Review: Gantz Vol. 36

Volume 36 of Gantz is the penultimate volume of the series and the best volume in quite some time; though, that's not saying much. The centerpiece of this volume is the main characters finally finding out what this whole entire series has been about.  I won't spoil it for you if you're one of the poor souls struggling to limp along with this series to its finish, but it's not the most unsatisfying reveal I have ever seen in a manga.  Big, ambitious series like Gantz usually just drag things along until they're forced to give an explanation, and it's typically one that just keeps the story plodding along without much direction (I'm looking at you, Billy Bat).  I am sure some readers will be underwhelmed at how simple the explanation of this series is, but at least it's an explanation at all, let alone one that makes sense and is final.

The problem I had with this chapter is that the reveal of what this series has been about took a back seat to Gantz's obsession with overwrought emotional drama stemming from a bunch of characters who can't let go of loved ones.  This has been a constant theme of Gantz, and I've never been happy with how it's executed: the series constantly acts as if it's not really about alien wars and tries to plunge deeper into meditations about one's own death and the loss of loved ones.

Gantz-Vol-36But there's a difference between exploring the concept of death and constantly pelting the reader with situations in which characters demonstrate that they have no clue how to deal with death.  Gantz, instead of offering any novel or nuanced take on the impact death has on us and the ones we love, offers caricatures of people who have no idea how to grieve and refuse to take stock of their very small place in a big, scary, infinite universe.

Maybe there's a point to that: maybe Oku is out to demonstrate how unwilling the average human is to face the reality of their inevitable death, and these characters are a parody of that real attitude.  There might be some truth to that.  On that interpretation, Gantz can be seen as being a series about the willingness of people to fight wars, both figurative and literal, rather than deal with the inevitability of death.

That sounds nice, but I think it is way too charitable.  If that's true, then I should be looking down on nearly all of the main characters, especially the two main protagonists.  I should be pitying them, I should see them as pathetic, I should be rooting for them all to go off and just die.  That's strange.  And yes, Gantz is a strange manga, but I am guessing the average person reading this series is rooting for all these loving couples to end up back together, which runs completely counter to the only way I could read this series and not want to gag.

Anyway, if we just ignore all the messy philosophical bull shit, the American squad is knee-capping the last giant aliens in the war and the fight scenes are pretty bad-ass.  If I turn off my brain while reading Gantz, it's a nice mix of violence, boobs, and half-wrought philosophical drivel that you would hear from a kid who read a few pages of Nietzsche and Marcus Aurelius in high school before going out and buying his first fedora.

Score: 3/5

Gantz Vol. 36 Writer/Artist: Hiroya Oku Publisher: Dark Horse Comics Price: $13.99 Release Date: 7/22/15 Format: Trade Paperback, Print/Digital