"On that day, we all lost something we couldn't replace." There's a reason Simon didn't say "On that day, the Great Gurren Brigade all lost something it couldn't replace." We all lost it. The proof is in the following entries.
What makes it even worse is the Hope Spot. You'd really think it's a Disney Death, what with his snarky "Can't a guy get any sleep around here?" line and then performing Giga Drill Breaker for the first time...except that through the whole thing, his voice is straining, and instead of a long, drawn-out death speech to kill to mood, he sums it all up in two gut-wrenching words: "Later, buddy"... followed by Simon's "Bro...? Bro...?"
Or in the Japanese version: Abaiyo, tachiko. Followed by Simon's Aniki? ... Aniki?.
After Thymilph's death, Simon is watching the sun come up with a massive smile on his face... and then he realises that Kamina's dead.
Pay close attention to Gurren's status screen in the episode. Notice the icon representing its pilot? It's black. He was already dead. Which, makes that even more tear-jerky when you realize Kamina refused to die until he was absolutely sure Simon and his team were safe.Word of God stated that Kamina did indeed die, and that he came back to life to avenge his own death and save his team.
Thymilph pierced Kamina's cockpit from the back. When you see him later in the cockpit, the wound is visible on his chest. The attack must have destroyed some of his vital organs, but he still came back to help.
Simon's Heroic BSOD in the following episode was almost as tear jerking. Seeing him so broken, utterly distressed and hopeless was enough, but then this line comes... "I killed my brother. So I'll become stronger. I've got no choice but to become stronger. I'll fight on behalf of my brother, too." His breakdown a second after that was heartbreaking too.
After Kamina's death watching Simon and Yoko grieve. She could feel their heartache. It was not helped by the entire crew's utter lack of belief in Simon the entire time. Not surprisingly, when Simon overcomes his grief, understands that he has to believe and have confidence in himself, and literally shakes off the tears after his emotional speech, found herself at tear jerker danger level 2.
An absolutely horrible moment comes right before that, too. Kittan is arguing with Simon about the latter's refusal to treat piloting Gurren-Lagann as a team effort, and Simon snaps that he never asked for anyone to replace Kamina as Gurren's pilot, and that it'd be better if he just operated Gurren-Lagann alone. Kittan then grabs Simon by the collar and yells, "If you'd have held it together, Kamina wouldn't be dead right now!". Simon's expression, and the fact that Kittan had just explicitly placed the blame on him for what had happened the week before, when Simon was already in the depths of despair blaming himself, drove to angry tears.
There is a certain kind of heartbreak in watching Ryouma, the prototype to all Hot-Blooded mecha pilots, an obvious template that Kamina is based on, and a brother-in-arms to Kamina himself in the game, just... screaming Kamina's name helplessly.
This single line from Episode 27 sums it up quite nicely, and is also a CMOH "Well Nia, I'm here, just as I promised."
Even worse is the credits sequence right after, which has Simon walking alone with Boota. Even though it's the exact same as it was in the other post-timeskip episodes, it has a whole new subtext behind it that makes it even sadder.
It gets worse: The main verse of the ending song of Lagann-hen translate to this:
On that day, you sowed in my heart A tiny seed of a tear Hey, at last you've made A giant flower of a smile bloom And you surely will forever Because you're right here.
Just think of that coming from Epilogue!Simon...
While on the topic of the movie, the ending credits rolling still have Simon and Boota walking down the road together and yet alone. There are, naturally, a couple of differences; The main one is that Simon is a kid during the majority of the credits, then a single + shaped flower floats above his head, and he looks up. It evaporates, and he dons his coat, becoming Adult Simon. What makes this part really heartwrenching? Look up the lyrics for Namida no Tane, Egao no Hana (as the song is called). Now rewatch the ending credits. Now weep.
The brief shot of Viral playing with his daughter in his alternate reality dream. That's the only thing Viral ever really wanted. And yet, it's the one thing he can't ever have. Viral is a beast man and therefore can't reproduce due to their lack of Spiral energy. To make it even worse, Viral managed to go Beyond the Impossible and make Spiral energy to form Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, but still won't ever be able to have a family because there will never be another Beast(wo)man who also has it. He does get a wife in the epilogue, but no children and he'll outlive her due to his immortality.
The real gut punch is When Viral sees the Simon stream across the sky, breaking the illusion and making Viral realize none of it is real.
Viral: "Ah, so that's it... and I was having such a sappy dream..."
Also worthy of being mentioned is the dream sequence of Lordgenome where he is seen in a school as a teacher. He didn't live the life he would have liked.
Episode 25: Kittan's death, because it was heart-wrenching in addition to being completely awesome.
Leeron: "The space ocean is where the Spiral race's tears end up..."
That moment has a bit of uncomfortable humor, at least in the dub. Kittan knows he's not coming back, and immediately tries to set himself apart from Kamina in saying "I ain't sayin' no showy crap, like 'Later, buddy' or something lame like that!" It's funny because after everything that's happened he's STILL trying to one-up the guy! And it doesn't even work, since the fans still talk about Kamina's death a lot more than Kittan's.
