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Kamina is NOT Manly

August 4, 2010

Kamina doesn’t have his back turned away from us because it makes him look cool. He has his back turned because the truth shames him.

Updatedude and I were chatting the other night with some other dorks in our IRC room about anime and manly men and all that shit. A couple of them (Not me and not Updatedude.) made the traditional claim that Kamina is the most manly/badass/GAR (Whatever the hell that word means.) anime character ever in the history of forever.

No. Kamina is not the manliest of anime men. Hell, he isn’t even manly to begin with.

Before I go any further: I think Kamina’s a pretty cool character. He’s the coolest character from Gurren Lagann (Although, if you ask me, that isn’t saying much, but that isn’t relevant to this conversation.). He’s pretty badass in his own way. Just wanted to get that out of the way to show that this isn’t a hatefest. It’s just a counter argument to the “Kamina is OMGWTFGAR!” rationale.

Kamina is a glorified cheerleader. Throw him into Heroman and he wouldn’t be Joey or Doc Brown or Psy or Agent Hughes. He’d be a skirt and a pair of pompoms away from being Lina. What did he do in Gurren Lagann? He cheered Simon on and helped give him confidence in his abilities. Then he died. The End. That’s exactly what Lina does in Heroman, except she doesn’t go and die at the first sign of adversity (Thus making her more “manly” than Kamina by default.). 

That’s exactly what Kamina does. The first time the group gets into a major fight, he runs around saying “Rawh Rawh Fight Tha Powah!” then gets killed by a monkey that ends up being nothing more than the anime’s first miniboss. It’s like if you’re playing Super Mario Bros 2 and you die in the first level to that fucking crossdressing dinosaur that shoots eggs at you. You suck if you die to that thing, and that’s what Kamina does.

To be a truly manly man, you can’t just be a man of words. You have to be a man who backs up those words with action. If you’re gonna make claims, you gotta be able to back up those claims and you have to show that you can succeed. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t always have to win. You don’t have to be Jesus or Cobra. You just have to prove that you’re more than talk.

Kamina never does this. He talks a mean talk, and he spouts some good propaganda, but he never backs up those words because he goes and dies during the first chance he has to truly prove his worth. All of the other encounters up to that battle were meaningless build-up to this moment. They proved nothing about the prowess of the good guys or the bad guys. It was all the means to reach this point in the narrative, and Kamina failed. He may have been the spark that lit Simon’s fire, but that just makes him the catalyst for Simon’s growth. Being a match doesn’t make you manly. It just makes you fodder for something greater than yourself.

Even if one were to accept that a manly man can merely be a man of words, I’d argue against that point in Kamina’s case as well. Most people take Gurren Lagaan to be a series about the triumph of the human will over any adversity. And, yeah, that’s the series’ main theme. I agree with that. But at the same time, is it really “the human will” that triumphs in the series, and is it really Kamina that sparks this attitude in the other characters? I don’t think so.

Kamina certainly sparks it in Simon, but it’s more of a matter of Kamina’s death giving Simon no other choice in the matter. His crutch is no longer there and he’s forced to man up and help save the day by his own means. But look at it this way: If Simon didn’t have his mecha, the one that he conveniently found underground and became the series’ ever-handy plot device, would his efforts have been possible?

Simon’s mecha was the true catalyst for the events that transpired in the series. Without its ability to funnel the inherent “spiral power” found in humans, not even Kamina’s rhetoric would have sufficed to lead an attack on the beastmen and lead to the series of events that led to humanity’s “ascension” to a seemingly higher life form. While the mecha becomes less necessary as the series progresses and the other characters exhibit “spiral power” in their own way, none of it would have been possible without Simon showing them the potential for that hidden power by using his mecha as a means to focus it. And I’d argue that given the events of the series, Simon would have come to this realization without Kamina’s cheerleading. In a do-or-die situation, Simon was bound to “snap” and realize the full potential that comes from the symbiotic relationship between his “spiral power” and his mecha.

Kamina was just a convenient plot device to act as that catalyst, nothing more. Being the sacrificial lamb to awaken Simon’s power does not make one manly. It just makes you the equivalent of a land card from Magic the Gathering. No one says “My forest is so manly because I tapped it to bring in my Giant Growth spell!” You’d get laughed at for saying that.

So. Kamina. Cool? Yes. Manly? Only if you think cheering from the afterlife and tapping to pay the cost of a spell is manly.

