Manga Review | Gantz

Manga Review | Gantz

A deceased schoolboy awakes to find himself hunting aliens in Tokyo. Welcome to the world of Gantz.

As I discussed in my review of the CGI animated feature film, Gantz:O, I first became aware of the Gantz name when the Corridor Digital crew talked about said film on their YouTube channel.

So, in performing a little research I discovered that Gantz originated as a manga title that was first published in the Japanese magazine “Weekly Young Jump” in July 2000. Gantz was written and illustrated by Hiroya Oku and the series came to an end in June 2013.

The story begins with a young schoolboy, Kei Kurono, as he waits for a train. A drunken homeless man stumbles onto the train tracks and whilst everyone is in shock at what just happened, no one is making an effort to save him.

Another schoolboy, Masaru Kato, jumps onto the tracks to try to save him. However, the drunken man is too heavy to lift by himself. Masaru starts shouting for help to no avail. It is then that he spots Kei just down the platform.

Masaru and Kei used to be childhood friends but have seemingly drifted apart over time. Masaru shouts to Kei who reluctantly agrees to help. Together, they manage to push the homeless man up onto the platform, but then there is another problem. The next train is approaching, they start to run hoping they can outrun it by the end of the platform. Unfortunately, its an express service that doesn’t stop. The boys are tragically killed.

The boys awake in an unfurnished flat that overlooks Tokyo Tower. There are others in the flat, people of all ages. Some are just as confused as the two boys.

There is also a large black sphere in the centre of the room. The sphere starts to play a song and when it’s finished, a display appears on its surface. It gives details of an alien creature that is residing within the city.

The sphere then opens up offering an assortment of futuristic weapons and cases full of tight-fitting black costumes, one for every occupant in the room. After a brief period, if they’re ready or not, everyone is then transported to a location within the city.

The school boys arrive in the Gantz flat for the first time.

Thanks to some members of the party who have already been in this situation before, they learn they must hunt down the alien creature and kill them. Those who try to return home will die because of microscopic explosive devices have been implanted in their heads.

During this first mission, it’s also explained that the Gantz team are invisible to the public and that the mission will only end when the target has been destroyed or when a timer displayed on the sphere will run out.

Upon their return, the Gantz sphere will hand out scores according to everyone’s performance and once you reach 100 points, they are offered a choice of three options.

  1. Have your memory erased about everything relating to Gantz and be returned to normal life.
  2. Have access to a much more powerful weapon on your next mission.
  3. Resurrect someone who has died on a previous mission.
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And this is how the story progresses for most of its plot. The Gantz team will try to have normal lives in-between the missions and this is where the rest of the story will develop with the primary focus on Kei Kurono. He tries to have a normal life knowing that at any moment he could be transported back for another mission.

As the manga continues, the aliens become bigger and stronger. The battles to take them down last for longer and run for several issues at a time. I must give credit to Hiroya Oku for his alien designs which become more varied and wonderful as the story progresses. Where else can you find an alien creature that creates its form by combining hundreds of identical nude female bodies? And If you think that sounds a bit over the top, a member of another Gantz team decides to fornicate with one of them!

That’s where Gantz really opened my eyes to Japanese culture. Its very different to the rest of the world. Nearly every issue was headlined by a full-page artwork of a nearly nude female Gantz team member, usually with large breasts. This artistic theme is also quite prevalent throughout the story as well featuring strong sexual content.

Just one of the many strange creatures the Gantz team will have to take down.

But the real “OMG” moment was when Kei Kurono receives oral pleasure from his girlfriend, Tae Kojima. I mean, they’re school kids, they look quite young. I’ve just had to double check for this review and apparently, they’re all 17 years old. Technically, that’s legal (in the UK – Ed), but they never look their age.

On the flip side, you can look forward to plenty of violence. The battles are very violent at times with plenty of blood to go around. It’s not uncommon for limbs to be ripped from bodies or just parts of them blown away by powerful futuristic weapons.

The plot in-between the missions can be rather boring at times and it does feel like the writer was throwing in any ideas he thought may liven up the series.

Two characters are introduced who have the ability of telekinesis, being able to move items with the power of their minds. They become a huge advantage when we learn they can simply block arteries in people’s brains, killing them instantly.

A little later on, and again seemingly with no reasoning, a team of vampires is introduced into the story as a group of protagonists. They wish to kill one of the Gantz teams and unwillingly end up becoming part of what they’re trying to destroy.

Opposing Gantz teams will offer another form of conflict with one team taking drugs before a mission to enhance their experience.

One regular member of the team is introduced as a stranger arriving from out of town, looking like a reject from Fist of the North Star. He is looking for the strongest person he can find in order to defeat them in hand-to-hand combat. I guess that’s his life’s calling!

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These randomly introduced elements keep things moving along for around ¾ of the manga’s run with mission after mission. The last quarter is dedicated to the absolutely huge final confrontation when a race of alien giants decides to invade the Earth. However, I did feel that this section of the story was overstaying its welcome.

There’s no mistaking it! The boys are definitely dead!

I personally felt that the majority of this story was based on one premise that was improvised for the majority of it’s run. Whilst the missions are entertaining, they can become tiresome as they last so long. Case in point, the mission which forms the basis of the Gantz:O animation features a creature that is seemingly pulverized or destroyed but yet still keeps coming back to attack in another form.

I also found the characters to be annoying several times. When facing alien creatures armed with their own powerful futuristic weapons, they never fired as soon as possible. Characters decided to have moments of reflective thought or an existential crisis while in moments of mortal danger.

This happened regularly through the manga’s run and not always in life-threatening situations. Also, you’ll be quite fed up with seeing characters catching their breath after a run or a fight. I don’t need to see a character surrounded by voice bubbles of the word “pant” telling me the character is catching their breath anytime soon. Believe me, they also spend several frames catching their breath too.

Weirdly, for reasons that are never explained, during the latter half of the story, the Gantz team become visible to the public whilst on missions and are ridiculed for their costumes. But when the alien attacks start, the public to think it’s all part of a film set, at least until someone violently dies. Even when the news reports are on the television, people dismiss them as clever CGI and fake news. I can only assume this is some kind of cultural difference that doesn’t translate well to western audiences.

The speed of the action definitely comes through the still frames of artwork which is brilliant and well-defined. Even while not on a mission, the artwork is of a highly detailed standard, especially when the fights occur in populated city centres. Not a single detail is left undrawn.

Gantz was an interesting premise that kept me reading until the end but I felt that the series ran on for far too long. I’m still not sure of the final payoff was worth the time I invested into the story.

If you want a long-running lengthy story, and in times of a lockdown who doesn’t, then you may find this sci-fi story to your liking. If you want just a taster or a condensed experience, I highly recommend the CGI anime Gantz:O instead.

I’m not sure if the plot’s destination really paid off after such a long journey. A journey which really felt like a slog at times with action set pieces, in my opinion, running far too long. 2½/5.


John Abbitt

About the author | John Abbitt

@UKFilmNerd | John loves film, and he used to write for his own website, The Tydirium Hangar Bay, in the late 1990s. Whilst that website became lost in the passages of time, John's love of film did not. He's back, writing for The Unheard Nerd.