Reviewby Michelle Yu, Oct 6th 2009
Gurren Lagann V1
In his sky-less cavern of a village Simon toils daily, drilling holes to expand his stifling little world until one day he makes an extraordinary discovery: a small glowing drill-bit and the man-sized mecha it activates. Before he can give it a second thought Simon's dragged into a plot to break through to the surface by the local gang leader Kamina, only to have the ceiling come crashing down on top of them under the weight of a giant monster!
It somehow falls onto the boisterous Kamina and the cowardly Simon to defend their village, but once they defeat the monster what awaits the duo on the surface world?
In an alternate universe where humans have been forced to continue civilization under the Earth's surface, Gurren Lagann brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “living under a rock.”
The underground communities are constantly subject to damaging earthquakes which force them to tunnel further underground in order to survive. Simon (pronounced “see-mon”) is one of the hardworking diggers whose responsibility is to keep his fellow human beings alive by extending the underground village by drilling further into the ground. Although held in high regard by his village's elders, Simon does not fit in with those his own age and is revealed to be quite a nervous young character. This is in stark contrast with the charismatic Kamina who lusts for life above the Earth's surface which he had seen once before. After Simon unintentionally discovers a mecha while digging, Kamina convinces him to use it to break the underground ceiling and thus reach the surface above.
The two lead characters complement each other well, and later form a formidable duo on their journey above the Earth's surface. Simon represents the archetypal young hero, who can be slightly annoying with his constant self-doubt but the brain strain is lessened by the fun and hilarious Kamina who serves as a brother-from-another-mother to Simon. That said, the young Simon's vulnerability is somewhat endearing at times and Kamina comes across as a jerk here and there. The character design and artwork could be compared to that of other shounen (male-oriented) anime such as the Dragonball series- as in not overly beautiful, but clean and simple. It was also pleasing to see that the proportions of female characters' bodies were not exaggerated too much. Breasts that are each bigger than a human head can actually be quite off-putting and I was pleasantly surprised that a male-oriented series did not fall into that trap in the very first volume.
The focus on mecha in Gurren Lagann Volume One is well-balanced with character development and backstory. One of the pitfalls of mecha anime is that in an attempt to make the plot more interesting, writers often neglect the true star of the show and that is the mecha. Therefore, sometimes a mecha series turns out as a soap opera with robots. Luckily, Gurren Lagann is not one of them. It manages humour, action, adventure, and poignant lessons in morality all in one neat disc which will keep even those with a short attention span interested. On a related note, the pacing of the story is brisk but comfortable- like a smooth car ride.
The preview disc that was issued for the purposes of this review only came in the English dub version, therefore the Japanese sub cannot be judged at this point. However the English voices were bearable- unlike many other dubbed series. The fact that there were five episodes in this first volume as opposed to the standard which is four was also a nice surprise. Being a preview disc, there were no special features that could be viewed but this volume did not require bells and whistles to sell it. The quality writing and animation were more than enough to engage a viewer.
Gurren Lagann is a series which I have no hesitation in recommending. From the first volume- no- the first episode, it was an engaging viewing experience. Over the course of just one volume, viewers will be able to feel a spectrum of emotions. If they care to read deeper into the story, they may begin to see a strange parallel with happenings in our real world. Considering I have not met anyone who has disliked this series, it would also make a great gift and/or recommendation for someone looking for a new bandwagon to jump on.
Overall (dub) : A
Story : A
Animation : A
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Entertaining characters and story.
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