Gantz, both the manga and anime versions, is notorious for gore and violence. I cringed a good number of times when watching the anime last year. None of the fights and deaths, however, unsettled me as much as two supporting characters. These two surfaced in the third storyline arc as secondary antagonists. In the final arc, they became the main antagonists. Both were young men, one below legal age, and what made them monstrous was that they both derived great pleasure from bashing homeless people to death. One did so while cheerfully humming a jingle from a radio morning exercise segment. He also considered bashing homeless people, a form of healthy exercise.
The same one also loved reminding others about his age. How his underage status would shield him from the worst of criminal prosecution even if caught. Later on in the story, it was heavily implied that he was hopelessly psychotic. This “explanation” failed to soothe though, and the sheer barbarism of it continued to unnerve me for a while. I remember assuring myself it was just fiction. Something skilfully and manipulatively written, for a very gory tale. Even if there were such sickos, there couldn’t have been that many of them.
And so I forgot about Gantz. That was, till I played Yakuza Zero, or Ryu Ga Gotoku Zero. In the midst of a later chapter, and in what felt to be a statement rather than a necessary plotline, the protagonist fended off two teens who attacked his homeless friends. The two teens in the game were portrayed almost identical to the ones in Gantz, down to their clothing and choice of baseball bats as weapons. One also gloated about being underage, and how the law wouldn’t be effective on him. Suspicious that it was no mere coincidence, I googled for “homeless hunting”, or ホームレス 狩り, which was the term used in both the anime and game. It was then that I found this, and this, as well as this. The Japanese site being the wiki for a 1982-1983 case in Yokohama, during which homeless people in parks and basement shopping areas were assaulted and killed by secondary school boys. (Boys around 14 to 15).
I also found this. A similar case of violence against homeless people that happened just last December in Tokyo.
Dutch author Herman Koch wrote a novel, titled The Dinner, which was about teens killing a homeless lady and feeling nothing wrong about it. I can only assume Koch was inspired by real-life incidences.
Seems like homeless hunting, which is a recognised term in Japan, has been around for a long time. I was living in an ivory tower not to know of it.
Homeless hunting. Preying on the weak. Preying on the easy.
The following is nothing more than my personal opinion. I am no criminologist or sociologist. I’m not even going to remotely claim I have any educated insight.
I must also be fair to Japan and state that ホームレス 狩りis a phenomenon for it too. It is especially puzzling given that their homeless are literally “homeless,” and not completely unproductive in society. It is known that some of these vagrants actually have regular jobs. During working hours, they could be any of the suit-wearing “salary-man” in the cities. Just that, they cannot afford a place to stay and are too ashamed to return to their hometowns. Thus the residence in parks and riversides.
As for homeless hunters. I believe the teens who indulge in homeless hunting are terrified. Of course, they do have that sadistic, violent streak in them, but beneath it all, they are terrified. The homeless to them probably represents the worst of their fears. That the adult, working world awaiting them is hardly all peaches and roses, but extremely brutal, with irredeemable consequences from failures. If any of these homeless hunters were to claim that they were merely cleansing their cities of the unsightly or the useless, I believe the truth is actually they are wiping away what terrifies them. They refuse to see, and to be shown, what possibly awaits them in adulthood.
In the same way, it’s probably the same for some of the people who adamantly refuse to help the unfortunate. These being those who claim that the jobless are not those who cannot find jobs, but rather are those who refuse to work. Not that there is completely no truth in such accusations, just that the argument is magnified to be the only reasoning. What these people wish to sustain, is the illusion of their own infallibility. And in some inexplicable way, this involves eradicating any existence of the downtrodden. Whatever I do not see or hear, doesn’t exist. That sort of game.
Simplistic examination, admittedly, of a social-economical situation that has already worsened to murder in some countries. A situation that has no solution on the horizon too. That said, I think a simple step anybody could take would be to start with empathy, rather than accusation. A little less differentiation of us versus them, strong versus weak, or tough versus easy. Perhaps I could go as far as to say this is one of those, “you never know whether it would happen to you too” arguments. Idealistic, yes. One could also tag it as leftist or socialist or some other political label too. But in my opinion, something lesser thing to worry about for the future is always better. No country needs easy victimisation. No city needs weak preying.
No person needs homeless hunting . We could all do with lesser of such monstrosities.