Thought your life was bad? Sometimes, death is worse. There is no salvation, peace, nor god waiting to receive you into their care. But wait, a god? Maybe you are talking about that big black ball stuck in the room with you. Now you are thrown into a game, fighting green aliens and robot monsters for the chance to survive.
When Kei Kurono is killed, he thus finds himself caught in such a game; a test of his skills, morals and will to survive. His life is not his own, his death spat and trampled upon over and over again. What happens if he does not listen? God knows.
A word of warning: Gantz is not for the faint-hearted, but neither is it as simple as it looks. Gore, rape and violence is rampant, as are portrayals of greed, violence, and all the ugliness that one sees in society today.
Gantz was published in English by Dark Horse Manga from June 25, 2008 to November 17, 2015. It has also been published in Czech by CREW since 2013.
The series has been adapted into two live-action movies which released in Japan on January 29, 2011 and April 23, 2011 respectively. A TV movie titled Another Gantz was aired before the second film was released and is an alternate telling of the first film.
Here we have a manga that I cannot help but loathe and love all the same. Gantz being a thrilling Seinen, Sci-fi, Action manga that would take the reader on a gory rollercoaster ride, featuring amazing battles for survival. Yet it also happens to be riddled with poor dialogue and spontaneous plot developments that may stem one's enjoyment.
It all begins as two young Japanese high school boys, meet their end by a homicidal underground locomotive. And that would have been the end for them, if this wasn't a manga. So having been semi-posthumously transported to an apartment, along with others in the same situation; they
are now forced by some giant black ball, to partake in missions and kill random aliens, in what seems to be some kind of sick game.
And that is Gantz in a nutshell... a manga that can be both straight-forward and random. The plot, revolving around people forced into these high mortality mission, is simple at its core and honestly it is a bit too simple that those who yearn for more substance in their reading material, may initially be turned off by Gantz. I know I was and it wasn't until a particular mission that I got completely hooked; onto the graphic, gory, intense, vulgar manga that is Gantz. And since Gantz is so good at grabbing the readers by the balls and never letting go, it can easily get away with having some glaring issues with its story. Like how so often it seems there's little to no direction in the storyline and how readers had to journey through over 30 Volumes, to understand and get some sort of explanation regarding the overall plot of Gantz. Unfortunately the basic reasoning given, simply could not fill up all the plot-holes that were left unattended.
Yet even when littered with the kind of issues that could greatly lower the score of some lesser manga, Gantz still remains as one of my all-time favourites. Kei Kurono is a large factor in all this, which is somewhat remarkable given how much of an annoying prick he is at the start. As the story progresses, so does Kei Kurono, along with a lot of the other characters that aren't basically cannon-fodder. And that is where the mangaka does a good job. In creating perilous situations for these characters to develop and also knowing how important it is to utilize the downtime for some more character development. However even though the mangaka tries to provides us readers with an interesting collection of characters, I can only give him an A-. Simply because a lot of the dialogue he had these characters spew could be mind-numbingly stupid at times.
At least it doesn’t completely affect the overall enjoyment of the manga and it is the artwork that contributes a lot to this. The artwork can be described as a technical masterpiece, since Hiroya Oku does a fantastic job of utilizing 3D renders to create a uniform look to the world. So that both the real life & sci-fi elements look like it's all part of the same manga. Not to forget the attention detail, where even the odd blemish or decapitation looks as though at lot has been put into it. However artwork is largely a subjective matter, so what I like may not be the same as what you like.
In the end Gantz is a violent, gory, lewd but overall an enjoyable manga. However in order to enjoy it, the reader must do one simple thing, turn off their brain and accept Gantz for what it truly is... some lengthy piece of mindless entertainment. Kind of like a Michael Bay movie. If you cannot do that then you simply won't be able to ignore the numerous plot holes and the various plot elements that were shoved in, because Hiroya Oku must have watched some Western Movie/Show, which inspired him at the time (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer & 2012 comes to mind).
