Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – E13 – ‘Eat Up, Everyone!’

Well, it’s been a while since I did one of these! So long, in fact, that I actually had a bit of trouble remembering what happened when I last watched the show. Fortunately, there’s a nice recap at the beginning of each episode with a lovely deep voice giving… actually, pretty limited information about what’s going on, but oh well. If I remember correctly, the last episode was the one in which:

Nia got her hair shot off and subsequently fixed up by Yoko, who now likes her; Adiane got blown to pieces by Dai-Gurren, leaving Viral wondering what the fuck keeps going wrong and the Spiral King presumably a bit pissed off; Old Coco did something cool (that’s just a guess, but I think a pretty safe one); Simon moped around for a while but ended up being able to pilot Lagann again thanks to the power of love and manliness.

I think that’s where we’re at. Who cares, anyway? Onwards and upwards! (By which I mean: let’s just do this episode.)

We start with a couple of contrasting pictures of what life is like working on Dai-Gurren: Nia feels impotent for not really having a job around the place, while Rossiu is basically comatose from overwork. Leeron suspects that Yoko, too, might be pushing herself a bit hard, which I’m thinking might come up again later. Meanwhile, Nia realises something she can do to be useful: cook!

Unfortunately, just as the food’s about to be served, Cytomander attacks in his flying fortress Gunmen thingy, Dai-Gunten. Totally called that, by the way. If Thymilph had his walking fortress (Dai-Gunzan, now Dai-Gurren) and Adiane had the underwater one (Dai-Gunkai), it makes sense that somebody would have a flying one. The only remaining mystery is what sort of fortress Guame might have, unless his is the city of Teppelin itself? Seems more like that’d be Spiral King-exclusive territory. At any rate, Simon has to hop in Gurren Lagann to join the force defending Dai-Gurren against Cytomander’s attack. As Rossiu’s out of action, however, Yoko takes on the responsibility of piloting Gurren, though Simon seems pretty sure that he probably could do it himself. I wasn’t surprised to see her hesitate at first – she’s literally taking the seat that her almost-boyfriend died in, for heaven’s sake – but then again I was equally unsurprised that she did in fact summon the strength to get in and go for it. If anything was a surprise, it was only the fact that the thing that gave her the strength to do it was just Boota slipping down her cleavage. I’m starting to think Boota might have some sort of weird motivational superpower.

Cytomander’s a pretty formidable opponent, as it turns out. This shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise to Team Dai-Gurren on account of the fact that all of the Generals they’ve encountered have been pretty powerful; it’s just that once Gurren Lagann gets going and pulls some new trick out of its mechanical butthole, it’s kind of unstoppable. It’s even able to use its long drills to swing from airborne enemy Gunmen like Spider-Man, and, when that’s not efficient enough, integrate one of the flying Gunmen into its own systems so it’s able to fly itself. Cytomander seems pretty shocked when he’s told that human Gunmen are actually approaching his fortress; I guess nobody would realistically have expected them to be able to make it up there, but still. This guy’s supposed to be a General, but a little bit of shooting at unmoving ground targets and he suddenly writes them all off as totally incompetent? Underestimation much. I mean, he clearly doesn’t think too much of Thymilph and Adiane’s abilities if he’s really that willing to decide that the human forces are completely unthreatening.

Oh, and Viral’s there, too! Not sure who decided that it was a good idea to keep this guy employed, but he does say that he had to do a lot of begging and pleading in order to be allowed to come and face Gurren Lagann again. He gets his wish, but we all know it’s not really the mech itself he wants vengeance on: it’s Kamina. When he realises that Simon and Yoko – who’s injured from the rough trip into the sky fortress – are the ones piloting the Gunmen, though, Viral finally learns that his rival is gone (I’d totally forgotten that he still didn’t know Kamina was dead). Viral’s character arc is one of the more interesting in the show, I think: he’s this hyper-competent leader who simply never could defeat his one great opponent, causing him to feel more and more shame. He starts losing commanders, even, to this man, and his society start to view him as a bit of a joke (this part isn’t explicit, but I think we can assume). He’s on a losing streak, and for someone who’s made his life from victories in battle, that’s devastating. So he keeps doing the only thing he can think to do: try to kill Kamina. All well and good, but then he learns that in fact Kamina died two or three battles ago, and since then he’s been losing to Simon – a child, in his view (he actually refers to Simon as a cub at one point). It’s no longer even his great destined foe that he’s unable to come good against; now it’s just an even more insignificant human. I really think Viral’s story has the potential for a great payoff down the line, whether he becomes the ultimate antagonist of the story or simply loses one too many times and gives up.

