As we all know, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (to give it its full title), is not the most scientifically accurate of anime. Giant robots don’t lend themselves well to science in the real world as a general rule. But! They are, pretty much always, AWESOME!
Even with this in mind, there are a few scenes in Gurren Lagann, that just crack me up with how ridiculous they are. So when I revisited the show recently, I decided to look at it with a more scientific mind-set; just to see what would happen! As it turns out, a majority of the laws of physics get broken at one point or another so I found myself a bit spoiled for choice with what to talk about. There were a few special scenes that I think anyone who has seen it might think of, that really took the biscuit.
First, ‘’The Assault’’. The end of the first arc results in a frankly ridiculous amount of metal being launched into the sky! This one caught my eye because I recently learned from a friend, working at Europe’s version of NASA, more about space shuttle launches and what exactly is needed to achieve one. Just one of these things needs about as much fuel and force to lift off as an entire fleet of commercial aircraft! And as a rough impression, the main ship of the Dai Gurren crew might be about the same size as the NASA SLS rocket.
However the space shuttles we have here on boring old Earth need to be as light as possible to travel fast enough to be able to break free of the gravity of the planet. Y’know, that thing keeping you in your chair right now. The Dai-Gunzen however must be made of some pretty solid armor to survive the hits it takes. This probably weighs as much as the rest of the ship put together! And on top of this it’s firing upwards, which would be pushing it back down to the ground with every shot (thanks to Newton’s third law) making it much harder to keep the speed up.
If you assume though that it travels more like a missile with minimal control over the direction, which seems fitting for the crew, it might be a bit more possible. It would fly somewhat like a plane (directly upwards…), but even then it might have a little trouble with the mech suits and GIANT DRILLS it seems to carry about constantly.
And this is just for the main ship! Not even accounting for any of the other ships which seem to be keeping pace despite their tiny size and probable lack of fuel. Looking at it like this, it seems to be a one way trip for the gang. But I don’t think they would want it any other way!
As impressive as this is, it is still ‘technically’’ possible, while not exactly feasible. The most mind blowing moment of the whole series is, unsurprisingly, the final battle! This fight, where dimensions are jumped like puddles and entire galaxies thrown about and walked across like stepping stones, is EPIC! In every sense of the word. And breaks possibly every rule you’ve learned in physics simultaneously…
To pick out a few of the more absurd moments. The largest version of their mech, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (the shows namesake), is seen standing on a spiral or disk galaxy. This is similar in type to the one we live in! And I don’t know if I’m alone here but I’m not sure our solar system would offer much resistance if a giant robot foot suddenly descended on it.
Fun fact! This monstrosity would theoretically weigh 500,000,000 x more than the observable universe…
To put it another way, our galaxy is made up of a myriad of systems. Each filled with stars, rocks, and various gases and has absolutely nothing holding it together beyond the gravity pulling everything in it together (and some more complicated theories involving angular momentum). So if something of an equivalent size were to suddenly STAND on it, to put it lightly, it would not end well. Ignoring the gravitational effects, tearing apart stars and their respective planets, the sheer impact would probably cause a whole host of explosions and just generally leave a BIG hole where our little home used to be… Great job defending humanity there guys!
Another example in the same fight which shows their characteristic disregard of reality and logic, is the throwing of one of these galaxies. On top of the issues I just mentioned, there really is no solid grid holding a galaxy together. So if a certain hand came groping around, all it would find is a fistful of stars. The rest of the galaxy would be perfectly happy to stay exactly where it was, ignoring the fist’s gravity (which would eventually cause the whole galaxy to cluster around it, making for one hell of a fiery punch).
This brings up something else! The time it takes for light to travel just from the sun to us on earth, is about 7 minutes give or take. This is for photons travelling through a vacuum, at the fastest possible speed in the whole universe! So if this fight were to happen, it would take eons! Which makes me laugh, just imagining the crew sitting around doing nothing for millennia (at a huge underestimate) between movements.
Overall this show is a a journey of ever increasing scale, and I think that’s kind of the point. In case you didn’t know, the ”aim” of this show was to make fun of and exaggerate the tropes that you see all the time in battle and mecha anime. In my opinion at least, it really does it to perfection! It made my top 10 easily and I super highly recommend it to anyone, almost regardless of preference. Give it a go if you haven’t already, and if you have go watch it again!
Row Row, Fight the Power!