Space Opera, Spiral Energy, and the Dark Side of Darwinism

This article will start as an anime review for Gurren Lagann (known in Japan as Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, “Heaven-piercing” Gurren Lagann) and end somewhere very far from the fields we know, perhaps as a philosophical musing, perhaps as a sermon. It is filled with spoilers, and pretty annoying spoilers at that, so do not read further unless you want to find out that “Rosebud” is the name of Luke Skywalker’s true father.

At the welcome recommendation of several people, I sought out Gurren Lagann. Those people, to whom I am grateful, correctly judged that is was the same kind of over-the-top Space Opera that I both read and try to write.

Let us pause to deal with the ever-burning question of what differentiates Space Opera from Military SF or any of the related genres. My answer is simple: when you are done reading E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith’s SKYLARK OF SPACE or GALACTIC PATROL and their sequels, or done watching STAR WARS and you are still in the mood for a yarn of the same kind, the type of story you seek is what we now call a Space Opera. When you are done reading STARSHIP TROOPERS by Heinlein or FOREVER WAR by Haldeman, and you are in the mood for the same kind of tale, you seek Military SF.

The defining characteristic of Space Opera is gigantism, larger-than-life characters storming across larger-than-life stages blowing up worlds.  Any story where the term “The Battle-Dyson-Sphere opened an aiming aperture wider than the rings of Saturn and ignited all suns in its internal triple star system to Nova-level output” could be inserted without confounding the story, or where the term “Space Pirate” can be used with a straight face, is likely to be  a Space Opera.   Space Opera usually does not deal with an infantryman’s-eye-view of the war: you are reading about the doings of the Gray Lensman, not with the barroom brawls, letters from home, and stoic loneliness of Juan Rico or William Mandella.  The short answer is that Space Opera deals with the Achilles and Ulysses of the future, heroes invulnerable or able to outwit the gods themselves, whereas Military SF deals with G.I.’s.

One trick that E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith perfected was the geometrical increase of scope. In SKYLARK OF SPACE, the duel was between Superscientist Richard Seaton and Evil Superscientist Marc Q. “Blackie” DuQuesne, and both were igniting atomic explosions on planetary surfaces with abandon: but by the fourth book SKYLARK DUQESNE, the climax included a scene where countless millions of stars were teleported from one galaxy into the exact location of home suns of evil star systems in a second galaxy, triggering so many supernovae that the entire second galaxy was one smear of spiral supernova-level radiation while the first galaxy was dimmed, and meanwhile all the good planets of that galaxy were teleported to freedom in carefully selected orbits at the correct distance each one around the star in yet a third galaxy. Space Opera often involves this type of one-upsmanship: the whole planet is at stake, the whole solar system, the whole galaxy, the whole cluster, and so on.

Gurren Lagann has this Skylarkian formula perfected. It starts out gigantic and grows larger from there.

SPOILERS AHEAD! A PLETHORA OF SPOILING SPOILERS!

SYNOPSIS: The story starts with Simon the Digger, who lives in what might as well be the City of Ember, an underground village of tunnels and caves, troubled by frequent earthquakes. He slowly and patiently drills new tunnels needed for the villagers to eke out a pathetic and marginal existence. His outrageously reckless and boastful comrade Kamina tells of a world above the only world they know, a place called “The Surface” where there is no roof and no walls.  Then Simon unearths a small but powerful battle-robot, a mecha called Gurran, from the ancient days, shaped like a human face, or perhaps like the scowling facemask of a samurai. It is smaller than a VW Bug.

The activation of the Gurran robot triggers an attack from the surface. A robot shaped like a giant shark face, pursued by a micro-bikini-clad riflewoman with rifle and with womanly parts both absurdly oversized, plunges through the ceiling and into the village.

Battle ensues. When the trio of friends overcomes the sharkbot, they break through the ceiling into the open sky. In a scene of haunting beauty, they see the sun in the west and moon in the east, mingled with the stars and crimson clouds of dusk, as they hang, slowly turning, in midair in their flying bot, winds in their faces, eyes wide with awe.

