So I did something a bit unusual and watched more than one episode of Gurren Lagann in one sitting. Generally I like to take notes as I watch each episode, then write them down straight away before I forget, but I got a bit caught up in it this time. Plus I figured that it was going to take me aaaages to finish the series if I didn’t start compressing it a little bit, and as it turns out these three episodes weren’t a bad choice to put together.
Usually I do a full-on recap of every little thing that happens in each episode, but I think I might have to condense the recap this time in favour of a little more discussion. Still, we do need to at least cover a bit of the actual events, so let’s start at the beginning.
We join the action six days into the battle for Teppelin (which, by the way, is freaking HUGE). Simon visits Kamina’s grave with Yoko and tells his bro that he’ll accomplish things that only Simon the Digger could do, nicely continuing the theme that’s been developing throughout the show of people being at their best when they’re being themselves and not copying anyone else. As it turns out, he’s totally right; once again, Simon the Digger does end up using his unique digging and drilling skills to make things possible that nobody else could, but we’ll get to that. We also pop in on the Spiral King talking to his two remaining Generals about how an ancient text claims that God made the world in seven days. I’ve expressed a theory that the world of Gurren Lagann is in fact our own world in some post-apocalyptic future, and this seems to lend some credence to this. I doubt it’ll ever be outright confirmed, but it’s a neat idea. The Spiral King goes on to explain how he sealed the humans underground long ago; Guame attributes their resilience to ‘the power of the Spiral’. Apparently, this is a power which allows them to fight with great strength but will lead to destruction. Spiral Power is kind of a big deal, it seems, but I want to put off talking about it in depth until after the end of episode 15. Suffice to say for now that I think I’ve been unknowingly talking about Spiral Power for a while.
The battle recommences, with Cytomander’s flying fortress and Guame’s super-boring half-sphere impenetrable thing teaming up on Team Dai-Gurren. I was a bit disappointed at how plain Guame’s fortress turned out to be after how cool Adiane and Cytomander’s were, but it redeems itself in a bit. Rossiu’s back as co-pilot of Gurren Lagann, having apparently recovered from Nia’s food absolutely destroying his stomach, and Cytomander – despite having seen exactly what Gurren Lagann did to Thymilph and Adiane – once again decides to underestimate the humans’ power, resulting in Dai-Gurren flying over and stabbing him with its penis knife. Meanwhile, we also find out that Kittan can now combine his Gunmen with his sisters, though it’s not as true of a combination as Gurren Lagann, and a whole bunch of humans from different underground cities come to join the battle. I was struck at this point by the fact that there must be an absolute ton of Beastmen and Gunmen around the world, since the reinforcements have all managed to commandeer Dai-level mechs of their own. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised; people who are inspired by Kamina and his team are always capable of things that ought not to be possible. It’s also interesting to note that Gurren Lagann alone is far more capable in battle than pretty much any combination of Team Dai-Gurren Gunmen, perhaps a result of Simon possessing higher levels of the aforementioned ‘Spiral Power’. I think this is all but confirmed by later events, as well as the fact that he’s been associated with drills and other spiral-like things since the beginning; again, we’ll get to that.
Back to the battle: Guame’s fortress ends up having Cytomander’s fall on top of it, but is somehow totally fine. The ‘impenetrable’ part of its description should have clued me in, but I really did think they’d just been totally blown up for a moment. Turns out it’s also pretty good at spinning – perhaps Guame has some Spiral Power of his own? – and turns the entire city of Teppelin into a giant whirling tornado of death. A bunch of the new arrivals decide the best option is to just divebomb the thing, which is… not the best idea. Again, can’t be that surprised given that they follow Kamina’s philosophies. Luckily, Nia finds a way of speaking to them all; she introduces herself as Team Dai-Gurren’s head cook, which I laughed at, and manages to persuade them that flying right into the enormous wall of death might actually not be the best idea. Luckily, Simon has a better idea: drill! It’s as if there’s no situation that can’t be solved by either digging or drilling or a combination of the two, or perhaps Simon’s just so darn good at it that he makes it work. He pulls off a classic sneak attack on Guame, blowing the poor little armadillo to pieces, and that’s when shit starts to get real.
