Sometime in the super-present, the fabled and mysterious Tomb of Gilgamesh is discovered by scientists who are digging around in Uruk (modern day Mesopotamia). A research center is promptly set up to study the strange energy which is being emitted by the site, but a series of events triggered by the site's discoverer, Terumichi Madoka, soon result in a global catastrophe which knocks out all electronics worldwide and turns the sky into a giant electromagnetic mirror. Terumichi (who now calls himself Enkidu, after a character in the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh), is labelled a terrorist and promptly vanishes.
Fifteen years later, his two hapless children, Tatsuya and Kiyoko, are in Japan being chased down a city street by some thugs who want to shake them down for some debts owed by their late mother. The children duck into a creepy old mansion, where they run into some gothy teenagers who seem strangely knowledgeable about their situation. The goth-teens, who call themselves the Gilgamesh, rescue the children from the thugs using mysterious psycho-kinetic powers, and then invite the siblings to join their side in a war which will cleanse the Earth and make way for the next evolutionary stage of humanity.
Before Tatsuya and Kiyoko can even give the matter a nanosecond's worth of thought, another group of super-powered children drop by and attempt to get the siblings to join their group, the ORGA, which is opposed to the goth-teens and their fanatical leader — who just happens to be the sibling's long-lost father. The ORGA are led by Kageyama Hiroko, the Countess Von Werdenburg, an enigmatic, elegant black widow who was once a research colleague of Terumichi Madoka, and who is now his bitterest enemy. She claims that her true goal is to save humanity, but is she really all that trustworthy? (And was she really "just a colleague" of their father's? Or something more?)
Gilgamesh is a tale packed with intrigue. Not only does it feature the above characters, there's also a corrupt corporation, with a vicious Psycho for Hire, Kazamatsuri Hayato, at its beck and call, and a group of well-intentioned (but ultimately ineffectual) scientists who are trying their best to get the Earth back to normal. Throw some clones, some tragic backstory and some Ancient Sumerian Mythology into the mix, and you have a series that makes for some pretty compelling watching.
One thing to note before you dive in, however; this series is dark. Very dark. Crows sipping coffee from an iron kettle while sitting at the bottom of a mine shaft in the middle of a moonless winter night dark. The art design is ugly and minimalist at times, which a cynical viewer might blame on a shrinking animation budget, but which also fits very well with the depressing and apathetic tone of the series. There are no true good guys here. The children at the center of the story never really know who they can trust, and they soon find the ambiguity of their situation every bit as dangerous an enemy as any physical monster they may face. That fact — along with its complexity, apocalyptic themes and flawed characters — makes it a very atypical series.
Although it does bear something of a passing resemblance to Neon Genesis Evangelion, which it may have been influenced by, the manga this series is based on dates from 1972 and drawn by Shotaro Ishinomori (of Cyborg 009 and Kamen Rider fame).
For the original Sumerian story, see The Epic of Gilgamesh. No relation to GIRUGAMESH!. For the mightiest swordsman in all Ivalice, click here, or you may find him here. For the Argentine comic book, see here. And for that other popular anime incarnation of Gilgamesh, see here.
This show provides examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: A lot was changed from Shotaro Ishinomori's original 1972 work. Most noticeably, the removal of extraterrestrials. The anime does share common themes with the original, though. The brother-sister pair Tatsuya and Kiyoko, along with an onyomi Enkidu name show up in both, although the kanji for the latter differs from the original. May also be a Pragmatic Adaptation.
- After the End: An important scene after the ending credits takes place here.
- Allergic to Love: Fuko, a bit literally, with her sneezing.
- And I Must Scream: Literally, Kiyoko does, while trapped in genetic matter."Ta... tsu... ya..."
- Aristocrats Are Evil: The Countess, while not outwardly evil, really isn't all that nice a lady.
- The old man's son qualifies... "tell them a girl in a kimono set fire to it, and ran off"
- Back from the Dead: The super-powered followers of Terumichi Madoka (Enkidu) apparently all have the ability to do this, although it doesn't stop them from being Killed Off for Real if the plot demands it.
- Bizarre Baby Boom: The super-powered teens were all created from embryos exposed to Applied Phlebotinum.
- Body Horror: Occurs when Kiyoko gets pregnant.
- BrotherSister Incest: Tatsuya and Kiyoko only had each other to depend on, since their mother was a neglectful alcoholic. Still, their relationship seems a bit... closer than what might be construed as normal. Plus, the opening and ending songs for the anime sounds like love songs with the characters featured prominently as the music plays in the credits.
- Add to the bag that Tatsuya is not only her brother, but also the clone of their father.
- Child by Rape: in the original manga Kiyoko gets pregnant after being raped by one of the Gilgamesh clones.
- Cloning Blues: Tatsuya and the three ORGA. And to an extent, Yuki.
- Crapsack World
- Coitus Uninterruptus
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: Instead of raiding Christianity for symbolism, this series incorporates lots of ancient Sumerian religious mythology.
