Gantz by Hiroya Oku is a series you've likely heard of by now for its exciting scenes and action, excessive blood and gore, and amazing art, but it also has something a little more unexpected—a lot of heart.
I will be touching on all of the commonly talked about strengths of Gantz in this post, but I also hope to offer a new perspective on the series, especially for those of you who may have dropped it or perhaps even wrote it off entirely from the jump, because there's so much more to the series than meets the eye and it evolves into something much deeper and the stakes grow increasingly higher as the chapters go on.
That all being said, here's 7 reasons to read Gantz. Before I get into the list, though, I want to talk about the ways you can collect Gantz and what it's about.
Ways you can collect Gantz
For those of you who may be new to Gantz or are thinking about getting into the series, I want to talk about the ways in which you can collect it briefly. Gantz can be collected with English translation via the Dark Horse singles or omnibuses. In France, they released Gantz Perfect Editions, so if you can read French, you may want to check these out on Amazon France as well.
The singles are unfortunately out of print, so they are hard as well as expensive to collect, but Dark Horse are currently releasing Gantz omnibuses if you’d like to pick it up at retail. The final omnibus should be released soon. I’m still holding out hope for a Gantz Deluxe Edition release, like they've done for Berserk, Hellsing, and Blade of the Immortal.
The Deluxe Editions are beautiful, high-quality releases and it would be even more incredible to read Gantz in a larger format. During a Dark Horse panel, they mentioned that Gantz is one of their top sellers, so here's hoping they do so one day!
What is Gantz about?
Gantz follows Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato, two high school students who die in a train accident and become part of a semi-posthumous "game" in which they and other recently deceased people are forced to track down and kill aliens armed with a handful of futuristic equipment and weaponry. The missions they go on typically result in the brutal and gory deaths of their targets as well as their teammates, with the survivors being returned to their daily lives until their next mission.
On their missions, they can rack up points, which allow them to revive a lost teammate, return to the real world for good, or upgrade their weapons. However, there are plenty of twists along the way—which I can't spoil here.
Why Gantz is worth reading
1) Gantz offers a unique perspective on human nature
Gantz follows two individuals who have opposing motivations that learn a lot from each other over the course of the series. On one hand, you have Kei, who has been cast out of his family’s life and is constantly berated by his peers at school. He doesn’t have all that much that excites him and he is painfully aware of just how cruel the world can be because people have shown him this fact time and time again.
Initially, when we meet him, he comes across as a selfish and uncaring individual, but as the story progresses, he becomes a more admirable character. Kei is one of those characters you may not like at first, but he develops as the series progresses and he becomes a hero to everyone around him.
On the other hand, Kato has real-world ties—namely, a younger brother who very much needs him. He has something that makes him want to stay alive and fight. Despite this, Kato is always throwing himself into harmful situations to save others, even at the expense of himself. He's such a good guy that some might say it's a fault, but he's someone that Kei, as well as many of us, aspire to be like.
Through a variety of characters, you see how Gantz affects each person differently. Some have lost everything and are ready to die, while others have things they want to live for and protect. Some characters have only the best of intentions, while others have darker and much more nefarious motives.
On one hand, Gantz is a reminder of how people can come together to overcome a crisis. On the other hand, it shows how stressful, life-threatening events can bring out the true nature of a person, and how a situation like this can further enhance the evil intent in some. Those who took advantage of others in the real-world now feel like they are free to do whatever they please in the Gantz world, so you see the best and worst of humanity in this series.
Most of the characters in this story die unexpectedly in the real-world, whereas in the Gantz world they are faced with a life and death situation time and time again as they battle against these insanely strong and terrifying aliens. To know you died once is enough, but to know you can die again, that’s a lot to take.
Gantz does offer some solace though, offering those with a certain number of points the opportunity to revive someone amongst other things, like the ability to leave entirely and never have to return to the Gantz room. By placing characters who know one another in the real world, it creates a unique predicament where characters might choose to place others over themselves or vice versa.
You also have people like criminals, who just want to destroy anything and everything around them without a care in the world as to who dies around them; almost as if they are in a video game. You have all different types of people in this story, so it really takes a look at human nature. Later on, more developments, which I can’t spoil, take an even further look at how we live through a different lens and the series becomes increasingly more deep and serious as it continues on.
In Gantz, we see the characters battle with themselves as much as we see them battle against the aliens, which I found to be interesting. As far as the aliens go, they don’t start out all that strong, and actually, I initially felt bad for them. The Onion Alien in particular is one that tugged at my heart strings. This is where we see the characters begin to struggle with themselves and their values. This becomes less prevalent over the course of the series as the aliens become drastically more difficult to fight, but at every step of the way, Gantz takes a good hard look at us humans and how we would behave in the face of insurmountable odds.
