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Gurren Lagann, known in Japan as is a Japanese mecha anime television series animated by Gainax and co-produced by Aniplex and Konami. It ran for twenty-eight episodes on Japan's TV Tokyomarker between April 1, 2007 and September 30, 2007. It is directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, written by veteran playwright Kazuki Nakashima and has been in development since the participation of the famed animator in the Abenobashi mecha themed episodes by the same studio. The anime won several awards at the Tokyo International Anime Fair and the Animation Kobe and Japan Media Arts Festivals.

Licensing for a North American release of Gurren Lagann was announced by ADV Films at AnimeExpo 2007 on June 30, 2007; however, after an unexplained removal from ADV's catalog, Bandai Entertainment announced it held the license at New York Comic Con 2008. It was also announced for a UK release by ADV Films at AmeCon 2007, however at AmeCon 2008 Beez Entertainment announced that they had the UK distribution rights instead. It was also announced by ADV Films Germany for a summer 2008 release. 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.

A manga adaptation started serialization in MediaWorks' Dengeki Comic Gao! on April 27, 2007, but switched over to ASCII Media Works' manga magazine Dengeki Daioh on April 21, 2008 due to the former being discontinued on February 27, 2008. Bandai Entertainment licensed the manga and will be releasing it in English in North America. A series of light novels have also been created and are published by Shogakukan. A video game based on the series, for the Nintendo DS, 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.

Plot

Story

Gurren Lagann takes place in a fictional future in which human beings have been forced under Earth's surface and live in isolated subterranean civilizations. These "villages" have no contact with the surface world or other villages. Because frequent earthquakes damage infrastructure, the villages must constantly extend deeper into the earth—individuals relegated to this task are known as "Diggers".

Giha Village is the home of Simon, a fourteen-year-old digger who was orphaned when his parents were killed in an earthquake. Although Simon is respected by the village elders as the best of the diggers, he is ostracized by his peers. Simon discovers a special drill key deep in the ground and is soon recruited by an eccentric fellow orphan named Kamina into his group "Team Gurren ". Kamina dreams of the surface world, which he once visited as a child, though he had to return home as he was too young to survive there.

After a failed attempt at reaching the surface, Kamina is jailed by the village elder. Simon resumes digging, only to discover "a big face" deep in his tunnel. As he excitedly fetches Kamina to show him the discovery, Simon is also caught by the village elder. Fortuitously, Kamina's punishment is interrupted by the collapse of the ceiling over Giha Village, as an enormous mecha falls into the cavern. A girl named Yoko appears and tries to repel the machine with a large rifle. Simon takes Kamina and Yoko to the "big face" he found earlier and discovers that the small drill key can be used to activate it. Named "Lagann", he uses it to destroy the invading mecha and effectively break through to the surface.

Once on the surface, Simon and Kamina discover there are more large mechas known as "Gunmen" (piloted by "Beastmen") that terrorize the surface dwellers during the day. Simon and Kamina help Yoko and her village destroy three more Gunmen of which Kamina takes one for himself, naming it "Gurren" (meaning "crimson lotus"). Eventually, Simon and Kamina decide to embark on a journey to end the constant struggle between the Beastmen and humans, and are initially accompanied by Yoko and Leeron, a mechanic from Yoko's village. As they head out to find the headquarters of the Beastmen's Human Eradication Army, the group encounters various Beastmen warriors including the vicious beastman Viral.

Along the way, Simon and the others are joined by more humans, including the "Black Siblings", led by Kittan, and Rossiu, a strict young man from an underground village, to form the 'Dai (meaning "large" or "great") Team Gurren.

Before a final battle with their old enemy, Viral, the Team Dai-Gurren plans to hijack a giant Gunmen with which the Beastmen have previously attacked them. Kamina plans for Simon to steal the Gunmen using the Lagann. Later that night, while Kamina is talking, Yoko kisses him, and he reciprocates. Unseen, Simon follows Yoko and witnesses the event. This causes Simon a significant amount of psychological trauma and consequently to be distracted during the final battle, ultimately contributing to the death of Kamina.