Simon, meanwhile, demonstrates that he really can pilot Gurren Lagann perfectly well on his own when he takes on Viral one-on-one. He holds his own pretty well; I’m not sure who would have won if the fight had gone uninterrupted, but Viral seems pretty concerned about the possibility of losing, so I take that to mean that Simon’s at least on par with him in terms of combat ability. That’s pretty impressive when you think about it – up until now, Simon’s not really had much direct combat experience, either playing a supporting role to Kamina in battle or taking a more tactical route to victory. He’s certainly not spent a lot of time as the sole pilot of a mech in battle, so it’s pretty commendable that he does as well as he does. It’s a moot point, anyway, since Cytomander shows up in his own custom battle Gunmen to interrupt the fight. He holds Yoko hostage while giving Viral some shtick about how he’s unable to finish the job, which is… pretty reasonable, to be honest. Let’s face it, Viral must look pretty crap from the Beastmen point of view. Even Simon calls him out, practically mocking the fact that Viral’s always got some excuse or distraction that prevents a full-on fight from reaching any conclusion.

Viral decides to abscond from the fight on some sort of weird honourable grounds, citing that he doesn’t want to defeat the humans ‘in this way’, which I guess means ‘with interference’. I sort of get it: this is all about redeeming himself, which he can only do if he wins the right way – but then again, his General is there telling him to get the hell on with it, so I wouldn’t blame him for just taking the chance while it’s open. He’s got a samurai-like code, which I think might cause some problems for him with his Beastmen bosses if it prevents him from fighting at peak effectiveness, but it sure as heck makes him the most interesting of the Beastmen.

It’s at around the time that all this is going on that Dai-Gurren does perhaps the most ridiculous thing it’s done yet – namely, launching itself into the air and kicking Cytomander’s flying ship. Chaos and explosions ensue, during the course of which Yoko is carried away by Gurren Lagann. Astonishingly, she’s absolutely fine, a fact she attributes to Boota’s protection. I really am starting to think Boota might actually have some sort of mystical powers going on here.

Back on the ground, Yoko confesses to Simon that she had a bit of a thing for Kamina, which he totally knew anyway but takes pretty well considering that until recently he had a bit of a thing for her. Nia’s been good for Simon, I reckon, if only to divert his thunderous pubescent hormonal attention away from a woman who’s (let’s face it) not really a suitable match for him and towards… a former princess of the Beastmen. Hm. Well, she’s also good for him in the sense that she can feed him, so that’s nice.

Except…

Rossiu wakes up, after about a day of being practically dead (remember, Leeron attributed it to stress and overwork), and… does a massive poop. And then he’s fine. It’s that sort of show. Turns out that he ate some of Nia’s cooking, and that was what committed him to a hospital bed for twenty-four hours.

Though we’ve seen the princess eating Old Coco’s food and loving it, we haven’t seen anyone eating hers yet, and it transpires that she is a truly terrible cook. Everyone on Team Dai-Gurren tries some, and their toilet is probably going to be blocked to high heaven for a while. In fact, the only people who are able to stomach it are Simon and Boota, who are quite happy to polish off the whole lot! Hurray!

On that happy note, we get a little stinger at the end of the episode with Viral before the Spiral King. Cytomander blames the failure of the battle squarely on Viral and asks the Spiral King to have him executed; Viral’s fine with that, if that’s his king’s wishes, but first he just has to know who the hell these humans are. I really like how what first seemed like a dumb catchphrase has turned into an actual thematic element, with ‘who the hell do you think I am/ we are’ being a legitimately thought-provoking question. Viral, after all, has been taught that humans are inferior, but that’s sure as hell not his experience with them. To Cytomander’s shock, the Spiral King comes down to answer the question.

According to Lordgenome, Beastmen are imperfect, needing to enter a deathlike slumber in order to maintain their bodies (he doesn’t specify how regular this is, but I’m guessing at least as often as human sleep, which might explain why they’re mostly inactive in the day). Viral asks why the Spiral King, who gave life to the Beastmen, would make them flawed in such a way. The king’s response is simply to ask whether he’s sure he wants to know.

Viral’s response is simply ‘Yes’.

Aaaand that’s the end of the episode. Either we’ll find out what the king’s answer is next episode or they’ll make us wait a while before the big reveal. My theory?

… I’m not sure. The only thing I can think is that the Beastmen’s biology is somehow derived from humans’, perhaps because Lordgenome cloned or otherwise genetically interfered with human subjects in order to create them. It might make sense: after all, Lordgenome is supposedly human himself, and the names of Lordgenome and his Generals seem to point towards some sort of genetic history. It’s tantalising stuff.

With any luck, the mystery will be revealed next time, so… tune in to find out!

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