Buildings start falling off Teppelin, revealing… a colossal Gunmen. Yup, Teppelin itself is a Gunmen. (I’m pretty sure I called it.)
The next episode begins with pretty much all the humans who aren’t established Team Dai-Gurren getting blown to hell by all the flying buildings; once the dust has settled, Black Sister Who Reads Maps (I can’t keep track of which one’s which, and it doesn’t help that all their names are Ki-something) spots a signal on the map that’s apparently identical to Gurren Lagann. Atop the Teppelin Gunmen, the Spiral King sits, reminding me of how Lagann sits atop Gurren; even if I was sort of expecting the city to turn out to be a mech, I’ve got to admit it’s a pretty intimidating structure. Seems as if Lordgenome’s got some sort of psychic link to the city, controlling it with a flick of his finger and needing no joysticks like the ones Simon uses. It seems as if the city is more impenetrable than Guame’s half-ball, but Nia wants to go see her father. Who opens the door to let her out of Dai-Gurren, I hear you ask? Why, it’s none other than OLD FUCKING COCO, of course. The man’s a god. Gurren Lagann carries Nia over to Teppelin, which surrounds itself with an absolute ton of Gunmen, and what ensues is a really freaking awesome battle.
I started thinking this was going to be the last episode – it really felt like a final fight – but then I remembered there were still a good eleven or twelve episodes to go! I may as well admit at this point that the one thing that I remember about the series from the first time I watched it years ago is that there’s a time skip at some point, which I’m now pretty sure is going to be imminent. I really didn’t think the Spiral King was going to go down before the end of the series, though; I guess we’re going to have a new arc after episode 16.
As the fight rages on, Dai-Gurren burns out its engines thrusting itself into the Spiral King’s room within Teppelin, and we get a shot of a lady I’m pretty sure we’ve never met before with a phenomenal amount of clothing damage and an underboob for the ages. She must be an engine tech or something. Anyway, having destroyed Dai-Gurren, the team eject themselves from their walking home and leave it to blow up. Not sure where they’re planning to live now, but I’m sure everything will work out. Or it’s back to underground villages. One or the other. The sacrifice is enough to blast Simon, Rossiu and Nia in Gurren Lagann right into Spiral King HQ, so… I guess that’s a win? Lordgenome acknowledges Simon, or perhaps recognises him, as a ‘Man of the Spiral’, which sounds to me as if he’s registering that he (the King of the Spiral) himself shares some similarities with Simon while also expressing that he considers Simon beneath him.
Suddenly, Viral! He’s back, with an upgraded Gunmen – and, apparently, an upgraded body. The Spiral King helped him transcend the Beastmen limitations (remember, they need to sleep during the day or risk their bodies degenerating) by… well, I’m not sure totally how it was accomplished. It sort of sounds to me as if Viral’s been made more human so that he won’t be as vulnerable to the Beastmen’s biological weaknesses. He’s still nowhere near strong enough to defeat Gurren Lagann, though – he’s still surprised when he can’t destroy them! What an idiot. I don’t think any of the Beastmen learn from the past, since they all continue to wilfully underestimate the humans and get utterly curb-stomped as a result. The Spiral King explains that the body he gave Viral wasn’t meant for overcoming humans, since no Beastmen can ever be a match for a human who has acquired the power of the Spiral anyway. What Viral’s new body is intended for is simply to recount the story in later years.
I just want to quickly remind everyone of how much of a terrible time Viral’s been having ever since he first encountered Team Dai-Gurren. He’s lost two Generals in battle, continually failed to destroy his targets, been exiled, come back and been given a better body, then still failed to destroy the people he now vehemently despises and been told that he’s going to live forever but remain totally ineffective against his foes. What a life.
