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Episode 1: Bust Through the Heavens with your Drill!

 

Review by Scott Richardson

July 29, 2007

 

Summary

 

Across the stars, a pitched battle rages. At the center of the conflict, a massive battleship flying a flag with a flaming skull with pointy sunglasses is hit hard by the enemy's barrage. On the bridge, a crewman reports that their defenses are weakening. An aide muses that the enemy fleet is so vast, they seem to out number the stars themselves. A caped man strolls on to the bridge and warns them not to lose their cool--such an enemy might actually prove to be a decent match for them. The aide orders all guns to target the Great Dimensional Government, as the caped man decides he'll crush the enemy as well as space-time itself. At his command, the battleship transforms into a huge mech, ready to meet its destiny head on. Elsewhere in time and space, humanity has been relegated to living underground in small villages. Mole-pigs are bred for food, and one of the major occupations is digging in order to make the village bigger. In the village of Jiiha, none are as skilled with the hand drill as 14-year-old Simon. On this day, in the course of his digging, he discovers a small, glowing drill. Leaving the digging area, he fashions the drill into a necklace. Unfortunately, for all his skill, Simon is not well liked by his peers, except for the village troublemaker, Kamina, who thinks of Simon as a little brother. Finding Simon moping after being made fun of by a group of girls, Kamina tells him not to worry about what other people think, and tells him his new drill necklace suits him, as the drill is Simon's soul. Kamina drags Simon down to the mole-pig pen, where his three underlings, referred to by Kamina as the Team Gurren, are preparing to break in. Simon is a bit nervous about what seems to be going on, but Kamina tells him that his drill does not belong to the elders--for his drill is one which will pierce the heavens. Leaving Simon confused, Kamina orders his underlings to start the operation. The Team Gurren starts a mole-pig stampede which they ride upwards across the village overpasses towards the roof. Kamina tells Simon that when they hit the roof, he wants him to drill for the surface. Unfortunately, the Team Gurren's ride to glory comes to an abrupt end when the village elder uses his sheathed sword to knock the Team Gurren and the mole-pigs back down to the village floor. The Team Gurren (including Simon) is rounded up and scolded by the elder, who reminds them that the surface is merely a fairy tale, and opening the ceiling is forbidden. Kamina stubbornly declares that he went with his father to the surface when he was little. The elder responds by asking Kamina why he's still here if that were true, and Kamina is unable to respond. The elder tells them that those who go against him won't get any food, which is all it takes for Kamina's three underlings to cave-in and apologize, abandoning Kamina to his fate. Simon remains silent, but the elder releases him, saying that he knows that Kamina just dragged him along. Simon is a bit unwilling to leave Kamina behind, but Kamina tells him not to worry about it. At that moment, the earth begins to shake, sending the villages scrabbling for cover. Simon instinctively clings to Kamina and pleads with him to get to cover. Kamina angrily declares that he doesn't run, but, noticing Simon's terror, remembers that Simon lost his parents in an earthquake. Kamina puts his arm around Simon and tells him not to worry, and then as the earthquake dies down he yells at the villagers, asking them how long they plan to live in fear when above ground there is no ceiling! That night, Simon continues doing what he does best after lights-out, and digs up what looks like a giant eye, which is glowing in unison with his core drill-necklace. Excited by this discovery, Simon drills right into the cell where Kamina is being held so he can bring him down to see the 'big face' he's discovered. Kamina reminds him that this is technically a jailbreak, but thinks it'll be alright as long as he's back in the cell come morning. Unfortunately, on their way out, they're busted by the elder. Kamina tries to cover for Simon, but before their argument can get too far, a giant longhorn skull-shaped robot crashes through the village ceiling.

 

