In the distant past, an Anti-Spiral ship lays waste to yet another civilization. From the ruins, a young Lordgenome rises against them, building a massive Spiral army and leading them against the Anti-Spiral fleet. Despite his enormous power, he falls victim to the Anti-Spiral’s psychological warfare and turns against his own army, eventually laying waste to the very civilization he helped build. With a new army of beastmen, he installs himself as the Spiral King, condemning his own people to live in fear underground.
Many generations later, a boy named Simon spends his days digging–in part to help his underground village expand and also to dig up treasure. On this day, he discovers a small drill which pulses green in time with the giant eye he finds nearby. While fashioning a necklace to hang the core drill from, he runs into a man named Kamina, who tells him the drill suits him, as Simon’s drill is the drill that will pierce the heavens. Kamina immediately drags Simon into a mole-pig stampede he plans to use to pierce the roof of their underground village. Unfortunately, this plan is almost immediately foiled by the village chief, and Kamina and Simon are captured. The village chief reminds Kamina that the surface is a myth, but Kamina denies this, claiming his father made it to the surface. Their argument is cut short by an earthquake, which is immediately followed by a giant face-like robot crashing through the roof of the village. While the villagers run in terror, Kamina smiles and, taking up the chief’s sword, begins to threaten the giant robot. The robot is unimpressed, but before it can shut Kamina up with its giant club, a buxom young girl who repels down from the surface while firing a rather large sniper rifle. She lands in front of Kamina and Simon and tells them to run, but Kamina would rather flirt with her and offer his help. The trio is eventually forced to flee via Simon’s hastily dug escape tunnel. The girl introduces herself as Yoko from the next village over while Simon leads them to the face he dug up earlier. Yoko identifies it as a Gunmen, much like the one still rampaging through the village. Simon wants Kamina to pilot it to save the village, but Kamina surprisingly declines, saying that Simon should do it, as he’s the one who found it. Simon is unconvinced, but Kamina tells him to believe in him, because he believes in Simon. With newfound confidence, Simon inserts the core drill he found into the ignition of the small Gunmen, which explodes up to the village with Simon, Kamina, and Yoko in tow. Now giant-face-to-giant-face with the attacking Gunmen, Kamina once again threatens it, this time with the wrath of Lagann (which is what he has just named Simon’s Gunmen).
The Gunmen remains unimpressed, and sends the trio flying. Kamina and Yoko wind up on the Gunmen’s head, forcing Simon to rush in with Lagann and save them. Simon manages to get both Kamina and Yoko safely in Lagann’s rather cramped cockpit, but the enemy Gunmen manages to bite Lagann–trapping it between his massive teeth. Just as they are about to be crushed, Simon manages to bring out Lagann’s true power, spontaneously generating a drill which shatters the Gunmen’s tooth, freeing Lagann. Now armed, Lagann rushes the Gunmen, meeting its club head-on and shattering it. Lagann drills right through the Gunmen’s arm and into its body, forcing both mechs up through the hole in the village roof and into the sky as the enemy Gunman disintegrates in the wake of Lagann’s drill. Simon and Kamina find themselves exposed to the open sky for the first time in their lives, and can’t help but stare in awe. Unfortunately, while they were admiring the view, they began to fall back down to the surface, where they are immediately confronted by another enemy Gunman. Fortunately, before the Gunman can attack, it is brought down by automatic weapons fire by Yoko’s compatriots, lead by a man named Dayakka. As night falls, Dayakka’s group salvages the shattered Gunman while Simon and Kamina admire the stars for the first time. As they pack up to head home, Yoko explains that their village, Littner, was once an underground village like Simon’s, but due to an accident, was rendered uninhabitable. When they made their way to the surface, the Gunmen were waiting for them–it seems that their job is to keep the surface free of humans.