Series like Gantz and others like Battle Royale showcase morality well. The true nature of a person really comes out in the presence of stressful and life-threatening events. The gravity of it all would break some, further bring out their evil intentions, or push them to rise to occasion and better themselves.
Whether a person needs to be redeemed, like Kei, they are good from the start, like Kato, or they are just plain irredeemable like a lot of the criminals that get pushed into the world of Gantz, or they are down-right innocent in nature, like the dog or panda that come into this world...They all have to survive this new harsh reality. It’s how they handle it and how they let this situation affect them that matters the most.
For some, Gantz brings about the end, for others it offers a well-deserved and much needed second chance. The second chance to really make something of yourself, the second chance to make connections with others, the second chance to see and care for your loved ones. For some, like Takeshi, it offers a second chance to just be a kid, to live and feel loved in the way that he always deserved. All in all, Gantz is a series the delves deep into human nature and it has a unique perspective.
2) Gantz has some of the best art and character/alien designs in all of manga
One of Gantz’s biggest strong suits is its art. I do want to say that the art starts out good, but you really see Hiroya Oku's art evolve over the course of the series, especially when it comes to the characters and their facial expressions.
Hiroya Oku is one of my favorite artists of all-time and he is on another level when it comes to his panels. He has created some of the most crisp and highly-detailed panels I’ve ever seen in a manga. He really emphasizes the feeling of a moment and the gravity of the situation in his art, so they oftentimes evoke an emotional response.
Much of Gantz’s story is told through the art. Many times, we aren’t told how a character feels, but are instead shown it, so you do have to read between the lines in some occasions. I love this, because many things can be told through art and not words. What Hiroya Oku does well is show the emotions of our characters and we learn a lot about them through his panels.
Thanks to interviews, we know that he digitally renders his backgrounds, which are highly-detailed and realistic, but he draws his characters by hand. I love that he does this because it creates a strong contrast—as he stated—between the cold environment and the organic warmth of the characters. There’s a lot going on in his panels as well, but he does a good job at centering your focus and making sure that everything is easy to follow.
And then there's his sense of perspective, which is absolutely amazing. You really get a sense of how large the aliens are in comparison to us humans, and this makes their situation all the more grave, but you also get a sense of how small us humans are in the world also, whether that be in comparison to their environment or the aliens they are fighting against.
The designs of the aliens are the stuff of nightmares, like images out of a sci-fi horror, and they range from anything from simple humanoids to horrifying monsters resembling oni or even giant mecha. There are some pretty wacky concepts in Gantz, but his out-there yet highly intricate designs are one of the main reasons Gantz is impossible to ignore.
His designs really lean into horror and there are specific arcs in the series that lean more into horror than others, including body horror (aliens popping out of people, etc), so it’s pretty gruesome in nature. This is par for the course with a series of this kind and Hiroya Oku's designs bring the world of Gantz even more to life.
3) Gantz has a lot of substance and it will touch your heart
One thing I want to debunk is that Gantz has no substance. While it is a story that’s full of blood and gore and is action-packed, it is so much more than it appears. Gantz really takes a good hard look at us as humans, especially when we are backed in a situation where we are now facing life and death. A common theme of his works is what people would do if they are faced with extraordinary events or given extraordinary powers, as seen in his other series, which I also love, like Inuyashiki and Gigant.
This is a harsh situation with unbelievable stakes that get higher and higher as the chapters go on, so it makes sense that there will be a lot of dark and horrid times ahead for our characters, but there are moments of warmth as well. It’s bloody, it’s gory, and it’s dark, but just because it's bloody and gory, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have heart, because it definitely does.
While it does just give you an adrenaline rush most of the time, Gantz made me tear up on multiple occasions. It made me laugh sometimes as well, it made me say awe, while other times it made me say what the—, and there are some moments between the characters that really touch your heart. Muscle Man Rider (Kaze) and little Muscle Man Rider’s (Takeshi) interactions, Kei's interactions with Tae, and Kato's interactions with his brother, Ayumu, are a few that get me every single time.
It keeps your attention, knows how to be shocking, but it also knows how to touch your heart and hit you hard emotionally as well. It has some moments that will really stick with you forever. One for me is Taekshi’s backstory. It still makes me sad to this day and I will never ever forget it nor will I forget the heartwarming connection he formed with Kaze.
Gantz is one of those series that will warm your heart as much as it will break it. Hiroya Oku makes you feel for his characters deeply and you'll find yourself connected to their plight(s) as a result.
4) Gantz has great characters and an interesting group dynamic
You have a group dynamic that forms in Gantz, but you also have connections within that group dynamic that are incredible to witness, like Takeshi and Kaze, Kato and Kei, and Sakurai and Sakata that add more subplots and interest as well as emotional moments that connect you further to this story. You have characters that look up to one another, like mentors, but you also have a father-son-like relationship that begins to form as well, so you really see these characters bond with one another.
