Yoko Littner – Behind Every Great Man

In case I’ve been too subtle on the point, I really liked Gurren Lagann. It’s not a particularly kind story though. It gets pretty rough with its cast. Of the survivors, few if any are unscathed. One of the prevalent themes of Gurren Lagann seems to be that a life well led is as rich in pain as it is in joy. Only the strong can thrive in such circumstances. And Yoko is one strong lady.

Tengen.Toppa.Gurren-Lagann Yoko op Shot

sadly most Yoko fanart is NSFW (from the great Kikugetsu)

When we first get introduced to Yoko Littner… Ohh sheeze guys, forget this. This isn’t me. It’s not what I want to say about this character. Let me start again.

I freakin love Yoko. So so much, guys! And it’s not the costume or anything. I mean those are really nice too. Bottom line, I want to be like Yoko. I want to not let vulnerability rot into weakness. I want to be petty and superficial and care about my looks and remain smart, efficient and kind. I don’t want to be defined by my relationships, but I want to be able to melt into them. I want to give my heart over willingly and freely but never lose myself. I want to be a person who can take bitter tragedy and pound it into experience, then nurture that experience into wisdom and hand that wisdom over to those that need it most.

I want the fact that I am a badass warrior and expert sniper to be the least interesting things about me.

It’s not going to happen. I know that. I’ll only ever get to be Yoko for brief instants in my very greatest moments. If I’m lucky. And that’s already pretty extraordinary.

Yoko.Littner.sniper

just another Tuesday, yawn (but the amazing ddal)

Yoko is probably the main supporting character of Gurren Lagann. One of the few characters to be there almost from the very beginning to the last seconds of the show. And her contribution to the fictional universe of Gurren Lagann is impossible to overestimate.

I won’t deny that part of the appeal is that Yoko is a strong female character. But not because she’s female really, rather because it doesn’t matter. Yoko is a complex layered individual. She is undeniably feminine and there’s little confusion about her character type and that is completely irrelevant to the roles she serves both in universe and as a structural element of the plot.

Yoko.Littner.pink hair

ohh with pink hair she reminds me a bit of Utena (you need to go see 神崎えりん)

There is a moment towards the end of the series where all the main characters are thrown into what amounts to a mass delusion, trapping them each in an ideal dream world. Everyone gets to live the life they most want. It’s a well-used trope for a reason. Not only is it fun for the audience to see characters in different settings and alternate styles but it’s also a powerful way to build character development without resorting to exposition. A person’s fondest dreams are one of the most revealing things about them.

Yoko sees herself as a world renown super hero and beauty queen. Her inability to stay put and her need to protect others are well illustrated as is her pettiness and need for recognition. It tells you what you need to know. But as the dream goes on she suddenly sees herself in a traditional wedding ceremony with her recently lost love (Kittan and also spoilers…). **By the way, is anyone worried that guys Yoko kisses don’t tend to make it past a week?**

This is the hidden little part of her. Under the bluster and rebel attitude, is a quiet longing for a simple life. Something safe and nice that she can hold onto. A place where she belongs. It’s the final beat of the dream sequence that tells you all you need to know.

Yoko.Littner.cape

this guy gets it (Hoshino Hitsuki)

The spirit of Kamina, her first love and a man who has haunted her heart for years is standing there holding a television screen showing her an image of herself marrying Kittan (the only man we’ve seen her show any interest in since Kamina). It becomes suddenly clear to her that none of this is real. She’s not a famous superhero, at least not in that way. Both her loves are gone. There’s a real chance she will never find that simple life she’s been searching for. For the first time in years, she’s face to face with the man that both broke her and shaped her into the woman she’s become. Finally, she can pour out her pain and anger at being left behind. She can grab the moment to really let her feelings shine through and give that love a new life. She can create closure and say goodbye, explain about the new man, ask Kamina how he’s been….

Yoko smiles gently, turns off the TV and walks away without ever looking back.

I don’t think it’s my place to explain the significance of that sequence. Take from it what you will. All I’m going to say is, I want to be like Yoko.

Tengen.Toppa.Gurren-Lagann.coulors

how can this artist only have 36 follows??? (あくつみ)

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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40 Responses

  1. crazyidiot78 says:

    A great post on an under rated character.

  2. railgunfan75 says:

    Best character of Gurren Lagann period.

  3. Mallow says:

    You know you want to cosplay as her Irina XDD.

  4. Lumi says:

    Great post, and Yoko’s dream sequence made me cry the second hardest,behind Viral’s.

    Also,major props to Yoko for being the first female character to have MC trip onto her boobs and she actually understands and doesn’t react like a violent idiot.

  5. AK says:

    Great analysis. This is a tragic story, especially for Yoko.

  6. Brooke Cannon says:

    Really fun conversation! If I see ANY of these shows, I’ll be sure to watch them! That is, if my parents allow it…

  7. Dawnstorm says:

    I’ve heard a lot of a good things about Yoko, and now I can add this excellent post to the list. I still haven’t seen Gurren Langann, even though I’m sure I’d enjoy it.

  8. Spectrumbot says:

    One thing I always wanted to know about Yoko is this: What does that skull-shaped hair accessory represent?

  9. Fred says:

    But… she destroyed the Beatles!

  10. Karandi says:

    Yoko was such an amazing character. She started out (like most characters in this anime) seeming like either such a cliche or a mess but then she really grew into her role and they really fleshed her out beyond the trope (much like most of the main cast). Gurren Lagann is just one of those anime that you have to watch through because it really does get so much better and seeing where these characters end up at the end of their character arcs is an experience in itself. But Yoko definitely wins for the best character in the anime.

  11. Lynn says:

    Yoko was the best thing about that series for me. It probably helped that she went missing for the part I liked the least and reappeared just as it got good again.

    Her episode where she was the school teacher was great, especially when she kicked ass in front of all the school children.

  12. Person, not lesson. My phone has auto-incorrect.

  13. Scott says:

    Yoko is so good. 😁. Thank you for doing so much justice to this awesome and complex character.

    • Irina says:

      Thank you Scott. It was a daunting task, she skyrocketted as one of my all time favourite characters and I really wanted to do her justice. At least a little

  14. Great piece. I always enjoy reading about why people enjoyed Gurren Lagann and characters, simply because I didn’t get on with the series myself. It’s nice seeing how others view it.

    • Irina says:

      My review of the series was very emphatic, I’m not sure if you read it

      • I did indeed. You got a lot more out of it than I did. Part of that is absolutely because I gave up pay way through the series, though.
        Yoko is a very iconic character though. She’s instantly recognisable, I think even to some who haven’t watched the series. You always seem to see at least one lesson cosplaying her at cons too.

        • Irina says:

          But she’s rather unusual in some ways – it would be a shame to miss out on the character and concentrate on the costume – at least I think.

          • I find that with most characters. I take it as a sign of popularity though. When you’re recognisable even to those who don’t know who you are, you’ve become ingrained in the genre.

          • Fred says:

            Getting over excited by an anime character’s costume is alien to me. She’s just a drawing! A real woman cosplaying her might turn my eyes. A well done drawing can be a lovely work of art. But an anime screen shot is not anything to get turned on by .

    • Fred says:

      Really well written. Your passion for her really shined brightly! One of the very best character pieces you’ve done. And you have done some very wonderful pieces.

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