Gantz is kind of awesome, but in a weird way. A really weird way. Not "weird" because of any kind of originality, but because of how it manages to be awesome.The plot is extremely lazy with blatant holes throughout. It's mostly about the overblown/unrealistic action, and holy mother of god, is it overblown/unrealistic. Ammo clips are infinite, when actual guns are used. The masses are weak, brainless, and easily influenced cannon fodder, to an absurdly exaggerated degree. "The masses," of course, including just about all side characters. In the world of Gantz, gangsters hang out in toilet stalls and collect people's teeth like baseball cards.
Characters lose limbs and just joke about it without bleeding to death. At one point, the crew fights off an army of massive evil Buddha statues. No societal or theological commentary there, just shits and giggles.
This was clearly the product of a creative mind, at least at the outset, but a lazy one as well. It falls apart towards the end, it's full of terminated sub-plots and forgotten characters, and it constantly re-writes its own rules. So why was it not bad? Well, it is self-aware to an almost hilarious degree. Okay, it is absolutely to a hilarious degree. I can't imagine Oku (the mangaka) wrote this stuff with a straight face. The aliens are often ridiculously comedic in their odd design, although they got less so as the series went on. They have zero personality besides some funny quirks and rage buttons. Gantz plays with the idea of "hey, what if they're just misunderstood," and then, for the most part, tosses that idea out of the window along with all possible ambiguous morality or subtlety. Gantz first dons a façade of depth via things such as cynicism and death, but it acknowledges this and subverts it over time as if its playing a joke on you. This is actually enjoyable if you have the right attitude and observe it like you would an Ed Wood film or something of that ilk. The amount of tropes it ultimately evokes may be record-setting, and this is, in a way, impressive in and of itself.
Terminated subplots are probably the biggest issue. At one point vampires are introduced. They are never explained, their exact abilities and motives are unclear, they just look like humans, and their whole diabolical vampire organization is forgotten. At one point psychics are introduced. Their abilities are never explained and the limits vary, the origin unclear. Things in this same vein happen again and again throughout the manga. That said, it's somehow a bit refreshing to have a poorly written series that just does not give a fuck about silly little things like "plot," if only in that it harbors no illusion as to its quality and just focuses on delivering good action and fanservice instead. The series is actually near-pure fanservice, in one way or another. At a certain point, if the plot gets bad enough, the author would be better off just not trying anymore. Gantz knows this. It knows where to focus its energy and how to play to its strengths. I wish manga like Bleach were more like that. Hilariously enough, the attitude the mangaka had while writing this manga epitomizes the nihilistic themes surrounding it far better than anything within the work itself.
Unfortunately, the action is marred by inconsistency. Really, the entire manga is, but I think we've established that. The way the weapons and suits work changes inexplicably from chapter to chapter. Hell, even the way Gantz beams people in varies, in more ways than one. Not to mention all of the rules and limits. As the combat lacks proper consistency, it consequently lacks proper tension. It can be pretty entertaining, like some cheap Hollywood popcorn blockbuster, but it doesn't offer much in the way of substance or emotion. Tension is further reduced as more plot points are introduced that make fatal injuries and even death negligible. There is the whole "what if the world is destroyed" thing, but the general populus in Gantz is so stupid that you kind of like it when they die.
The characters are all either one dimensional or they ended up having development that was completely contrary to everything we had learned about them previously. They sometimes work as semi-clunky plot devices, but they are hit or miss overall. Any development they experience is to serve the plot, contrived, and spontaneous. They all invoke the "parents do not exist" trope to some extent, because Oku considered the prospect of writing more characters and was all like "dude, fuck work" and then I imagine he smoked a joint or two and had a marathon Idolm@ster watching session with Kentaro Miura and Yoshihiro Togashi. That said, a lot of the characters do manage to be entertaining, and, due to the high body count, only a few of them overstay their welcome. The few that do, I want to stab, but I also get some kind of masochistic pleasure out of watching them succeed and I imagine Oku bestowed plot armor upon them for this very purpose.