Ignoring the mad panic that the rest of the village has been thrown into, Kamina is thrilled by this new development. Taking the cowering elder's sword, Kamina walks right up to the giant robot's face (which makes up the majority of its body) and loudly promises to punish it for barging in on their village. To everyone's surprise, the face talks back, asking who this madman thinks he is. Kamina boisterously introduces himself as the leader of the infamous Team Gurren--the great Kamina--and warns the intruder that if he plans to make any more trouble for this village, he'll have to answer to him. While the rest of the villagers are reeling from Kamina's obvious insanity, Simon seems inspired. Unimpressed, the robot prepares to strike Kamina down, but is knocked off-balance by sniper shots which rain down from above. A red-haired young woman with a huge sniper rifle swings down from the surface and lands right in front of Kamina and Simon whom she warns to stay back. Knowing that the robot won't be down for long, she dashes for better cover. Kamina follows her, unheeding of the danger, and flirts with her while asking questions about the surface. Not quite sure what to make of him, she tells him to run away if he doesn't want to die. Taking advantage of Kamina's distraction, the robot brings its huge club down on where the two of them are standing. Fortunately, Simon drills in from underneath, saving the both of them. As Simon leads them down a tunnel, the sniper tells them that she comes from the neighboring village--Littner. Kamina is rather disappointed that despite coming from the surface she's just an undergrounder like them and immediately stops flirting with her. Simon leads them through some apartments, causing the sniper to pause to try to get a killing shot in while the robot's back is turned. Kamina ruins it, however, by loudly taunting the robot, which the sniper has identified as a 'Gunmen.' As they make their escape through another of Simon's tunnels, Kamina tells her that real men fight face-to-face. Simon leads them to the 'big face' he dug up, which seems to be a large-ish robot head with an open-air cockpit where the brain would be. Simon excited suggests that using this, Kamina could smash the Gunmen up above. Kamina considers this for a moment, but decides that Simon should be the one to pilot it--since he dug it up, it rightfully belongs to him. Simon isn't exactly thrilled at his prospects, but Kamina eggs him on, telling him to "go beyond the possible and kick reason to the curb!" Simon still doesn't have faith in himself, though, so Kamina decides that rather than believing in himself, Simon can simply believe in him, who in turn believes in Simon. Simon finally decides to try it, and inserts his core-drill into a center indicator which seems to have been designed to accept it. With a burst of energy, the head sprouts stubby arms and legs and blasts its way back to the village center with the three of them holding on for dear life. Kamina once again taunts the Gunmen, telling it that though heaven may forgive it, Lagann (the name he has suddenly given to Simon's robot) will not! Simon dodges wildly as the Gunmen tries to destroy them with its club, and eventually manages a glancing blow on Lagann, causing Kamina and the sniper to spill out, landing on top of the Gunmen. Simon recovers in time to see the two of them about to be crushed, and--remembering what Kamina told him--finds the confidence to run madly up the Gunmen's arm to recover his friends. Still in danger, Simon discovers a way to close Lagann's head, which makes a tight fit for the three of them, but causes a killing blow from the Gunmen's club to glance off the Lagann and nail himself instead. Unfortunately, their celebration is cut short when the Gunmen wakes back up and traps the Lagann in its teeth. Just as the Lagann is about to be crushed, it sprouts a drill on its forehead which Simon uses to make their escape through the Gunmen's teeth. Kamina remarks that a drill is a fitting weapon for Simon. Realizing that victory is within his reach, Simon launches the Lagann at the Gunmen with such force that the both of them are propelled upwards out of the village and into the sky. The Gunmen disintegrates around Lagann's drill and the cockpit opens, revealing the long-rumored surface far below them. As Kamina and Simon gape at the first sunset of their lives, the sniper warmly introduces herself as Yoko. Kamina introduces himself and Simon, who notices that they've picked up another passenger--a tiny mole-pig he has named Boota. Unfortunately, at that moment they realize that they've reached the apex of their accent, and are about to come crashing down to earth. Unable to figure out how to stop their fall, Simon closes the cockpit, which shields them well enough that they land in a heap, but unharmed. As they pull themselves up, they find two more Gunmen leering over them... 

 

Commentary

 

Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann gets off to a good start with a high-energy first episode. Three primary characters are introduced--the bombastic and fearless 'older brother,' Kamina, the cool-headed and confident sniper, Yoko, and the uncertain young main character who has been taken under Kamina's wing, Simon. While many plot points are pretty standard fare for this kind of show--the fearless, but not-so-bright leader, the young main character who discovers an amazing, mysterious power, the scantly-clad fanservice character--the amount of energy poured into every aspect of the show makes the whole thing a pretty wild ride. Kamina is surprisingly warm towards Simon, whom he really does seem to regard as a little brother, and his encouragement speeches are hilariously awesome. Despite her attire, Yoko proves that she can hold her own in a fight with a giant robot. While the giant face mecha motif has been done before, watching a small robot head with stubby arms and legs fight a giant longhorn skull mech is a blast to watch. If the opening sequence which features a man who may or may not be a grown-up Simon laughing in the face of an armada which outnumbers the stars in the sky is any indication, Gurren-Lagann has some pretty exciting things in store for us.

 

Overall Rating

Full StarFull StarFull StarHalf StarNo Star

4 out of 5 stars
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