Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – E17 – ‘You Understand Nothing’

It’s been seven years since Teppelin fell, and on its ruins a new capital has been built. This time, it’s a capital city for human civilisation, not Beastmen, and its name is Kamina City.

Okay, so let’s sort a couple of things out before we start the episode proper. A city takes a long-ass time to build (hence the seven-year time skip, I guess), and Dai-Gurren got mostly destroyed in the course of the battle for Teppelin, so I have no clue how they managed to survive during the time they were resourcing and building, but… hey, it’s Team Dai-Gurren. Reject common sense to make the impossible possible! Whatever the logistics of the thing, the fact is that the city has indeed been built, and it represents the first true success of humans above ground in what must be a really long time (remember that Guame thought that Cytomander was barely a baby at two hundred or so years old, and the Spiral King’s even older than that). Kamina City is the first permanent hub of human civilisation; the Dai-Gurren fortress was a good start, but a city is something unmoving, something that’s staying in one place for good. It’s something to call home.

Perhaps more importantly, a city that seems to have been at peace for seven years means a degree of prosperity and comfort. That’s nice, and all, but even before getting any further into the episode I’m starting to get a sense that the Spiral King’s prophecy might be coming true sooner rather than later. A steady home means a growing population, and that might lead to the dreaded overflow of the world before long.

(By the by, it seems a weird mistake to make, but I actually wrote ‘Stephen King’ instead of ‘Spiral King’ both times I named the Spiral King above. Freaky.)

Oh, and one more thing before we get to the episode proper: new opening credits! I like that the song’s broadly the same but with (I’m pretty sure) different lyrics, and it gives a bit of a look at what everyone looks like now they’ve aged up. I’m pretty sure I spotted Viral in there somewhere, so he’s still around, and Nia might have some sort of evil twin or something? I absolutely love the final shot of Young!Simon taking the drill and the camera scrolling up to show Older!Simon; it’s clear that Simon’s more mature, becoming his own man even while following a path Kamina made possible and remaining true to that young man who was the Digger.

Right, that said, let’s actually watch the episode!

Firstly, I can’t go without mentioning the fact that Old Coco turned out to be Nia’s Beastmen butler (I freaking knew there was more to him). On more important matters (though Old Coco will always be important in my heart) it appears that Simon is the official leader or mayor or whatever it is of Kamina City, since he’s the one burdened with all the paperwork; Rossiu seems to be some sort of deputy or perhaps head of a department or something. Nia’s making lunch for Simon, so looks as if they’re still together, and he still likes her stomach-destroying food. That’s nice. More ominously, the beginning of the episode hints that the human population might just have reached one million, thus meeting Lordgenome’s criterion for cataclysm.

I notice as the title screen for this episode flashes up that it’s in a much more angular font now compared to the Nia-stylised bubble font that used to display the episode titles. I really am getting a bad feeling already – can’t we just have one episode of happy good times? Doesn’t appear so, as we dive into bureaucracy almost straight away. It’s clear that the former commanders of Team Dai-Gurren have retained positions of power on the Council of Kamina City (or whatever their meeting’s called), with Simon as Supreme Commander and Rossiu, Kittan, Leeron and others in higher-up spots. Those weird twin guys are in charge of the census and keeping track of when the million apes mark is reached, though they aren’t doing too well at it. Not the best thing to be failing at, really, but I’m sure nothing bad will happen as a result. Absolutely positive. The human civilisation’s also made some pretty impressive advancements, being able to send a probe to the moon and all sorts!

Unfortunately, I get the impression that the whole council thing isn’t working all that well. It might be that using former warriors of the famously hot-headed Team Dai-Gurren might simply not have been the best idea when forming a ruling parliament, but there probably weren’t any better choices. It can’t have been easy trying to form a stable hub for humanity with a bunch of dudes who pretty much just beat stuff up and thought about it later, and I’m actually glad the show recognises that rather than have them fit with uncharacteristic ease into this new age of paperwork and admin.

Meanwhile, it seems that Dayakka’s hooked up with one of Kittan’s sisters in the intervening period and they’re soon to have a babby! I can’t help but suspect that this kid is going to be the proverbial millionth ape, which leads me to wonder what exactly anyone was planning to do about the population issue? I mean, Simon’s got Twin Weird Dudes on census duty, but that’s only keeping a record of how many people there are. That’s not a plan to ensure that the population stays below one million, and most measures I can think to take to ensure a lower population are… well, not the greatest. Still, as long as nobody decides to murder the baby to keep the population down, it can only be a good thing – as, indeed, is the reveal that Simon’s proposed to Nia! His speech to her seems to confirm that he’s not all that comfortable being the revered leader (I found it interesting that Dayakka’s wife, whichever K-name hers is, describes him as ‘that boy who can only dig holes and pilot Gurren Lagann’, since that is indeed what he was comfortable with and this is a very different situation), expressing a desire to be more like a normal person with Nia by his side. It’s all very sweet – until she says ‘hell no’, obviously. Seems she misunderstood what exactly marriage is.

