I did not enjoy Gurren Lagann Volume 1 like I hoped I would.
While an acceptable addition to my Pantheon of Gurren Lagann paraphernalia, I cannot help but feel disappointed. However, my expectations were quite unreal. In my mind I wistfully imagined a manga so ripe with splendor that choruses sing out as each page is flipped. There in lies "my" problem, yet objectively, I still cannot call this a success in a stand alone setting. Like my griefs with pretty much everything involving the FLCL manga, Gurren Lagann is a vibrant work with strong visuals, highly composed music, and other tools that do not just one to one transfer onto a still image narrative.
The art, while incredibly accurate, does "not" convey so much of what made the show work. What makes an anime flow is creating a series of contiguous, animated images that drag us through the plot. What makes a manga flow is finding a stylistic way to demonstrate huge volumes of information through as few frames as humanly possible. Way, way, way too often during this manga I felt that the frames were laid out out by the pace of the anime. Following an incredibly similar display of information, each image choice seems logically progressive, instead of effective. Plenty of times the "bits" just don't work, and are entirely Dependent on your knowledge of the series to flesh them out
Example: Kamina has a huge sword. Its like... enormous. During the fight with Viral, Kamina spends around ten seconds talking while slowly unsheathing his giant blade. You get a sensation of both splendor and humor realizing how ridiculous it is. The manga uses exactly one panel, and doesn't focus on this at all.
Example: The first "combination." Just realize it has terrible pacing in the manga, and lacks the normal punch.
Upon completing this volume, I wish I had something “great” to say about it. I do not. What I'm left with is something that is “okay.” Being only "okay" seemingly makes the manga pallor in comparison to the anime. The real question in my mind is it because the source material was really just not conducive to adaptation, or because the manga wasn't skillfully assembled? Too afraid to deviate, too hard to make what was already there work.
I'm going to buy volume 2 when it comes out, because I am a man of hope. That said, I hope that this entire project was not just an attempt to cash in on a popular license at minimal effort, knowing that you or I will buy it anyway.
Pro tip: Listening to the soundtrack while reading it really, really helps the read. If that doesn't work, read it slower, and stop to remember how much you liked the anime. Actually, if that doesn't work, just go boot up the anime and watch it instead.
Pro tip: Read Gia's review! Don't just listen to one opinion.