Anticlimactic. That’s the word I would use to summarize volume ten of Gantz. After finishing book nine I was chomping at the bit to see what would happen next, but alas things didn’t pan out quite as I had hoped. Leading on from the events of the last chapter, a stocky alien arrives at Kei’s school and proceeds to slaughter most of his classmates. Clearly said extra terrestrial was not impressed by the curriculum being taught. At the end of volume nine we were left wondering if Kei could survive the alien invader’s rampage and what the long-term ramifications of a non-human creature appearing in a public place would be.
Well the battle between Kei and the homicidal monster ends up being a damp squib as it all gets wrapped up in just a few pages. Kei lands the final blow, courtesy of his explosive ray gun, but at that point his opponent was practically beaten after a SWAT team shows up and riddles the blighter full of lead.
So that leaves us with the aftermath of the attack. What would the authorities make of an alien showing up in broad daylight and massacring a classroom full of innocent children? Not much it seems. Granted Kei’s blaster pulverized the alien into mush, conveniently leaving little evidence of its existence, but I would have expected a more thorough investigation given the body count left in the creature’s wake. The police simply let Kei go on his merry way and ask him not to speak about the incident with anyone. Wow, that’s ineptitude on the scale of the Springfield police department. I suppose those in power may be feigning ignorance to cover-up a potential alien invasion, but as a reader it felt like the author was just taking an easy way out to maintain the story’s status quo.
A potentially life changing incident is thereby swept under the rug leaving Kei to concentrate on bonking the mousey girl his now deceased chums dared him to date in the last manga. Although said girl may not have been Kei’s first choice for a partner their relationship seems to be progressing swimmingly, culminating in the couple adopting a hamster (they had to settle for a rodent as adopting a child from an impoverished nation was impossible, due to the fact that Angelina Jolie has snapped them all up.)
With Kei’s role in the story being reduced to a minor romance tale the manga decides to shift its focus on introducing two new characters, possibly as the author has just realized that he needs to start repopulating the cast list after killing off so many people in the prior volumes. The first new face we meet is Hiroto Sakurai who has been ditching school and not because he fears getting murdered by an E.T. Hiroto has been skiving class to avoid a group of bullies who have driven him to the verge of suicide. After meeting a mysterious psychic Hiroto acquires the power of telekinesis, which he decides to use to confront his high school tormentors. The resulting encounter is brutal, proving that Gantz doesn’t always need to use aliens to subject graphic violence upon its readership.
The final few chapters follow another Gantz debutant who goes by the name of Daizemon Kaze. Daizemon is a giant of a man whose appearance is reminiscent of Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star. When we first meet him he is travelling across the city on a pilgrimage to test his martial arts prowess. One by one we see him effortlessly pound on hoodlums making me wonder, for a moment, if I had mistakenly bought an issue of Street Fighter instead of Gantz. Eventually he arrives at the Mecca of trouble that is Kei’s school, asking the students there to present him with a worthy adversary. As you may have guessed, the school’s delinquents volunteer Kei to be Daizemon’s challenger. The resultant bout tests if a battle hardened beefcake can match a scrawny kid who happens to be supercharged thanks to one of Gantz’s technologically advanced bondage suits.
When assessing this volume of Gantz I cannot help but feel like a bit of a hypocrite. I’ve previously criticized the series for wasting too much valuable page space with action at the expense of building up characters. Volume ten addresses those complaints by giving both Hiroto and Daizemon substantial origin stories, but I couldn’t help but feel a little bored whilst reading them. Perhaps my opinion was tinged by the unsatisfactory way the preceding battle with the Shorty alien played out. I probably shouldn’t be too harsh, as the series is clearly going through a transitional period leading up to a more stimulating alien hunt staring a brand new group of hunters.
Either way Gantz continues to toy with my expectations. Just when I feel that the comic is nothing more than mindless torture porn, it hooks me in with a surprising twist, only to then lose me with a mediocre follow-up volume. Although this release didn’t wow me I am still curious to see what plans creator Hiroya Oku has up his sleeve. At the very least the introduction of a human terminator and a guy with telepathic powers should result in some exciting alien battles if, as expected, Hiroto and Daizemon end up joining Kei as participants in Gantz’s twisted life or death game.