Manga Monday #5 | Gurren Lagann Vol.1 & Vol.2 by Kotaro Mori

Gurren Lagann, Volume 1Gurren Lagann Vol.001
Story: GAINAX, Supervisor: Kazuki Nakashima, Art: Kotaro Mori
Original Title |Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破 グレンラガン)
Published in America on May 5th 2009 by Bandai Entertainment
Genre | Shōnen, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Mecha, Romance

In his skyless cavern of a village Simon toils daily, drilling holes to expand his stifling little world until one day he makes an extraordinary discovery: a small glowing drill-bit and the man-sized mech it activates. Before he can give it a second thought Simon’s dragged into a plot to break through to the surface by the local gang leader Kamina, only to have the ceiling come crashing down on top of them under the weight of a giant monster! It somehow falls onto the boisterous Kamina and cowardly Simon to defend their village, but once they defeat the monster what awaits the duo on the surface world? Get ready for buxom babes, beastmen, and giant mechs as only GAINAX can provide them! (Courtesy of Goodreads).

Review | ★ ★ ★ 1/2

Gurren Lagann has been around for a few years. Created in 2007 as an anime by studio GAINAX (the brains behind both Neon Genesis Evangelion and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt) which later became adapted into a manga illustrated Kotaro Mori. I have yet to see the anime, so my review is solely on the first two manga volumes of Gurren Lagann.

The story begins with a bang, quite literally. Volume one of Gurren Lagann is consistently action packed, where there is never a dull moment. There seems to be a monster-of-the-week kind of format where enemy robots, called “gunmen”, appear and our heroes go kick butt. All in all, this series contains explosions, fighting robots, and heroism all around. That being said, it did take me a while to even understand what the heck was going on in the story. The pacing of the story goes by extremely fast. Any type of character back-stories or world development are briefly mentioned and do not get addressed further until much later in the volume.

While reading, I had a real need for plot that this volume didn’t provide. The premise of the story contains so much potential. In this futuristic world, humans are forced to survive underground. The surface is dominated by intelligent creatures, called beastmen, that pilot the gunmen to eradicate humans. Our two main characters are virtually clueless to the world above, allowing the reader to discover new information along with the characters.  Unfortunately, plot mainly fell to the wayside in favor for action and humor.  In fact, I felt that volume one valued action and funny one-liners over any real world building.

Team Gurren

Top: Gurren Lagann

Bottom (Left to Right): Kamina, Boota, Simon and Yoko

Kamina is the crazy, boisterous character that comes up with the team name, Gurren. Unsatisfied with living underground, he’s always coming up with schemes that manage to tick off the village chief. His main goal in life is to break through the “impenertrable ceiling” and reach the surface just like his father. He comes off as the “cool older brother type” that often incites to do the impossible with his crazy antics. Kamina is my absolute favorite character because he’s hilarious and comes with the best lines 😀

“Kick logic out and do the impossible!! That’s the way Team Gurren rolls, remember?!”

Also, my favorite line:

“Listen to me, Simon. Don’t believe in yourself. Believe in me! Believe in me, who believes in you!!”

Simon is the youngest member of Team Gurren and “soul brother” to Kamina. He’s a timid young man whose sole job is to expand his underground village by digging. It’s not a glorious job by far, but Simon finds pleasure in the little changes he makes to his village; sometimes resulting into unexpected treasures. Unlike Kamina, Simon isn’t heroic at all. Rather he has cautious and often fearful nature that stems from the trauma of his parents death.

There are more characters are introduced in this volume, such as Yoko, Leeron and the Black Siblings. But I feel that only Kamina and Simon were the primary focus in volume one.

Gurren Lagann, Volume 1Gurren Lagann Vol.002
Story: GAINAX, Supervisor: Kazuki Nakashima, Art: Kotaro Mori
Original Title |Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破 グレンラガン)
Published in America on August 25th 2009 by Bandai Entertainment
Genre | Shōnen, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Mecha, Romance

Review | ★ ★ ★ ★

Volume two picks up exactly where volume one left off, with an epic combining of the Gurren and Lagann.
GurrenLagannI actually enjoyed reading volume two much more than the previous volume. Past plot complaints aside, I just went along with the flow of the manga and found myself appreciating this volume more. The slapstick comedy of the earlier volume multiplied ten fold in volume two, creating many memorable laugh out loud moments. If the covers of the first two volumes didn’t tip you off, you’ll realize that the characters have a severe case of lack of clothing. The clothing choice is not because of the hot climate of the Gurren Lagann world, but a purposeful character design by the creators. You never actually see anyone’s naughty bits, but this series is chock full of cartoon-like violence, skin exposure, bouncy boobs, and sexual innuendos (the obligatory hot springs episode, which is a common anime trope, is featured in volume two). This type of comedy may not suit everyone’s taste, but is definitely something to consider, especially since the humor is so ingrained in Gurren Lagann.

The problems I had with volume one were completely rectified this time around. Here we are able to explore another underground village, different from village Kamina and Simon came from. It was interesting to see the social constructs of this new village, and get a sense of what being forced underground has done to humanity. I also liked that we were being shown snippets of what it’s like on the villain’s side. Overall, this volume had some character development, the budding of a potential romance and a constant influx of new characters being introduced.

Would I recommend it?

Gurren Lagann may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something crazy and action-packed give this a shot.