“A great part of myth is familiarity” said James Cameron when asked how he managed to write Avatar. Meaning, myth isn’t an abstract & old idea, it’s used in many stories to create a direct connection with the audience. Nowadays, the theory of monomyth allows us to explain the Hero’s mythological journey and its meaning.
And sometimes, Japanese animation uses it too. Take for example, Hiroyuki Imaishi’s mecha series Gurren Lagann! The story of a young lad named Simon the Digger who will free humanity while overcoming his lack of self confidence. Now, based on the first 15 episodes, let’s see the monomyth structure (spoilers inside);
• The Call to Adventure: The hero receives a sign
Kamina’s attempt to escape to the surface
• Refusal of the Call: Any reasons that work to hold the person in his current situation
Simon’s fatalism, saying “All I can do is dig”
• Supernatural Aid: A protective figure who provides good influence
Yuko saves him from the Ganmen
• The Crossing of the First Threshold: Defeat the guardian & venture into an unknown realm
Simon pilots the Lagann & reaches the surface
• Belly of The Whale: Defeat his ego/inner demons, renaissance
Rossiu’s village, going back underground
• The Road of Trials: Series of tests to undergo to begin the transformation
Training with Kamina
• The Meeting With the Goddess: Talent of the hero to win the boon of love
Yoko (or maybe Nia)
• Woman as Temptress: Hero’s ability to suparpass the temptations
Simon’s jealousy of the relationship between Kamina & Yuko
• Atonement with the Father: The hero opens his mind
Simon decides to fight along with Kamina
• Apotheosis: The heros finds Enlightenment
The Giga Drill Breaker!
• The Ultimate Boon: The achievement of the goal of the quest
Getting the Dai Gurren
• Refusal of the Return: The hero doesn’t want to help the community
Simon shuts himself in his bedroom
• The Magic Flight: The hero returns to the community
The Lagann (or Dai Gurren)
• Rescue from Without: Help to accomplish the return
Nia protecting everyone
• The Crossing of the Return Threshold: The hero returns to the community, must accept it as real
Everyone has been captured (fake village), Simon comes to save them
• Master of Two Worlds: To lead people
Simon becomes chief of the Gurren Brigade
• Freedom to Live: The hero is the champion of things becoming
Humanity can rebuild itself
What about the second part of the series? What happens next? It clearly becomes more abstract & metaphysical, as it’s about expressing the importance of Life, of Humanity (with the main fight is set in the middle of the Cosmos). I guess this part of the story can be define, mythologically speaking, as the “The Cosmogonic Cycle” (still part of the monomyth theory).
Anyway, to resume the Hero’s journey: from the Underground of Earth to the Sky Above, Simon has to Unite these 2 worlds. And during this journey, he will become more confident & responsible. Not bad for someone who found a “face” deep in the earth.
Gainax’s Gurren Lagaan: Less sexual references, more spirituality?