Speaking of misunderstandings, that one guy from Simon and Kamina’s old village is in the city, too! He’s selling himself as the man who raised them as his own and taught them all they know, which is pretty hilarious given that he was basically responsible for driving them out of there in the first place. He’s even got an advert on TV advertising his pig-mole steaks (Boota better be around somewhere!) as the delicious food that gave Simon and Kamina the strength to grow into men and pilot Gurren Lagann. What a twat. Still, it’s nice to see the show spending a bit of time developing the character of the city by bringing back a few familiar faces, showing how all these people we’ve not seen in a long time have been affected by the actions of Team Dai-Gurren.

I was starting to wonder while all this was going on where exactly Yoko was, and I got a flashback as if in answer: she’s left the city for her own reasons, which seem to boil down to the fact that it’s just not an environment she’s comfortable in. It’s interesting that of all the hotheads in that council, the only one who actually acted on the fact that it’s not a situation that suits them is Yoko; I guess living in a city named after her lost love – and containing a giant statue of him – was a bit much. I’m sure we’ll see her again, though, if only because she was in the opening credits.

Simon’s flashback is interrupted by Nia agreeing to live with him (awwwwww) and then Rossiu showing up with the news that anti-government guerrillas are attacking part of the city. It’s no shock that there would be some who oppose this regime, although I was a little bit surprised to see that Viral’s among them (I thought he’d be absent a little longer). I wonder whether these anti-government groups are made up of people who don’t want to be governed, or the remnants of the Beastmen? For that matter, are there even any Beastmen left other than Old Coco, who’s a weird case, and Viral, who was given a body that transcended their usual limits? It might actually be possible that with the Spiral King’s death and the fall of Teppelin, there are no Beastmen left at all. Or perhaps there’s been a reversal of situations and the Beastmen are now forced to live underground. That question might be answered later, or it might not, but for now, Simon wants to go in Gurren Lagann to help in the battle. Rossiu won’t let him, since he’s the commander-in-chief of the government of all humanity; it’s a fair enough objection, I guess, but I can definitely understand Simon’s old flame burning again at the prospect of battle – especially with Viral.

The battle goes on without Simon, then; Gimmy and Darry are a bit grown up and apparently in charge of a squadron of flying Gunmen based on Gurren Lagann’s old model. Viral’s still in his old Enki, though that seems to have been upgraded a bit into a new ‘Enkidu’ model capable of firing missiles. Where he managed to find resources to upgrade the thing, I’ve no idea, but I’ll roll with it. It actually seems as if he might have been the only person attacking the city, since the battle ends once he’s subdued, but he claims to have been doing so on behalf of a large faction of humans who would actually much rather continue to live underground. I can understand that; change is a weird and scary thing, especially such a drastic change as moving an entire civilisation from underground villages to a surface hub city, so it actually makes a lot of sense to me that some would want to stay where they were. What’s more interesting is Viral’s rationale for helping them; he cites Simon’s ‘forcing’ all the humans to live in Kamina City as being pretty much the same as the Spiral King forcing them all to live underground. He’s got a point, actually, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit dodgy about Rossiu telling Viral that he’ll be put on trial for crimes when both ‘trials’ and ‘crimes’ are things that this new society, which Viral isn’t part of, has only just invented. I wonder whether Simon and Viral might end up teaming up together against Rossiu’s totalitarian view of what government is at some point; certainly, Rossiu’s already crossing some lines by dragging all the humans to the surface against their will (even if it is for a legitimate purpose like trying to prevent the apocalypse). I imagine that there might be some sort of coup at some point, since Rossiu seems to be the head of a faction viewing Simon and the rest of the former Team Dai-Gurren as lazy and unsuited for ruling.

Whatever happens on that front, humanity has more immediate problems. Dayakka’s baby is born, and (as Boota watches, because who better to be the first witness to such a monumental event) the scales are tipped over that million mark, causing the moon to… well, to go a bit Evangelion. A giant machine falls from a hole in the sky – it’s a really disturbing sight, since it’s modelled and rendered in a way that makes it look totally out of place in the anime visuals of the rest of the world – and pretty much immediately starts causing damage; meanwhile, Nia finds herself taken over by some strange force from the moon. It’s all… really not good, and I don’t think I was expecting things to go this far south this quickly. The Thing From The Moon isn’t any normal mecha; it doesn’t have a face like the old Gunmen and it’s immune to pretty much any attack the new mass-produced ‘Grapearl’ mechs can throw at it. According to Black Sister Who Does Science Stuff, the Gunmen have actually been discarded, since they’re considered relics of the old times and the Spiral King’s age, much to Kittan’s discontent.

Well… all except one. Simon bursts onto the scene in Gurren Lagann and blasts the foe with a Giga Drill Break, but even that isn’t enough. Victory’s only secured when Gurren Lagann absorbs a load of energy from a beam attack, then blasts it right back (that’s got to be some sort of manifestation of concentrated offensive Spiral Power, right?). Unfortunately, it’s not the best of victories, as the resulting explosion destroys a whole load of the surrounding area – I can’t help but think that this is the start of Simon being pushed out of power by Rossiu, who’s extremely pissed off at his rash actions. That’s not even the worst of it, as a demonic Nia appears and announces that a race called the ‘Anti-Spirals’ have determined that humanity has reached too high a level of Spiral Power, and as a result… the Human Extermination System is about to be activated.

Well, that was a pretty dark first episode post-time skip. Something tells me things are only likely to get worse, too… I think we’re in for a heck of a second arc.


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