These characters and their individual stories, how they ended up in the Gantz world, and the struggles they face in the real world are part of what make Gantz such an incredible read. Yeah, the fights and the action and overarching storyline are intriguing, but so too are their individual stories.
5) Gantz is a fast-paced read, which sometimes works against, but mostly in its favor
I will say that Gantz has a tendency to just throw new plot points at you randomly without any explanation. Something new will happen that’s a complete development in the story. It’s usually suddenly left field which does keep you on your toes, however, some things don’t always get explained. This is kind of exciting because Gantz is unpredictable, but it can be jarring at times when these seemingly random elements pop into the story.
Here’s the thing that surprised me, though. I never cared when this would happen, because something would happen directly after that would reel me immediately back in and always keep me invested in the story and, for some reason, for me at least, it actually worked in Gantz's favor.
This is a huge feat for me, because where other stories somewhat rely on that explanation to keep you hooked, I never really felt like Gantz did because it was always so balls-to-the-wall, over-the-top in terms of its approach. With Gantz, something unexpected or somewhat unbelievable will happen in the story, but somehow it always felt completely plausible thanks to the type of worlds that Hiroya Oku builds and the circumstances he places his characters in.
With sci-fi there does need to be some sort of believability to the story, even though they are usually set in a realm that’s beyond our current understanding and is full of technological advancements that are currently out of our reach, but it’s also for this reason that he can get away with some lack of explanation.
That being said, things do happen later on that bring everything together in a way that will help you understand the why. As you read, the picture becomes clearer and clearer, so if you find yourself confused along the way, know that you are supposed to be...That is, until you’re not.
Much of Gantz’s appeal is that it is pure entertainment at its finest. It’s in-your-face, relentless and, because of this, it is a fast-paced read. There is one arc that I would consider somewhat of a breather from the action, because it gives us some character development, particularly with Kei, but for the most part, Gantz doesn’t let its foot off the gas.
Because of its fast pace, things sometimes don’t get fully fleshed out, but I don’t know that they need to. The point of this story is that these characters don't know when or if they’ll be transferred to the Gantz room. Where their lives were moving slowly at first, now they aren’t; almost like a run-away train spinning out of control. You never know when something’s going to happen and this makes you along with the characters uneasy.
Oddly enough though, when they are fighting the aliens, it feels like it’s never going to end while simultaneously moving way too fast at the same time. I’m sure this is what it would feel like in their shoes and he does a great job of conveying this.
6) Gantz is a cinematic experience on page
Gantz is a series that transcends the medium of manga for me because it feels like a cinematic experience even though you are experiencing it on the page. Out of all the manga I’ve read, Gantz has the most potential to be a blockbuster hit.
I feel this way partially because we know from interviews that Hiroya Oku is a film buff, and I got the sense that he is paying homage to all of the movies he loves in Gantz, but the scenes and everything that's in them jumps off the page thanks to his realistic and highly-detailed art.
When viewing the panels in Gantz, I can hear what’s happening, like the boom from an explosion, the sound of a giant alien’s feet crashing into the ground, their guns firing, etc. Everything that’s happening feels real and I can picture it all vividly in my mind thanks to the immense amount of detail and care that he puts into his art and scenes.
7) Gantz is excessive and over-the-top, but in a good way
Gantz is a story with many facets, so it can be a lot at times. That being said, it is quite excessive and over-the-top, but in a good way. Its excessive nature is what really drew me in, though, and the fact that it took inspiration from so many genres excited me.
It has all of the elements that make up a good action story—suspense, it's fun thanks to its over-the-top nature, amazing action scenes and fights—and it has otherworldly aliens and technological advancements that make it a compelling sci-fi. It also keeps you interested because you're always trying to discover more about the Gantz world along with the characters. There's even some romance involved as well.
There's also a lot that's happening in this story in general. There are some twists that pop up along the way that makes the story more intriguing and gives it even more weight than it already has. So, on top of having a story that is constantly evolving and always throwing new developments and characters into the mix, it's one that is relentless in terms of its approach as well. Everything from the blood and gore to the action is turned up to an eleven in this series, so it's a chaotic journey to say the least, but trust me, it's well-worth it by the end.
Gantz may not be inherently terrifying to us, because it’s a somewhat out-there concept that feels so far and different from our reality, but if you picture yourself in their shoes, it really is one of the scariest things to imagine. For this reason, I find Gantz to be as horrifying as it is entertaining, so not only is it one of the best action manga I’ve ever read, it’s one of the best sci-fi manga and best horror manga I’ve read to date too.
I hope you'll check Gantz out if you have yet to give it a shot! You can shop Gantz's manga now at one of the trusted manga retailers below. For a more in-depth review of Gantz and look at the manga, feel free to check out my video on YouTube below.