Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Written by: Hiroya Oku
Artist: Hiroya Oku
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Plot: High school student Kei Kurono and his friend Kato are struck and killed by a subway train after helping a homeless man off the tracks. Instead of waking up in the afterlife, they find themselves in an unfurnished apartment with a group of strangers and a large black sphere called the Gantz. The Gantz claims that their lives now belong to it, and that it will do whatever it wants with them. It distributes some equipment to the group, then teleports them away to find and kill an alien for some unknown purpose.
Review: What if life were more like a video game? It sounds like it could be a lot of fun. But what if life were more like a video game where you didn’t know any of the rules, and the penalty for failure was a gruesome death? Less fun to experience, sure, but fun to read about.
That’s more or less how I would describe Gantz. The people involved in the story are sent out to do battle with aliens, all in the hopes of scoring enough “points” to presumably escape the clutches of the Gantz and return to normal life. After each “mission”, the survivors are free to go about their normal lives until such time as the Gantz summons them back to undertake another harrowing mission.
A big part of the comic is the fact that no one really knows what’s going on, including the reader. In their very first mission, Kei’s friend, Kato, wonders why it is that the Gantz wants them to rain death upon a seemingly benign alien who enjoys green onions. Does the Gantz want these aliens gone because they’re a threat? If so, why are all the participants given a load of guns and equipment, but no explanation of how to use any of them?
As a result of not knowing what to do or expect from these missions, about half the characters in each group wind up at the very least horribly dismembered a few minutes into the mission. That’s where you start to see one of the big selling points of the comic: the graphic violence. The series is pretty much founded on the stuff, beginning with Kei and Kato being blown to pieces after being hit by a subway train. And once the Gantz has sent them on a mission, they’re using guns that cause spontaneous combustion while their teammates are rent asunder by vicious aliens.
Amidst all the sci fi stuff, the series has a definite horror vibe going for it. Each mission that Kei and the others embark on almost invariably devolves into the team being stalked by aliens who are set on the idea of killing them, if for no other reason than because they killed the harmless alien the Gantz instructed them to kill. Moreover, we learn that the survivors of each mission are returned to the Gantz exactly as they were when they began a mission, regardless of the injuries they suffer in the course of the mission. This lends some real tension to each bout, as not even the heroes can escape completely unharmed, but what’s a missing limb or two if they can get the job done?
Also in line with the horror motif is the ample amount of nudity in the comic. Gratuitous, almost baffling amounts of nudity. Early on, we’re introduced to Kishimoto, a depressed high school student who appears after an apparent suicide attempt, when she is teleported in by the Gantz completely nude. She then spends the next fifteen or so chapters fleeing in terror au natural, to the point where the Gantz gives her the nickname “Titz”. It’s not that I’m against nudity in comics, and Oku Hiroya is definitely no slouch when it comes to drawing nudes. It just gets to be a little over-the-top, particularly when Kishimoto encounters a butter dog (look it up, kids!).
My only real complaint is that the main character, Kei, isn’t much of a main character. Not more than a page after he’s introduced, he manages to distinguish himself as an unlikeable, self-absorbed piece of shit. Later (much later), he starts to develop into a more genuine person, but for a good while, he’s just a jackass saying and doing things that almost make you wince as you read them.
Still, it is a horror comic, and jackasses tend to be among the first to go in a horror movie. Maybe he’s made up that way to convince you that his number is just around the corner. The only other problem with the comic is that during the action sequences, you could wind up reading a 200+ page volume of Gantz in around half an hour due to all the pages with just grunts and groans written in them. Of course, the flip side is that you’ll be dying to know what happens next, so bravo for getting me so hooked, Gantz.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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