The next day, two new Gunmen appear, and Littner is forced to go on the offensive again. While Kamina goes with Yoko’s group to launch the attack, Simon stays behind with Littner’s gender-ambiguous mechanic, Leeron, to get Lagann ready for battle. Unfortunately, Simon is unable to start the mysterious little machine. The violent arrival of a third Gunman causes Simon to realize that the Gunmen crashing into the surface are what caused the cave-ins which caused his parent’ deaths. Simon’s sudden rage causes Lagann to activate and he rushes to the scene of the battle. Kamina jumps on an explains that he plans to take the third Gunman for himself. Using Lagann, they are able to topple the red Gunman and force open the cockpit, allowing Kamina to extract the beastman pilot and take the controls for himself. Unfortunately, Kamina finds himself unable to activate it. The enemy Gunmen counterattack, knocking Kamina’s Gunman over and tossing Lagann into the air. Kamina’s Gunman lands on top of a human skeleton, bringing Kamina face-to-face with his own mortality. This seems to be exactly the kind of motivation he needs, as the Gunman finally activates, allowing him to deliver limb-shattering blows to the two enemy Gunmen before they are able to finish off Lagann. With both of his Gunman’s legs and one arm destroyed, Kamina finishes off his opponents by hurling Lagann at them, which sprouts a drill and pierces both right through the cockpits.
The next day, Kamina admires the work done on his new Gunman, which he dubs Gurren. Yoko asks him to give her a ride out to do some hunting, to which Kamina agrees, but drags Simon along as well, much to Yoko’s disappointment. While hunting, Kamina scores a hit on a flying raccoon creature, but when he goes to retrieve it, he is ambushed by a blond beastman who identifies himself as Viral, a commander with the Human Annihilation Squad. A sword fight ensues, and although Kamina seems very much outmatched, he still manages to slash Viral’s face with a hidden arrow. Before the fight can resume, Kamina is saved by the timely arrival of Simon in his Lagann. Viral retreats back to his own Gunman hidden nearby, as Kamina boards his Gurren. Unfortunately, Gurren and Lagann are completely outmatched by Viral’s Enki, and are forced to flee by way of one of Simon’s hastily dug tunnels. That night, Simon attempts to convince Kamina that they should run away, as he doesn’t see any way they can possibly beat Viral. Kamina is unperturbed, however, and tells Simon that his drill is not meant for running away. Kamina heads inside to get some sleep, but runs into Yoko instead, who tersely asks him to allow her to pilot Lagann instead of Simon. She believes that Kamina will be killed with only Simon backing him up. Kamina is unmoved, however, and tells her that Simon will pull through–as Kamina believes in himself, he also believes in Simon. The next morning, Enki arrives right on schedule, finding Gurren standing resolutely against him. The fight proceeds exactly like the previous day, with Gurren getting thrown around like a rag-doll by Enki. Simon finds himself unable to move, not even wanting to watch Kamina take such a beating, but Yoko forces him to, telling him that Kamina will keep standing back up until Simon gets out there. Meanwhile, Enki begins to charge up a massive energy attack to finish Gurren off, but just as he fires, Lagann bursts out of the ground and forces him off-target. Simon admits that he is completely terrified, but the thought of standing there and watching Kamina die is far worse. Kamina agrees and tells him it’s time for their last resort–they’e going to combine! Nobody seems to know what he’s talking about, but Kamina simply smashes Lagann on top of Gurren, resulting in a rather unimpressive combination. Just as the insulted Viral moves to finish the two off, Lagann is suddenly bathed in a green light, and to everyone’s shock, Gurren and Lagann really do combine. The newly christened Gurren-Lagann destroys Enki’s head and steals his helmet. Viral attempts to counterattack with Enki’s swords, but they are almost immediately destroyed by Gurren-Lagann’s drills. Finding himself completely outmatched, Viral is forced to flee. Later that night, Leeron discovers a recall point listed in Gurren’s system files. Believing this to be the location of the beastmen’s headquarters, Kamina and Simon decide to strike out into the wasteland and track the beastmen to their source. Yoko and Leeron decide to join them.
