Volume nine of the Gantz manga chronicles the fourth alien hunt Kei Kurono has been forced to participate in. For the first time in the series, since Kei was mowed down by a train and subsequently resurrected by the sadistic Gantz, Kurono is forced to battle his extra terrestrial prey solo. Kei is out of allies after his companions were brutally butchered in the preceding hunt, which pitted them against the statue like warriors residing at a temple. Our reanimated protagonist has to contend with not only the alien menace in front of him, but also with the mental trauma plaguing his thoughts as he comes to terms with the loss of his friends.
The target of this latest hunt is a group of diminutive creatures, which Gantz has comically christened “Shorty Aliens.” Despite their petite stature the blighters pack a mean punch and move super fast. Kei may be a veteran of these hunts, but with no comrades to aid him (or at the very least act as a disposable distraction) the odds are not looking in his favor. The resourceful Kei does however manage to outwit his adversaries, eventually disposing of most of them. One sole survivor remains however and the remaining being proves to be too cunning to fall for Kei’s trickery. When the two scrap it is clear that Kei is outmatched to the point that he is ultimately forced to flee in terror.
For the first time in the series the human force summoned by Gantz fails to complete their mission. The penalty for failing to eliminate all of the aliens within the one-hour time limit proves to be an interesting one. Until this point I had assumed that failure would equal death, but Kei’s punishment is arguably just as cruel, especially when you consider that the stress of it all is tipping him over the edge. Another consequence of not killing all of his targets is that the surviving Shorty remains at large, roaming the streets seeking vengeance against the human that murdered his brethren. It’s a mistake Kei doesn’t get much time to rue as the alien tracks him down to his school, where it begins to slaughter the students based there.
Out of the nine Gantz comics I have read thus far I would rank this one as my favorite. Having previously watched the Gantz anime I was somewhat bored by the early manga chapters, as they covered events I had already seen. Thankfully, starting with volume eight, things have started to pick up. Anyone in a similar position to myself may consider this book a good jumping on point given how the chapters contained within begin to explore material that goes beyond what we got in the animated version. After reading this installment I have gone from wanting to drop the series to rushing out to read the next book.
As always the artwork is excellent and the large panels make the action very easy to follow. The opening battle on the city rooftops was exciting and I especially liked how the Shorty aliens are telepathic. This gives them the ability to communicate with Kei, unlike many of the other aliens he has faced. The manner in which they goad him make them feel like a genuine enemy as opposed to incomprehensible wild animals that have to be put down. Ironically now that Kei is by himself we are getting a better understanding of his character. As he has no one to talk to the reader is presented with thought bubbles giving some insight on his thoughts.
Needless to say I really enjoyed volume nine of Gantz. The gory action is always entertaining and I am especially curious to see were the story will progress from here. Now that an alien has appeared in a public place and started murdering innocents the status quo of Gantz dealing only with hidden alien hunts has been shattered. What will the long-term ramifications be? Also what is to become of Kei as he slowly creeps towards becoming a psychopath who revels in the bloodlust of wiping out aliens, just like Nishi before him. His memories of childhood friend Kato have kept his humanity in check, but how much more will it take before he snaps? I cannot wait to find out.