Yeah. Keep dreaming, Kamina. If only you were that awesome.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. mefloraine permalink
    August 4, 2010 3:52 PM

    Alright, I’m only four episodes into Gurren Lagann at this moment, and I’m already agreeing with you. What has Kamina done but lose a fight (which is blamed on Simon), then do much better in a fight (which is also blamed on Simon!), and say a bunch of horrible and unconvincing yet somehow famous catch phrases in between? It’s a wonder that anything he said was motivational at all.

    To be quite honest, Kamina is the sort of big talking, no action character that I completely dislike. I have four more episodes before any analysis I make of him can be complete, but…eh.

    • Landon permalink*
      August 4, 2010 4:18 PM

      I’d go so far as to say that what Kamina says is pretty much insane and does as much harm to the group as good. But that’s a completely different tangent.

  2. TheseKidsToday permalink
    August 4, 2010 4:07 PM

    You, sir, are simply annoyed because girls will never do this to a picture of you.

    That is all.

    • Landon permalink*
      August 4, 2010 4:16 PM

      That goes without saying. Still makes Kamina less manly than the molerat thing. He faces the MAIN VILLAIN SOLO and LIVES. Kamina dies to a Gorilla Grood knockoff.

  3. August 4, 2010 4:33 PM

    I wrote this exact post two years ago at a website that no longer exists. I swear.

  4. Hogart permalink
    August 4, 2010 5:29 PM

    Kamina wasn’t manly. Kamina was a “bro”. Hence, aniki. He was the guy who couldn’t grow up to be a real man, so he lived vicariously through his little brother/son, and inspired them to become what he himself couldn’t be. That’s what made him memorable to me, at least?

  5. August 4, 2010 7:04 PM

    I used to call him the GARest man alive. I was not totally wrong. That was during the time when all my friends were quoting TTGL, supposedly the GARest show on earth. Pierce the heaven, indeed.
    After finishing TTGL, however, I feel the whole series falls short and that includes Kamina. But like you said, he’s freaking cool indeed.

  6. August 4, 2010 8:22 PM

    Yeah, Kamina was cool and he did act as Simon’s crutch, but in all objectivity, he was more delusional and probably suffering from dementia, rather than GAR.

    In truth, he endangered the group throughout his run, however, he was still the one to sorta save the group through his cheering on of Simon. But it wasn’t Kamina’s death alone which forced Simon to “man up” (technically, Simon “kicked his reasoning to the curb” ie gone insane), but one could argue, it was Simon’s lust/love for Nia which ultimately got him really rolling.

    Was Kamina an inspirational figure? Yes, totally. In a world where the expressed purpose of the bad guys is to stamp down the hope of the human spirit, someone utterly unable to comprehend the reality of the situation, like Kamina, is the perfect figure head for retaliation.

    To the characters around him, Kamina was probably, indeed, manly. But from the perspective of the TV viewing audience, objectively, no, Kamina is not manly in the sense that he overcomes adversity. He cheered Simon on to overcome those adversities.

  7. August 4, 2010 8:35 PM

    A quick note on GAR for Landon. The origins of GAR seems to have been this:

    In Fate/Stay Night, Archer was facing off against Berserker. He started spouting lots of really bad Engrish and even activated Unlimited Blade Works, which is a field/bubble reality thing with lots of swords stuck on the ground for him to use (because he’s y’know, an archer and archer shoot swords (still attached to their hands) at people).

    In reality, it was a silly scene because of the Engrish and the action not really being all that well choreographed, however, it was still considered a “manly” scene. And in concept (not execution), I guess it was. Aaaaaanyway.

    A poster said he would be “Gay for Archer”. Only he typed “GaR for Archer” instead. This typo eventually evolved to mean manly.

    So yeah, ironic then that if you think about it, the actual most GAR characters in TTGL are the mole rat and the gay guy. Since both seem to be the only ones who can see the bleak reality of their situation, yet act against their situation.

    Boota is the pimpin’ dude who rides between breasts, and literally sacrificed a pound of his own flesh. While Leeron is pumping out tech with flamboyance and being generally fabulous, while being totally sane and aware of what deep shit they all are in.

    • Landon permalink*
      August 4, 2010 8:52 PM

      So the origin of the word “Gar” stands for everything I hate about anime fandom and its obsession with crappy memes. Gotcha!

  8. August 5, 2010 11:44 AM

    Excellent post. I agree, though it could be because I never liked the overtly aggressive, badass, yakuza-ish guys like Kamina. Manly does indeed require good words and good acts to back up those words – it’s not totally Kamina’s fault that he died so early on and was unable to prove himself further, but it does make his status as such a manly character questionable.

  9. August 10, 2010 9:04 AM

    Kamina is an extremely manly character and the problem is that you are looking at it from the wrong angle.

