Gantz Omnibus Volume 2
Hiroya Oku (Writer and Artist), Studio Cutie (Letters), Matthew Johnson (Translation)
Dark Horse Comics
19 December, 2018
The mysterious Gantz, a metallic sphere with the ability to duplicate people into a netherworld upon their death, has sent his ‘soldiers’ on a new mission. Somewhere in Tokyo, a group of Tanaka aliens are about to attack. Gantz’s soldiers need to destroy them.
On Kei Kurono’s first mission from Gantz, he had come across a particularly strange young man, Nishi, who had a propensity for violence. Now Nishi finds himself in dire straits, and because of his earlier actions, nobody wants to help him. All except Masaru Kato, a selfless fighter with strong leadership abilities. But the aliens are almost impossible to defeat, and worse, they contain a secret within their forms. Can Kei, Kato, and the others make it out alive?
I have read very little manga in my life but did not expect it to be vastly dissimilar from the western comic books I read on a regular basis. The reading style is a bit different—back to front and right to left—but it is simple enough to get accustomed to. This is one of those rare stories that could have done with a touch more exposition. The backstory of how the characters became Gantz’s soldiers is fascinating, but one wouldn’t know without researching it first. The story works on its own in this omnibus but there is a richness that you can’t enjoy without context.
Having said that, once I got my bearings in the story, Gantz was a fairly easy read. There are a number of characters, but most of them look different enough for readers to tell them apart. The world of the story is strange but, even in this one omnibus, there is enough information to fill you in. I did feel I needed to do some research after reading the book, and it has given me a better understanding of the world of Gantz, but the research isn’t necessary.
There is relatively little sex in this book, but its presence is still uncomfortable. The two main female characters—Kei Kishimoto and Sei Sakuraoka, both get overtly sexual introductions. Kishimoto, who is 15 (she looks it), is sexually assaulted within two panels of appearing in the book. Sei barely says a few sentences to protagonist Kei Kurono before being propositioned by him and then agreeing to a sexual encounter.
Both Kishimoto and Sei are hyper-sexualised throughout, and objectified by most people, even the Gantz sphere. A large majority of the covers feature Kishimoto in various states of undress (not so for the male characters), which is both confusing and annoying. The covers rarely have anything to do with the story within, and seem to serve only one purpose—to attract straight male readers.
Even more frustratingly, the female characters are given little to do. Though Kishimoto displays amazing skill in fighting the aliens, the protagonist of the story is Kei Kurono, who seems to get by more on dumb luck than talent, which Kishimoto has in abundance. By the second half of the book, when the group, alongside new members, are trying to take down the Buddhist Temple aliens, Kishimoto is grouped among the civilians, even though she has a super-suit like Kei and Kato. Why isn’t she in the midst of the fighting?
Also, Kei Kurono is an awful protagonist! Apart from only making it out alive by the skin of his teeth, he is self-centred and self-obsessed, and treats women like they owe him for every kindness. His treatment of both Kishimoto and Sei is deplorable, pushing him firmly into villain territory instead of just a run-of-the-mill anti-hero.
None of this would be as jarring if not for the fact that Gantz was written in the 21st century. Alongside the objectification of female characters was copious amounts of fat-phobia and homophobia, giving me the feeling that the sensibilities of this story belonged to a bygone era. It took me out of the book and affected my enjoyment of the narrative.
The story itself is interesting though the action scenes often felt like they were needlessly drawn out. From what I understand, Gantz was published as a bi-monthly serial, and it feels like panels were added to eke out the pages, instead of bringing the story to its rightful conclusion.
Hiroya Oku’s art is gorgeous and detailed. I tend to be disappointed by black and white art but Gantz is stunning. Oku’s ability to create depth of field within the monotone hue makes the world come alive for readers. It is no wonder that Gantz is such a popular manga—you can practically live inside it.
I enjoyed reading most of Gantz. It’s an innovative story that is constantly evolving, with so many twists and turns that you can’t stop reading. Unfortunately, Gantz’s outdated sensibilities took me out of the story too many times for me to have a completely enjoyable experience. As curious as I am about what happens next, I don’t see myself picking up the next omnibus.