Saturday, 10 January 2009

Gantz : Tentative Impressions

I finished the second volume of the Gantz manga yesterday, and to be quite truthful i wasn't overly impressed. Perhaps this will change with re-reads, but that's why these are 'tentative' impressions rather than anything else.

I'll start with the art, since all of the reviews i've read have a tendency to gush about it. The mangaka (artist) has quite an interesting technique, which is (quite admirably) explained at the end of the first volume:

"First, Hiroya Oku drew out a rough storyboard...then the talented staff created 3D images on the computer based on the storyboard...these would form the studies that Hiroya Oku would use to trace his drawings...these are drawings of the characters. Once they were done by pen they were scanned into a computer...The background, which was drawn in 3D, was simplified into lines. It looks so good you'd think an amazingly talented assistant drew them...the characters and backgrounds were merged and colour was added..."

As the writer generously admits (in reference to the backgrounds):

"Of course, since they're drawn on a computer, they lack that wamrmth you get from something done by hand."

I totally agree with that sentiment, and i'd go even futher with this manga. The backgrounds are characterless and exude a weird sterility, similar to the sort of thing that happens when 3D animation is clumsily incorporated into anime. The character art is a little better, although they do have a strange, mannequin-like quality. The one piece of character art that really shines is, ironically, the adult 'onion alien', one of the only non-human characters. The artist doesn't seem very adept at representing anything like a wide range of human expression, the androgynous hero is the main culprit, his facial expression flitting between anger, fear and confusion, all of which look pretty much exactly the same.

Don't get me wrong, the quality of the art is technically very good, but it lacks something that the more 'messy' hand-drawn styles have. I'm talking about something like Mushishi; That's how to do manga right.

Here's a comparison of the two for your consideration (click for a larger image):

And i wish that was where the criticism ended, because while the art is important it's not the be-all and end-all. Unfortunately, the writer seems to follow the Lost school of thought that replaces plot and depth with mystery and half-baked ideas.

Again, this is hardly a sin unique to Gantz. Like most serialised manga, it drip-feeds information at a painstakingly slow pace. Two volumes through and i still have no idea what's going on, and more importantly, why i should care. Action scenes are great, i've got nothing against them. The action scenes in Gantz are head and shoulders above average. Unfortunately they tend to stretch out to many pages in length, to a point where even the most interesting and skilfully drawn action sequence would become boring.

Characterisation is rudimentary at best. The lead (Kei) is a whiny little prick who you'll learn to dislike pretty quickly. The dialogue and general conversational structure that occurs between characters seems very forced and false to me, but that may well be the result of a poor translation.

And finally, the sex and the violence. Much has been made about the explicitness (even by manga standards) of Gantz, and although nubile young women and severed arteries are no subsititute for what the manga lacks, they do go a long way.

So there you have it. It's a bloody, brainless, sexual manga masquerading as a bloody, brainy, sexual manga. I enjoyed reading it, but only just.

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