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Friday, February 13, 2009

Manga That Matters: Gantz

From time to time, or rather, most of the time, I have the tendency to chance upon good stuff on the internet. I would like to think that I'm just very good at it, but the truth could just be that there's so much good stuff out there that they're piling up for years now, while I'm just starting to discover them.

Yeah, I know. It's quite pathetic how far behind I am. I feel like I'm growing cobwebs & mushrooms. But that's one of the reasons why I've decided to take the new direction of this blog into this realm of pop culture.

Do not be fooled by the typical gun-wielding action cover art above. I was. Gantz is not like your typical manga. Well, it does retain the typical manga-ristics such as characters with super cool hairstyles that sway with the breeze, bodacious babes with big eyes, & extreme, unapologetic, gratituous violence.
But the telling of the story takes a more psychological approach that appeals more to the older readers, qualifying it as a seinen manga (for 18-30 years old). The story starts with a teenage boy with a bad attitude, bullying old people like Ah Ma here.

Then suddenly out of the blue, a stupid drunk guy just fell forward face down onto the tracks. In the high & mighty film language & literature, they'd call this a catalyst or a turning point, which is basically an event that changes the direction of the story. If you wanna know more, attend my classes!

That incident started the quiet debate (& guilt) about who's going to do something to help the unworthy bugger. And as expected of Japanese society (I think), nobody's budging ... until this tall dude decided to do something about it. It can't be a turning point if nobody did nothing.

Here, the intensity of the story starts to build up to a throbbing suspense, as we race against the clock, before the train arrives.

Obviously these dudes were too late.

And here we have the first gratituous must-have violence.

And here also lies a small twist. You see, the two dudes died but they somehow found themselves running into a room with other people who share a similar fate with them.

And then even more stranger things begin to happen.

I don't know about you, but the idea of the body laser-scanned into the room got me hooked. It turns out that these folks were then given a different mission to accomplish each time, like to hunt down an alien onion head. And if they die doing that (yes, I don't know how to explain that part about dying twice), they will be immediately replaced by new dead people.

Please don't look at me like that. It's not my fault. It's Japanese. They like things like that. It's 6 decades of accumulated effect from the atomic bomb you see. It explains a lot why they like tentacles, mutation, dismembered body parts, gushing blood, spilled-out guts & extreme physical violence & SM.

This extremely popular series was written and illustrated by Hiroya Oku & it was followed by an anime series which expectedly stayed very faithful to the original visual style & story.

Here's the opening sequence on YouTube. And the great thing about YouTube is that you can watch certain episodes there too. I love YouTube.

And the other great thing about YouTube is that some people actually uploaded the game version as well. Here's the cute bodacious dudette hunting down the poor misunderstood onion head alien who'd bribe you with his onions if he's cornered.

This is definitely one of the better manga around which has very well-rounded & believeable characters with depth.

A very well-rounded character with music video wind effect.

But as with all Japanese stories, the characters are not all there in your face. It takes time to slowly learn about them bit by bit, sort of like peeling an onion, layer after layer. The author is good at implanting those little bits of human responses & reaction (or lack of) into the action sequences. In that sense, the characters are more human in a Jackie Chan sort of way, well, minus Chris Tucker. Ok, not a very good example but nevertheless...

They are scared, they are unsure, they hesitate & they value life, unlike the overconfident, detached, ball-busting American superheroes (like Chuck Norris, even though I always thought he looked like a hairy beaver).

It's hard to put a manga like Gantz down once you start reading it cos the plot keeps you turning the pages & wanting to see what happens next. In fact, the visuals are so strong that you'd feel as if you're watching a live-action movie.

And of course, the big question here is What is really happening here & Who's behind all this? I have yet to find out & I doubt I'd have the time. Have to move on to other things.


Gab and Hee said...

That's a good review. Ive got so many manga downloaded I donno where to start. i think I will add this on my list as well.

Greg Wee said...

Hi Gab, you're always way ahead. :)

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