Viral's name comes directly from the word "viral", tying in with the Beastmen's genetics theme, but there are other theories about his name's origin. One is the fact that it can also be an anagram for "rival", referring to his constant rivalry with Kamina, which transferred to Simon throughout the series until near the end. Another possible theory comes from the Nikopol Trilogy of comic books written by Enki Bilal, as Enki is the name of Viral's first Gunmen and "Bilal", pronounced in Japanese, sounds like "Viral". Supporting this theory is Viral's theme song, which is titled "Nikopol", on the anime's soundtrack.
The name of Viral's Gunmen may be tied to the Sumerian deity Enki, though it is much more likely that there is a deliberate connection between his second Gunmen, Enkidu, and the character of Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh. The myth consists of Enkidu ('Enki's creation'), a man of the wild who seeks to challenge King Gilgamesh, a mighty warrior, but who later befriends him and assists him in in his travels, which may be a reference to Simon and Kamina, as he initially wanted to beat them but later joined Simon to save the universe.
Viral's appearance is more humanoid than most other Beastmen, except for his cat-like eyes, shark-like teeth, and large clawed paws in place of conventional human hands. During the first half of the series, Viral wears a brown jacket adorned with shoulder pads and fur collar with matching pants, and bandages from his knees down to his simple black pointed shoes. He had short platinum blond hair that reached to his chin in the front and his shoulders in the back. He also usually kept with him a large knife, resembling that of a butcher's, with which he was very proficient.
During the second half, Viral is reintroduced in brown rags covering his old uniform, though it is now tattered, along with two red belts. His hair had also grown considerably, reaching his shoulders in front and his shoulderblades in the back. After his escape from prison and induction into Team Dai-Gurren, he wore a blue full-body uniform with gold stripes around the waist and arms and a brown scarf that serves as a cloak of sorts, under which he kept hidden his old knife.
After the twenty year timeskip at the end of the series, Viral cut down his hair back to its original length.
He is very cocky and headstrong and refers to humans as "Naked Apes." He holds a rather strong contempt towards humanity, which wanes as the series progresses. Viral's most defining trait is a very strong sense of honor. Though he has a bigger sense of self-preservation than his rival Kamina, he will not attack a defenseless enemy or use dishonorable tactics, like taking hostages. Viral is a proud warrior and loves the thrill of battle.
After being inducted into Team Dai-Gurren by Simon, he shows that he is able to keep up with their bravado and adds to their short-but-inspirational battle speeches.
Episode 26 reveals some hidden depths to his character when he is shown with a family in a parallel universe created by The Anti-Spiral - reflecting a desire to have a family, even though he dismisses it as a "sappy dream" once he realizes what is really happening. After hearing several theories behind spiral energy, Viral stated: "I don't understand the crap you say but that is crap I can get behind"
Beastmen War ArcViral was initially deployed in the Far Eastern Theater of the Human Eradication forces due to reports of rebel forces stealing Gunmen for their own uses. While hunting for food, he runs into the boisterous Kamina, who had coincidentally shot the same animal Viral had "killed". After introducing himself, he attacks the human with a cleaver. Initially, Viral holds the advantage, repeatedly delivering glancing cuts to Kamina's body, but suffers a wound of his own when Kamina slashes him with the head of his retrieved arrow. When Simon (in his Lagann) and Yoko intervene on Kamina's behalf, Viral retreats to his Gunmen, Enki. He manages to overcome Simon and Kamina's attacks (in Lagann and Gurren, respectively), but leaves before the fight ends.
The next day, Viral returns to execute his mission as member of the Human Execution Squad, facing Kamina and Simon again; this time however, Viral is defeated by the newly formed Gurren-Lagann. Barraging it with missiles in order to conceal his escape, he swears revenge on Kamina for taking Enki's helmet in the fight.
Viral later returns, alongside Supreme General Thymilph and the Dai-Gunzan, to crush Team Gurren with the upgraded Enkidu. In the battle, he teams up with Thymilyph's Byakou to pummel Gurren and mortally wound Kamina - actually pinning his rival with the Gurren's own sunglasses-but was knocked out of the fight by the flailing arms of the Simon-hijacked Dai-Gunzan.
With the Dai-Gunzan's capture and the death of his superior, Viral tries to obtain another chance to fight by joining Supreme General Adiane, Although she frequently mistreated him, blaming him for Thymilph's demise, Viral saved Adiane from harm during a fight with Team Dai-Gurren, by stopping the Dai-Gurren's foot from crushing her. He later piloted Adiane's flagship, the Dai-Gunkai, against the Dai-Gurren when the latter tried to cross the ocean to Teppelin. Unfortunately, Gurren Lagann intervened, using a waterscrew-like drill to carry the sinking Dai-Gurren to the surface and ripping off Dai-Gunkai's claws in the process.
