Recently, a rather large step forward was made in symbolism and meaning in anime. That step, from the same studio that created Evangelion and FLCL, is Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Notable for its coherent and graspable symbolism and messages and a well-written three-pronged Hero’s Journey, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann may be one of the most impressive attempts at meaning in anime to date.
The most prominent symbol throughout Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is that of the spiral. Not only is the main character’s weapon a spiral-style drill, but numerous other spiral shaped objects are brought up and linked through their shape. What is shaped like a spiral? Our DNA. What else is shaped like a spiral? Our Galaxy. What is so special about our DNA? Well, we HAVE evolved into a species that is distinct in that it has rational thought beyond instinct. And in the space of the Gurren Lagann universe, spiral shaped galaxies and spiral shaped DNA bring about this phenomenon.
While in our world we don’t know exactly what drives evolution beyond adaptation, at the very least a little suspension of disbelief allow us to accept this simple idea. Evolution is caused by spirals, and the power they emanate.
Spirals as drills are not as obviously linked as this concept, explained quite neatly in episode 18. However, drills do represent another concept: breaking through walls. The drills in the show are pointed drill bits, spiraling up from a thin point to a wide base. While this kind of drill doesn’t exist in real life, it has been a fixture of anime since the Super Robot era of the 70s, a point which will be brought up later. Regardless, this kind of drill shape is utilized not only as a weapon, but also as the main character’s tool to represent his profession (digger,) as well as the keys and primary weapons of Spiral Energy powered machines. As the spiraling drill acts as a conduit for spiral energy, it becomes a device to break through barriers, be they physical or metaphysical. It also in the end becomes linked to evolution itself: the catalyst that takes the wishes of the departed and transforms it into a path for those that learn from them and follow.
Fairly simple anime symbolism by most standards. However, what pushes it beyond typical anime symbolism is the way spiral power is represented and used.
Cinnamon Rolls are the food of evolution.
The spiral symbolism would be mostly condensed to the Gurren Lagann universe were it not for the inclusion of the Anti-Spirals. The second major opposing force in Gurren Lagann, the Anti-Spirals are a race of beings that were a Spiral race until they observed the violent, expanding tendencies of evolution and spiral power, and attributed it to the potential of decimating themselves, or worse, the universe. They called this threat the Spiral Nemesis. Out of fear and in a decision fueled by objectivism, the Anti-Spirals sealed their own evolution and emotion, and then struck down and subjugated any other race observed to have the potential of becoming the Spiral Nemesis. All for the preservation of the universe.
How does this become a commentary that applies to realms outside the Gurren Lagann universe? Consider a trend in recent science fiction literature where futuristic societies are tending to be more and more dystopian. Usually, these stories deal with the hubris of humanity, their power growing so great that the world falls into disarray and humanity almost entirely destroys itself through its own power. This trend towards dystopian futures paints a fairly cynical view of humanity. It is a view that I personally had held recently.
The Anti-Spirals are an entire race that views emotion and evolution as dangers. They take this idea of dystopia and stretch it to its furthest possible extreme: the destruction of the universe. Nihilism and objectivism drive their motivations; trying to preserve a universe at the expense of happiness and growth.
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is not instantly recognizable as a Hero’s Journey due to the way it plays around with the ideas and tropes contained within the pattern. Usually in Hero’s Journeys, especially modern era, the call to adventure is more distinct, the mentor wise, the thresholds obvious, the one path clearly laid out and traversed. However, Gurren Lagann, in its intent to create its own epic story rather than follow a set pattern, seemingly rebuilds this, and makes things less apparent than they seem. It does this by replicating the spiral pattern of the narrative, and using multiple Initiation steps before letting its hero obtain his ultimate boon.
The logic behind this is that Simon never has a perfect mentor. In fact, for each of his three initiations, he has a different mentor, one optimized for one of the traits needed for the hero that is required to deliver the message. From Kamina, he learns courage. From Nia, his heart is primed. And the Anti-Spirals themselves serve to be the final mentors, showing Simon the proper resolve that is needed.
With each mentor comes a different departure and a different initiation step. The first stage of Simon’s journey begins at Jeeha Village, where he has grown up with his friend, “soul brother” and mentor Kamina, a man who shows no fear. When Simon finds his call to adventure, he doesn’t think to take it himself, instead deciding to show his aniki the simple treasure he has found. When a secondary call, the arrival of a hostile Gunmen and the pretty girl fighting it, appears, Simon ends up being thrust headlong into the fray by Kamina. Simon accepts the call by activating the mecha he has found with the strange drill bit he found underground, which Kamina declared to be his soul. The first threshold, the ceiling that separates the village from the surface, and the belly of the beast, the arrival into the brand new world of adventure on a surface that is controlled by the oppressive beastmen, leads way into the first Initiation of Simon.
In this first initiation, the initiation of Courage, Kamina continually primes Simon to be his successor. Kamina is courage and determination embodied, but he lacks restraint and is so unable to back down he starts endangering himself and his comrades. He can only show Simon how to be brave in the end. Ironically, Kamina becomes the “goddess” of this step by uniting his mecha with Simon’s. Meanwhile, their friend Yoko is something of a temptress, though not in an intentional way. Simon develops a childhood crush on this pretty girl close to his age, but she ends up falling instead for the courageous leader who has almost singlehandedly turned the tide of the war against the beastmen.
whoop de fucking doo
but since so many words were put into this, I'm sure it's absolutely correct
This temptation ultimately leads to heartbreak, and through it Simon’s weakness causes Kamina to lower his guard to knock some sense back into Simon. The two fight alongside each other one final time, amends are made, and Simon’s courage ignites. However, because of wounds sustained in the battle, Kamina dies, and the ignited courage becomes a nigh-uncontrollable firestorm of vengeance and hatred. Instead of obtaining Apotheosis and the ultimate boon, Simon is thrust back into the belly of the whale, with only the last words his brother left him as a guide.
