In hindsight of course, one understands that everything up to and including the current conflict in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann has been a preamble. At the time, though, it certainly seemed as if the Spiral King was being set up as the final boss, which made this confrontation seem a little premature. That’s the nature of this series – the plot is has many layers as an onion, and every time you peel one away there’s another one ready to emerge and takes its place.
There’s a lot of foreshadowing in the first of these two episodes to be sure – that and big-time battle animation in the classic Gainax style. We hear talk of the power of the spiral, and of how Lordgenome sealed the humans away underground to protect them. There was no way to know just how profoundly important this clue was – in fact, the whole premise is built on top of it. The King himself remains tucked away in his Teppelin, the citadel at the heart of beastman power, with the last of his two generals facing Team Dai-Gurren (and not just them) in the biggest battle the series has seen so far.
The good guys get some help in this battle – turns out their little broadcast a few eps back inspired some of the humans out there. I won’t swear this is the first time we’ve heard “Rap is a Man’s Soul” as BGM, but it’s certainly the most-extended use of the series’ signature theme so far. There’s a definite sense of the story graduating to a new level, a more serious stage of the game. And that’s reflected in the fact that those last two generals get taken out, leaving nothing standing between Gurren-Lagann and Teppelin – and the Spiral King.
If Episode 8 was the first transition ep – almost a season break – than #15 is definitely the second. This is the one that takes the plot to the next level, and it launches with the series’ first cold open. Lordgenome is nothing if not overconfident, though he acknowledges that a beastman is no match for a human who’s discovered the power of the spiral. He doesn’t go into great detail about exactly what that means, but it’s clear than Simon has tapped in whether he’s aware of it or not. Nia begs him to take her to see her father one more time, though just exactly what she hopes to achieve through this is a but fuzzy.
Lordgenome has a gunman of his own, Lazengann – something of a dark reflection of Gurren-Lagann. But this fight really only achieves peak GAR when Simon manages to destroy it, and the Spiral King hops out and starts kicking Lagann’s ass with his bare hands (and fists). This is one of the all-time showcase action scenes in the entire Gainax catalog to be sure (though TTGL would have many more cards to play in that regard). I honestly hated to see Lordgenome killed off so quickly, because he’s a great antagonist with a great seiyuu and character design. But that’s his role in the story for now – and though we didn’t realize it at the time, his role was not yet over.
If it’s anything, Gurren Lagann is a masterpiece of plot twists. If Golden Kamuy is a series that treats every character like a protagonist, TTGL treats every subplot like the main story. It just keeps moving the goal posts, getting deeper and darker and more complex, proving in the process to be a very different series than it appears to be on first (and then some) impressions. The Spiral King’s words make it clear something big is hanging out there, with talk of a million apes on the surface and the moon becoming Hell’s messenger, but we could have no idea just how big it was.