Viral quickly recovered, surfacing the Dai-Gunkai and preparing to attack Gurren Lagann on the deck of Dai-Gurren. However, Adiane stopped him, having decided to force the humans to destroy each other by using Nia as a hostage. Unfortunately, Yoko saved Nia with a precise rifle shot, removing Adiane's leverage over Team Dai-Gurren. When Viral moved to save the General from Dai-Gurren's cannons, Gurren Lagann drilled through the Dai-Gunkai, obliterating it as well. Viral was the only survivor of the fortress' destruction, and from the safety of the shore cursed the Gurren-Lagann, swearing to bring pain and punishment to those who killed his two superiors and robbed him of his honor.
Viral proceeded to join Supreme General Cytomander's aerial attack on the Dai-Gurren, having outfitted Enkidu with a flight engine to better aid the General of Wind. His battle with the Gurren-Lagann, piloted by Simon and Yoko, eventually brought them to the control room of Cytomander's Dai-Gunten. There, he finally learned of Kamina's death, and the realization that all the defeats after the loss of Dai-Gunzan were from a human child drove Viral to new heights of rage. He immediately challenged Simon to a one-on-one duel in their mecha, but the battle was interrupted by Cytomander. Piloting his Shuzack, the General took Yoko hostage to stay Simon's hand, and ordered Viral to destroy the helpless Gurren-Lagann. However, with Simon decrying his dirty tricks, Viral disobeyed Cytomander, as he knew this outcome would not make him regain his lost pride and honor. Before anything else could happen, the Dai-Gunten was attacked by Dai-Gurren, forcing everyone present to flee.
For Viral's hesitation, Cytomander asked the Spiral King's permission to execute him for treason. Viral accepted his fate, but made a last request: to learn, from the King himself, the true nature of human race. At this, Lordgenome dismisses Cytomander and leads Viral to a room where hordes of Beastmen were kept in stasis. After revealing the truth of the Beastmen's existence and his own motives for keeping the humans underground, Lordgenome made Viral immortal.
Believing his new gift to finally allow him to claim vengeance, Viral uses his modified Gunman, Enkidudu, to attack the Gurren-Lagann when it entered the Spiral King's throne room. However, while being soundly defeated, Lordgenome revealed that the reason he gave Viral immortality was not to fight against Simon-as no Beastman can stand against a sufficiently skilled human with Spiral Power - but to be an eternal witness to the Spiral King's triumph against Team Dai-Gurren, in order to quell further uprisings. As such, Viral watched his king battle Gurren-Lagann in his Lazengann, soon joined by Rossiu as a spectator when the latter was disabled in the fight. After Lordgenome's defeat and the fall of Teppelin, Viral's whereabouts were unknown, but he was presumed dead in collapse of the Dekabutsu.
Anti-Spiral War ArcYears later, now wearing a ragged cloak instead of his militant garb, Viral resurfaced and caused an uproar with his Gunmen, calling Simon out to fight him, but Rossiu stopped Simon from going after him and sent their Grapearl force instead. Gimmy and Darry take down Viral's Enkidudu and put him under custody. When questioned by Simon about why he continues to fight even after the war ended before being sent to Rikane Prison, Viral stated that his intention was to protect a human settlement which refused to leave the underground, leading Simon to learn of Rossiu acting without his consent to count and find out how close mankind's population was from reaching the one million danger level. Simon later encounters Viral when he is sent to Rikon to await his death sentence to be carried on. Viral mocks him until the two get into a brawl, leading them to be locked in individual cells and get left behind as the other jailers and inmates abandon the prison.
When Yoko arrives to bust Simon out, Viral is also released, and accepts Simon's proposal to join Team Dai-Gurren against the Anti-Spirals as Gurren's pilot. This position is cemented after the battle, when Simon declares him the Gurren's official pilot in a meeting with the Team members; this title goes uncontested. Viral pilots Gurren-Lagann with Simon for the rest of the battle against the Anti-Spirals. When Simon attempts to transform the Chouginga-Gurren in the Sea of Despair, Viral tells Simon to rest when the drill shatters. He explains to Simon that he would help if he had Spiral power. Boota then climbs down and helps Simon power up, much to Viral's surprise. In the Anti-Spiral's illusion, Viral dreams that he has a wife and a daughter(both of whome have cat or possibly wolf ears and tails. Various female beastmen of similar description can be seen in the crowd scenes in Kamina City) Viral also looks much more like a human in terms of the shape of his face in the illusion. Despite being a Beastman (and thus incapable of producing Spiral Power), he obtains a Core Drill while seemingly gaining Spiral Power from Simon when freed from the Anti-Spiral's illusion, being the last to return to Gurren-Lagann.