Team Dai-Gurren ultimately defeats the Human Eradication Army, causing the arrival of Nia, the mysterious "daughter" of the Beastmen leader Lordgenome, and the repopulation of Earth's surface. However in doing so, Simon learns of the power of the Spiral, and the destruction that it could cause. Lordgenome was once a spiral warrior, and fought against the Anti-Spirals once before and failed. To preserve human kind, he forced all humans to live underground to keep population to a minimum so they would not alert the anti spirals to their presence.

The second half of the series takes place seven years later. Led by Simon and members of Team Dai-Gurren, mankind has become prosperous. Though all seems well, once one million humans have repopulated the surface, two new conflicts arise with the arrival of the Anti-Spirals, including Nia's sudden "transformation" into their messenger, and the activation of the Moon, which the Anti-Spirals have actually transformed into a Gunmen to fall into and destroy the Earth once the million-person threshold was broken. Simon, along with the rest of the Team and his old rival, Viral, then leads the battle to defeat the Anti-Spirals and save Earth.

However, in destroying the Anti-Spiral, Nia's fate is sealed. She holds onto life long enough to marry Simon before crumbling to dust. Simon then passes on his core drill to a new generation and spends the rest of his life wandering the earth as a nameless vagrant with Boota, while the human race begins to gain contact with its fellow Spiral races throughout the galaxy.

Main characters


Old Simon
Simon is a fourteen year-old digger from Giha village. Although he is initially looked down upon because of it, Simon excels at drilling through the ground, and the drill quickly becomes his trademark symbol. One day, he finds a mysterious drill-shaped item, which is later revealed to be the "Core Drill" for a head-shaped Gunmen he also finds buried in the soil. With the help of the small Gunmen, Kamina, and Yoko, he fights off a much larger Gunmen that falls into the village. In the process of defeating the invader, they reach the surface world. Prior to the time-skip, Simon is mostly depicted as merely following Kamina's lead and often acting as a counter-balance to Kamina's impulsiveness, due to being very timid and weak. He is also shown to be somewhat jealous of Kamina's strength of character. His personality changes to be more like that of Kamina, as he acquires his own fighting spirit and determination. His Gunmen "Lagann" has the power to produce drills from seemingly nowhere, which is handy, since they're Simon's weapon of choice. He can also produce a massive drill from the bottom to combine with Kamina's Gurren to produce "Gurren Lagann" a much more powerful Gunmen.


Kamina is a young man from Giha Village who dreams of leaving the village and go to the surface, which he saw as a child. Ultimately, he can be summed up as "arrogant". He is very passionate about his goals, expressing his wishes through energetic speeches which seem to affect all those who hear them. Kamina believes that with his manliness and honor, he can do anything he feels like, saying such quotes as "Go beyond the impossible and kick reason to the curb!" and "Who the hell do you think I am?!". The leader of the "Team Gurren " he convinces Simon to aid him in his plan to drill through the roof of the village and get to the world above, but the plan fails and he is imprisoned. After defeating an invading Gunmen, he leaves the village with Simon and Yoko in the cockpit of a tiny but powerful Gunmen Simon unearths and Kamina names "Lagann". He is extremely impulsive, and sometimes acts with little regard for his life. His plans are rarely well thought-out, often relying solely on brute strength and determination to win, but for some strange reason or another, they seem to work most of the time. It is revealed that Kamina's impulsive confidence is mostly a show to give Simon the courage to act, telling his "Bro" (they aren't actually brothers, but share such a close relationship that he insists they call each other such) "Simon, believe in yourself. Not in the Simon that you believe in, and not in the Simon that I believe in either. Believe in the Simon who believes in you." Kamina never lives to see his dream of freeing the human race come to fruition as he is killed in battle while trying to seize the giant Gunman Dai-Gunzan.


