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Gantz (ガンツ Gantsu?) is a Japanese manga and anime series written and illustrated by Hiroya Oku. Gantz tells the story of Kei Kurono and his friend Masaru Kato who die in a train accident and become part of a semi-posthumous "game" in which they and several other recently deceased people are forced to hunt down and kill aliens armed with a handful of futuristic items of equipment and weaponry.
The Gantz anime, directed by Ichiro Itano and animated by Gonzo, ran for 13 episodes and had a direct sequel called Gantz: Second Stage, which continued the series for another 13 episodes. Both seasons make up the 26 episode series. It was licensed in North America by ADV Films. The anime series is distributed in the United Kingdom by MVM Films, and in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment. Dark Horse Comics started releasing the manga in English in June 2008. A series of live-action movies based on the manga are also currently in production.
A pair of high school students, Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato, are hit by a subway train in an attempt to save the life of a homeless drunk who had fallen onto the tracks. Following their deaths, Kurono and Kato find themselves transported to the interior of an unfurnished Tokyo apartment. The pair soon realize others are present and find that they are not able to leave the apartment. At one end of the room there is a featureless black sphere known as "Gantz".
After some time in the room, the Gantz sphere opens up, revealing a bald naked man with a breathing mask and wires attached to his head, and three racks protruding from it, that offer various items for them to use. These include the custom fitting black suits Gantz makes for each of them, giving them super-human abilities, a controller which acts as a radar and stealth unit, and three types of guns.
When the Gantz sphere opens, green text appears on its surface, informing those present that their "lives have ended and now belong" to him. A picture and brief information is shown of some of the Gantz Targets, Gantz ordering them to go and kill them. All but one target shown thus far, have been aliens living on Earth, which take on a wide variety of forms. After a period of time which varies between missions, everyone except Gantz are transported to the location of the mission.
Those sent cannot return from the mission until all enemies have been killed, or the time limit has run out. If they survive a successful mission, each individual is awarded points for the aliens they have killed. They are then allowed to leave, and live their lives as they see fit until Gantz summons them back again for the next mission. The only way to stop having to participate in the missions is to earn one hundred points, and choose the option to be freed. Several participants are killed through the third mission they are given, leaving Kurono as the only survivor and the new leader from the "Gantz Team". However, as the series continues, Kurono participates with the objective to revive his deceased friends with the 100 points he can obtain throughout the missions.
After several missions, Gantz's sphere indicates that the human race will be over in a week for an unknown reason, but it also frees all the participants from the game. A week later, a massive alien force invades the Earth and begins exterminating the human race, while Kurono and his companions try their best to make use of Gantz's advanced technology and weaponry in order to take a stand against the alien invasion.
Hiroya Oku first thought of Gantz's story when he was in high school. The inspiration of Gantz started from the Jidaigeki television program of Hissatsu series. He remarks being inspired by the Robert Sheckley's novel Time Murderer while developing the idea that dead people are transported to a place in which they are able to be revived. However, he still was not decided to make Gantz until writing the manga Zero One; Zero One had a similar setting to that of Gantz, but Oku ended the series, noting it was not very entertaining and that it was too expensive to develop.
When creating the chapters for the manga, Oku starts with a thumbnail of the pages. He then creates 3D models of the characters and backgrounds on his computer. Once done, Oku prints the characters and backgrounds he made in 3D, adds tone an color to the pages, and finishes with sound effects and dialogue. This style was already used in Zero One, but for that title, there was little work in hand drawing; Oku decided to add more hand drawing to give Gantz a more realistic tone as well as reduce the budget. However, he still notes that such a method is time-consuming and that he has to work quickly in order to finish the chapters on time.
Oku tries to incorporate realism into Gantz and adds that some of the events occurring in the story are based on his opinions regarding the world. During violent or erotic scenes, Oku makes sure to not make them very long to avoid reducing the series' realism. However, he has mentioned that he does not autocensor and that all the drawings he has ever illustrated have been published in the manga. Some plot twists are meant to go against common events that happen in several manga such as the deaths of the major characters like Kei Kishimoto and Masaru Kato. Before the series started serialization, Oku told his assistants that with Kurono's exception, all the major characters from the series would die.
