Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Manga for the Comics Guy - Gantz Volume 10

When reading a long form story, told by the same author, there's a critical point that will eventually come along that will determine how you really feel about the story and the author himself. At that critical moment, you have to decide whether or not you are invested in the material and, more importantly, whether or not you trust the author. How soon this inevitable moment comes in the story depends on the author's mastery of his material. If it's too early, there may not have been enough time to build the relationship with the reader to suddenly do something that changes the script. However, if you wait too long, you risk having bored the reader with the status quo. Story may be about surprising the reader, but long form storytelling is also about making the reader comfortable. There must be balance that is appropriate to the story.

This volume Gantz was a great test of trust and one that I think is successful. We pick up right where Volume 9 left off, in the middle of the stand off with the alien in the real world. Once Kei kills the alien, things get a little weird. Kei has a new girlfriend, who looks a little young to me, and their relationship gets a little strange. But the strangest part of this volume is that it goes into a whole other story about another kid, seemingly unrelated to the Gantz world. Although, because the trust has been built, I am sure it will all make sense down the line.

This other kid has been bullied (bullied is an understatement, if this is what bullies do in Japan) and attempted to kill himself, when a mysterious stranger reached out to him and taught him how to unlock some strange powers. At this point, I don't know how this will come back to the Gantz story. Eventually, the bullied kid kills his bullies with his new found powers and then we suddenly switch gears again. Now, we are following this bizarre, fighter looking guy who is traveling between different schools asking for the strongest fighters so he can defeat them. Just as you think this is completely out of left field, he arrives at a school where he's told Kei is the strongest fighter. Kei defeats him, thanks to the Gantz suit, and then you get a hint that all is not what it seems.

Interestingly, the issue of trust is reflected in the story itself, which brings me to believe that Hiroya Oku is aware of the fact that he is testing his reader's trust. This makes the whole thing that much better, in that now you have a piece of literature that is commenting on what it's doing as it does it. He's basically acknowledging that he's throwing us for a loop right now, but to hold on and trust him.

So is his girlfriend real? Did anything we saw in the last few chapters actually happen? Is he in the Gantz world? Is the Gantz world re-writing the real world? It's all up in the air and that's a good thing.  Hiroya Oku has my trust, much like Robert Kirkman has it. And out today is Invincible #79, which also happens to be a big turning point. So this will be a good week.

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