Back to the story: the Spiral King claims that he’s actually protecting humanity, telling Simon that Spiral Power can only lead to destruction. He reveals some seriously prodigious chest hair in the shape of – what else? – a spiral; then, with the boast that he too possesses Spiral Power, he descends into his own personal Gunmen. Simon recognises it as being of the same type as Gurren Lagann, whatever that means – perhaps it’s to do with being optimised to be piloted by a Spiral Power-wielding human, or perhaps it’s just the design and combat potential. Lordgenome in his Gunmen is terrifying, probably the most proficient fighter in the series so far; he pretty much obliterates Gurren Lagann in one-to-one combat, all while recounting that there was once another man who fought like Simon but who also didn’t know he was dooming humanity. Somehow, I get the feeling he’s talking about himself, but unlike most villains he decides not to monologue the full explanation out on the grounds that Simon’s soon to be dead and therefore doesn’t need to know. Simon tries to fight back, but Lordgenome’s Gunmen catches Giga Drill Break in its teeth, an absolutely insane moment. Rossiu starts panicking, which is fair enough, but Simon sort of takes the Kamina role and starts spouting total nonsense about people believing in… themselves and each other and all that stuff. It works, because of course it does. Lagann ejects from Gurren, and the Spiral King comes out to beat up Lagann with his bare hands. Just as it seems Simon’s defeated, he stabs the Spiral King right through his chest hair with the drill-shaped key to Lagann.
Simon the Digger wrecks it again, y’all. There’s no obstacle he can’t drill through, even the Spiral King himself. He blows a giant darn hole in Lordgenome’s chest; the King recognises that Simon’s Spiral Power has exceeded his own, but continues to insist that Simon will regret harnessing the power once he learns the consequences. He says something that sounds a bit like a prophecy: ‘when the world overflows with a million apes, the Moon will become Hell’s messenger and destroy the world of the Spiral’. I guess this is what he meant when he said he was protecting humanity; if we take his words at face value, it sounds like he might have been trying to limit the level of humans and/ or Spiral Power to prevent some sort of cataclysmic event. With those words, the Spiral King dies.
Nia seems a bit sad at first, but then says that she’ll head towards tomorrow, the title of episode 15 (actually, thinking about it, a lot of the episode titles seem to be Nia’s quotes lately). Just as all seems fine, Teppelin starts to collapse. I guess it had no ontological inertia, but that might be at least partly justified if it was being powered by the Spiral King’s power. Gurren Lagann escapes, and the theme tune plays and EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. The moon’s looking pretty ominous now, though; once a symbol of the freedom the surface offered, now it just portends the apocalypse the King predicted. Still, things seem alright for the time being: the sun rises on the seventh day, and the battle is over. Nia and Simon appear to be an official couple now, and… the story is ‘to be continued some more’.
Episode 16’s just a recap episode, and I get the feeling that a new story will begin when we come back after the seemingly inevitable time skip. I’ve got no idea what might happen, other than a vague sense that Lordgenome’s predicted cataclysm might kickstart some sort of Evangelion-like humans-versus-space-things arc. I’m looking forward to finding out!
Before I go, I wanted to quickly talk a bit more about Spiral Power. Simon’s been associated from the very beginning of the series with spiral shapes, and Lagann’s always expressed how much power it draws in a spiral emblem. I’m starting to think that the ‘manly fighting spirit’ I was talking about earlier on in the series might have been Spiral Power all along: there is, it seems, a force which genuinely exists in this universe (i.e. it’s not just idle boasting or the power of belief or something) which allows those who possess it to accomplish absolutely ridiculous feats. Kamina must have had it in spades, right? Well, yeah, I reckon so, but I also think Simon’s been the one with more of it from the start. It’s only once he accepted that he had the most worth as Simon, and not as a wannabe Kamina, that he was able to fully access the power. I think most humans probably have a small amount of the power, with most members of Team Dai-Gurren probably having more than most, and I suspect that the reason Lordgenome said that Beastmen couldn’t hope to beat humans was because Beastmen can’t access Spiral Power. That said, maybe Viral’s new body will allow him to do so – I mean, he’s supposedly immortal, so I can’t help but be fairly confident that he hasn’t died in the fall of Teppelin. I’m wondering whether Boota might not have a little bit of Spiral Power, too. I’m pretty sure it’s something that’s going to be explored more, anyway.
In short: I can’t wait to get into Part Two of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann!