Comic Picks By The Glick

Gantz: G vol. 1

August 13, 2018

For all its flaws, “Gantz” never bothered with filler arcs.  Sure, there were some storylines that probably would’ve benefitted from judicious editing, but every arc served to push the main story forward in some way.  There were never any arcs that took the focus away from the main characters and showed us how another group went about killing the alien of the week. Why am I bringing this up?  With mangaka Hiroya Oku’s return to his signature series, just as a writer with Keita Iizuka providing the art, he has seen to rectify this grave oversight and give us the “Gantz” filler arc that we’ve been deprived of for so long!

This volume starts off with a bunch of high school students on a bus for a class trip.  They’re doing a round of karaoke before the bus goes out of control and plunges off a bridge and into the sea.  Everyone who’s reading this can probably guess what happens next: The kids and adults on the bus wake up in a room with a black orb that informs them their old lives are over and it will decide how their new lives are used.  Which will be to hunt down whatever aliens it wants them to. Their first target is the Beast Alien and all of its friends in a nearby zoo.


It’s worth noting that Oku started this series after he was a few volumes into “Inuyashiki,” his series about two people who wind up being turned into androids with incredible power.  One of them is a saintly old man who uses his new abilities to save others and generally make the world a better place.  The other is a callous teenager who sees what’s happened to him as the chance to do whatever he wants, which at first involves killing whoever he wants.


For me, “Inuyashiki” was the manga incarnation of the sentiment “GET OFF MY LAWN YOU DAMN KIDS!”  Oku was clearly using the series to work through his disdain, if not outright contempt, for the younger generation and he went about doing it in the most ham-fistedly black-and-white way possible.  If you’re thinking that mindset has found its way into “Gantz: G” then you might be right. Either that, or Oku is just being really lazy here.


Honestly, either answer feels correct to me after reading this first volume.  Nearly all of the characters can be boiled down into a single personality type -- the cool one, the shy one, the popular one, the nerdy one -- if they’re even lucky enough to get one.  Even though this manga is in black and white like so many others, I could tell that there were a lot of redshirts in this class. The vast majority of this class is clearly intended to be fodder for the Beast Alien and his cohorts, but those who survive don’t really seem all that more interesting than those who died right away.


That includes the ostensible protagonist of this series, Kei Kurona.  Yes, you read that right. She’s got almost the exact same name as “Gantz” protagonist Kei Kurono.  While Kurono at least had his unlikability to define him from the start, Kurona doesn’t have any notable personality traits.  She does flash her panties at the reader early on, but I’m too old and jaded for that to be considered a plus. It’s not giving too much away to say that she survives to the end of the volume and her determination to bring back the boy she sang karaoke with at the beginning of the volume is going to drive her motivation to keep fighting through the subsequent two volumes.  It’s a goal at least. I’d be more interested in it if the boy she was determined to bring back wasn’t even blander than she is.


For all of these flaws, there’s at least one thing that this first volume of “Gantz:  G” gets right: the action. Once the introduction is out of the way and the aliens show up, the story slips back into the flow of its parent title.  Even if the core cast is deeply uninteresting, there’s still some excitement to be had seeing them try to outsmart these aliens masquerading as hybrid animals and the terror of the Beast Alien himself.  While the action was happening and people were shooting futuristic weapons, running scared, or dying gruesomely, I was at least able to convince myself that this was a serviceable side-story to the main series.  It helps that artist Iizuka does a pretty convincing facsimile of Oku’s style. It’s not 100% and he’s not as skilled as Oku at getting the characters to mesh with the CG backgrounds, but it’s good enough.


So if you were really depressed that “Gantz” ended after 37 volumes and have been jonesing for more ever since, then “Ganz:  G” is going to be your only choice. This first volume gives every indication that it’s a condescending/lazy cash-grab, at least when the humans and aliens aren’t fighting.  If you’ve never experienced “Gantz” before and are still in touch with your inner fifteen-year-old (boy) then please don’t start with this -- go read the first omnibus edition instead.


As for me, I’ll keep buying this series.  Not for purposes of hatereading -- it’s too boring for that.  No, I’m going to keep buying this because “Gantz” is one of the manga titles that I double-stack on my shelves and at 37 volumes that means it doesn’t split evenly.  As “Gantz: G” is only three volumes it’ll bring the total series count out to 40 and allow for a perfect split. Unless you’re a “Gantz” superfan I can’t think of another reason to give this series a look.

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