The miniature battle robot runs on what is called “Spiral Energy” which is ability to turn the stark, burning, hot-eyed and loud-raging passion, willpower, soul, and fighting spirit of the pilot into whatever form of weapon might be needed (usually absurdly gigantic drills). Spiral Energy violates the laws of conservation of matter (by producing weapons out of nothing) and it reverses entropy (by repairing damaged robots). It helps if you scream out the name of the attack before breaking a law of nature.

More battle ensues when the beast-men who dwell on the deserted wasteland of the surface world discover and attack them. The comrades capture a mecha of the enemy, this one taller than a house, and turn it against the beast-men. More battle ensues. They combine their battlerobots into superbattlerobots to fight the evil beast champion Viral, and more battles ensue. The four great generals of Lord Genome each launches assaults against the growing party of adventurers, who have by now become an army of resistance. An even larger mecha, this one the size of an aircraft carrier, attacks and is captured by Simon.  They gain and lose allies and friends as the fortunes of war turn. Simon grieves over the loss of his friend Kamina, but saves the young and beautiful princess Nia in a coffin in a dumpheap filled with coffins: she is one of countless clones made by the creator and master of the Beastmen, Lord Genome, she does not at first realize her allegedly loving father was merely a toymaker who wearied of her.

Joined by all the forces now emerging from all the buried villages, whose despair was turned into hope by the example of outrageous courage of the resistance, Simon and the Armies of Man discover the superscraper superfortress of the Lord Genome, a structure shaped like a funnel. This turns out to be yet another mecha, a colossus miles tall. Final battle ensues. As he dies, Lord Genome reveals that he was keeping mankind buried, impoverished, weak and hidden to keep them safe: he hints at an apocalyptic danger should the human population ever reach one million.

Seven years later, in the midst of an era of progress and prosperity, the one millionth baby is born, and secret bases on the moon, programmed by the same coalition of alien races who once defeated mankind, being to launch attacks. Simon the Digger, now world leader, is blamed for the attacks, betrayed, deposed, scapegoated, imprisoned. First one, then dozens, then countless enemy units descend from space to bombard the Earth; when the aliens degrade the orbit of the moon in order that it shall spiral into the Earth, even those in the buried cities have no hope to survive.

But that same unyielding and unconquerable spirit, reckless bravery akin to madness, visits Simon even while he is chained in the stinking depth of the prison, peering out through the bars of his jail cell and sees the titanic moon, occupying nine tenths of the sky, beginning to glow with reentry heat. He escapes and gathers the loyal mecha-pilots to attempt in foolishly impossible battle against the Moon! The Earthmen, hopelessly outnumbered, sail an ancient superspacebattleship as large as a city against the alien machines.

The severed head of the corpse of Lord Genome is wired into a biocomputer and questioned. He reveals that man is one of many of the “Spiral Races” whose life processes are based on the DNA spiral of the double helix, but also based on the endlessly ever-upward spiral of Darwinian evolution. The Spiral Races long ago were defeated and hunted almost to extinction by the Anti-Spiral Races, who set in place certain human extinction mechanisms ready to operate the moment Man, or any Spiral Race, again became a threat.

The Anti-Spirals have one single battle strategy which they use in every fight: they allow the humans to think they are doing well, and then suddenly the fighting machines increase in speed and size and power, or another fleet joins the battle, so that all hope is lost. The Anti-Spirals are not seeking merely military victory: they are seeking to quench the human soul in absolute despair.

Battle ensues. The moon turns out to be a fake, merely a moon-colored crust covering a planet-sized ultrasuperspacebattleship. Nia, who is a clone, is therefore not a participant in Darwinian evolution, and therefore is an Anti-Spiral: her brain is possessed by the Anti-Spirals, and she is kidnapped across timespace. Simon uses the Spiral Energy to break a hole in the fabric of timespace just with the force of his willpower, and, seizing control of the moon-sized ultrasuperspacebattleship, launches a hopeless sortie across all reality in order to seek her.