In their travels, they eventually meet a man named Kittan and his three sisters who make their living destroying Gunmen and are eventually joined by a young man named Rossiu and a pair of twins named Gimmy and Darry. But their exploits with Gurren-Lagann start to earn them the attention of the mysterious leader of the beastmen, Spiral King Lordgenome and his four generals. Soon, Team Gurren find themselves facing down the Dai-Gunzan–a massive fortress Gunman–commanded by General Thymilph and backed up by Viral and his refitted Enkidu. Despite Kamina’s boasting, Gurren-Lagann is severely beaten by Dai-Gunzan’s massive arms, and is almost torn apart before Dayakka and Kittan, each riding their own Gunmen show up to rescue them. It seems that the story of Gurren-Lagann has inspired many others to steal their own Gunman and start fighting back against the beastmen. Yoko tells Kamina to escape so they can meet up with their other allies and regroup, but Kamina worries that Dai-Gunzan will surely finish them off if they attempt to flee. The situation seems grim, but Simon asks Kamina to turn over control of Gurren-Lagann to him, as he has an idea. Kamina does, and Simon leads the Dai-Gunzan to the edge of a cliff, shooting off small drills as he goes. With their backs to the cliff, the Dai-Gunzan seems to have them cornered, but Simon’s drills have weakened the ground under them, causing the ground under Dai-Gunzan and Enkidu to cave in. Having bought themselves some time, Kamina and Simon go to meet their new allies. That night, the newly formed Team Dai-Gurren celebrates and plans their assault on Dai-Gunzan in an effort to secure a future where kids like Gimmy and Darry can look up at the sun without a care in the world. Kamina plans to steal the Dai-Gunzan by way of Simon’s Lagann–while Gurren and their new allies attacks from the front, Lagann will sneak around from behind and attempt to combine with the Dai-Gunzan and then turn its guns against the beastmen.
The next morning, Yoko visits Kamina, who tells her to watch his back in the upcoming battle while he handles everything in front. Coming from behind, Yoko suddenly kisses him, noting that his back does seem to be on big blind spot. Kamina is taken by surprise for a moment, but then embraces and kisses her, then promises to give her something ten times better when he gets back. Yoko tells him she’ll be looking forward to it. Unfortunately, Simon witnesses all this from the bushes nearby. As volcanoes explode in the distance, Team Dai-Gurren marches into battle. They discover Dai-Gunzan’s forces playing possum, but manage to draw them away from the Dai-Gunzan, with Enkidu heading straight for Gurren. When Viral realizes that Lagann is missing, Kamina signals Simon to attack. Simon bursts out of the cliff wall and embeds Lagann into the bridge of Dai-Gunzan. Unfortunately, not all goes according to plan, as the Dai-Gunzan begins to fire wildly at friend and foe alike. Still distracted by seeing Yoko and Kamina’s kiss, Simon is unable to control the Dai-Gunzan. Viral attempts to lead his forces back to the Dai-Gunzan, but Kamina knocks him away and tells his team to keep the beastmen busy while he goes to help out Simon. Upon arriving at the Dai-Gunzan, Kamina throws himself out of Gurren and onto Lagann. When Simon opens the cockpit, Kamina immediately punches Simon right in the jaw. Simon is stunned momentarily, and Kamina explains that whenever Simon starts to doubt himself, he’ll always be there to belt him one. Kamina reminds Simon to believe in him, who believes in Simon. This seems to work for Simon, who is suddenly able to take complete control of the Dai-Gunzan. Kamina returns triumphantly to Gurren, but suddenly receives a nearly lethal blow from below the deck of the Dai-Gunzan. Thymilph emerges in his Byakou and with the help of Enkidu and impales Gurren through the cockpit, apparently killing Kamina. Team Dai-Gurren is stunned by this sudden turn, and Simon’s sudden trauma causes the Dai-Gunzan to fire wildly once more. As the volcano nearby becomes even more violent, Team Dai-Gurren begins to scatter in the confusion. Dai-Gunzan and Lagann begin to march toward the volcano in despair, when Gurren’s broken fist suddenly slams into Lagann–a broken, but not beaten Kamina asks Simon who the hell he thinks he is, and reminds him that Simon’s drill is the drill that has pierced through heaven. His morale restored, Simon retakes control of Dai-Gunzan and tells Team Dai-Gurren that they’ve won. Thymilph begs to differ, however, and launches a counterattack. Kamina calls Simon to combine one last time, resulting in a restored Gurren-Lagann which makes short work of Thymilph’s cannon fodder. Before moving on to Thymilph himself, Kamina tells Simon to believe in himself from now on. With that, Kamina announces a Giga Drill Breaker and pierces Byakou with a giant drill, causing it to explode. With Thymilph dead and Dai-Gunzan captured, Kamina passes away.
