It’s odd, but since Kamina’s death, I feel as if the lines between Beastmen and humans are actually becoming less clear. You’d think there would be a greater dichotomy between the two (‘humans good, Beastmen bad’), but that doesn’t seem to be how things are going. The introduction of Nia, a human from the Beastmen world, the revelation that the Spiral King is human, and the debuts of the Generals who not only appear more humanoid than most but seem to experience a greater range of human emotion; all these things are making the characters on the beastly side more compelling.
We pick up pretty much exactly where we left off last time, with Nia revealing her status as princess of the Beastmen. Adiane, the General sent to avenge Thymilph and destroy Team Dai-Gurren, retreats back to Teppelin (their HQ-cum-capital, if you remember). The Spiral King is not happy about this. Turns out that Nia didn’t just find herself outside, she was cast out for reasons yet unknown, and despite the fact that Adiane couldn’t have known this, Lordgenome is pretty ticked off about her failure to destroy the humans on the account of a girl who isn’t even a princess any more. From what we’ve seen of him so far, Lordgenome – despite, as far as we can tell, being biologically human – is perhaps defined as the most beastly character we’ve met. He’s the most ruthless, the least understanding and generally seems like a bit of a dick. Adiane’s failure feels to me a bit like Viral’s early constant attempts to get one up on Kamina and his team, only to be endlessly thwarted. As if on cue, Viral shows up, injured but alive after the Giga Drill Break that killed Thymilph. He’s pretty miserable, to be honest, considering Thymilph’s death his greatest failure. At first, I was wondering why he wasn’t more stoked that they’d killed Kamina, but a scene later in the episode (when he sees Rossiu in Gurren and apparently assumes Kamina’s the pilot) seems to suggest that Viral actually has no clue that Kamina was killed. I’ll be interested to see his reaction when he finds out. Adiane’s not happy about Thymilph’s death either, but less because she liked the guy and more because she had some sort of debt owed to her, which is obviously significantly less likely to be repaid now he’s dead.
Speaking of people who aren’t happy, Team Dai-Gurren are a bit conflicted about Nia’s heritage. They turn to Kittan, who seems to have openly embraced the leader role in Kamina’s stead, and he decides to interrogate her over a delicious meal cooked by Old Coco (best character ever). This doesn’t go entirely to plan; she turns the tables (I can’t tell whether on purpose or not) by not understanding the meaning of several words, including ‘enemy’. I take this to mean that she really had no understanding or involvement with the Beastmen-human war; certainly, she’s appalled when she finds out the extent of the fighting between the two sides.
Nia sees a different side of her father, or so it seems. She can’t understand why Team Dai-Gurren hate him, and can’t believe it when it’s explained that he’s ordered the suffering and deaths of many humans. Whether she’s oblivious, naïve or a double agent remains to be seen – or perhaps Lordgenome really did have a kinder side that only his daughter saw. Simon openly admits to Nia that he hates her father, though he doesn’t hate Nia. Not because she seems decent or anything, just ‘cos he doesn’t know enough about her. He seems to have a conflicted attitude towards the idea of hatred anyway, believing that Kamina didn’t fight out of hatred. (Yoko’s opinion is that he just had boundless stupidity, which is probably as good an explanation as any.) Kamina was the sort of person who simply never gave up; without Kamina, Simon doesn’t know what to do with himself. The only option he can see is to try to become Kamina, since he doesn’t seem to be able to conceive of being worth anything if he just stays as himself. Nia then says some things which are true, but painful: Simon should believe in himself (as Kamina said near the end), and he can’t rely on a dead person. She doesn’t realise it’s a tactless thing to say, since she has no experience of loss on this scale. Yoko’s pretty angry about this, and tells Nia that she (Nia) has no right to say such things, and knows full well whose fault Kamina’s death was. I didn’t quite get this; whose fault is Yoko saying his death was? Simon’s? Her own? The Spiral King’s, or somehow even Nia’s? Whatever the answer, Nia seems to understand how her words could hurt.