Battle ensues when the Anti-Spiral Races launch their asteroid, moon, planet, and gas giant sized hyperultrasuperspacebattleships (all shaped like nightmarish scowling faces akin to Easter Island Totems) against the Earthling ultrasuperspacebattleship. Battle both material and psychic ensues, and the crew is drawn into a false reality in the eleventh dimension created from their own minds: it is the law of nature of this artificial reality that no one can escape!

By sheer effort of willpower, certain dead members of the crew spring back to life, and certain pets evolve into intelligent yet furry creatures on the instant, laws of reality are broken, the false universes shatter, and the ultrasuperspacebattleship defeats the hyperultrasuperspacebattleships and finds the hidden fortress-continuum of the Anti-Spiral Race where Nia is held hostage.

The hyperultrasuperspacebattleships of the Spiral and Anti-Spiral races evolve themselves by an effort of willpower into megahyperultrasuperspacebattleships, both now larger than galaxies, and they wade through the stars, flinging spiral galaxies at each other like shiruken, trampling and crushing nebulae constellations, as they clash in hyper-titanic battle. Of course both megahyperultrasuperspacebattleships transform into their human-armor shapes, since that is the shape that best summons and controls both Spiral and Antispiral Energy.

Let us pause for a theme song. Do the Impossible, See the Invisible, Touch the Untouchable, Break the Unbreakable! Raw, Raw! Fight the Power!

An ornament atop the battle helmet of the megahyperultrasuperspacebattleship-mecha of the Anti-Spirals is the homeworld of the Anti-Spirals.

We see only a glimpse of this gray and waterless city-world, with its countless millions of gray and featureless people lying motionless in cells, perhaps in suspended animation, perhaps in meditation, while the gray and unemotional voice of the Anti-Spiral emissary announces that they were a race once like humans who decided not to evolve, and therefore they keep themselves immortal, motionless, passionless and frozen.

The Anti-Spirals reveal that the use of the Spiral Energy, since is violates the laws of conservation of matter and reverses entropy, cannot help but inevitably increase the mass present in the universe, eventually to create a supergalactic black hole that will absorb the entire continuum, and annihilate all life. It is to prevent this disaster that the Anti-Spirals hunted down to destroy every race possessing the spiral power of evolution.

But that same unyielding and unconquerable spirit, reckless bravery akin to madness causes all the Earthmen, led by Simon, to hurl defiance at this fate, and the Earthmen announce that they will both use the Spiral Energy to continue to evolve ever upward, and to save the universe from the singularity when it occurs!

Victory ensues. The Earthmen return home to the cheers of the entire galaxy. Simon and Nia are married, and in fact he is kissing the bride, when she dissolves into a cloud of motes, smiling sadly. Simon announces that he knew all along his bride had to die when the Anti-Spirals were defeated. One little boy in tears runs up to the hero-widower, and says, “But Simon! We can use the Spiral Energy to resurrect her from the dead! Not one need die!” and with an avuncular chuckle, Simon pats him on the head, saying, “No, boy, the older generation must die in order to get out of thy way for you youngsters to grow and take our place! That is the way of the evolutionary spiral!”And so, with a cheerful shrug, he walks off into the sunset of what is perhaps the worst ending of any good story I have ever seen, ever. Ever, ever.

Don’t get me wrong: great anime, I’d recommend it to anyone who shares my taste in outrageous space opera, but the ending dropped the ball at the goal line. Loved the flick; Loved it. Hated the end; Hated it.

GRADE:  Four stars!

SEMI-UNRELATED PHILOSOPHICAL MUSINGS:

So, there I sat, dear reader, looking like Humphrey Bogart in the rain in France with my guts kicked out, thinking unprintable thoughts whose initials happen to be WTF trailed by twenty exclamation points.

