind prospers on the surface world with Simon and the members of Team Dai-Gurren serving as the world's government. As soon as the world's population reaches one million people, an alien race called the Anti-Spirals emerges and uses Nia to announce the Moon's collision with Earth, which will wipe out all life on the planet and prevent them from evolving to such an extent that they will risk destroying the universe in a cataclysmic event called the Spiral Nemesis. With guidance from Lordgenome resurrected as a bio-computer, who was once part of an intergalactic group of warriors who fought the Anti-Spirals and had hidden mankind underground to protect them from the Anti-Spirals, and with help from Viral, an old enemy of Simon who pilots Gurren, Simon, Gurren Lagann and Team Dai-Gurren prevent the Moon's collision, revealing it to be Lordgenome's flagship that was reprogrammed by the Anti-Spirals. Using it, they retrieve the real Moon from the pocket dimension where the Anti-Spirals had hidden it and go to the Anti-Spiral homeworld, where after significant loss, they rescue Nia, and after a battle that spans the universe, Simon in Lagann finally destroys the Anti-Spirals. This, however, causes Nia to fade away and die as her own existence is tied to that of the Anti-Spirals. Simon, finding his life in battle over, hands his Core Drill over to Gimmy and spends the rest of his life wandering the planet as a nameless vagrant.
In the epilogue, twenty years have passed since the team’s victory over the Anti-Spirals. With many of Team Dai-Gurren retired, it is up to the new generations of pilots to prevent the Spiral Nemesis and ensure the safety of the universe. Other races across the galaxy, freed from the Anti-Spirals, contacts Earth. President Rossiu of Kamina City joins forces with them and during the twenty years, he created the Galactic Spiral Peace Conference. Yoko, now as Miss Yomako, becomes the principal of the small school she was at during her seven years absence from the team. One of her students becomes a representative the galaxy in the Grapearl Squadron. Gimmy, along with Darry and Simon’s Core Drill, become the new pilots of Gurren Lagann. Viral becomes the captain of the Super Galaxy Dai-Gurren and an emissary for Earth. Nia’s grave and the wedding ring are placed next to Kamina’s grave. Simon, still living as Simon the Digger, watches over them as many Grapearls are seen flying over Kamina City.
Gurren Lagann was first announced in July 2006 with Aniplex and Konami assisting Gainax in its making. Konami director Koichi Natsume suggested possibilities of the series getting multiple sequels. The series was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi who was a fan of the mecha genre, having previously done animation work for Neon Genesis Evangelion, and ever since he started working he had wanted to work in a mecha series. After working on Re: Cutey Honey with Kazuki Nakashima, Imaishi appointed him as the writer, believing him to be the best choice. Imaishi was surprised with how much material Nakashima could condense into 27 episodes. Imaishi had finished writing the main storyline long before the reaching the end which facilitated the staff in making the episodes. According to Gainax president Hiroyuki Yamaga the series was in planning phases for a long time. Producer Yasuhiro Takeda used the time to research how would the characters live underground although this aspect is briefly used. Once the series started production, the team did not have much time to research materials.
In contrast to other popular series, Imaishi decided to include drills as the robot's main weapons despite its impact on the suspension of disbelief. Imaishi also wanted the series to only have robots. The robots were made organic so that they would be easier to animate. Nevertheless, animating episode 15 was challenging to the staff due to the amount of shots it required. Its animator Sushio called himself the "super animator" for his work. Deciding the design of the Gurren Lagann was complicated since it was the basis for the other mechas appearing in the story.
In the making of the series, the team wanted to focus more on the underground life and Simon's imprisonment but their ideas could not be used. In the eighth episode Kamina dies in order to provide Simon character development and make him become the main character. Simon's development kept on going until the final arc when staff planned ideas to make him surpass Kamina. The ending was written to finalize Simon's growth and not leave signs of a sequel. The finale had the pre-planned tragic event of Nia's death which left several staff members saddened. While the staff acknowledged how people were not satisfied with the sad conclusion, they noted that there were still issues that made her survival difficult for the characters. Once the series ended, Yamaga had the idea of releasing a film that retells the events of the series to expand the audience.
