Because I recently did a marathon reread of Gantz and I’m still riding the high from it, here are some highlights from an interview with Hiroya Oku back in 2010, when he was getting started with the final arc.
On his relationship with American cinema: “I came up with the idea for the final arc about three years into the series. I wanted to end with a global-scale armageddon, my own attempt at Independence Day [the 1996 film]. The sheer scale of the giant UFO in that movie, the way Earth was just helpless to the aliens’ attack — no Hollywood movie has managed to surpass that image yet. I wanted to take that and try to make it something more aggressive, though. Scarier. More like they’ve really invaded the place. Like, here are these giant bizarre objects in the sky that just show up and shoot down onto Earth, and then they turn out to be war machines that come to life. I felt pretty sure that it was an image that nobody’d seen before, so that’s what I did. Manga doesn’t pack the same punch that movies can, but I’d like to think that if I manage to draw something that people haven’t seen before, the impact on the reader at least comes somewhere close to that of film. Hit them with a striking image, then suck them into the story. Another thing is how in manga you can do these pages of small panels and then really surprise the reader with a giant two-page picture, almost like when the music in movies suddenly strikes a note really loudly. The panel thing is something film can’t do, so I try to make the most of that technique.
I am constantly watching Hollywood movies. Western video games have got some really original imagery too, so I always check the internet for video clips of new releases. Whenever I come across something original, I try to make sure Gantz doesn’t end up doing something similar — but of course, you can’t always avoid it. In this final arc, I have giant aliens with long faces and these eyes that are set far apart, and everybody assumes I got them from Avatar, but I swear I didn’t at all!
I’d like people to read Gantz almost as if it were a Hollywood movie. I’ve made it so that the time it takes to read the manga should be about the same as the time that passes in the manga, so that hopefully it’ll have people on the edge of their seats as they read the action like it’s in real time.
I’m a manga artist something like the old generation of Osamu Tezuka and Tokiwa-so. Their rivals were animation and live-action stuff, whereas artists since then have been competing with other manga — the other series running in the same magazine, or the trendy manga at the time, or whatever. I don’t feel that way at all, though — I think of Hollywood as my rival. I’m trying to do something Hollywood has never done before, in manga form.
I’d like for Hollywood to make a good movie out of Gantz someday. What I’m most scared of is that somebody’ll make something similar — they read more manga over there than you’d think. I’d hate for someone to go and totally rip me off. Gotta stay vigilant about that.”
On how he came to draw Gantz: “When I decided to become a manga artist, I figured that I needed to be able to seamlessly draw human bodies in action or else the reader wouldn’t be able to follow the story I’m trying to tell, and so for a time I just kept drawing people in movement. I kept wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to draw people like a photograph from scratch without having to look at anything as reference. I drew my debut manga around the time that I decided I’d become more or less able to do that. The scenes I’d go on to do in Gantz where the characters get hit and blown away or where they’re flying through the sky and all that would’ve been really hard to do if I were taking photos of people and tracing them, but because I draw from imagination, I can draw my characters from any angle. I like drawing the creatures, too, and the mecha stuff. I put everything I like into this manga.
For my debut work, I’d drawn a short piece in a shojo-manga-like style for a change, and it happened to get a positive response from the readers, so my editor told me to make a series out of it [i.e., Hen]. Having to continue drawing in that style — not to mention having to continue the story — was really stressful for me, so after that I did Zero One, which I tried to make as realistic-looking as possible, using 3D computer graphics and everything… but it ended up looking a little too realistic, and wasn’t very popular. After that manga ended, I decided that next time I’d still do things realistic, but I’d leave the faces looking like manga. That next manga became Gantz, and that’s why just the faces stick out in Gantz.
The deal with Gantz was that I’d make a manga for the readers if it failed, but first I wanted one last shot at making something I wanted to make. I came up with the story back when was in high school. I thought it’d be cool to do a sci-fi version of the period drama Hissatsu Shigotonin. I started with the idea that thesedead people would be gathered in a room and go out to fight aliens. But why? I decided they’d be forced to. I came up with the idea that they’d be controlled by a mysterious orb, and so I’d even designed the black orb, with the weapons inside it, and the person hooked up to it by wires.”
On the creative process behind Gantz‘s twists and turns: “I don’t really think about tricking the reader or making sure he doesn’t know what’s coming next; I’ve just been following my own sensibilities, trying not to do things that I personally think are obvious and therefore boring. Take the Gantz suits, for example. The characters don’t know how to control the suits, and they don’t know what kind of things it’s capable of doing, but they just wear them anyway and fight, not really knowing what they’re doing but discovering and using the suit functions along the way. Rather than having them be told, ‘Wear these and you’ll become a hundred times stronger!’, it’s more exciting and more fun to watch them try to figure the suits out as they go along.
Considering how long I’d been holding on to the concept for this manga, a lot of aspects of it were really made up on the spot. The way the plot has unfolded since then has often been based on whim, too.” ♦