I was choking on excess exclamation points because I thought two things:

(1) The Anti-Spirals were entirely right. All along, I was tricked into rooting for the bad guys, who are death-worshiping madmen possessed by a power that will one day destroy the universe.

But (no doubt you are saying) surely Simon and his recklessly brave-to-the-point-of-madness friends will live up to their boast and stop the predicted supersingularity from eating the universe, will they not?

To which I say, earlier in the show a severed head of a corpse floating in a glass bucket of nutrient goo reincarnated itself just by a tooth-gritting effort of will, recreating an muscular eight-foot-tall body out of wishful thinking, and now, suddenly, in order to tack an unhappy ending on the donkey-tail of the plot, the humans cannot resurrect the girl all the crewmen suffered and died to rescue from the inter-dimensional dungeon of the Anti-Spirals? How come you can do nine impossible things before breakfast, but not ten?

(2) These are the bad guys from my novel. In THE GOLDEN AGE, there was a group opposed to the practice of immortality, because they wanted the older generation to die and get out of the way. How come the guys who are the bad guys in my book are the good guys in this book?

The answer to both question one and two is the same. The author of Gurren Lagann thought that a happy ending that was too happy would not be suited for the story he wanted to tell. This was a war story, at least of a type, and in war people die.

In theory, this ending should have been no more unsatisfactory because it is bittersweet than an equally melancholy ending for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Frodo, having rid the world of the one all-usurping evil that menaced his age of history, is neither honored in his home, nor able to find his ease and happiness on the mortal shores: he must pass into the West, never to return. There are some who sacrifice all in order that others enjoy the fruits of peace.

In practice, however, everything in Tolkien’s theme was bent toward a melancholy ending. Everything, large and small, from the willingness of Galadriel to resist the lure of the Ring, and diminish and pass away, to the passing away of all the fine and ancient things of the Middle Earth, to the simple humility of Frodo who takes up the intolerable burden of the Quest with these humble words: “But I do not know the way…” The theme stated over and over in Lord of the Rings is solemn and quiet resolve to persevere despite the absence of any hope.

Gurren Lagann, on the other hand, shout, screams and bellows its theme over and over again: “We reject common sense to make the impossible possible!” and “Don’t you the know who the hell I am?!” Humility and resignation to the inevitable sacrifices of war is nowhere in the ingredients of the heady mix of Gurren Lagann. The theme stated over and over in Gurren Lagann is that an unyielding and unconquerable spirit, reckless bravery akin to madness, can drill a hole in the sky and crack open the heavens themselves.

If you are in the Gurrenoverse, you do not need whatever divine providence it was that aided Frodo as he hesitated, lost and overcome by the lure of evil on the brink of the Cracks of Doom, so that the wretched starveling Gollum, overcome by malice yet spared by compassion, might by the machinations of heaven use evil to bring evil to naught, that good might come of it, when all mortal spirit and will had failed.

No, what you need in the Gurren Lagann universe is unconquerable spirit, the ferocity of King Canute threatening the tide with his sword—because in this universe, the tide will stagger, crumble, retreat, stagger back, look surprised, and explode when threatened by a sword.

You don’t need divine providence in this universe, because there is none to be had, here: a story where brute willpower and driving passion (not to mention a ferocious attachment of loyalty to your friends) is what you need to prevail is not a story where Providence enters the theme or plot.

As I sat and mused thus, I realized that I had seen this same theme in the last three cartoons, and in each and every samurai or martial arts movie I had seen. Try harder, make sacrifices, be loyal. That was the theme from every tale from KARATE KID (any number and either version) to SPEED RACER to POKEMON to ONE PIECE.

The difference in emphasis between the degree of sacrifice between the Japanese and the American cartoons and movies is not universal, but it is noticeable: by this I mean it is not in each and every cartoon and show that the Japanese characters are more wounded after the fight, and bury more dead comrades,  but it happens often enough that American heroes emerge unscathed, and that even those who seem to be dead pop out of the grave like toaster pop-tarts before the credits roll, that the difference in attitude can be discerned. Americans are both more optimistic, and write more shows with an eye to a sequel.

