Now here’s something we haven’t seen in a while: Moments in “Gantz” that actually invoke feelings beyond simple excitement or suspense. Things kick off with a young brother and sister trying to cope with the fact that they’re about to be “processed” at one of the alien factories. Mangaka Hiroya Oku singles them out amongst the crowd of other humans and manages to really make you feel for the plight of these kids who are even less well-equipped to deal with their plight than those around them. Then you’ve got Sakurai, the psychic, who’s on a revenge bender after his girlfriend was killed by the aliens. While all of the monsters he’s killed up to this point have been trying to kill him as well, now he has to face the realization that he’s become the murderer now. Whether or not he’s able to come back from this… well, that’ll be interesting to see. Then we have Nishi, who actually displays a thought beyond his own self-interest. I can’t say that his actions here redeem him from his schoolroom slaughter several volumes back, but it at least makes me amenable to the idea of him dying a heroic death.
As for the efforts of the various Gantz members in their fight against the aliens, an interesting twist is served up in this volume. I won’t say what it is, but it certainly throws a wrench into their plans as the aliens seek to make them the bad guys in this conflict. Then you’ve got Tae’s ongoing “Perils of Paulene”-esque plight through the city. While she survives the curiosity of the alien mom, the girl still has to deal with curious little alien girls, and surviving a hunt after being baited in. Toss in the aliens we see in a new area at the end of the volume, and you have even more signs that “Gantz” is back on the right track after a long stretch of mediocrity. Yeah, the best it can hope for at the end at this point is, “It’s good, even though it starts to suck after vol. 20 -- but it eventually gets better towards the end.” Yet it appears the series has managed the difficult trick of pulling itself out of the hole it made. Is it a momentary trick or a sustainable trend? I want to believe it’s the latter.