Written by Hiroya Oku, the manga chapters have been published in the Japanese magazine Weekly Young Jump since 2000 and is still ongoing; the individual chapters of the series are being released approximately every fifteen days. Gantz is divided into three main story arcs referred to as "phases". After the completion of Phase 1, the author put the series on hiatus for a short time to work on Phase 2, which is also known as "Katastrophe". Phase 1 consists of the first 237 chapters. On November 22, 2006, the first chapter of Phase 2, chapter 238, was released. Phase 2 consists of chapters 238 through 303. The third and final phase began on October 1, 2009, after a brief hiatus. As of April 24, 2010, the series is 318 chapters long. The individual chapters are collected by Shueisha in tankōbon format; the first volume was released on December 11, 2000. Currently, 28 volumes have been released by Shueisha. Publishing company Dark Horse Comics acquired the licensing rights for the release of English translations of Gantz on July 1, 2007, during the Anime Expo. The first English volume was released on June 25, 2008. While the first three are being published quarterly, the following volumes will be released on a bimonthly basis. The series is published by Glénat in Spain and by Planet Manga in Germany, Italy and Brazil. It is published by Tonkam in France, by Editorial Vid in Mexico  and by Editorial Ivrea in Argentina. 
An anime adaptation, produced by Gonzo and directed by Ichiro Itano, aired in Japan on Fuji Television and AT-X. The Gantz anime is divided into two seasons: The first season is known as "The First Stage", while the second season is known as "The Second Stage", which is a direct continuation of the first season. The First Stage aired in Japan with several scenes censored due to inappropriate content such as violence or nudity. However, the DVDs from the series contained the scenes uncensored. The Second Stage aired on Japanese network AT-X on August 26, 2004. There are a total of 12 Japanese DVDs, released from August 28, 2004 to June 29, 2005. Additionally, the DVDs were compiled into box sets.
ADV Films announced and licensed the series for release in the United States. The series was released in uncut form, retaining the violence and nudity previously censored in Japan for broadcast. Ten DVDs were released by ADV films from February 8, 2005 to January 17, 2006. They also compiled the series in two DVD box sets in 2006 and in a Perfect Score Collection packaged with a bag in the form a ball from Gantz. On June 25, 2010, anime distributor Funimation Entertainment announced on their online FuniCon 4.0 panel, that they have acquired the rights to the series, along with 3 other former ADV titles after ADV's shutdown in 2009.
On March 17, 2005, Konami published a game for the PlayStation 2 named simply as Gantz: The Game. It features the characters and plot up to the Chibi Alien mission. The game mixes third-person shooter and role-playing game (RPG) elements together. The game also includes extras including Free Play mode, a Mini Mode, Magazine Browser mode, Gantz Rankings, a special preview movie and the scenario completion statistic. '
On December 17, 2004, a 256 page book titled Gantz/Manual was published by Shueisha as a companion volume to the series featuring episode summaries, character overviews, and additional background details on the Gantz universe.
In July 2009, Young Jump, the seinen manga magazine, began publishing a novel from the series named Gantz/Minus. It is written by Masatoshi Kusakabe and illustrated by Yusuke Kozaki. The stories take place before the start of the Gantz series with the focus being in the characters Shion Izumi and Joichiro Nishi who participate in Gantz's missions. On the cover of each Gantz/Minus issue, it describes itself as a "hyper solid action novel".
Live action films
On November 24, 2009, it was announced that two live-action Gantz films are in production. The movies will star Kazunari Ninomiya and Ken'ichi Matsuyama and will be directed by Shinsuke Sato. The movies will be released in the spring and winter of 2011.
Japanese sales from the Gantz manga have led several of the volumes to be featured in lists of best seller volumes from Japan. During 2008, Dark Horse Comics informed that the Gantz' sold 175,000 copies in Japan. Volume 4 of the manga has appeared in The New York Times's "Manga Best Seller List" ranking at 8th. About.com's Deb Aoki listed Gantz as the best new seinen of 2008 along with Black Lagoon.
DVD sales of Gantz have been particularly strong. According to Anime News Network, Gantz volume three surpassed DVD sales of its predecessor, volume one, by a significant margin. Owing to strong DVD sales, ADV films has continuously released successive volumes and has been one of the most successful anime franchises of 2005.
The Gantz anime has also received praise and has been critically acclaimed as being extremely "violent", "gory" and "sadistic" and yet is also very "addictive", even when it was censored when it was broadcast.
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- Official Gantz website (Japanese)
- Madman Entertainment's Gantz website Official Australian Gantz website.
- Official Gantz: The Game website (Japanese)
- Official Gantz live-action film website (Japanese)
- Gantz (manga) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia
- Gantz (anime) at Anime News Network's Encyclopedia