Gurren Lagann, known in Japan as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, is a Japanese mecha anime television series animated by Gainax and co-produced by Aniplex and Konami. It ran for 27 episodes on Japan’s TV Tokyo between April 1, 2007, and September 30, 2007. It was directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, written by veteran playwright Kazuki Nakashima, both of whom would later collaborate on two more projects, Kill la Kill in 2013 and Promare in 2019, and had been in development since the participation of the famed animator in the Abenobashi mecha-themed episodes by the same studio. Gurren Lagann takes place in a fictional future where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King, Lordgenome, who forces mankind to live in isolated subterranean villages. The plot focuses on two teenagers, Simon and Kamina, who live in a subterranean village and wish to go to the surface. Using a mecha known as Lagann, Simon and Kamina reach the surface and start fighting alongside other humans against Lordgenome’s forces, before fighting the forces of their true enemy.
In North America, although initially announced to be licensed by ADV Films in 2007, the license was transferred to Bandai Entertainment in 2008 and then transferred to Aniplex of America in 2013. In the United Kingdom, it was licensed by Manga Entertainment in 2007, then transferred to Beez Entertainment in 2008, and then transferred to Anime Limited in 2013. The Sci Fi Channel acquired the broadcasting rights of Gurren Lagann and began airing the anime on July 28, 2008, as part of Sci Fi’s Ani-Monday anime block. The anime won several awards at the Tokyo International Anime Fair and the Animation Kobe and Japan Media Arts Festivals.
A manga adaptation was published by ASCII Media Works between 2007 and 2013. Bandai Entertainment licensed the manga and released it in English in North America. A series of four light novels was published by Shogakukan between 2007 and 2008. A Nintendo DS video game was released in October 2007, bundled with a special episode of the anime series. Two animated film versions were produced; the first premiered in Japanese theaters on September 6, 2008, and the second premiered on April 25, 2009.
The Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann manga, illustrated by Kotaro Mori, started serialization in the June 2007 issue of MediaWorks’ magazine Dengeki Comic Gao!. The manga ended serialization in Dengeki Comic Gao! with the April 2008 issue when the magazine was discontinued, but continued serialization in ASCII Media Works’ manga magazine Dengeki Daioh with the June 2008 issue and continued until the July 2013 issue. Ten tankōbon volumes were published between September 27, 2007 and June 27, 2013 in Japan under ASCII Media Works’ Dengeki Comics imprint. Bandai Entertainment licensed the manga and released an English translation of the first six volumes in North America. The manga follows the same basic story as the anime, although there are some changes to the order of events, and the addition of character backstories that had been cut from the anime, such as the relationship between Dayakka and Kiyoh.
A spin-off manga entitled Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Gurren Gakuen-hen was serialized in Comp Ace between August 26, 2008 and January 26, 2009; a single tankōbon volume was released on March 26, 2009. The manga takes the characters from the original story and puts them in a school in a parallel world. In the manga, Simon attends Dai-Gurren Academy with his friend Kamina, and childhood friend Yoko. Simon, who lives in a run down apartment building, wishes for a normal life, and meets the mysterious Nia one day when she trips down the stairs. She immediately takes a liking to Simon and declares him her husband. Kamina finds another “aniki” in Nia, who shares his hot-blooded style. She enrolls in Dai-Gurren Academy, and all three must deal with the threat of students from Teppelin Academy, who wish to bring Nia back to her father, the principal.
Another spin-off manga titled Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann 4-koma Kingdom: Yoko no Oheso-hen was published by Futabasha in 2008 as a compilation of various short stories.
Gurren Lagann takes place in a future where Earth is ruled by the Spiral King, Lordgenome, who forces mankind to live in isolated subterranean villages. These villages have no contact with the surface world or other villages and are under constant threat of earthquakes. Selected villagers called diggers are conscripted to expand their homes deeper underground. Simon, a meek young digger ostracized by his peers in Giha village, finds solace in his best friend, an older brother figure who is an eccentric delinquent named Kamina. Kamina encourages Simon to join his gang, Team Gurren, to help him achieve his dream of visiting the surface world. One day, Simon unearths a drill-shaped key called a Core Drill, followed by a small mecha resembling a face called a Gunmen. Shortly thereafter, a huge Gunmen crashes through the ceiling and begins attacking the village, followed by a girl named Yoko, who attempts to repel the Gunmen. Simon uses his Core Drill to activate the smaller Gunmen (which Kamina names Lagann) and its drilling-based abilities. He successfully uses it to destroy the larger Gunmen and break through the ceiling to bring him and Kamina to the surface world.