Seven days later, rain continues to pour and Simon continues to seclude himself in his room on the Dai-Gunzan (now renamed Dai-Gurren). Other members of Team Dai-Gurren wonder who will take over for Kamina–Simon is an unpopular choice, due to his recent reclusiveness. When a squad of Gunmen attack, Gurren Lagann meets them, with Rossiu filling in as Gurren’s pilot. Simon fights recklessly, ranting about what Kamina would do if he were still there. With Simon becoming more and more unstable, eventually Lagann rejects the combination and forcefully separates from Gurren, resulting in it falling into a ravine. Simon wakes up at the bottom and discovers a dumping ground of mysterious crates. Curious, he approaches the latest addition and finds a keyhole resembling his core drill. He unlocks the crate and is shocked to discover a young girl surrounded by flowers sleeping inside. The girl seems unperturbed about her current situation, and as the rain finally subsides, she introduces herself as Nia and asks if Simon is a human. Simon is almost too stunned to notice the Gunman that followed him, and is forced to flee with Nia back to Lagann, which now refuses to activate. He tells Nia to run for it, saying that no matter what happens to him, he doesn’t want to see anyone else die. Just as he attempts to make a suicidal attack with only his hand drill, Yoko and Kittan arrive to save him. When they return to the Dai-Gurren, Nia introduces herself, to the crew’ shock, as the Spiral King Lordgenome’s daughter. Kittan attempts to interrogate her, but is foiled by Nia’s naivete.
Later that day, Simon sulks in his quarters, carving statue after statue of Kamina. Nia shows up with Yoko and says that she heard from the crew what her father had put them through and apologizes for Kamina’s death, saying that she doesn’t know why her father would want to kill such wonderful people. Simon admits that Kamina would not have wanted her to have to apologize, and relates a story from their old village. Once, Kamina, Simon and a few others wound up trapped underground while attempting to escape the village. Despite the dire situation, Kamina urged them forward, laughing in the face of death. Thanks to this, Simon was able to keep digging and eventually dug them out. Simon admits that he’s been trying to be like Kamina, but he just can’t pull it off. Nia urges him to believe in himself, saying he shouldn’t try to rely on someone who is no longer here. Yoko responds badly to this, saying Nia can’t know what they’e going through and reminds Nia that she plays a part in this conflict as well. Nia looks shaken by this. Their conversation is interrupted, however, when the Dai-Gurren is surrounded by miraculous tidal waves, from which emerges another of the Spiral King’s generals–Adiane in her personal Gunman, Sayrune. Nia rushes on to the deck to order Adiane to cease her attack, but Adiane cruelly informs her that the Spiral King has thrown her out and she is to be killed along with the humans. Adiane captures Nia in Sayrune’s claws, but is interrupted by another general, Cytomander, who takes Nia to be made an example of. Team Dai-Gurren now finds themselves surrounded by all three remaining generals, their command ships, and respective armies. The third general, Guame, announces that the execution of Nia and Team Dai-Gurren will be broadcast live to all the other human villages, so that no human will ever again contest the will of the Spiral King. The Dai-Gurren is thrown into the air by Adiane’s command ship, kicked by Cytomander’s ship, ricocheted off Guame’s, and then unexpectedly pierced by Viral’s new command ship, the Dai-Gunzan Two.