There’s a moment within Episode 26 to be a true, straight-up Tear Jerker. Kamina and the adult Simon are standing side by side on the hill where Simon first found Nia. Kamina looks curiously over at Simon, leans over, and with a smile on his face utters the words "Looks like you've grown taller than me." Kamina's not just talking about his height, but also commenting that Simon's become a man greater than Kamina was in life. The scenes after are heart-twisting, to be sure, but that one alone, that single acknowledgment never fails to send a shiver down your spine.
"This isn't goodbye." (points to heart) "You're always right here."
The episode where Rossiu tried to kill himself.
Leading up to that, seeing how The Chains of Commanding slowly wear him down and each time he has to Shoot the Dog pushes him deeper into a depression. The end of Episode 22 is one big CMOA with Simon and the Dai-Gurren Brigade saving everyone, everyone, but amidst all the awesome, there's that one moment when Rossiu realizes that the only thing he has done is playing right into the Anti-Spiral's hands and completely breaks, leading up to his attempted suicide the next episode.
Kinon. It's debatable whether she agreed with Rossiu's views, but she stood by him anyway, even if that meant she had to distance herself from her family and friends. Why? Because she loved him and it probably broke her heart to see him shoulder the responsibility of saving everyone alone. It becomes tragic when she could only silently watch him slipping farther and farther away into his depression, unable to reach out to him... until Simon literally punches him out of his depression and Rossiu sees just how much Kinon cares for him.
This TTGL AMV,set to "Welcome to the Black Parade". Compresses all the CMOAs and Tear Jerkers into 5-and-a-bit minutes and syncs them to a song that could have been written for the series—"He said / Son when / you grow up / would you be / the savior of the broken / the beaten and the damned?". The tears really flow at the end when it shows you Nia's grave adorned with her wedding bouquet and veil.
Episode 2: Kamina finds his Dad's skeleton in the desert. Going back from the end of the series, other than Nia's death, this is probably the saddest moment in the series. Kamina's death non-withstanding for awesome factors. The fact that finding out about the fate of Kamina's father foreshadows Kamina's death later on makes it even worse. It is also implied that Lordgenome was the one who personally faced and killed him in combat.
Another interpretation, perhaps erroneous, is even sadder: Kamina's father, whom he's idolized his entire life, the memory of which has shaped him into the Man that he is, died a pointless, inglorious death in the middle of the wasteland, all by himself, having achieved nothing whatsoever of importance.
Episode 27: Everything from the very beginning to the Title Card, including the greatest In the Name of the Moon speech ever in a work of fiction. Like so many other things in this series, the awesomeness is enough to bring you to tears, but this is the culmination of everything that's happened so far and the start of the Final Battle, so it deserves special mention.
The moment right before Lordgenome sacrifices himself, when he comments that, he wants to use his temporary body to ensure a future for the Spiral races. Cue Nia looking down sadly and agreeing with him, then briefly fading, warning us of what's going to happen at the end of the episode. Especially with the look on Simon's face when he realizes that winning means that the love of his life will cease to exist. And then she gently reminds him that he doesn't really have any other choice.
In Episode 10, Simon recalls a time in the past when he, Kamina, and several other people became trapped underground. He mentions that while he kept digging and digging desperately, quiet and fearful, Kamina kept on laughing and talking and joking in high spirits, keeping everyone cheerful throughout a situation that would terrify any sane person—and Simon wishes that he had the power that Kamina had to inspire people and keep them from giving up. Then, in Episode 11, there is a flashback to the night before Kamina died, when he and Yoko were "alone" under the moon. Kamina recalled the same incident to Yoko: while he was just fooling around and talking, Simon kept steadily drilling with his back to them, never stopping or taking a break, and eventually got them out of the cave-in... and so he wished that he could be like Simon—"I wanted to be a man whose back would never break". For the mutual admiration that had existed between the two "brothers" all along, and for Simon's never having really recognized his own strength, however different it was from Kamina's, came dangerously close to completely breaking down in happy/sad tears at the latter flashback, and the Crowning Moment of Awesome that followed.
In Episode 26, Simon's multidimensional labyrinth scene. Specifically when Kamina appears and gives him the whole "don't you remember you were the method to my madness?" speech, and Simon chokes out "is it really you?" Part of it is that this scene is really well-acted in the dub.
One line from Viral in The Movie, after the heroes have killed all the Spiral King's generals and their henchmen:
Viral: "Why...why am I the only one left alive? ...You'll pay for this, human scum."
The aftermath of the battle with the Anti-Spirals in the movie. We see what happens when they get back to earth, with the bittersweet scene of Nia receiving her dress from the butler... then there's a sudden cut to Kittan's picture, with flowers, and then it pans out to reveal a silent scene all three of his normally cheerful and stoic sisters bawling their eyes out uncontrollably, to the extent that one of them has even collapsed on the floor.
There's a milder version in the series. When Nia receives her wedding gown from Coco, the background has Dayakka hugging Kiyoh with Kinon and Kiyal (latter with her back to the camera, almost completely off-screen) standing next to them, wiping their eyes with a sad expression.
