Gantz (ガンツ, Gantsu) is a manga and anime series written by Hiroya Oku. It tells the story of a teenager named Kei Kurono who dies in a train accident and becomes part of a semi-posthumous “game” in which he and several other recently deceased people are forced to become bounty hunters to hunt down and kill aliens. The missions in which they embark upon are often dangerous and many died again each mission.
Upon the completion of each alien killing mission, points will be awarded to each of these hunters, according to their performances. Hunters who died during each mission will be replenished by new recruits of recently deceased people in the next mission.
Basically, the story set-up is like an elaborate video game. Here’s an abstract from Wikipedia on the rules of the “game” in Gantz:
Gantz forces them to participate in what at first appears to be a reality game show, in which they hunt aliens who are secretly living in Japan. Gantz provides them with strength enhancing-skinsuits, guns, and radar. Each participant has a miniature explosive implanted in their brains that prevents them from wandering outside the designated playing field, much like the explosive collars in the series Battle Royale. The designated area is roughly one square kilometer; if the participants cross this boundary or tell anyone of the secrets of Gantz and the apartment, the explosive will detonate.
If the players manage to survive the mission, they return to the room in perfect health (even if they were nearly dead or missing limbs). Those who are killed during the mission do not return to the room. Gantz then tallies individual scores based on kills and sets them free, only to have them return to play another time. Points are awarded both according to the number of kills achieved by the player and by the equipment used by the player.
Those who manage to accumulate 100 points are given one of three choices:
1. Be set free with their memories of Gantz and the games wiped.
2. Receive an “ultimate weapon”
3. Be able to bring back to life someone from GANTZ’s memory bank.
In the event that the one-hour mission duration is reached without all targets being eliminated, all of a player’s points are revoked, and his or her score goes back to zero.
None of the rules are actually explicitly given to the players, with the exception of the 100 point menu, which is either given automatically when a player reaches or exceeds 100 points. In every other case the players have learned of their rewards and penalties only after they have been earned.
Instead of being given any training or a list of rules, the participants are simply told to kill their target, and are only shown one or two enemy profiles which are often not representative of the full complement or ability of their opponents. They are not given any useful information on their enemies’ capabilities or weaknesses, or the number of enemies to expect. Unfortunately for the players, the rules of the game (as well as the capabilities of the suits, the use of the weapons, and the scoring system) are learned by one of two ways: either by institutional memory (i.e. a veteran explaining to a newcomer how the game works), or by trial and error, the latter usually resulting in the death of one or more players.
The end result is that the newcomers are entirely dependent on the goodwill of the veterans for crucial information that may be their only hope of survival; in the hypothetical event that the entire compliment of veterans is wiped out, any future group of newcomers would be utterly at the mercy of their circumstances; their only hope of survival would be their own guile, cunning, and the ability to quickly figure out and utilize the tools provided. Gantz sometimes gives hints to the hunters about what they should do, but it rarely happens.
When I read the first volume, I was immediately hooked. I was captivated by how an ordinary, selfish teenager like Kei can end up as a hero in another world. The characters in the story all have flawed personalities, yet some were able to go perform extraordinary deeds to protect perfect strangers from violence, and possibly death. This adds a strong realism flavour to the manga, increasing the believability factor, in spite of the far-fetched sci-fi computer game rules.
The manga series is still ongoing and I recommend it for those who like realistic violence stories which trigger you to think about humanity. If you enjoyed the cult classic movie, Battle Royale, you will definitely enjoy Gantz. However, do note that the manga has a M18 rating for violence and nudity.
Oh, and here’s the trailer of the anime if you want a preview of Gantz:
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