With Dai-Gurren no longer able to move, hordes of Gunmen assault the ship with Team Dai-Gurren desperately attempting to hold them back. Kittan attempts to take on Guame as Yoko attempts to snipe Adiane who has left her Gunman to lead her shock troops in the retaking of the Dai-Gurren. Meanwhile, Nia looks on in horror from the claws of Cytomander’s Shuzack, high in the sky over the battle. Guame and Cytomander explain to her that Lordgenome discarded her because she asked why she was born, and prepare to execute her as an example of how worthless human lives really are. But as they train their cameras on Shuzack, it is revealed that Simon latched onto the mech at some point and is currently scaling it with his drills in an attempt to save Nia. Seeing this, Yoko remembers a story Kamina told her about the time he and Simon were trapped in a cave in. Kamina had no confidence and just put on a brave face for show. Seeing Simon continue to dig in the face of despair deeply impressed Kamina, and he vowed to live up to his example. As he finally remembers Kamina’s last words to him, Cytomander finally succeeds in knocking him off the mech. As Simon begins to fall, he only becomes more determined to save Nia. Activated by his will, Lagann reactivates and flies up to catch him. Simon flies back up and with newfound power, knocks Cytomander away and lets Nia jump into Lagann. Meanwhile, Yoko is forced to engage in melee combat with Adiane, while Rossiu in Gurren takes on Viral, who still believes that Kamina is his opponent. Just as Rossiu is about to be overpowered, Lagann comes blasting out of the sky and combines with him to form Gurren Lagann. Right in front of the cameras meant to record his execution, Simon announces that while he can’t replace Kamina, he will dig a hole to pierce the heavens–who the hell do they think he is? He is Simon the Digger! With that, he performs an immediate Giga Drill Breaker, completely obliterating Cytomander and his Gunman. Inspired, Team Dai-Gurren launches a counterattack, driving Guame, Viral, and Adiane off the Dai-Gurren. With few other options, the remaining generals decide to combine their ships into the massive Dai-Gun Doten-Kaizan, which launches a massive barrage of missiles at the Dai-Gurren. Fortunately, Gurren-Lagann protects the ship with its drill and, backed up by the unified Team Dai-Gurren, performs a Giga Drill Breaker – Team Dai-Gurren Shoot. Gurren-Lagann, surrounded by energy blasts from Team Dai-Gurren, drills through the corridors of Dai-Gun Doten-Kaizan, ripping it apart from the inside and killing Guame and Adiane. Dai-Gun Doten-Kaizan erupts in a massive fireball as Team Dai-Gurren flies off victorious. Later, Simon and Nia visit Kamina’s grave, and Nia admits that she wanted to believe in her father. Simon tells her that it doesn’t matter that she’s a princess or why she was born–what matters is living your own way. Yoko decides to take the opportunity to welcome their new friend and their new leader. Simon is surprised by this, but Kittan reminds him that he was the man that Kamina choose.
Being as this compilation movie came out only a year after the series ended, you could definitely argue that Gurren Chapter and Lagann Chapter were nothing more than money-grabs on Gainax’s part. Gurren Chapter covers the first eleven episodes, and is mostly old footage–outside of the last twenty minutes or so, you won’t see much of anything that wasn’t already in the series (even the opening segment featuring Lordgenome’s backstory was lifted from one of the Parallel Works shorts). Characters seem to appear out-of-the-blue as the character introduction episodes were only shown during the short musical montage between acts one and two and some of the dialog feels kind of stilted because they had to combine cover so much at once to save time. In short, the movie suffers badly from being a compilation movie. That said, though, the last twenty minutes are pretty spectacular. Everything got kicked up a notch–Simon’s hero speech was even flashier, the battle feels ridiculously large and is stunningly animated all the way through. In short, while I would never suggest the movie to someone who hadn’t seen the series, it’s definitely worth checking out if you enjoyed the series and are hungry for more.