Everyone welcome our newest writer, Abigail! A student who loves art, writing, and video games, Abigail was inspired by anime from a young age, and plans to major in animation, hoping to one day have a hand in creating an anime series. She is often found lost in her imagination.
Standing on the dusty, barren wasteland that is the Earth, two mechas face off, clouds of dust swirling around their metal legs. One mech is manned by the enemy, prepared to kill the other as per ordered; the other is commanded by two humans, prepared to fight for the right of humans to live on top of the earth. In a few moments, the mechs clash, and the latter mech quickly takes care of the former. As the defeated hunk of metal explodes in a ball of flaming light, a band of rebels watching from afar cheer. It is a small victory as they still face hordes on the horizon, but it marks the start of their rise to victory.
This is a part of the beautifully crafted shonen Gurren Lagann . Packed to the brim with action, robots, and a catchy soundtrack, it is easy to enjoy. However, one thing that really stands out to me has to be the way it highlights sorrow, and a means to overcome it. Sorrow is a common theme among most anime. In Violet Evergarden, a story about a girl named Violet finding her purpose and love in the world, sorrow initially comes as we learn that Violet has lost the only man that ever cared for her. In Naruto , the wildly popular take on ninjas, sorrow is present at the very beginning as Naruto is neglected by his entire village because he has a demon sealed away inside of him. The theme of sorrow continues to grow throughout the entire tale as almost every character in the series reveal their backstories. Even so, Gurren Lagann’s portrayal of sorrow is heart-touching, well-done, and portrayed in a way unlike any other.
The story presented is quite interesting: the protagonist is a shy, lonely boy named Simon who doesn’t have much going for him. He spends his days digging in his underground village, thinking of the bleak future that awaited everyone below. One day they would all be buried alive when the tunnels finally caved in. However, everything changes after Simon finds a small mech buried beneath the stone, and when his only friend, his “blood brother” Kamina, appears.
Kamina is the first person to show any love to Simon. Spouting at the top of lungs his desires to escape to the above world, Kamina truly sets the story in motion and plants the seed that would eventually sprout inside of Simon and fill him with the courage he currently lacked. When the ceiling of their underground village collapses and they are faced with the threat of beastmen, they also see the first speck of hope for humanity in the form of a girl named Yoko. She signals the existence of a small rebellion, of other humans thriving underground besides Simon and Kamina’s village, and of hope for mankind.
What follows is the boys’ fight for survival as they seek to defeat the Spiral King in the first half of the series. But the sorrow only truly begins when Simon’s life is completely flipped upside-down. In a battle against a beastmen named Thymilph to take over his Dai-Ganzan, Kamina dies for the rebel group in order to take down Thymilph. While the entire crew suffers such a devastating loss, Simon is hit the hardest of all. The rest of the rebels get over Kamina’s death quicker than Simon does and use it as a springboard to push on to save humanity. Simon, meanwhile, wages a lonely battle as he struggles to move on.
Simon begins to lash out in anger at his allies. Some of his allies, quick to defend themselves, blame him for the death of Kamina. Simon sinks deeper into his depression and starts to lock himself in his room, ignoring everyone else, and distracting himself by using his familiar digging drill to carve multiple stone statues of Kamina. When he does leave his room to pilot the mech Kamina used to call Gurren Lagann, he harshly insists to pilot it all by himself, annoyed when others have to ride with him. On battles against the beastmen, Simon grows reckless, trying to be like Kamina, often throwing his life in the line of danger.
Sorrow can be a very destructive feeling. Simply look at what it does in our world today! Sorrow, in the form of depression, has taken so many lives through suicide. While depression isn’t the sole reason people commit suicide, it is a very common reason that has taken so many lives, especially the lives of teens.
In my experience, after losing someone I loved, I wondered if there was anything different I could’ve done to save them. Steadily, the feeling that I could have somehow helped them was a weight on my shoulders and I became angry with myself. Even though there was nothing I could’ve done, sorrow had driven me to believe that I had failed in something I had no control over. Sorrow can dim reason and instead crush a person beneath its weight. However, sorrow doesn’t have to be the thing that defeats us.
What saves Simon from his slump comes from a new ally: Nia Teppelin. Nia was the princess under the Spiral King, before a single question had her thrown out and left for dead at the hands of her own subjects, the beastmen. Along with the forever echoing words of Kamina in Simon’s head, Nia forms a tight bond with Simon that eventually blossoms into a strong relationship. Though it takes a while for her to truly befriend Simon, she is able to by continuing to seek out ways to strengthen their relationship. She talks to him, and when he vents his rage and pain, she calmly listening to his anger, his sorrow, and his recollections of his time with Kamina. She is the light in Simon’s darkness, resurrecting him from his pit of despair. Without her, Simon would grow lonely and friendless. He would one day die in a battle all because he didn’t care whether he lived or died, as long as he was being a brave warrior like Kamina.
Often times with sorrow, we sink deeper and deeper into and hide away from others. We try to escape with loneliness but end up growing worse in the process. However, by interacting with others and becoming close to them, we can open up a way to be free from sadness. As Simon shows to us after being with Nia, his mood begins to change and eventually this leads to him returning as a confident, brave, and joyful character.
Whenever I’m struggling with sadness, talking to friends or family always helps pull me through. It gives me a way to figure out what is really wrong and find a way to fight or push through whatever is making me feel down. However, ultimately, it is God working through those people that helps me feel better. God actively works to help me through hard times. If we grow close to others, if we grow closer to God, we’ll have a way to resist the temptations sorrow brings. We’ll have a way to overcome what stands in our way, even if it seems impossible to do so.
Gurren Lagann , through Nina and Simon, teach us the importance of having relationships with others. Being with others can provide bits of hope when everything seems bleak. When we look at Nina and Simon, we can see how Simon was able to finally feel joy again. As Christians, we should also see this relationship as a pointer to our relationship with Christ. When we close ourselves off and try to deal with sorrow ourselves, Christ will always be there to talk, to listen, and to rescue us. He won’t ever leave us in our time of need.