In an interview, the writer Kazuki Nakashima cites Ken Ishikawa, co-creator of Getter Robo, as one of Gurren Lagann's influences. Gurren Lagann occasionally pays homage to Ishikawa's Getter Robo, particularly towards the end of the series, where the scale becomes absurd, with the robots steadily becoming bigger and bigger, much like Getter Robo more specifically, the manga version of Getter Robo Go. The final enemy also bears a striking resemblance to La Gooth of Records of Nothingness, another work by Ishikawa. Nakashima, however, wanted to conclude the story of Gurren Lagann in a more reasonable fashion than what Ishikawa usually does in his works. According to Jason Green from Anime News Network, the anime was influenced by previous Gainax anime, particularly in the character development of the protagonist Simon, who goes through three stages in his character development during the three arcs of the series. Each of these stages in his development were influenced by protagonists from several previous Gainax anime: Shinji Ikari from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise, Noriko Takaya from Gunbuster, and Ken Kubo from Otaku no Video. The animation on the show pays special tribute to the animation and character designs of Yoshinori Kanada.
Takami Akai, the producer of the series and a co-founder of Gainax, announced that he would resign his position effective episode five, which aired on April 29, 2007, over comments that he made regarding posts on the Japanese textboard 2channel. Akai and another Gainax employee, Keiko Mimori, made disparaging remarks about comments criticizing the animation style of the fourth episode of Gurren Lagann, which was completely directed by guest and friend Osamu Kobayashi. With regard to reading the fan criticisms, Akai stated that it was "like putting [his] face next to an anus and breathing deeply." Fans later became aware of his comments, and he announced his departure from the company he helped found.
As a result of the series airing at a child-friendly time slot, the staff members had problems with episode 6. Although that episode had a subplot involving peeking into the women's bath, the television stations believed it was suitable when reading the script. After seeing the finished episode, the station said that it could not be aired, and a revised version of the episode was produced.
Produced by the animation studio Gainax and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, Gurren Lagann aired in Japan on TXN stations between April 1 and September 30, 2007. The anime has 27 episodes plus two specials, the first being the uncensored version of the sixth episode, and the second is episode 5.5, a bonus that came with the Nintendo DS game.
The English version had been previously licensed by ADV Films, but was later acquired by Bandai Entertainment. A subtitle-only version was released in three volumes in July 2008, and an official English dub with the first two volumes released on November 18, 2008 called "Gurren Lagann Set 01". The show premiered on the Sci Fi Channel on July 28, 2008 as part of Sci Fi's Ani-Monday anime block, airing two episodes each week (and three the final week). The European distribution branch of Bandai, Beez Entertainment, distributed the series in the UK and Europe but has gone out of print since January, 2012. In 2013, Anime Limited announced that they have the distribution license for Gurren Lagann on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK. In 2014, they released a limited Blu-ray Ultimate Edition on October 20, 2014, featuring the entire series, both film adaptations and the complete Parallel Works series, as well as a hardcover artbook. A standard edition Blu-ray containing the complete series was also released on the same day with the DVD release following later that year. The English version also aired on Animax across its English-language networks in Southeast Asia and South Asia starting on May 22, 2009. It was broadcast in Italy on Rai 4 between September 24, 2009 and April 1, 2010. Aniplex of America re-released the series in a limited edition DVD box set on May 9, 2013. A Blu-ray Disc box set, which includes both the television series and the two film adaptations, was released on June 26, 2013. Adult Swim began airing the series in English as part of the Toonami block on August 16, 2014.
Taku Iwasaki composed the show's main background music. Four theme songs are used for the episodes; one opening theme and three ending themes. The opening theme is "Sorairo Days" (空色デイズ, Sorairo Deizu, lit. "Sky-Blue Days") by Shoko Nakagawa. Starting from episode 17, the second verse and chorus was used, as compared to the first verse and chorus used in the previous episodes. For episodes 1 through 15 the ending theme is "Underground" by High Voltage. "Happily Ever After" by Shoko Nakagawa was used in episode 16. "Minna no Peace" (みんなのピース, Minna no Pīsu, "Everyone's Peace") by Afromania was used for episodes 17 to 27.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Character Song was released on July 25, 2007, by Aniplex, including image songs by the main voice cast, with songs sung by Tetsuya Kakihara (Simon), Katsuyuki Konishi (Kamina), and Marina Inoue (Yoko), the latter of which is a playable song in Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA 2. In addition, several music compilation albums have been released, most consisting of background music.
The Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann manga, illustrated by Kotaro Mori, started serialization in the June 2007 issue of MediaWorks' magazine Dengeki Comic Gao!. The manga ended serialization in Dengeki Comic Gao! with the April 2008 issue when the magazine was discontinued, but continued serialization in ASCII Media Works' manga magazine Dengeki Daioh with the June 2008 issue and continued until the July 2013 issue. Ten tankōbon volumes were published between September 27, 2007 and June 27, 2013 in Japan under ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Comics imprint. Bandai Entertainment licensed the manga and released an English translation of the first six volumes in North America. The manga follows the same basic story as the anime, although there are some changes to the order of events, and the addition of character backstories that had been cut from the anime, such as the relationship between Dayakka and Kiyoh.
A spin-off manga entitled Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Gurren Gakuen-hen (天元突破グレンラガン −紅蓮学園篇−) was serialized in Comp Ace between August 26, 2008 and January 26, 2009; a single tankōbon volume was released on March 26, 2009. The manga takes the characters from the original story and puts them in a school in a parallel world. In the manga, Simon attends Dai-Gurren Academy (ダイグレン学園, Dai Guren Gakuen) with his friend Kamina, and childhood friend Yoko. Simon, who lives in a run down apartment building, wishes for a normal life, and meets the mysterious Nia one day when she trips down the stairs. She immediately takes a liking to Simon and declares him her husband. Kamina finds another "aniki" in Nia, who shares his hot-blooded style. She enrolls in Dai-Gurren Academy, and all three must deal with the threat of students from Teppelin Academy, who wish to bring Nia back to her father, the principal. Another spin-off manga titled Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann 4-koma Kingdom: Yoko no Oheso-hen (天元突破グレンラガン4コマKINGDOM ヨーコのおヘソ編, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann 4-panel Kingdom: Yoko's Belly Button Chapter) was published by Futabasha in 2008 as a compilation of various short stories.
An online video game was developed by Konami called Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Chōzetsu Hakkutsu ONLINE (天元突破グレンラガン 超絶発掘ONLINE, literally "Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Superior Excavation Online"). Beta testing had ended on April 16, 2007. The player takes up the role of a driller and drills for treasures in first person view. There is a shop to purchase drills—the shopkeeper is an original character named Asaki. The player can also collect digital trading cards. The game was canceled at the closed beta stage, as installing the game crashed Windows indefinitely. Konami even had to send out 500GB external hard drives to beta users so that they could back up files while reinstalling their operating systems.
A game for the Nintendo DS was released October 25, 2007, not only featuring the characters from the series, but also containing a special episode set in the early stages of the story as a pre-order bonus. In June 2010, Gainax re-acquired the video game rights to the series from Konami, which allowed Banpresto to include it in the latest installment of its storied Super Robot Wars franchise, 2nd Super Robot Wars Z: Destruction Chapter, released in April 2011.
A Pachislot game based on the anime teased by Konami was later released in February 2016.
An animated film entitled Gurren Lagann the Movie: Childhood's End (劇場版 天元突破グレンラガン 紅蓮篇, Gekijōban Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Gurren-hen, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann The Movie: The Crimson Lotus Chapter), once again directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and written by Kazuki Nakashima, was produced by Gainax and released on September 6, 2008 in Japanese theaters and the DVD was released on April 22, 2009. The film is a compilation of the events of the first arc of the series (episodes one through fifteen) with around 20 minutes of newly animated scenes. In conjunction with the release of the film, Gainax has released a series of music videos entitled Gurren Lagann Parallel Works, which contains alternative stories of Gurren Lagann set to songs from the original soundtrack. The film had its first official English release at the Viz Pictures cinema in San Francisco, California on September 8, 2009.
