Comic Review: Gantz, Volume 23

Gantz, Volume 23
Written by Hiroya Oku
Art by Hiroya Oku
Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: June 20, 2012
Cover Price: $12.99

Gantz stands among my favorite anime series of all time. Having never read the manga, I assumed that I could take on the review of Gantz, Volume 23 and pick up the storyline with no issues. Rrrrright.

What originally drew me into the Gantz franchise was its unflinching exploration of cowardice. When faced with a situation of saving a stranger from certain death, would you act the part of a selfless hero or would you be paralyzed with self-preservation? Gantz creator Hiroya Oku‘s primary goal seems to be making his audience uncomfortable with his visuals and haunting premise. Gantz is notoriously violent. Bodies are pierced, ripped, pulverized, and shredded in every method imaginable. The extremely graphic violence and nudity are just window dressing for the story’s unique and disquieting themes of inaction, selfishness, and cowardice.

The series began with Kurono and Kato dying while saving a stranger who had fallen on a subway track. After death, they were transported to an apartment with several other people and a black sphere, called Gantz, in the middle. The sphere informed them that it owned them and forced them to play its game in which they had to kill a superpowered alien. If they survived the mission, they could return to normal life until the next mission. Gantz presented the group with weapons, equipment, and suits that significantly enhance their physical strength and abilities. At the end of the missions, Gantz scored each survivor’s performance. If they accumulated 100 points, they could either permanently return to normal life or revive a deceased teammate.

Gantz, Volume 23 is the third volume of the story arc entitled “Catastrophe.” In this story arc, Kato is trying to accumulate 100 points so that he can revive Kurono who died at the end of the first story arc. The Tokyo team is sent to the city of Osaka where they encounter another Gantz team. This group is appears to be hard-edged killers who have lapped 100 points several times over. They almost toy with their alien targets and even have a couple of groupie fan girls. The Gantz teams encounter a massive horde of alien invaders in Osaka. A scan of the aliens reveals that, among the masses, is a boss alien worth 100 points. Kato makes it his mission to kill this boss and use the points to revive Kurono.

This book picks up right in the middle of the alien invasion. The Gantz teams battle the aliens while attempting to hunt down Nurarihyon, the 100-point alien. This shapeshifting alien seems impossible to kill with its Wolverine-like self-healing powers. In fact, all of the boss-level aliens refuse to just stay dead — they prove much more difficult to kill than any of the teams’ previous targets. The battle-hardened Osaka team faces a deadly challenge with this hunt and will need the help of the Tokyo team if any of them are to survive.

Writer and illustrator, Hiroya Oku, draws his art on to computer-generated, 3D models of the manga scenes. The backgrounds, also prepared in 3D, are then converted into line art. The result is not the most original or expressive art. Many scenes have a photocopy quality with the characters appearing pasted on a background. The blood, guts, and nudity, however, divert attention from many of the artistic eyesores. The art is essentially an adequate presentation of Oku’s story ideas. Nothing more. The aliens in this story arc are based on Yokai, monsters from actual Japanese folklore. The end of the volume has a cool feature that gives a little background into some of the monsters’ origins.

As per usual with Gantz, expect grisly death scenes: beheadings, dismemberments, eyeball-poppings, disembowelings, and even suffocation by boobies are all mixed into the battle. If nothing else, Gantz is one of the most creatively gruesome comics available. If that’s your bag, start from the first volume and play catch-up — the story moves quick and is well worth the time and effort. Having watched the anime or live action films will not help much if you start the manga at this point. This volume is one giant fight scene that continues what will undoubtedly be an epic war between the two Gantz teams and the alien invaders.

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