Yoko’s distrust of Nia, which at first I thought was over-the-top and perhaps too suspicious to fit with her character as I understood it, actually tracks better now I’ve thought about it. After Kamina’s death, she certainly has reason to be less trusting; even before, I can’t remember whether she was particularly open to new people. She accepted Kamina and Simon, and everyone else who’s since joined Team Dai-Gurren, but she’s not an idiot. She might have been a bit naïve to the bathhouse’s true purpose, but that can be forgiven when everyone was just smelly as heck.
Adiane returns to obliterate Team Dai-Gurren in her custom Gunmen at this point. Thymilph also had a custom Gunmen; presumably, all of the Generals and perhaps even the King himself have one of their own. (Is Viral’s Enkidu considered custom?) It’s apparent that Gunmen have a hierarchy, with generic mooks only possessing low-level mechs; looking at Team Dai-Gurren’s hijacked Gunmen, most of them look rather un-custom, which makes sense as they haven’t stolen from anyone high up enough to have a custom one. I wonder whether Gurren and Lagann are custom? I suspect Gurren isn’t, but Lagann’s special abilities make me wonder again about where it came from.
Nia confronts Adiane, who confirms that Lordgenome is indeed the vicious man that the humans claimed he was. She claims that the deaths of humans shouldn’t even concern the Beastmen, since humans are so far below them. I mean, this makes some sense, but I have to wonder why the Beastmen have a Human Eradication Force (I think that was its name; Viral definitely introduced himself as high up in some sort of human-fighting unit) if they consider the humans little more than an inconvenience. Why bother? Not only that, but we haven’t seen any evidence of Beastmen infighting up to now, so it seems as if the only reason they would need any sort of fighting power is to fight humans. Their society seems pretty much based around military power, since high-ups have more powerful Gunmen to fight in, so I’ve got to wonder whether the Beastmen do actually consider humans a serious threat and the whole ‘they’re just below us’ shtick is all talk. Adiane now considers Nia on that same level, at any rate, and her Gunmen transforms – the first one we’ve seen to do such a thing without combining – and prepares to kill the former princess.
Simon, who seems to have got pretty attached to Nia despite her slightly tactless words about Kamina, rushes to try to make Lagann work. Earlier, Leeron said of Lagann that it probably just gave up on Simon, not feeling like working for someone who had no will to survive. I’m surprised that Lagann didn’t work for Simon here, since I would have thought his will to save somebody else would be a strong enough force to get it working, but maybe his despair is just that powerful that he still can’t muster up the fighting energy to start his machine. So he does something stupid, and runs towards Adiane’s Gunmen with no mech of his own.
I don’t know how to feel about this moment. On the one hand, Simon finally cares about something enough to act. On the other, rushing in so recklessly is very much a Kamina sort of move, and I want Simon to mature into his own person and not a Kamina clone. He doesn’t realise it, but he can be better than that; he doesn’t have to be a Kamina replacement. I can’t work out whether this moment, his rushing in to save Nia, is something that starts to redeem Simon towards being A Cool Simon Guy or something that marks his descent into I’m Not Good Enough Unless I’m Kamina. We’ll have to see where he goes, but his comment at the end of the episode that he’ll never be like Kamina could be read one of two ways: either he’ll consider himself a failure unless he turns into another Kamina or he’ll realise that two Kaminas aren’t as valuable as a Kamina and a Simon.
On the subject of people saving other people, Viral (of all people) pulls a bit of a Simon at the end of the episode by dashing into save Adiane from stompage and certain death under Dai-Gurren. Deliberately or not, it’s reminiscent of all the times Simon or Yoko ran in to save Kamina from sticky situations, further building Viral up as perhaps the most complex Beastmen in motivation. He still seems to be pretty determined to annihilate Team Dai-Gurren, but I think that’s less to do with a generic ‘kill all humans’ and more personal pride owing to his previous failures.
By the end of the episode, Nia’s won everyone’s trust when they hear Adiane confirming that she’s been exiled from the Beastmen society. She’s just a human now, though I suspect the show will continue to explore the thin line marking exactly where ‘being a human’ begins and ends as we go forward. Interestingly, the opening title and ending ‘to be continued’ splash still have the Nia-like pink dots I noticed last time. Wonder if they’ll be sticking around? Certainly looks as if she will be.