I also notice a difference in attitude between older cartoons and newer, and this attitude parallels a difference between Japanese Anime and American, in the degree of boasting. Ash Catchem from POKEMON has no embarrassment when he tells all and sundry that he meets that he means to be a master in the art of cockfighting with pocket monsters, and likewise the zany pirate chief Monkey D. Luffy from ONE PIECE shouts that he is destined to be King of the Pirates as part of his battle-cry. The only American heroes I can think of which follow this self-aggrandizing habit are the Incredible Hulk, who correctly shouts “Hulk Is Strongest Of All!” and an athlete of considerable grace and prowess who unfortunately set the model for the generation of athletes following him, many of whom now boast like the Hulk, Cassius Clay AKA Mohamed Ali.  Hosts of talk radio hosts followed suit.

Sometimes when I see a Japanese cartoon character gritting his teeth even harder, and making his eyes flame even brighter, and he dashes even more swiftly against a giant foe who soundly defeated him last chapter, I am always slightly saddened, because I wonder if the kamikaze pilots in World War Two felt exactly this way. Or, to use an example closer to home, I wonder if the Confederacy thought they could defeat the Union in the Civil War merely by trying harder.

I have nothing against the philosophy that says “If I try harder, if my willpower is like an iron bar, if I train beyond endurance, if I flinch at no sacrifices, then I shall prevail!” It is a pagan philosophy, and, like all decent pagan philosophy, it is noble and melancholy, displaying a resolve won from hopelessness. It is not only a philosophy fit for a man, but one fit for mortal man.

It is philosophy fit for one who is fated to die, because someone who is willing to die but who does not leaves a lingering question. It is not a philosophy fit, for example, for the ending of the Disney version of THE BLACK CAULDRON, where Gurgi’s noble self-sacrifice is unmade by a Lamia-Ex-Machina (this is like a Deus-ex-Machina, except when you lower a witch rather than a god from the stage machinery).

For this reason, I actually have more admiration for Japanese films, like THE SEVEN SAMURAI and its plethora of imitators, American and Japanese, where half the cast is buried in the ground at the end, or even LEGEND OF THE EIGHT SAMURAI (the real name is Satomi Hakkenden, the Dog-Soldiers of Satomi, and it was based on a famous Japanese novel sort of the same way STARSHIP TROOPERS was based on a novel of the same name but the opposite in every way). This is a film you are likely, dear reader, never heard of, but it is one were everyone in the party is wiped out by the end, except the Princess and her love interest: what we D&D players call TPK = Total Party Kill. But you might have heard of DAVY CROCKETT (one of Disney’s first live action films) which has a similar melancholy but noble ending. Even Buddy Ebsen, comedy relief sidekick, buys the farm at the Alamo. We last see Davy swinging his empty rifle as a club against the advancing bayonets of Santa Anna’s troopers.

For contrast, let me compare this with another movie I’ve just watched HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, which struck me as one of the most tightly plotted children’s films I’ve seen in quite a while. The main character is a spindly, undersized Viking lad named Hiccup with no strength and no skills and no way to fight the dragons who invade his village (which he describes as an old village of all new houses—but the wooden houses all have to be rebuilt after every attack). He is apprenticed to the village blacksmith, and spends his days building weapons and devices of what I can only call “Bronzepunk” level of technology.

In a sequence that is almost wordless of any dialog, we see this loser turn into the village celebrity as he spends his mornings getting to know a wounded Night Fury dragon secretly back to health, and noticing its habits and ways, and spending his afternoons in the dragon training arena, using each little trick he’d discovered to overcome enemy dragons. I have not time to praise this movie well enough: one of the better things I’ve seen recently.

The comparison I want to make, though, is with the approach. Simon the Digger never once figures a way out of a problem or solves a battle through strategy. He either drives away despair, summons his courage, grits his teeth, and tries harder (and the spiral-shaped will-o-meter shows how much reality-bending battle spirit he can summon up in his heart when he screams his battlecry—this meter overloads nearly every episode) or some character, and not always a minor character, sacrifices his life.