Inside this second belly of the whale, Simon’s world, changed by the loss of his closest friend is bleak and bitter. He is violent, rash, impulsive, and rude to all the others that joined the battle which resulted in Kamina’s death. He refuses to back down, due to the courage he obtained and the wish to be the replacement for his brother, and that ultimately causes his mecha, run on emotion, to grow sick of his corrupted emotions and reject him as a pilot.
It is at this seven year point that the final test, the final call, the test of Simon’s resolve, appears. When the woman he loves becomes a messenger for the oppressors of the universe, and the people he helped save turn on him as they search for a scapegoat, Simon must find the determination to fight for his people, even if they do not wish for him to fight. The steps become muddled here, as the goddess of the last initiation becomes the temptress of this, and Simon does not truly accept this call to adventure until he joins with his former enemy Viral and takes the Gurren-Lagann into space to fight the enemy armada threatening to extinguish all life on the planet. No, the call isn’t even accepted then; the tests for his resolve do not begin until he inserts a larger version of his smaller drill bit into the controls of the Cathedral Terra. The threshold that he must break through to answer the call is none other than the temptress/goddess herself. As he does, he promises to free her from the control of the Anti-spirals, and accepts the call to fight the greatest threat in the universe to his people, all for the sake of his love.
It is here that Simon’s Return begins, and his final flight becomes a walk through a falsified dream world with a strongly neutered version of his first mentor Kamina placed there to neuter him as well. However, he is freed by an image of the true Kamina, and the warriors that gave their lives for him, and fully understands the message he has been entrusted with. He breaks himself and his friends out of the dream world, and endures a battle with a now extremely emotional Anti-Spiral, the final test of his resolve.
The Anti-Spiral in this battle relates the tale of his race in a surprisingly heartfelt manner for an objectivist nihilist. The final test proves to be overcoming the fear of the Spiral Nemesis, and understanding that at his current stage of power, HE is the greatest possible threat to the universe. When Simon breaks through every barrier with the help of every last one of his allies, the Anti-Spiral charges Simon with one final request.
“So will you then protect the Universe?”
“Of course. Humans aren’t that foolish.”
Simon, in showing his determination, has struck down another race that had a different kind of resolve, but both were fighting for the sake of their universe. Simon’s path was simply that of evolution and freedom as opposed to the Anti-Spiral’s stagnation and oppression.
And so it is with that message that Simon reaches the end of the tunnel he has dug with his drill. He returns to earth with the love of his life, even though they cannot remain together due to the unfortunate circumstances of Nia’s fate. However, both accept their fate, and Simon, his mission done and the message of hope delivered, exits from the scene, likely to fulfill his promise with the Anti-Spiral, as well as to meet the demands of his own message.
A second call to adventure occurs here, of a different kind, but one that is ultimately answered the same way as the first: with the drill bit, with his soul, Simon opens a strange box with the same lock mechanism as Lagann. Inside, he encounters his second mentor and goddess, the cute, naive Nia. Nia, the abandoned daughter of the leader of the beastmen, serves as a mentor for Simon’s heart, a salve to cleanse his corrupted spirit. However, she only acts as a small snap back to reality for Simon, who must still find the meaning of his brother’s words on his own. His true Apotheosis of Courage comes when he works to free his allies after their temporary leader Kittan foolishly leads them into an obvious trap. When Lagann accepts him again, he reawakens as not a replacement for Kamina, but instead a guiding light on his own terms, beaming steadily rather than violently.
The remainder of this section is his fight to free humanity. His courage is tested again and again, and never broken; the finely tempered sword of courage becomes unbreakable. Simon’s heart is tested, however, when he must confront Nia’s father, Lord Genome, who is also his precursor as a soldier who faced the Anti-Spiral threat. The love between him and and Nia triumphs over the tyranny of Lord Genome, and over seven years, Simon slowly builds up the different kind of courage needed to confess to the woman he loves.
Waste of time pasta is a waste of time
I don't know if that is all of it. I got lazy to save it after that so that's all I saved. Anyways, WHAT THE FUCK? Who the hell could write all that. I had trouble just saving it and then pasting it again.
I love the taste of your tears.
It is delicious copypasta, you must eat it.
>Kamina becomes the “goddess”
Faburuous kamina is faburous
Oh God you fucking stole my idea from that berserk feminist thread. I hate you anon.
OH come on. Kamina was ALWAYS fabulous.
wait, you actually read some of that? I'm the OP and even I didn't read it.
No really I'm still raging here quietly. Plagiarism motherfucker.
Are you serious?
Dude, copypasta is not plagiarism. It's not like I wrote it and claimed it as my own or anything.
I'm ALWAYS serious.
ALWAYS dumb too. I gotcha.
Okay then the person that initially wrote it then. I remember some bullshit feminist essay on berserk and to prove that anybody can draw symbolism from anime I wrote a short outline (a paragraph) detailing both Anti-spirals (Most specifically their comparisons between judo-Christian organized religions) and the spirals (evolution, belief in the power of mankind). It was only an outline but some anon expatiated on it.
>spiral shaped galaxies and spiral shaped DNA
its a fucking cartoon
It's the same for the japs. They only have one word for both spiral and helix = Uzumaki
age for butthurt
Probably some Demonlame and IDEORT fags in this thread.
OP where did you get this copy pasta?
bump for butthurt
That must be very confusing, but it explains a lot.