Yoko is a young woman from Giha's neighboring village of Ritona. She had been tracking the Gunmen, which subsequently crashed through the surface and into Giha. She wields an extensive arsenal of weapons and has substantial experience fighting the enemy. She uses her outstanding soldiering skills and wise counsel to advance the war of liberation. She wears short shorts and a bikini top: as she states in episode 5, she avoids clothing which restricts her movement in combat situations. Due to her looks, several characters are instantly attracted to her including Simon and Kamina. She loves children and has a dream to become an elementary school teacher.


Young Nia
Timeskip Nia
Nia is a mysterious young girl found by Simon sleeping in a capsule in the middle of a dump site. She has had no prior contact with humans except her father. She is very curious, pure and innocent, because of a sheltered childhood in a peaceful environment away from all the battles occurring in the outside world, and because she had only recently gained sentience. During her travels with the Dai-Gurren Brigade, she discovers the harsh realities of the world and has a very close relationship with Simon throughout the story. The two fall in love, Simon proposing to her immediately after the time-skip, before discovering she is an agent for the Anti-Spirals and is being forced by another personality (Messenger Nia) to fight against Simon, ultimately fighting against her other self and regaining control of her body.


Terminology

Beastmen

Beastmen are non-Spiral Beings, created and cloned by Lordgenome to fight by piloting Gunmen. The numerous animals on the planet are previously failed experiments, thus they lack the intelligence that Beastmen have. Beastmen and many other animals found on the planet cannot reproduce, and instead, multiply solely via cloning.
Generic Gunmen


Gunmen

 are the type of mecha used in the series. The name itself means "huge face" and can be broken down into "gun" and "man"; the mecha themselves are centered around faces. Gunmen sport a variety of weaponry: primitive models use large clubs or bare hands, while advanced units use solid or beam weapons. Gunmen powered by the "Spiral Energy" inherent in humans' DNA are more powerful than those piloted by Beastmen. The voice broadcaster within each Gunman is linked to the mouth, making it seem as though it is talking. Gurren Lagann can also make several facial expressions.


Spiral theme

The spiral theme is especially prominent throughout the series. Not only is it the basis of strength for the main characters and mankind, but it is presented as a philosophy and way of life, and as a model of physics. Lordgenome (whose own name contains the word genome, referring to DNA and its spiralling double helix) notes that it is the natural order of the universe to coordinate itself into a spiral arrangement. The spiral symbolizes the double helix structure of DNA, representing biological evolution, and the spiral structure of a galaxy, representing universal evolution. Simon's spiral drill is used as a motif to symbolize the spiral theme throughout the series. At the same time, the drill motif symbolizes the strength to challenge or 'drill' through tough obstacles.

In the same way a logarithmic spiral grows in size with each successive curve, the scope of Gurren Lagann's story and the scale of its mecha grow in successive steps as the series progresses. By the end of the series, the largest mecha, the Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann, contains all the smaller iterations of Gurren-Lagann nested inside like a matryoshka doll, reflecting the way the curves of a spiral grow in size but maintain the same shape.

Spiral Energy

In the series' concept, Spiral Energy is the power of evolution, generated by beings capable of doing so, like humans and other DNA-based animals, whose spiral double helix molecular structure allows them to get stronger through the generations. Beastmen, because they do not reproduce naturally, cannot evolve, thus are unable to produce Spiral Energy. The amount of Spiral Energy produced by an individual may vary and is based not only on its own limitations, but also its immediate will to survive and persevere. Spiral Energy has both infinite potential and applications - it has been known to regenerate and grow new parts on machines to a galactic scale, and even create tunnels through spacetime. One of its most prevalent applications in the series is in weaponry: Spiral-enhanced ammunition provides phenomenal stopping power, making a simple shotgun capable of damaging a Mugann, while Spiral-based warheads and energy beams demonstrate destructive power far in excess of nuclear weapons.

Spiral Energy is specifically stated to defy the conservation of energy, which in addition to explaining the creation of mass that is practically constant during battles, also carries danger if Spiral Energy is overused. Termed Spiral Nemesis by the Anti-Spirals, too much Spiral Energy may cause the universe to collapse into a massive black hole.