The art is, surprise, surprise: inconsistent. Some faces are far too similar, or just generally not well drawn. Early on especially, they often looked really wonky. Landscapes are usually lackluster in terms of scope, and creativity during battle. I remember in a scene that took place in Italy the art was just chaotically beautiful, and repulsive simultaneously; the atmosphere was incredibly unique as well and I found myself wishing it was like that all the time, but alas, it was not. The different settings were usually not disparate enough, atmospherically. The aliens are mostly creative and detailed, with some exceptions, such as the entire final arc. The action is sometimes a bit hard to follow, but is generally fluid and well executed from panel to panel. The fanservice was generally alright, albeit forced as all hell, but I found myself thinking that Oku believes all titties are identical and are all the size of basketballs. I was gonna fly out to Nippon with my porno collection to teach a nigga about the vast spectrum of areolas and give him a tit diversity tolerance course and shit, but he eventually learned the concept of "DFC" and I was reasonably satisfied.
The rushed ending and drawn-out final arc is where Gantz went completely wrong. Expect to hear a lot of name-yelling by tragically separated lovers, expect the concentration of plot armor to reach unprecedented levels, expect one of the least subtle manga ever to get even less subtle, and expect to watch the only truly interesting character in the series turn into an annoying and generic Hollywood hero. Every single character morphed into a complete cliché, for that matter; even if they were somewhat cliché before, they still had some individuality. In the end, there isn't a single compelling character.
If you want answered questions, then this is not the place to go. The plot points that were resolved (most were not) were all resolved with a ridiculously random deus ex machina evoking the age-old maxims of "it was [more] aliens" and "don't read too much into it." The ending itself is not only a complete shift from everything that came before in the manga, it is completely devoid of all logic to an extent that I had never seen before this manga. Trust me, no exaggeration, wait until you read it.
If you want mindless—and I do mean mindless—action, then you're in luck, because that's all Gantz really delivers on. That said, it delivers on this somewhat well and with a sense of humor. It is actually at its best when it's overblown, unrealistic, exploitative, and absurd. If you go into it knowing what to expect then you should end up enjoying it somewhat. I have to admit, the only other manga this length that I have reread as many times is probably One Piece. The final arc and horrendous ending drag the final product down pretty significantly, but it's still not bad
I said "Hollywood" three times in this review, but don't get me wrong, it isn't really like any Hollywood film. There are just some similarities in the intent.
If you are looking for a series that is 'good' in any way, i urge you to avoid Gantz like the plague.
I should clarify that i'm not necessarily offended by violence or sex; i'm a huge fan of other violent seinen such as Berserk and Vinland Saga. However, the author's main goal seems to have been to shock the audience as much as possible in order to give the illusion of quality.
In Gantz, people who die are faxed into a room by a black ball that hands out weapons, talks in 'leetspeak', and tells them to kill aliens. That is literally all the
story you need to know or will be told.
The first 100 or so chapters of Gantz are nothing less than loathsome, and this begins with the characters. The main character Kurano is an unlikable douchenozzle, and that's his only character trait (besides his misogyny, which we'll get to); his friend Masaru is equally shallow but is instead a 'white knight' to contrast with Kurano. The worst example is Kei, whose appearance is as a naked suicide victim and is shamelessly exploited by both the author and by the other characters. Kei is seems more like the author's blow up-doll than an actual character; she is constantly being molested or threatened with rape, and each of the early chapters is preceded by an official drawing of her in an explicit pose.
Characters don't have to be deep for a series to be good, but Gantz goes out of its way to make each character as shallow and unlikable as possible. Most of the minor characters that come to the Gantz room are gang rapists, and the main characters aren't much better. Somewhere around chapter 120 the main cast becomes somewhat interesting and likable, but at that point the series is caught in a vicious cycle between being really dumb and really offensive. The only character with a real arc is Kurano, and it can be summarized by 'got a girlfriend and became slightly less despicable'.
By far the worst part of this series for me was the way the female characters are treated. Even after the 100 chapters of exploiting Kei have ended, each female character introduced after that is completely defined by their crushes or codependency on one of the male characters, who treat them like garbage. This trend only gets worse as the series goes on.