In the final battle against the Anti-Spirals, Viral briefly manifests twin swords from the Tengen Toppa Gurren-Lagann to duel the Anti-Spiral entity Granzeboma. He then helps Simon in defeating the Anti-Spirals by flying out with Simon in Gurren-Lagann and throwing Lagann in order to finish off the anti-spiral. This is likely in homage to Kamina and Simon's first named special attack.
After Anti-Spiral War Arc
Viral is seen commanding the Super Galaxy Dai-Gurren as a representative for Earth in the upcoming Spiral Peace Conference; his appearance stays the same, in spite of the fact that 20 years had passed, thanks to his immortality.
- Hand-to-Hand Combat Skills: Viral is a dangerous and agile fighter, proficient with a cleaver. He was able to overpower Kamina in a duel (a sneak attack by Kamina was the only thing that saved himself before Simon and Yoko interrupted the fight). He also was able to overpower Simon in a fistfight, showing his superior combat skills.
- Archery: Though he only utilizes this skill once in the series, Viral is shown to be a good hand at archery (presumably with a long-bow, since one was thrown out of the grass when Kamina tried to shoot in his direction). He is able to hit a moving target with great accuracy, and even almost shot Kamina with an arrow, only narrowly missing because Kamina dodged at the last second.
- Superhuman Senses: Perhaps due to his animal genetics, Viral appears to have excellent sensory abilities. He was able to detect Yoko before she could hit him with any of her rifle shots, despite the woman being on a distant peak. These senses may also contribute to his fighting skills and Gunmen-piloting abilities
- Gunmen Piloting: Viral is a skilled pilot. He was able to overpower the heavily-defended Littner village, outmatch Kamina's Gurren, and deflect Yoko's attack. He was able to overpower Kamina in most battles and was skilled enough to defeat a few Grapearls, which were far superior to his Gunmen.
- Immortality: After learning the origin of the Beastmen from Lordgenome, Viral is given immortality by the Spiral King so he can tell the tale of Lordgenome's victory over the Dai-Gurren Brigade for ages to come. Immortality gives Viral an advantage in battle as well, as his wounds heal almost instantaneously, as shown when he purposely takes an attack by a fellow Beastman. He also is able to fight without becoming tired and needs no rest. Because of this factor, Viral's physical appearance remains unchanged after 20 years.
- Spiral Power: Viral was able to pilot Gurren even though it was powered by Spiral Power and helped Simon perform most of his Spiral Power attacks. He had a family in the Anti-Spiral illusion, implying that he was capable of love, something only races with Spiral Power can truly feel. He also gained a Core Drill in the illusion and used it while co-piloting Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. In Lagann-hen, he summoned Tengen Toppa Enki Durga, confirming that he has Spiral Power at least in the film.
- Viral is the only character in Gurren Lagann to have his own unique theme song play in the show itself. The song, "Nikopol", plays every time he makes a entrance as a villain, though after he sided himself with Team Dai-Gurren, theme isn't played again. Other characters have songs associated with them, some of which (most notably Kamina's theme, "ラップは漢の魂だ! 己を信じて天を指差す怒涛の男・カミナ様のテーマを耳の穴かっぽじってよ~く聴きやがれ!!", sections of play during each of the show's eyecatches. Not to be confused with ""Libera me" from hell", which is the 'death song' of the series) are played during the anime, though not necessarily during a character's time on screen.
- In the original ADV Films dub, Viral was to be voiced by Vic Mignogna, who told a Gurren Lagann fan that he would have given Viral a rather Gollum-like voice, high and raspy.
- According to the illusion, Viral had gained the ability to seek love and find the urge to have children, much like all Spiral beings strive for. While being a Beastman and sterile, it is possible that while Lordgenome granted Viral immortality, the result most likely had him infused with Spiral Power as well. For example, by the time Simon had been piloting Gurren Lagann by himself, it had been running entirely on Spiral Power (as it no longer needed an electrical charge like the Beastmen's Gunmen). Viral had the ability to pilot Gurren because he had been given the ability to use Spiral Power by Lordgenome. This unlocked in him the need to have a family ("Love changes the universe!" such as Leeron said). However, he still couldn't control his Spiral Power nor did he know he had it, so he was unable to help Simon initially when transforming Super Galaxy Gurren Lagann. Fortunately, Simon appeared in Viral's fantasy, and when Viral snapped out of it, he gained a Core Drill, signifying his unlocking of Spiral Power. Eventually, Viral learns to master his power, creating the Tengen Toppa Enki Durga in Lagann-hen's take on the final battle against the Anti-Spiral.