Simon and Kamina learn from Yoko that humans on the surface are attacked each day by Gunmen who are piloted by beastmen which are humanoid creatures who serve as Lordgenome’s army. Kamina hijacks a Gunmen and names it Gurren, combining it with Lagann to form the mecha Gurren Lagann. Their actions inspire other humans to steal their own Gunmen and join Team Gurren, which makes Kamina rename it Team Dai-Gurren. Eventually Team Dai-Gurren captures an enemy Gunmen fortress to use as their base of operations, though Kamina is killed in the preceding battle by one of Lordgenome’s four generals. Rossiu, a boy from another village, takes over the job of piloting Gurren, but Kamina’s death causes Simon to sink into depression until he meets Nia, who is revealed to be Lordgenome’s daughter. Team Dai-Gurren is initially distrustful of her but they allow her to join them when it becomes apparent that she was abandoned by her father, like many who came before her. Nia helps Simon come to terms with Kamina’s death, and the rest of Team Dai-Gurren prompt him to take up the role as the team’s leader, leading them and other teams of humans, who had captured other Gunmen and Gunmen fortresses, to Lordgenome’s palace. As the palace itself turns out to be a gigantic Gunmen called the Teppelin and launches armies of other Gunmen, the human forces engage them while Simon, Nia, and Rossiu pilot Gurren Lagann against Lordgenome himself, who fights them in a similar Gunmen called Lazengann. When both Lazengann and Gurren are damaged, Lordgenome fights Simon in Lagann with his bare hands, and emerges victorious, until Simon uses his Core Drill to defeat him once and for all.
Over the next seven years, mankind prospers on the surface world with Simon and the other members of Team Dai-Gurren serving as the world’s government in their new capital of Kamina City. As soon as the human population reaches one million people, an alien race called the Anti-Spirals emerges and uses Nia to announce their intentions: they have sent the Moon onto a collision course with the Earth as part of their effort to wipe out all of the life on the planet, to prevent them from evolving to such an extent that they will risk destroying the universe in a cataclysmic event called the Spiral Nemesis. With guidance from Lordgenome resurrected as a bio-computer, who was once part of an intergalactic army of warriors who fought against the Anti-Spirals and had hidden mankind underground to protect them from the Anti-Spirals, and with help from Viral, an old enemy of Simon who pilots Gurren, Simon, Gurren Lagann and Team Dai-Gurren prevent the Moon’s collision, revealing it to be Lordgenome’s flagship that was reprogrammed by the Anti-Spirals. Using it, they retrieve the real Moon from the pocket dimension the Anti-Spirals had hidden it in, and go to the Anti-Spiral homeworld. After a journey with significant loss, they rescue Nia, and in a one-on-one Gunmen battle that virtually spans the universe, Simon in Lagann finally destroys the Anti-Spirals. This, however, causes Nia to fade away into nothing, as her own existence is tied to that of the Anti-Spirals. Simon, finding his life in battle to finally be over, hands his Core Drill over to Gimmy and leaves his friends to spend the rest of his life wandering the planet as a nameless vagrant, saying his destiny was merely to “dig the tunnel to the future”, not to travel down it himself.
In the epilogue, twenty years have passed since the team’s victory over the Anti-Spirals. With many of Team Dai-Gurren retired, it is up to the new generations of pilots to prevent the Spiral Nemesis and ensure the safety of the universe. Other races across the galaxy, freed from the Anti-Spirals, contact Earth. President Rossiu of Kamina City joins forces with them and during the twenty years, has created the Galactic Spiral Peace Conference. Yoko, now as Miss Yomako, becomes the principal of the small school she was at during her seven years absence from the team. One of her students, Nakim, becomes a representative of the galaxy in the Grapearl Squadron. Gimmy and Darry use Simon’s Core Drill to become the new pilots of Gurren Lagann. Viral becomes the captain of the Super Galaxy Dai-Gurren and an emissary for Earth. Nia’s memorial and her engagement ring are shown to have been placed next to Kamina’s grave. Simon, still living as Simon the Digger, watches over them as a squadron of multiple Gurren Laganns flies overhead through the night sky on their way to join their Spiral brethren in the stars.