    In terms of raw combat results, yes, Kamina was not that effective, but his influence and the source of his “manliness” as it were goes far beyond simply how many adversaries he drilled out of the way. Kamina is a man who inspires others; whereas Simon holds the raw potential to be great, it is Kamina who first sees that potential and decides to nurture it. When the Gurren-Dan starts to grow, it’s not just the actions of the robot itself but Kamina’s presence and words which give identity to the growing rebellion.

    Even Kamina admits that most of it is just an act, and that most of the time he’s scared, but does that make him any less manly? When Kamina is recounting to Yoko the time he and Simon were trapped underneath a cave-in, he talks about how despite his fears, he put on a confident facade because he knew Simon needed it in order to remain calm. Yes, you could say that Kamina was “faking” it, but in this situation he knew what his strengths were and how to best apply them, realizing that if he were to start panicking then everyone else would too and that would inevitably doom them.

    While I won’t say that Kamina is the manliest character ever, I think that there aren’t many things manlier than the ability to understand your fellow man and to fill them with confidence. He is a man of action, just don’t be confused as to what his real actions are.

    • Landon permalink*
      August 10, 2010 10:11 PM

      That’s all well and good, but does that fall under what most people define as “manly?” I’d argue no, and that’s what I’m getting at. He doesn’t fit the popular definition of a “manly man,” yet anime fans hail him as the ideal.

      Is the problem that Kamina doesn’t fall into this ideal, or is it that the ideal needs to be redefined? And if it needs to be redefined, is there any way to redefine it in such a way that popular opinion starts to lean that way?

      My post was just as much about “exposing” the ridiculous nature of such stereotypes as it was “exposing” Kamina as a dork that’s hailed for all the wrong reasons. Which he still is if you ask me, since I stand by my assessment of his character, but he and the term are open for debate.

      • Tim permalink
        January 27, 2011 5:03 AM

        That depends what you consider to be the average apprehension of manliness. You comment that the point of your post was to address the ‘ridiculous nature of the [manliness] stereotype’ yet you never take the time to consider what the nature of that stereotype -is-. It is hardly universal (the concept of ‘gar’ is generally seen as being synonymous with conventional manliness, yet is largely confined to a demographic with an atypical ideal of masculinity), and your post is by and large merely begging the question.

        Arguing that Kamina is ‘cool’ but not ‘manly’ is like arguing that Nia is ‘cute’ but not ‘sexy’ – there IS no ‘popular definition’ applicable to a global audience.

  10. August 22, 2010 4:52 AM

    lol without him,there wouldn’t be Simon.
    Without him,there wouldn’t be Gurren Dan.
    Without him,there wouldn’t even be TTGL.
    He was the one who wanted to get to the surface,if he didn’t do that would Simon be worth of anything? Even if he found Lagann,he wouldn’t even have gone up to the surface.
    He was the inspiration for almost everyone in the anime,he was ganked before he awakened his spiral power. Simon was the one full of spiral power at first,others didn’t realize that they have it.
    He didn’t simply just die like that,he defeated the “mini boss” you said with the greatest skill ever made in the anime and then he died. By that time he was already half dead.
    Simon was a pussy in the first arc,he simply became a copy of Kamina in the 2nd arc of the anime. I don’t hate Simon but that’s how he is,for me.
    I’m not saying that Kamina is the manliest anime character but he definitely IS manly.

    • November 24, 2010 11:44 PM

      While Kamina WAS manly at the moment of his near death, whereby he realized he was dying and did the manly thing by sucking it up and focusing on getting Simon to have self-confidence, the fact that he was an inspiration to others does NOT necessarily make him manly.

      To give you some examples, the Pope, or Mother Theresa, or a suicide bomber. Each of these people can give inspiration to others and prompt them onto ever greater things. But what they do aren’t necessarily manly. Being charismatic is not being manly, it’s simply being charismatic.

      In Kamina’s case, he was indeed charismatic and a really cool character, but not all that manly, except for when he was near his death.

  11. Kickass permalink
    January 6, 2011 2:18 AM

    Kamina’s fighting abilities were always second to Simon? Also remember that the cause of Kamina’s death was due to Simon’s lack of concentration, because Kamina had the woman of his dreams. #1 manliness rule is the one who gets the women 8D

  12. Neon permalink
    January 9, 2011 3:02 AM

    Manliness is more than just action and besides if he were as weak as you said he wouldnt of survived battling those pink beastmen,that would have been weak


  2. Is Kamina GAR? | Baka-Raptor

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