Anti-Spirals

Eons before the story begins, a certain race evolved enough to expand and prosper across the stars through the use of their Spiral Energy. However, discovering this limitless evolution could one day lead to the destruction of the entire universe, an event they termed the "Spiral Nemesis", they abandoned the use of Spiral Energy and sealed their bodies on their home planet, ceasing to evolve, and calling themselves the Anti-Spirals. As the name implies, they also acted to repress other civilizations that used Spiral Energy, fearing that they could also become a threat to the universe if left unchecked. Since Spiral Energy comes from the will of its users, the Anti-Spirals tend to employ tactics specifically designed to induce fear, despair and hopelessness in their enemies. The Anti-Spirals also tend to spare their enemies if they surrender, but leave behind automated "defense" systems that will activate and attack a Spiral civilization if it grows too strong.

Media

Anime

Produced by the animation studio Gainax and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, Gurren Lagann aired in Japan on TV Tokyomarker between April 1 and September 30, 2007. The anime has twenty-seven 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 in 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 (with the exception of the final week which aired the three remaining episodes). The European distribution branch of Bandai, Beez Entertainment, is distributing the series in the UK and Europe, with the first DVD set for release on July 6, 2009. The English version will also be airing on Animax across its English-language networks in Southeast Asia and South Asia starting from May 22, 2009.

Sequel

On the special limited release episode 28, the ending card states "Prepare for your next mission! Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: NEXT". A second series has been mentioned as being in production by Gainax, however no details were given on it's release.

2channel incident

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 Internet forum 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 to found.

Music

Four theme songs are used for the episodes; one opening theme and three ending themes. The opening theme is by Shoko Nakagawa. Starting from episode seventeen, the second verse and chorus was used, as compared to the first verse and chorus used in the previous episodes. For episodes one through fifteen the ending theme is "Underground" by High Voltage. "Happily Ever After" by Shoko Nakagawa was used in episode sixteen. by Afromania was used for episodes seventeen to twenty-seven.

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.

Manga

The Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann manga, illustrated by Kotaro Mori, started serialization in the Japanese shōnen magazine Dengeki Comic Gao! on April 27, 2007, published by MediaWorks. The manga ended serialization in Dengeki Comic Gao! on February 27, 2008 when the magazine was discontinued, but continued serialization in ASCII Media Works' manga magazine Dengeki Daioh on April 21, 2008. The first bound volume was released on September 27, 2007 in Japan, containing the first five chapters, and is published under ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Comics label; the second volume followed on March 27, 2008. Bandai Entertainment licensed the manga and will be releasing it in English in North America. The story of the manga follows the same plotline as the anime, however, there are several changes to the layout of events, and the addition of backstories that essentially fills in gaps from the anime, such as the relationship between Dayakka and Kiyoh.

A spin-off manga entitled started serialization in Comp Ace on August 26, 2008. The manga takes the characters from the original story and puts them in a school in a parallel world. In the manga, Simon attends 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 entitled started publication by Futabasha in 2008 as a compilation of various short stories.

Video games

An online video game was developed by Konami called . 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.

Films

An animated film entitled , 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 is scheduled to be 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 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, was released in Japanese theaters on April 25, 2009. The Japanese DVD for The Lights in the Sky are Stars will be released on January 27, 2010.

Music

For both films, Shoko Nakagawa sang the theme songs: for Childhood's End and for The Lights in the Sky are Stars. Taku Iwasaki composed the films' scores.

Reception

Gurren Lagann has been critically acclaimed. It has been included among the first five ranking anime titles on MyAnimeList's top anime list, and is #13 on Anime News Network's top anime list. The anime received an Excellence Prize at the 2007 Japan Media Arts Festival, and its director received an individual award at the twelfth Animation Kobe Festival. In 2008, the anime received both "best television production" and "best character design" from the Tokyo International Anime Fair. On December 11, 2007, a Gurren Lagann-based design submitted from Norway won The Daily Telegraph's contest to update the British Union Flag by incorporating the Welsh Dragon.

References



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