- Despair Event Horizon: You hit this at about the half-way mark and it all goes downhill from there.
- Dying Declaration of Love: At the end, Novem confesses to Tatsuya that he loved Kiyoko. In fact, Novem and Kiyoko's entire relationship may fall under the Star-Crossed Lovers, divide considering that they were from two different species who, at the point when their relationship manifests, were supposed to be fighting each other in a desperate attempt to bring about a future for the human race. How things eventually ended is certainly tragic enough to qualify. In any case, the other Gilgamesh are really not happy when they find out Novem's been sleeping with their boss's daughter.
- The End of the World as We Know It
- "Everybody Dies" Ending: The unstoppable villainous goddess successfully destroys the world, and is finally killed just before she could have created a better one. Her killer is left to go completely insane in a white void or create another Crapsack World.note
- Everybody Knew Already: When the truth of Reiko is spelled out that "she" is technically a boy, everyone but Tohru (and perhaps the audience) already knew, and acts like "What? You just figured out?"
- Evil Matriarch: Kageyama Hiroko. Although apparently we are supposed to sympathize with her because of her sad past.
- Gainax Ending
- Go Mad from the Revelation: What ever TeaR tells Kiyoko at the end of the series (that the audience doesn't get to hear) seems to immediately destroy her sanity, causing her to stab the former to death. Cue Slasher Smile.
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: You'll need the higgs boson and a very sophisticated calculator to figure out where to draw any morality lines. Have fun with that.
- Half-Human Hybrid
- Headbutt of Love: This is not just a means of giving comfort to a character, but a way the ORGA teens can exchange energy as well.
- Identical Grandson: This is an interesting case, because both the ORGA and Tatsuya are clones of their "parents", however Kiyoko looks exactly like her mother, and when there is a flashback to when Kiyoko and Tatsuya's mother and father met, the exact replication has certainincestuous connotations.
- Interspecies Romance: Kiyoko and Novem. Their relationship results in Kiyoko's pregnancy.
- Kick the Dog: The corporate Psycho for Hire engages in this a LOT.
- Nose Bleed: Tatsuya gets one (but not the explosive kind) when one of the ORGA teens, Fuko, lends him some of her psychic energy through a Headbutt of Love mentioned above. The implications of the nose bleed are made clearer when Fuko cracks that she bled a little her first time, too.
- Opposite-Sex Clone: Reiko Yuki is technically a boy as she is a clone of Chairman Toranosuke Yuki of The Mitleid Corporation.
- Parental Abandonment: Kiyoko and Tatsuya.
- Psychic Powers: Dynamis is the name for it here.
- Psychic Teleportation: Besides telepathy and telekinesis, one of the superpowers held by the ORGA teenagers and the Gilgamesh.
- Psycho for Hire: Kazamatsuri Hayato.
- Psychotic Smirk / Slasher Smile. Kiyoko gives one after stabbing TeaR to death with the tuning fork at the end.
- Scary Shiny Glasses
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: One of the most spiteful ever. Kiyoko, having already lost everyone and everything she cared about, having been forced into debt, despair, and work as a call-girl by the very Countess supposedly trying to "save the world" whilst ruining the lives around her, and who in lonely desperation turned to a member of the opposing Gilgamesh who then impregnated her, dies after mutating into a birthing cocoon for the hybrid lifeform. In the climactic final battles against the twisted Enkidu, his cohorts, and the Gilgamesh forces, it's revealed that they're essentially unstoppable and un-killable. This leads to the deaths of pretty much everyone in the cast not already dead at this point. In the end, it's revealed that the TeaR organism responsible for the first near-apocalypse and which has instigated the horrible events of the story is actually a living manifestation of the Countess's own petty, dark, hateful, jealous, twisted heart, and that she's directly responsible for everything without realising it, despite ostensibly and ironically trying to fix it. Upon this revelation, she accepts the death of Humanity and allows TeaR to wipe out all life on Earth. To add insult to injury, in the odd, meta-void left behind, TeaR is then killed by the Gilgamesh spawn from the husk of what was left of Kiyoko, meaning that TeaR won't go on to recreate the planet in its image and it's all gone for good.
- Smug Snake: Kazamatsuri Hayato.
- Snow Means Love: In a dream flashback which explores the relationship between the two main siblings.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The opening theme is a peppy, upbeat electronic pop song that doesn't match the series at all.
- Super Soldier
- The Unreveal: TeaR tells Kiyoko something at the very end. The audience never hears what was said... but whatever it was, the latter does not take it well.
- Tragic Hero
- Twist Ending
- Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Reiko. It certainly unsettled poor Tohru, who had been developing feelings for "her."
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Enkidu and, at times, the Countess.
- What Have I Done: Hiroko Kageyama. But she gets over it pretty quickly.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Reiko, who was apparently encouraged to cross-dress in order to make him more docile and agreeable.