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Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
By Victor Piyatat Limsila 4048 Hero’s Journey
What is “Hero’s Journey”?
The hero’s journey or monomyth form of storytelling introduced by Joseph Campbell. It’s a pattern in the story narrative which appeared in many famous media, usually in a form of a hero who goes on an adventure of some sort, fight many obstacles, fall down, get back up, triumph, come back and shares the reward with his companion. This is structure had been used over and over in many media (i.e. movies, TV-shows, novel, game and so on) which mostly successfully capture the audience, despite the critic which claim that it is storytelling from male perspective and this formula has become Cliché in the modern day media. The theory consisting of 17 stages that the hero have to go through, completing their journey but it is possible for the stage to be in the different order to fit in each story. This analysis will look into Hero’s Journey formula in the 2007 Japanese’s critical acclaim animation series “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” (TTGL).
“HEAVEN-PIERCING GURREN LAGANN”
The literal meaning of the title and also the status of this anime which still one of the best Super robot anime of all time. “Gurren Lagann” as its common name was a television animation series by Gainax and co-produced by Aniplex and Konami. The anime was Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi and written by Kazuki Nakashima. TTGL 27 episodes were aired on TV Tokyo on 1st April to 30th September 2007 and had become a worldwide sensation, later within the year the anime was licensed across Asia, North America and Europe. And later spawn many follow up media adaptations such as Manga series, an English dubbed version for North America, 4 light novel series, an NintendoDS video games and 2 Animated feature films in 2008 and 2009.
Hero’s Journey breakdown
This the journey of a young boy who is not yet realize his destiny.
Simon the digger
Simon is a 14 years old orphan boy from Giha village where human lives underground. He have a weak character and have a little self-confident create distance between Simon and other in his village except his high spirit blood brother who is completely opposite to him “Kamina” and his mole pet follower “Buta”. He spend most of his day digging tunnel with one thing that he exceptionally good at, his spiral drill. He always wandering what is up there beyond this rock ceiling underground. One day, He was digging as usual then
he found and tiny growing spiral drill shape in the earth and a mechanical head buried nearby. He kept the drill and move on. This gave us the introduction to the character and uncomfortable environment that he is in.
The Departure Stage: I - The Call to Adventure
As the usual day gone for Simon and Kamina in Giha village. Suddenly an earthquake shocks. People running around finding a place to hide from falling rocks as they always do when it happen. Kamina stood there at the middle of the village yelling at others to dig up to the surface where there is no ceiling or rock to crush them but nobody listen. Simon was shaking in fear and asking Kamina to stop and hide since his parent got crush in the earthquake long time ago. On that moment, the ceiling exploded, then appeared a giant scary looking monster that’s now threaten to kill everyone in the village.
Stage: II Refusal of the Call
Simon as his usual self couldn’t help but being scared thinking that it would be futile to fight that thing while Kamina taunting at it to fight him. Suddenly, a mysterious girl with a sniper-rifle fall down and shooting the monster. She introduces herself as “Yoko” from Littner village on the surface and the monster is the machine called “Gunman” enemy of the humanity.
Stage: III Supernatural Aid
After the three got out-gunned by the Gunman, they fell back. They crawled into Simon’s tunnel to the mechanical head that he found before, they climbed in. In there they found the spiral shape key hole in the middle, Simon put the tiny drill in. The engine started, legs and arms appeared it became a robot like machine with Simon controlling it inside. They flied back and fought with the Gunman. Kamina name the machine “Lagann”. It seems to be equal at
power but with Simon lacked experience and still scared of the Gunman the favor was not on their side.
Stage: IV Belly of The Whale (*note this is where the orders are
different from the Campbell formula. In the original would be “The Crossing of the First Threshold”)
After fought with the Gunman, they are now on the edge of defeat. Simon was almost ready to give up while they were about to get crushed by the Gunman. Kamina supported him, told him that he don’t have to believe in himself but believes in Kamina that believes Simon (he literally said that). Simon gathered his will power thus created a big drill out of Lagann’s forehead. It busted through the Gunman arm and push it toward the skylight at the ceiling.
