Hi! I’m Mokugyo, the MANGA.TOKYO writer who just loves anime and manga! Japan’s education system is a little different than the rest of the world, and March is graduation season over here. It’s the time when students who have graduated middle school and high school prepare to move on to their next stage in life. Also, many companies start their fiscal year from April. I wish all those people good luck in their new environments!
Speaking of new environments, Gantz is a story which takes place in a new and harsher world. In the anime, people who have died come back to life and battle with mysterious aliens. Today, I would like to talk about Gantz’s new CG-anime movie adaptation, Gantz: O!
What is Gantz?
Gantz is a manga series written by Hiroya Oku, popular for its fine computer-graphics, violent scenes, and sexy characters. It was serialized in Weekly Young Jump from 2000 to 2013. Weekly Young Jump is one of the bestselling manga magazines in Japan for young men. The magazine publishes popular manga such as Terra Formars (a sci-fi action story in which the characters battle enormous cockroaches), Tokyo Ghoul (a dark fantasy illustrating the battle between humans and cannibalistic ghouls), and Kingdom (a war story which takes place during the Warring States periods of ancient China). All of these manga have gotten anime adaptations and have many fans. Gantz is no exception, and its manga series has a circulation of over 21 million volumes.
Kei Kurono and Masaru Katou are high school students who both die in the same train accident. However, they both come back to life, and find themselves waking up in a room inside an apartment building. In the room, there are other people who also have come back to life. They are eventually given orders by a mysterious spherical object called ‘Gantz’ to battle with aliens. The story illustrates the battle of these risen humans against unique creepy creatures.
Gantz was adapted into an anime in 2004 and into two live-action movies in 2011.
What is Gantz: O?
Official Teaser Trailer of Gantz: O
Gantz: O is the most recent movie adaptation of Gantz which was released in October 2016. It is the first work of the Gantz series to be fully made using computer graphic imagery. Out of all the Gantz adaptations, this movie expresses the charms of the original story to the highest degree.
The movie features the Osaka Arc of the original story, which is very popular with Gantz fans; the subtitle ‘O’ comes from ‘Osaka’. The Osaka Arc is illustrated in the manga from volume 21 to 25, and it takes place right in the middle of the original story. However, In the movie adaptation, the original story is slightly changed, so it would be easier for those who are seeing Gantz for the first time to understand the storyline and the setting. It is wonderful how the original story was reformed in the movie by keeping all the good aspects of Gantz. Gantz: O illustrates the spectacular battle in Osaka between humans and the aliens inspired by youkai (ghosts from Japanese folklore).
Aliens Based on Japanese Youkai
The Gantz series is famous for its unique alien designs. All the aliens which appear in the Osaka Arc are inspired from youkai, traditional Japanese supernatural monsters.
For example, in the trailer movie above, the alien which appears around 0:27 has only a mouth on her face and is wearing a kimono. This figure is based on the youkai Ohaguro Bettari (Sticky Black Teeth). It is said that this youkai scares people by showing them her face which has no nose or eyes. ‘Ohaguro’ is the black make-up worn on women’s teeth. It was a custom followed by women until the 1900s. Although this custom seems a little creepy, it is said that it was done to get rid of cavities and to keep the teeth strong.
The youkai which appears at 0:31 is called Tengu. It has a red face, long nose, and is wearing a Buddhist priest’s uniform. It is a very well-known youkai, and has appeared in many fictional stories. It is said that this youkai flies in the sky using its wings and plays pranks on people.
The youkai which appears at 0:34 and has sickle-like hands is called an Amikiri (Net Cutters). In folklore, Amikiri cuts fishing nets into pieces and troubles fishermen.
Another youkai which appears at 0:34 is Nurarihyon, the alien leader in the movie. It is one of the most famous youkai in Japan, and is often illustrated as the boss of all youkai. In the TV anime GeGeGe no Kitaro, which was broadcast in the 1980s, Nurarihyon was illustrated as the youkai’s commander. There is even an anime titled Nurarihyon no Mago (Nura: Rise of the Youkai Clan), which is an action story featuring the grandson of Nurarihyon.
As you can see, Gantz: O is not only a sci-fi action movie, but it also includes unique aspects of ghosts from Japanese folklore.
Osaka, The Setting of Gantz: O
Gantz: O takes place in Osaka, one of the major cities in Japan and almost as famous as Tokyo. If people were asked to name some major cities in Japan, I’m sure most of them would answer Tokyo or/and Osaka. In this movie, the cityscape of Osaka is faithfully recreated and depicts many famous vivid signboards.
In general, people who are born and bred in Osaka are thought to be powerful, friendly, and funny (of course, there are people to whom this image does not apply.) In Gantz: O, the members of the Osaka team seem to be more used to the Gantz battles than the Tokyo team. The powerful nature of the Osaka team members expresses the exact image of the city of Osaka. If you understand Japanese, you can tell how the members of the Osaka team speak a different dialect from the Tokyo team members.
In the original manga of Gantz, the story takes place in Tokyo and the surrounding areas until it moves on to the Osaka Arc. The rule of the Gantz battle is that it ends whenever the last enemy is defeated, but it is extremely difficult to survive these battles in the first place. The Osaka Arc illustrates the power of the people who have survived many Gantz battles and have obtained strong weapons. This arc also shows the readers the wide variety of ways to fight in the Gantz battles. The Osaka team members demonstrated some new ways of fighting, which the Tokyo team members could not figure out themselves. Gantz: O is a story in which the members of the Tokyo team and the Osaka team fight together.
In the manga series, the story moves on to the battles held in cities overseas after the Osaka Arc. The Osaka Arc was one of the story’s turning points in which the scales of the battles became bigger in preparation for the final battle.
I recommend that you watch Gantz: O, even if you have never seen Gantz before. The storyline is not too difficult to understand, so if you are okay with violent scenes, I’m sure you can enjoy the movie. The original manga series of Gantz includes much more erotic, grotesque, and violent scenes, and that is one of the reasons why it gained so much popularity. If you ever have the opportunity, I recommend you read the original manga series as well. There is no other sci-fi action manga like Gantz which includes this much entertainment and uses the latest CGI technology for its animation.