Review – Gigant volume 1 (Hiroya Oku)

-art by Hiroya Oku

Gigant volume 1
Story & Art: Hiroya Oku
Originally serialised in Big Comic Superior
Published by Shogakukan, 2018
Copy purchased from eBookJapan

All I wanna do is see you turn into a giant woman, a giant woman!
All I wanna be is someone who gets to see a giant woman
All I wanna do is help you turn into a giant woman, a giant woman!
All I wanna be is someone who gets to see a giant woman
‘Giant Woman’, by Rebecca Sugar, 2014

What is it?: Hiroya Oku, of Gantz and Inuyashiki fame, returns with a brand new series, tying the science fiction sensibilities of those two hits with the sexy and dramatic stylings of his original debut work, Hen.

Yamada Yoko is the son of a filmmaker, a bit of a do-nothing wastrel obsessed with media and making his own work, when he isn’t pleasuring himself to the latest blu-ray of his favourite huge-breasted porn actress, Papiko. Through unusual happenstance he becomes friends with Papiko, real name Chiho Johansson, right before she inherits a strange device from a strangely-dressed dying man, one that allows her to increase her size at will!

[CONTENT WARNING: Gigant deals with themes of physical and emotional abuse in relationships, both romantic and familial. These subjects will come up in the review, so be duly warned going in]

Hiroya Oku mostly uses CG for backgrounds, but it can’t be said enough how much of it is used to throw in pop culture materials or product placement. Indiana Jones, The Terminator, Apple Macs, Star Wars patches, it’s almost overwhelming.

What I think about it: Reviewing series in their native Japanese is a pretty new experience to me, as is reading Japanese comics with any level of literacy at all. So it’s with some relief today that I talk about Gigant, a series that foregoes the accessibility of furigana, yet still maintains its readability to a learner like me by being truly, ridiculously easy to read.

This won’t come as a surprise to most who’ve read anything by Hiroya Oku before, as his unique brand of storytelling has always leaned heavily on decompression, stretching moments out through carefully timed sequences, bolstered by the natural confusion that comes when a person deals with the unexpected; dialogue often descends into little but panting and declarations of “what?” and “eh?” given the chance. It remains as true here as it was in Gantz, or Hen, or (from what little I’ve read) Inuyashiki. It skirts the line of being a negative trait for Oku-sensei, but when used in a story as strong as Gigant, it instead boosts its verisimilitude, in a book completely dripping in the stuff.

Yamada himself goes a long way for this feeling, the sort of pop-culture obsessed youth with a lot to say about film (the first chapter makes a point of naming Edgar Wright and Baby Driver, which is pretty current by the standards of collected manga) and an extensive collection of memorabilia to go with it. Rooting his interests in something recognisable and real is a strong move, and the way he behaves about it, and his surprisingly relevant porn habit, feels believable. It’s shallow interests in the name of character depth, and I like that a lot.

Chiho is a truly fantastic lead, both ridiculously fanservicey and ridiculously empathetic, a fully-formed human being with wants, needs, problems and flaws. And boy howdy can she get BIG.

More believable than that, in both a surprising and slightly depressing way, is Chiho Johansson, the co-lead of the story. It seems a bit faulty to describe the unbelievably large-chested, mixed-race porn star who appreciates her fans enough to take Yamada out for a drink as thanks for his patronage as a particularly grounded character, but the devil is in the details. She’s presented as being the way she is out of an innate generosity, perhaps naiively so, to the point where her family and abusive boyfriend are capable of taking advantage of it. Her career of choice is one with an inherent male gaze, and it’s Hiroya Oku, so of course that’s what it’s about, but she also seems to genuinely enjoy the work, being able to talk about things such as the quality of her co-actor’s dick in a way where you could totally sub in certain words for office work terminology and it’d work. She has an anxiety disorder she’s medicated for, which she actively has to deal with in the comic, rather than have it be a throwaway line or idea. She’s a fully fleshed out, three-dimensional character, one the audience is encouraged to empathise with through her trials and tribulations, both in the trouble she faces and the feelings she has that traps her within them.

Which brings us somewhat clumsily to the depictions of abuse in this volume. Chiho’s boyfriend is a day-drinking, gambling-addicted layabout prone to fits of rage, hitting her at any provocation, which the comic never flinches away from. But she fights back, and he cries, apologising, promising to do better, and so she’s stuck forgiving him, a victim of a very typical abuser that she can’t manage to stop caring about. Her remaining family (her father passed away prior to the series, a wound she still wears on her heart, relating to her anxiety and other issues) are opportunistic, her Mother essentially using her as a bank, but at least a large part of it is for medical expenses, so Chiho is trapped once again, and family is family to her, even if they’re taking advantage of her.

The aftermath of an early and particularly heavy scene of abuse, and the disturbing and all too real aftermath of both people being stuck in their situation because they’re able to apologise and forgive. It’s heartbreaking to see, and surprisingly deft a depiction of the real traps people can end up in.

This is a bold move for an author like Oku, who can charitably be described as… not great at dealing with sensitive issues, and it can almost feel cartoonish at times, but this lends itself well to the cartoonish way it’s confronted with Chiho’s receiving of a mysterious implant that allows her to control her size. In this context it’s an actualisation of a growing sense of personal agency and power (with an odd aside of her using it for an AV, which had me made an audible noise of shock for how explicit it was), and leads to a scene where she stops her boyfriend from hitting her and Yoko by growing larger and holding him in the air, doll-like, as he impotently screams and flails, the full ugliness of his self pouring out of him, until he simply goes silent, is placed on the ground and leaves. By simply asserting herself in a way that he cannot respond to in any impactful way, the abuser is made aware of a shifting power dynamic, and is temporarily dealt with. It’s an absurd scene, and maybe deals with the issue too simply, but it’s almost cathartic, and gives me hope for future volumes and the potential for Chiho to control more of her life with this superpower.

I’m not sure what else I want to say about Gigant. I love it and what it attempts to do, and it is, for better or worse, a Hiroya Oku comic, from its realistic and basic dialogue to the over reliance on CG for backgrounds and effects. At its core it’s the same twisted mainstream comic that Oku is known for, honed down into what is currently a very intimate exploration of what would in any other author’s work be *just* a piece of cheesecake. It’s fantastic, and truly worth a read, and I can’t believe it’s taken me two and a half months to finish writing this review. Oh god, that’s not good, is it. More to come!

It feels like an odd observation, considering the almost bizarre chest size of Chiho, but Oku-sensei is really good at understanding the effects of gravity on breasts. They fall naturally where they should, even when lying down. That’s exceedingly rare for lewder artists in mainstream manga.

Gigant is for fans of: Gantz, Inuyashiki, oh god it’s hard to recommend non-Oku works for an Oku book, that’s weird isn’t it, he’s a very singular creator, isn’t he.

If you enjoyed this review consider dropping me a few pennies over at Ko-Fi. Comics ain’t cheap, but I am.

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