Tag: tengen toppa gurren lagann

I Want To Believe

Courtesy GAINAX

It’s a statement I’ve said many, many times, especially in the last year or so. I said it several times when I wrote this post back in January. Even in these last few months, I’ve changed, I’ve moved forward — even away from that very post! — and come more to terms with who I used to be and how I’m not the same. Those around me can see the change, and they’ve celebrated, even as the change has continued on a daily basis.

I want to believe other people can change, too.

People who love me, who have been there for me, and seen these changes, have said that not everybody can do what I’ve done. That there’s something special or singular about how I’ve seized myself, pulled myself apart, and discerned what about me was toxic and needed to be discarded — and, to be clear, there were indeed ugly parts of me that spread toxicity and had to be destroyed — and while I deeply appreciate that, the way I’ve moved forward has come down to belief in myself. And I believe, if I may talk circularly for a moment, that anyone can believe in themselves, and foster their better natures.

It has been hard for me, there’s no mistaking that. For years, I relied more on the opinions and support of others, even going so far as to turn down my own feelings to make room for those of others. Among other learned behaviors, I’ve had to face that one down, and shake it off to the best of my ability. This one in particular is weird and sort of sticky, and it still comes up now and again. But I’m still doing the work to get myself free of it, once and for all.

As hard as it’s been for me to find the ways and means within myself to believe in myself, I know that part of it, at least, has come from others believing in me, even when it hasn’t been convenient, or when others might have told them that I’m not worth it. And what was said was not entirely without cause.

I’ve shed so many useless and toxic and ugly parts of who I used to be. Even now, I look out for them and put them down whenever I can. Because the world deserves better than that. And, given the chance, I show who I have become, in contrast to who I was and the thing I was reported to be. I grab hold of my light and push it upwards as a beacon, throwing back darkness that I might myself have perpetuated at one point. I stare into that darkness, seek to banish it, to drive it away from myself and those I love.

I ask that toxic ghost, straight up, who the hell it thinks I am.

In the midst of the darkness I once threw over myself, some people still held on to the belief that I was worth it, and their belief in me. It protected and kindled that spark of light within me; it fostered in me this belief I now have in myself. It’s helped me get and be and do better. I might have arrived here completely on my own, and there’s a lot of work I had to do for and by myself, but knowing that someone, somewhere, believed in me, even in spite of my failures and ugliest moments — that made things easier, made my goals clearer, motivated me to work twice as hard.

That’s what I’d want people to do for me, even — or especially — when I’m at my worst.

And that’s what I want to do for the people I care about, even — especially — when they’re at their worst.

Maybe it’s a waste of my time. Maybe it won’t be worth it in the long run.

But it’s something about me that hasn’t changed.

And I don’t know if it will. Or if it should.

People out in the world chose to believe in me, because they wanted to believe I could be better.

And they were right.

I want to believe in others. In the world. In you.

And I really, really, want to be right.

So here I stand. Holding up this light. Hoping. Believing.

Because I want to believe.

I challenge you to believe, too. And if you can’t believe in yourself, believe in me.

Believe in the me that believes in you.

From The Vault: Drill, Baby, Drill

Watching Gurren-Hen last night, I come back to the reasons why I fell in love with Gurren Lagann in the first place. I want to revisit that.


Courtesy Rabbitpoets
Courtesy Rabbitpoets, will credit original artist!

When I encounter a new story that I find myself enjoying thoroughly, there’s a part of me that can’t just leave it at that. I have to look deeper than my superficial glee and take a look at what really calls to me about the tale. I have to examine characters, plot points, meanings and development. I don’t know if it’s my background in doing so for years at university, or my desire to better understand other stories so I can write mine better, but in any case, it’s what makes me review and critique stuff on a regular basis.

Case in point: I just finished watching the anime series Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

I’m no stranger to big robot anime. Voltron and Robotech (Macross in particular) were staples growing up. When I hit university I was introduced to more – Macross Plus, Gundam Wing and the brilliant but bizarre Neon Genesis Evangelion. There are plenty of other mecha anime out there, and plenty of anime that get classified as shounen – aimed primarily at young or teenage boys with exciting action and plenty of fighting. One might think, with a cursory glance, that Gurren Lagann is in the same vein as these, even with its unique aesthetic, but it doesn’t take long for the series’s true strengths to reveal themselves.

In a few other series I’ve dipped my toe into and even enjoyed, the main character gets his special power or destiny, and pursues it with dogged determination that, while admirable, does not vary his character much. Gurren Lagann, on the other hand, lets its characters develop naturally. The character of Simon, in particular, goes through a lot of growth from the beginning of the series to its end. In addition to the respect I give a story for the willingness to actually end legitimately and well, there’s the fact that the Simon at the end of the story is a different person, a more developed person, than he was at the beginning. The same goes for Yoko; a character that easily could have been relegated to simple fan service is also allowed to grow, breathe, develop, and take on a life of her own.

Another way in which the series sets itself apart is in the fact that actions have consequences. Each victory that our heroes gain take them deeper into a world they did not anticipate, and as much as the show likes to treat the laws of physics more like loose guidelines than actual rules, there’s no cheap resurrections and no going back. Changes are irreversible, and consequences must be dealt with. In a general genre and specific sub-genre that is usually all about an empowerment fantasy free of consequences, seeing a show that drops the hammer on its character multiple times for things they do is refreshing.

As cool as it would be to pilot a giant mecha, Gurren Lagann seems to treat its unique and strikingly designed machines as exactly what they are: vehicles. They’re the means by which the story and its meaning are delivered, and the meaning is this: it’s okay to be yourself. In fact, the ideal way to live one’s life is to forge ahead making one’s own destiny with a sense of self-belief. Believing in yourself can be hard to do, especially when it feels like the whole world is against you, but when people have faith in you, and you have faith in yourself, there is literally nothing you can’t do. Rather than relegate such things to occasional character moments or after-credits messages, Gurren Lagann makes this the driving force behind its narrative, a massive drill that bores a hole right through your expectations. The individual’s sense of self-worth is a weapon in and of itself; when fully realized, it’s an extremely potent one.

I may be reading too much into an anime series, or drawing an inordinate amount of inspiration from it, but that’s who I am. I take the lessons I find from what I experience and I try to make them a part of my life. I am, as always, a work in progress. I will never stop learning, never stop growing, and never stop writing about it. That’s what I do. And the more I do it, the more proud I become of what I’m doing and what I will do in the future. I may not live up to some expectations, I may make mistakes, but I will make my future my own, because that’s what you do when you come to realize who you are and what that means to you and to the world around you.

I’m a writer. I’m a fanboy. I’m a critic and a philosopher and I fight for what I believe in.

Who the hell do you think I am?

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