Hiccup the Viking, on the other hand, never once gets anywhere by trying harder or by training. He circumvents the training with tricks, or, if you prefer, with technology. He knows mechanics and smithcrafty and he becomes the world’s first Dracologist, or student of the science of dragons. He does not emerge without a scratch after fighting the big bad Mother-of-All-Dragons, but he does get the girl.

We are dealing with two different types of stories here. The first is a David and Goliath story, where the little man slays the Giant in battle, and the second is a Jack up the Beanstalk story, where the little man slays the Giant by outwitting it.

Having a David and Goliath story where half the cast ends up in the ground when fighting the giant makes a certain sense, because the approach is to overcome problems by being willing to make larger and ever larger sacrifices. Having Jack the Giant-killer or the Little Tailor end up in the ground at the end does not make as much thematic sense, because the approach is technological: the point of every technology starting with the lever is to get the maximum effect with minimum effort, that is, to minimize the sacrifices.

Now, since I am fan of paganism (real paganism, mind you, not this neopagan crap) I have no complaint about a war story that ends with tragic grandeur, or even a hero who is an awful braggart if, like Achilles of old, he both lives up to his boasts, and if the story makes clear that such boasts engender the enmity of the gods of Olympus, who allow each hero his moment of shining glory before he falls to the earth, his teeth griping the soil, and his armor clangs on his limbs as he falls. The soul of the pagan is ravinned to the underlands, there to twitter like a bat, or captured by cruel and clear-voiced Valkyrie, there to await a battle even more glorious and much more hopeless at the Twilight of the Gods.

I am also a fan of the more modern and American version of heroic tales, where the Death Star gets blown to bits real good, and the heroes fly away to get medals, and no one is in the ground and no one has a scratch.

I am also a fan of Tolkien style tales, where the littlest and humblest of the dwellers in Middle Earth unseats the vast and mighty power of Mordor, and not through strength of arms. I don’t even mind C.S. Lewis stories where the schoolboy kills a wolf with a sword, but it takes a magic lion from beyond the world’s end to slay the White Witch: or even a C.S. Lewis style science fiction story, where bureaucracies in England are destroyed by the curse of Babel from space-angels from Deep Heaven, and heroes merely also serve by standing and waiting.

The first type of tale has a grim Pagan tone, the second a cheery Yankee, the third a humble Christian tone.

So what did I so dislike in the ending of Gurren Lagann? It tried to combine all three tones and it made a discord. The number of minor characters who end up staying dead is a respectable more than half the cast; but the Spiral Energy idea is the idea that sheer optimistic can-do attitude, sheer willpower, can prevail even against the limits of time, space, sense, and reality. And yet again, a stoical resignation to death is the point of the final line; and yet also the idea that Darwinian progress requires death and sacrifice as part of its mindless, ever-grinding millwheel of progress. Those three attitudes don’t fit together.

I disliked using Darwinian evolution as the excuse for keeping the heroine dead. Suddenly the boast that the human race was going to figure out a way both to use the Spiral Energy and to avoid the supersingularity to which overuse of Spiral Energy inevitably leads rang false and hollow.

Darwinian evolution, in real life, is a scientific theory, and, as such, has no moral or normative implications. In stories and in art, however, Darwinian evolution is pagan: it is a tale of Wagnerian grimness and greatness where the deaths of all your ancestors, like blood spilled on Aztec altars to remorseless demon-gods, renders you fit for your brief life on Earth: they paid for your evolutionary niche with their suffering and sacrifice. Darwinian evolution, like the blind god Azathoth, by merest chaos brings forth the universe to its present form, but the infinite darkness that came before the unintentional creation of life on Earth did not anticipate us, and the infinite darkness that follows the last death of the last crab, cockroach, or microbe will not mourn nor remember Man any more than it will the cockroach. In stories, Darwinian evolution demands sacrifices as remorseless as the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulus beneath her father’s knife: the weak and sick and inferior races must die, in order that the master race prevail.