Stage: V the Crossing of the First Threshold
Simon and his friend launched the Gunman to the surface. This was the very first time that Simon ever seen the surface, sky, cloud and sunlight. His life before this was in underground darkness now step onto the surface world that he had never seen before. The Initiation
Stage: VI the Road to Trials
Simon ventured on the surface with his friend and met other human who came to the surface before him. They fought many Gunman attacks and learned that all the Gunman were piloted by Beastman a half man half animal creature. Kamina ended up hijacked one of the Gunman and called it “Gurren” from the name of his own gank “Gurren-dan”. Simon and Kamina encounter their first challenge when met beastman general “Viral” who control a powerful Gunman, in order to fight them they combined together into new robot “Gurren Lagann”, they won the battle. They acquired the power to fight back the beastman and freed the humanity from underground, they ventured further to defeat “The Spiral King” leader of the beastman and gain new allies along the way.
Stage: VII Woman as Temptress
As they fight the way on countless foes Simon had started to have some feeling toward Yoko. On the preparation before attacking enemy fortress Simon decided to tell her how he felt, but before he got a chance to do so, he saw Kamina and Yoko kissed each other. He was confused and heartbroken. On the fight to hijack the enemy fortress, Simon got distracted by what he saw. The siege didn’t go well as planned. This led to Kamina death as a result. The siege was successful the enemy defeated but Simon lost the most important thing to him, his “Bro”.
Stage: IIX Meeting With the Goddess
Simon was left devastated after Kamina’s death, he was his only family and mentor. After fought blindly with no direction or goal he fall down into the bottom of the cliff(metaphorically and literally). He found what was seem to be a junk yard and a tin box that just got dumped there. He open it up and found a girl inside. She introduce herself as “Nia” the Spiral Princess daughter of “Lord Genome” the Spiral King. Nia tried to help Simon to accept what happen and move on but it only small hope from Nia could reach Simon.
Stage: IX Atonement with the Father
The next battle was upon them, they were fallen into beastman’s trap and Nia was captured by beastman’s general. The Dai-Gurren team was in despair, locked up in the cell. Without anyone noticed Simon was digging a hole with his tiny drill at the moment Simon communicate with his mentor spirit within him “Kamina”. Simon realized that now he could believe in himself and had a break-through. Simon
Stage: X Apotheosis
Simon was reborn from shadow of Kamina with strength and power from his own radiance to drill through anything in his path. He defeated the beastman generals and headed to confront the Spiral King.
Stage: XI the Ultimate Boon
After an epic battle against Lord Genome, Simon finally defeated him. He granted human freedom to come to the surface and live without fear, as the goal Simon and Kamina always wanted. In 7 years after the battle, Simon and Dai-gurren team established world government where human and beastman were able to live together on the surface named “Kamina-City” and Simon himself was chosen to be the supreme commander. Thus end the first half and Simon’s Journey to become hero. After the initiation phase is the return phase which the hero will face their downfall, overcome it and return where he start to fulfill his complete his “hero’s journey” which also set in perfectly in the second half of the show.
What make TTGL different from other “Shonen(boy) Mecha(Robot)” anime?
In my opinion “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” was a successful and outshine other anime would be the use of “Hero’s Journey” pattern. It made the story more interesting, more engaging because the audience could see Simon developed his character from ordinary kid(like the audience) to hero that people could count on (like someone the audience would dreamed to become). The Hero’s Journey might be a formula, a pattern but it’s still up to the writer to adapt it into story.
Since the information about the anime was quite limited so most parts of this analysis came from my own experience watching the anime.
Connertalker. (2010). The Hero's Journey / Monomyth. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB_Q1gFsvIw. Last accessed 9th Oct 2013. DeathToZippermouth . (2007). Meaningful Symbols, Optimistic Messages, and the Hero’s Journey: Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann Analysis. Available: http://wtf.animeblogger.net/?p=140. Last accessed 9th Oct 2013. T.H.E.M anime reviews. (2008). Gurren Lagann. Available: http://www.themanime.org/viewreview.php?id=1165. Last accessed 9th Oct 2013. www.thewritersjourney.com. (2005). HERO'S JOURNEY. Available: http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero's_journey.htm. Last accessed 9th Oct 2013. ZenithWillRule. (2013). Crimson Analysis: Relationships, Symbolism, And Philosophy In Gurren Lagann Read more: http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/crimson-analysisrelationships-symbolism-and-philosophy-in-gurren-lagann134903#. Available: http://www.comicbooktherapy.com/crimson-analysisrelationships-symbolism-and-philosophy-in-gurren-lagann134903. Last accessed 9th Oct 2013.
Hero’s Journey on “Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann” By Victor Piyatat Limsila 4048
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