Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – E19+E20

As it’s been a while since I did one of these, I thought I’d jump back in by watching two episodes in one sweet, juicy, steak-like slab of deliciousness. I didn’t bother to take notes while I watched, because I wanted to just get immersed in the feeling of the show again. I missed it!

Episodes nineteen and twenty take place after Simon’s arrest, and things don’t really improve much for him. It’s been a steady decline pretty much since the first episode post-timeskip, to be honest, and the trend’s not showing any signs of going anywhere. In brief summary: Simon is trialled, sentenced to death and stuck in a prison – with who else for a cellmate but Viral?! – while Leeron discovers that Rossiu’s plan for preserving humanity is pretty much fucked owing to the fact that the moon smashing into the planet’s surface is, as t turns out, going to be even more catastrophic than they figured. In positive news, our boys discover a spaceship (the Arc-Gurren) buried directly under Kamina City, which they’re able to activate using Lordgenome’s head, and the new Grapearl mechs develop ways of fighting the Mugann, which are frankly pretty terrifying in these episodes. In not so positive news, they’re forced to take off with only a few evacuees, seemingly abandoning the rest of humanity to the rather unfortunate fate of being squashed by the moon. 

The position as it stands is something like this: the Arc-Gurren is off into space with a small remnant of humanity, but most of the people are doomed, including Simon and Viral; Kittan seems to be hatching some sort of plan revolving around the Core Drill and/ or the combat potential of the older Gunmen models, which were designed to fight Anti-Spirals; Nia’s a total dick; Yoko’s back! I’d sort of forgotten Yoko had left, but I’m still pretty stoked to see her make a badass return, rifle in hand as ever. Unfortunately, her return confirms that she is still on the Earth – you know, that utterly doomed thing. So that’s probably not ideal. 

I’ve got to say, it’s really impressed me how Gurren Lagann has managed to transition from what was effectively a standard shonen story about a boy in a robot beating up other robots (albeit an unusually well-told and nuanced one) into something resembling a political drama – although there are always at least one or two mech fights per episode. Since the timeskip, the show’s explored Simon and the rest of Team Dai-Gurren’s difficulty adapting from the soldier life to the governing life with surprising sensitivity, believably showing how some of the people would come to see the new parliament as little better than the Beastmen dynasty that came before. We’ve got little subplots like Dayakka becoming a father, which initially seemed a bit pointless other than for added drama as the number of humans ticked up to a million but which I think came into its own as a development of a larger theme when Dayakka said something to the effect of ‘my newborn baby girl is more important to me right now than a dead man’. He’s talking about Kamina, of course, the man whose ideology made the new human civilisation possible and on whose legend the new culture was built. Yes, Kamina got them as far as he did, but Simon and some others have a tendency to forget that Kamina got killed in the process, and the world’s changed since his death. No longer is the most effective course of action to simply reject common sense to make the impossible possible; things are more complicated than that now, a fact that a lot of the main cast struggle to adjust to. It takes maturity for Dayakka to admit that he needs to move on – and, yes, for Rossiu to make the decisions he does, even if they might not be the best ones. 

I think, however, that we might be heading back in the direction of Kamina Style before too long. I’m enjoying the political and personal stories, but I suspect the show is going to be heading back to its roots when the real fighting with the Anti-Spirals begins, and I’m okay with that. Gurren Lagann has shown that it can do a lot of things well, but its best trick is surely the ludicrous manly fighting power that formed the soul of much of its first half. I won’t resent it for going back to that. I think, too, that when it does there’ll be more to say about Viral’s role in the overall story and his thematic use as a foil to first Kamina and then Simon, but we’ll get to that when it comes. 

I really like this show, you guys. 

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