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Unbridled Optimism in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Upon my second full watch of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann last week, I was once again enthralled by its colossal scale, boisterous personality, zeal for life and its mission to kick logic to the curb and do the impossible. This magnificent rewatch happened over the last two months with a group of friends and, as always, deep conversation followed. One of my friend mentioned how unrelenting the series’ optimism is, how watching humans continue to fight no matter the odds is almost a spiritual experience. And maybe I’m still riding the Kingdom Hearts “power of the human heart” waves, but what he said really stuck with me. Gurren Lagann is also about the undying power of the human spirit and how confidence and optimism can empower an entire civilization to burst through the heavens.

In the first half of the show, the optimism, in a way, is derived from desperation (although the characters probably wouldn’t admit it or realize it themselves). “We’re going to do it because we have to. We will pierce through the heavens because there are no other alternates.” Kamina faces a lot of doubt in the beginning: Simon, the chief, Yoko, the people of Littner village and countless others along the way. It takes tenacity to get the ball rolling in his favor. And eventually, once his actions back up his words, his optimism becomes contagious and fuels the rebellious spirit of an entire race.

And while this is incredibly inspirational and hype-tastic, on this watch-through, I found the unbridled optimism in the second cour much more grounded, aggressive and impactful. In this part, the energy changes form; we will pierce through the heavens because we have done it before. We will do it again.

Time and time again, the characters state how the chances of winning are incredibly slim. But, as Simon says, almost zero percent is not zero. And if it’s not zero, then they will succeed. Each character shares this sentiment. It is the mantra of the entire second half. Even when Simon is imprisoned, even when Kamina City is destroyed, even when data and statistics repeatedly predict their demise, Team Dai-Gurren never loses their will to fight nor their confidence in their victory.

Part Two’s spirit is more overwhelming than Part One because there is no doubt. Kamina taught them better than that.

Who the hell do you think they are?

Gurren Lagann is an amazing show. I watched it when I was fourteen and incredibly impressionable. I can’t think of a greater anime to be influenced by. Being told over and over again that you can do anything is good to hear as a high school freshman. The amazing mech battles are just a big, big bonus. At the time of my first watch and the years since, I strongly believed that Part One of TTGL was miles above Part Two. How can you beat the glory days of Kamina? How can Part Two even try to make me feel the same way Part One did?

And while I still think the first half is better, I gained so much more respect for the second half this time around, partially due to the magnitude of its optimism and stakes.

Just when you think TTGL can’t get more incredible in its scale, it escalates significantly. A rebellion to take a planet turns into a war to free galaxies and dimensions. With those incredible stakes and against those incredible odds, the show becomes even more potently aggressive and unapologetic in its optimism. Each defeat just fuels their fire for victory. And it is such a spectacle to watch. Being able to appreciate that this time around was eye-opening.

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a special show. From humble beginnings, watching Simon and Kamina see the moon for the first time, to witnessing them standing atop galaxies truly encapsulates the fighting spirit that is inherent in all people. We just need to kick logic to the curb and do the impossible.

*This is a post-emptive additional to the Reread Diary. Since it's a re-exploration, I think it should count in the series.

1 Comment

Feb 13, 2019

It was a fun ride watching with you!


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