In real pagan stories, the boast of the hero was one of the signs that he was fey and fated to die. In order to make good his boast, the pagan hero needs must don his shining helm of horsehair plume, and stride forth to face Agamemnon, and Ajax, and man-slaying Achilles. The boaster is allowed to boast because he is doomed.

Darwinian evolution in art portrays the theme that a man is doomed because he is meant to be, and one man is meant to die so that the human race will progress to the superman-race or the master-race. Man is mortal so that mankind will be immortal. The individual man is allowed to boast because he is doomed.

Now if, dear reader, you, like me, recoil slightly from the Eugenic implications of Darwinian evolution as it is portrayed in art, or if you are struck with the noble futility and hopelessness of the pagan hero who defies the gods, then I will be so bold as to venture a guess that you fall into one of the two main camps of modern thought: either you are an optimist, who sees infinite potential in the human race for improvement, improvements which are but a few years away, and who regards the idea of sacrifices needed to achieve such triumphs as archaic and absurd; or you are Christian (or a non-Christian who has absorbed some of the Christian world-view unwittingly) who sees man as fallen, a race of that will not regain its true nature and true perfection until after the Parousia, but who regards the sacrifice as having been paid in divine blood at Calvary.

I think either an Optimist would be disgusted at the idea of Darwinian evolution in art, because he scoffs at the notion that it is right for the weak to die to make room for stronger children: and this was basically the notion, if I understood the translation correctly, voiced in the final scene of Gurren Lagann; or that a Christian would be disgusted at the idea that Darwinian evolution in art is a figure of ever more boastful pride and ambition, including a pride that would destroy the whole universe just on the wager than Man will discover a way to break the laws of nature.

Now the reader who also read my book THE GOLDEN AGE (hi, Mom!) might object that the Golden Oecumene pictured in that trilogy was just as ambitious and just as optimistic as any boastful pagan. The Golden Oecumene was a pinnacle of transhuman evolution, was it not?

Ah, but my one reader may not recall the somewhat grim ending of that book. The Golden Age was over, and an Age of War, and Iron Age, was soon to follow. And even the Sophotechs, the supercomputers, of that far future did not foresee any means of living forever, past the heat death of the universe: the Silent Oecumene, who lusted for a more infinite life, and sought a means to escape the laws of entropy and reality, were depicted in my humble tale as the epitome of unreason: creatures not only malignantly irrational, but also irrationally malign.

The GOLDEN AGE, if an author can venture an opinion  on his own work, is not merely pagan, but stoic, because it was really a story about the limitations of utopia. Many Transhumanists complimented the tale, because it so vividly portrayed some of the technologies in which they place their faith and hope for salvation from death and the limits of the human condition: but one Transhumanist — I cannot recall his name — correctly identified that the tale was not truly Transhumanist in its spirit, because it spoke of the inevitability of death, and the need to resign oneself peacefully, without discontent, to eventual and universal oblivion.

Gurren Lagann was optimistic when it came to the Spiral Energy, the sexual power of the DNA that leads man and civilization ever upward and ever onward, and absurdly optimistic when it came to the question of saving the universe from the pollution side effects of Spiral Energy. It defies common sense and breaks the laws of reality—that is the giddy appeal of the tale.

But then it is stoical, pagan, and melancholy when it comes to the bride of the hero, not to mention the others who fell in war. Death is not only inevitable in the Gurren Lagann  universe — that is something any Stoic must with grim and tearless eyes admit — suddenly it is needful to get the older generation out of the path of the ever-upward motion. This idea, no doubt meant innocently enough as a bit of sci-fi techno-talk, had too much of the foetor of Eugenics to it, something of the shadow of the swastika, for this viewer, at least, to continue to suspend his disbelief.

You can save the universe  but you cannot save the girl?

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