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Tyler Hayes

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Makes Weird Seem Organic

Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is a 2007 anime series by Studio Gainax. I first watched it not long after it aired, back when Netflix was primarily for delivering DVDs to your house, and after a little bit of a slow start, it sucked me in. The show revamped my brain with some of the best writing I’ve seen in any medium when it comes to raising stakes, tying those stakes to the arcs of the protagonists, and showing how to make a ridiculous concept work through the power of diegetic earnestness.

A quick overview of the show: Simon and Kamina are two young, blue-haired men living in an underground village. The hot-blooded Kamina decides it’s time to escape the village and go to the mythical “surface,” but before he can manage this, the surface comes to them, in the form of a giant robot engaged in a battle with a red-headed woman with a sniper rifle. What follows is a journey to the surface of the planet and far beyond, during which Simon, Kamina, and the other members of Team Gurren (of whom there are too many to list here) will grow as people, learn to harness the power of the Spiral (the power of “fighting spirit,” i.e. the ability to will yourself to success, but also somehow the mystic force behind evolution and double-helical DNA), and pilot ever-bigger giant robots who wield ever-bigger weaponized drills. But underneath the highly entertaining cartoon robot fights, Studio Gainax has planted a writing masterclass. It’s a show that should have been ridiculous, and is instead hewn from raw awesome.

[Spoilers ahead!]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

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