Almost as bad is the relentless, naive cynicism at play. Every person who isn't a main character is portrayed as mean, stupid, and pointlessly cruel, especially the teachers (gives some insight into the author's life, possibly). Horrible things happen in this series for no reason other than to shock the reader. When a mass shooting occurs, it's because the author wanted to draw a bunch of people being machine gunned to death, not for any narrative reason (it is barely mentioned later on). In short, the world of Gantz is one that is frankly not worth saving, and this becomes tiresome to read.
The sole high point of Gantz are some of the intriguingly weird alien designs, especially early on, and the level that the art gets to later on. I personally found the art to be uninteresting, but you can't complain about its overall quality.
Against all of these criticisms, the other nitpicks i have seem irrelevant. The lack of any narrative flow, the poor pacing of each chapter, and the out=of-place story elements (there are vampires and psychics introduced that have nothing to do with the aliens, without any explanation at all).
If you want to read violent schlock, go read Hellsing (which is REALLY GOOD violent schlock). If what i just described sounds like your cup of tea, then god help you. If you like story, character, or investment on the part of the author, then find something else to read.
What can I say about Gantz? This dark seinen has been hailed a masterpiece by some, and utter trash by others. I would say that it is a bit of both, having some extremely good qualities and some glaring flaws which is enough to warrant the hate that it gets. However, it is not a bad manga at all, and I'll do my best to point out its pros and cons.
The thing that really stands out for me in this manga is the level of creativity on display. Seriously. It's goddamned glorious, from monster designs to all the crazy situations our characters find themselves in.
This is a rare and fascinating glimpse into an extremely inventive mind, and I guarantee you that some of these vivid images will stay with you. Crazy, crazy things happen in this manga that you will not soon forget, and some of the monster designs seen will undoubtedly crop up in your nightmares sometime. It's that remarkable.
Another great strength is the art. A lot of it is done digitally, and this creates a unique feel not seen in many other manga. Environments, faces, monster designs, everything looks pretty amazing, especially towards the end. There is the occasional visual clutter or stuff-up of human proportions, but overall the art is really really great.
I also liked the characters, which is something of a controversial opinion, given that many of the complaints regarding this manga has to do with the characters. Protagonist Kei Kurono is a complete douche-nozzle, but we see him evolve greatly and change as the story goes on, until he's a pretty great dude. Many other douche-bag characters exist, but I believe that these are deliberate social commentaries made by the author. He is trying to bring out the worst in people, highlighting the kind of scum that exists in society. I don't want to bring out any specific examples, but overall the use of characters in this manga is very good.
Now let's get to the story, which is the most bumpy element of this manga. At first, it was amazing. It genuinely felt like a horror to me, with shocking unpredictable moments at every turn. The social commentary was in full swing, and there were plenty of moments of complete badassery. I consider this the best stage of the manga, a kind of social horror that is full of moral choices and dilemmas that make even the reader question their own morality. The social commentary and badassery continue for a long time, but after a while you begin to notice the bad planning of this manga. Many story threads are picked up and then suddenly dropped, creating plot holes and too many unanswered questions. Things are left poorly explained or simply not explained at all. After a while, it feels like the author was really just freestyling the story. Sure, a lot of creativity and badassery remains, but it never recovers fully to the standard of the earlier chapters. I kept reading for the sake of it, frequently getting bored and not feeling the same kind of excitement I did before. Eventually it loses its horror edge and becomes more like a Michael Bay film in the last hundred or so chapters, which allows for some great action but overall is quite dull. Some extremely awesome moments still remain, but you'll likely be yawning frequently, despite the badassery on display. At this point the series has lost it's edge, becoming nothing more than dull gore and occasional sex.
Now don't get me wrong. This is still a great manga. However, given the length and the dullness of the later chapters, it does become kind of hard to recommend. This series contains some of the most awesome, creative monster designs, chaotic, mindblowing situations and really gripping, emotional drama, but it becomes increasingly more 'meh' as the series comes to a close. It's still pretty cool, just nowhere near as gripping as it used to be. Despite ending this review on a quite negative note, the manga's good parts are enough to warrant this a solid 8/10.