A second film, Gurren Lagann The Movie: The Lights in the Sky are Stars (劇場版 天元突破グレンラガン 螺巌篇, Gekijōban Tengen Toppa Guren Lagann Lagann-hen, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann the Movie: The Spiral Stone Chapter) was released in Japanese theaters on April 25, 2009. It focuses on the second half of the series, contributing more new animation than the first film. The Japanese DVD for The Lights in the Sky are Stars was released on January 27, 2010. For both films, Shoko Nakagawa sang the theme songs: "Tsuzuku Sekai" (続く世界, "The World Goes On") for Childhood's End and "Namida no Tane, Egao no Hana" (涙の種、笑顔の花, "Seed of Tears, Flower of Smiles") for The Lights in the Sky are Stars. Taku Iwasaki returned to compose the films' scores.
Aniplex of America distributed both films on DVD in regular and special editions. Childhood's End was released on July 1, 2010 while The Lights in the Sky are Stars was released on July 30, 2010. Aniplex of America released the films on Blu-ray Disc as part of the Gurren Lagann Blu-ray box set on June 26, 2013. Aniplex of America re-released the films in a separate Blu-ray Disc set on July 15, 2014.
Western critical reception
Gurren Lagann received widespread critical acclaim since its release. Anime News Network gave Gurren Lagann a full 'A' rating, with reviewer Theron Martin describing it as "one of the liveliest series of the decade" and concluding that "Gainax's paean to boisterous, macho mecha action delivers in triumphant fashion." Anime News Network also gave the dubbed version of the first volume an 'A' rating. IGN gave the series a score of 9.7 out of 10, with reviewer Ramsey Isler describing it as "an inspiring story" and concluding that "overall it succeeds at being a great tale of the indomitable spirit of determined people." Anime World Order also gave the series a positive review, noting that it has become one of the most popular mecha anime on the internet, which reviewer Clarissa Graffeo ascribes to its crossover appeal among various audiences who do not usually watch giant robot anime, by combining aspects from a number of different anime genres, including elements of the Super Robot, Real Robot, Shōnen, Shōjo, Seinen and Josei genres.
THEM Anime Reviews gave the anime a score of 4 out of 5 stars, with reviewer Tim Jones describing it as "Almost five-star material," and stating that it is "chuck full of action, comedy, drama, adventure, and sci-fi elements, managing to even entertain a person who couldn't care less about mecha in the process." UK Anime Network gave the first third of the series a score of 8/10, with reviewer Ross Liversidge noting that from episode 7 onwards, "the show's newfound edge makes it far more gripping," and concludes that it is a "high quality release" and "a fun, punchy series that stands out from the crowd." On the review website Mania.com, reviewer Chris Beveridge gave the first two-thirds of the series a full 'A' grade. He described the first third as "chaotic, magical and engaging," and then described the second third as captivating "with non-standard storytelling ideas for an anime series" and concluded that it was "fun, exciting, unpredictable and filled with the usual positive messages but done without any serious preaching." Japanator named Gurren Lagann the fourth best anime of the 2000s, calling it "a flawless execution of storytelling."
The Gurren Lagann anime series received an Excellence Prize at the 2007 Japan Media Arts Festival. Its director Hiroyuki Imaishi received an individual award for "Personal Best" at the 12th Animation Kobe Festival that same year for his work on the series.
In 2008, during the 7th annual Tokyo Anime Awards held at the Tokyo International Anime Fair, Gurren Lagann won the "Best Television Production" award. In addition, the "Best Character Design" award was given to the character designer Atsushi Nishigori for his work on the anime.
Influences from and references to Gurren Lagann can be found in several areas of recent popular culture, ranging from Japanese anime and video games, to American comics and animation, to politics in Europe. During a political debate over whether the British Union Flag should be updated by incorporating the Welsh Dragon, The Daily Telegraph newspaper held a contest for readers to submit their designs and have other readers vote for the winning design. On December 11, 2007, a Gurren Lagann-based design submitted from Norway won The Daily Telegraph's contest, winning by a wide margin of 55% of the votes. Gurren Lagann has had an influence on the Transformers franchise, with the creators of Transformers Animated citing it as an inspiration. The art director and lead character designer Derrick Wyatt stated that, while he "hadn't seen Gurren Lagann until after" they "had finished most of the first season of TFA," he confirmed that the creators have "definitely been inspired" by it ever since, particularly during the second and third seasons of Transformers Animated. In League of Legends, Rumble's "Super Galaxy Rumble" skin, as well as many of the quotes with the skin, is based on the anime.