The end of the "alternate universe" sequence in Lagann-Hen when we see Simon's alternate realities. As Simon snatches his core drill, we're teased with the image of him smiling as he's holding a baby. While it's not specified who's child it is, it's safe to assume that it's Simon and Nia's baby.
The one scene in Lagann-Hen when Nia tells her body "Just a bit longer. Okay?". She knows that she can't hold out much more before she vanishes. After that Nia hands Yoko her diary as a sort of farewell gift. The latter could also qualify as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. But once you realize that Nia's diary was composed of letters to Kamina, Yoko's long deceased lover, it just makes the exchange even more bittersweet.
Parallel Works 2's "A Sense of Wonder." While there's no spoken dialogue other than some lyrics towards the end of the song, it is utterly heartbreaking. Like they say, a picture (or an animation in this case) is worth a thousand words.
The second confrontation between Adine and Nia borders on Break the Cutie, and Nia's only been in the show for two episodes.
Nia:"That is what happens when someone dies. People suffer. And yet here you are, saying two grieving parties should hurt each other! Don't you think there might be something wrong with that?!"
"Listen, Simon. Never forget this. Believe in yourself. Not in the Simon that I have faith in. Not in the Kamina that you believe in either. Believe in the Simon...who believes in you." The first time, the speech is delivered while Kamina is dying. Three episodes later, it returns with even more impact. After Simon spends three episodes blaming himself for Kamina's death and trying to find a way to take up his Bro's mantle, Simon remembers Kamina's words and finally finds the strength to resume moving forward.
A particular scene before the battle that led Kamina to his unavoidable doom. The scene being, Kamina and Yoko kissing... and Simon seeing them (having, then, a crush for Yoko), then running to Lagann, putting his head between his knees, and repeating to himself: "it's none of my business. It's none of my business. It's none of my business". Ever happened to you, a girl/guy you liked choosing your friend over you? It hurts. You can't hate your friend, but you can't pretend it doesn't bother you either. And the scene just capture that feeling so well...
Kinon explaining to Simon how Rossiu really felt when he sentenced Simon to death. We see him in his room, bawling his eyes out. You realize right there that that was the hardest thing he's ever had to do.
Yoko Littner's love life in general is massive double whammy in sheer hell for her, but the real Fridge Horror comes in the end, where the Distant Finale shows her having aged pretty poorly, with her figure having taken a considerable hit and her face presumably not shown because of the ravages of time, but the real knife twister is the fact she's basically withdrawn from others and it's obvious she's given up on love due to the pain she's gotten as a result. While it's true that she probably did give up on love, she's still teaching the future generations of surface children, which is really what she had planned to do prior to the whole Anti-Spiral crisis.
Every single member of Team Dai-Gurren went out with a smile. Every single one. And every single smile brings forth a torrent of tears. The worst was probably Makkan's. He sacrificed himself to save his wife and kids, and didn't even get a chance to say something cool. He just knew it's what he had to do and he did it with gusto.
Made so much worse by Leite whispering "Darling..." as her husband died... and still managing to hold it together in a situation that would practically destroy most of us.
When Simon finally snaps out of his Heroic BSOD, his rousing My bro is dead... speech.
"Libera Me from Hell." The sadness of Kamina's death, as well as Kittan's, the sheer hot-blooded joy of beating Lordgenome, the raw hope and happiness when Simon gives his "My Bro is Dead," speech, the despair of fighting the Anti-Spirals, the rage against Rossiu, and the wide range of emotions that the finale caries. All of this... unlocked in a single song.
Made worse when the Libera Me is translated. A prayer that petitions for God to allow a sinner to be saved from the fires of hell entirely by mercy... (Eternal rest grant unto them, oh LORD, and may perpetual light shine upon them)
When the entire team Dai-Gurren was imprisoned, about to be executed, and freaking out... Until they saw BSOD'd Simon steadily drilling through the rock.
When Nia is being called to the Anti-Spiral government for analysis after Simon has realized why she has shown up at such crucial moments earlier, Simon gets through to the Nia we know. When her voice suddenly returns to her normal, gentle one, combined with what she says, sets it off.
Yoko is about to get into Gurren's cockpit for the first time since Kamina died, and she pauses and looks at the seat and you just know exactly what she's thinking.
While most of the examples involving Nia focus on events in the last third of the series, her introductory arc deserves some mention as well. Seeing a girl with a sweet and sunny disposition learn the truth about her birth, awakening, and abandonment is hard to take. To borrow a phrase from another show that aired in the same season, there's a reason she's a "walking pillar of moe."
Yoko's Shower Scene is one the top 3 most gut-wrenching moments in the series. It's the only time we get to see the full extent of her grief and one of the few occasions where she tears up at all. Seeing sweet, little Nia cry is heartbreaking... But seeing the normally strong and determined Yoko break down rips at your very soul.
After Simon has been framed, there's a scene of the citizens tearing down the statue of Kamina. Watching that happen is rather heartbreaking, and it's even worse in Lagann-hen, where it's shown earlier on that Simon built the damn thing by himself and now he's watching it being torn down by an angry mob.