gwalla (gwalla) wrote,

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Kei Kurono is a bastard. Apathetic and antisocial, he looks down on everybody around him. Even his "friends" are really just guys he trades porn with. Then one day he meets Masaru Kato, an old friend from when he was younger, and does something very out of character: he helps Masaru try to save a drunk who'd fallen on the railroad tracks.

And he dies.

Kei and Masaru are run over by an express train...and find themselves in a room with a group of other people who had just died, along with a strange black sphere called Gantz. There they are trapped, unable to even touch the doorknobs and latches, until a weird message appears on the surface of the sphere: "YOUR LIVES HAVE ENDED. HOW YOU USE YOUR NEW LIVES IS ENTIRELY UP TO ME. THAT'S THE THEORY, ANYWAYS." Provided with futuristic weaponry and costumes, they are teleported outside. Their goal: to find and eliminate an alien within a time limit. Although they are outside, they are still trapped: they are invisible and inaudible to those around them, and they are not allowed to leave a 1km square area. Breaking the rules is punishable by the detonation of a bomb implanted in the brain, resulting in instant—and this time, permanent—death.

After the game is over, they are teleported back to the room, and their "points" are tallied by Gantz. Then they are allowed to leave. But this is parole, not freedom: they cannot tell anybody about the room or their heads will detonate, and eventually they will be brought back to the room and forced to hunt again. Only somebody who accumulates 100 points total is allowed to leave the room for good. And even then...

Gantz puts the reader as well as the protagonists in a strange situation. The aliens seem to be minding their own business, invisible to the world around them, and appear to be harmless until threatened; their appearances are ridiculous, based on Japanese jokes and puns. The Gantz sphere itself is silly—it begins the hunt with the jingle from a morning exercise show, and communicates in nigh-leetspeak—but also sinister, using the characters for its own obscure ends, and manipulating them with its scoring. And characters die with disturbing regularity.

It's interesting to see how Kei's involvement in Gantz's game changes him. The game is a prison, but it's also a focal point for his life, and it forces him to reexamine his own behavior. It's a bit early to say what the point of Gantz is (it's still unfinished), but I suspect that arbitrariness is part of it, as is the dubious moral position of Gantz. I think the people who theorize that Gantz is trying to recruit a fighting force to defend Earth from an alien invasion, trying to find a reason for the Gantz mission to be heroic and good, are missing the point (and not only because Gantz' scattershot recruiting method, which picks up "fighters" such as a dog, a panda, children, and the elderly, seems like a pretty inefficient way to build up an army, especially since at other times it seems to know exactly what it's doing ).

Gantz is also, I think, a statement about action/adventure manga in general: that as long as it brings the requisite sex and violence, an action comic can be about pretty much anything, no matter how nonsensical.

I recommend it highly. Be warned, though: there is a lot of violence and gore, and also a lot of nudity and some explicit sex (fortunately not at the same time as the gore—yet). Not kids' stuff.

You can download English scanslations here in Zip format.
Tags: comics, essays & commentary

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