Gantz, be it the manga or the anime version, is notorious for gore and violence. How many times did I cringed when watching the anime last year! None of the fights and deaths, however, unnerved me as much as two supporting characters. This duo surfaced in the third storyline arc as secondary antagonists, and became the main ones in the final story. Both were young men, with one below legal age. What made them monstrous, unbearable, was that they both derived great pleasure from bashing homeless people to death. One even did so while cheerfully humming a jingle from a radio morning exercise segment. To him, bashing homeless people was a healthy exercise. A free, beneficial form of entertainment.
This character, by the way, also loved reminding others about his age. That is, how his underage status would shield him from the worst of criminal prosecution even if caught. Later in the story, it was heavily implied that he was actually hopelessly psychotic. This “explanation” failed to soothe though, and the sheer barbarism of his indulgence continued to haunt me for a while. I remember having to tell 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. For a few months, that is, till I played Yakuza 0. In the midst of a later chapter, and in what felt to be a statement rather than a necessary plotline, protagonist Kiryu Kazuma 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 Gantz and Yakuza 0. It was then that I found this, and this, as well as this. The Japanese site is the wiki for a 1982-1983 case in Yokohama. During this, secondary school boys went about parks and basement shopping areas assaulting homeless men. Two subsequently died of their injuries.
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 remind that ホームレス 狩りremains a phenomenon for it too. It is especially puzzling given that their homeless are literally “homeless,” and not completely unproductive in society. It is a well-known fact that some of these vagrants actually have regular jobs. During working hours, they could be any of the suit-wearing “salary-man” one encounter in the hundreds in Japanese cities. Just that, they cannot afford a place to stay and are too ashamed to return to their hometowns. Thus, they resort to illegal residences. In parks, riversides, train stations, the likes of.
Now, about the homeless hunters. I believe the teens who indulge in homeless hunting are terrified. Of course, they do have that sadistic, murderous streak in them, but beneath it all, they are more terrified than anything else. The homeless to them represents the worst of their fears, which is the grim reality that the adult, working world awaiting them is hardly all peaches and roses, but a brutal place where mistakes are never forgiven. 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 these teens are wiping away their worst fears. In order words, they refuse to see, or be shown, what possibly awaits them in adulthood. What they do not see, they then assume would manifest as reality.
In the same way, this is the same for people who adamantly refuse to help the unfortunate. For example, those who claim that the jobless are not those who cannot find jobs, but rather are lazybones who refuse to work. Not that there is completely no truth in such accusations, but such arguments tend to be magnified to be the only argument. What these people wish to sustain, by doing so, is the illusion of their own infallibility. The illusion that as long as they keep doing what they have been doing, they would never end up as one of the unfortunate. Subsequently, in some inexplicable way, this dwells on denying the existence of the downtrodden. Whatever I do not see or hear, couldn’t possibly exist. It becomes the same sort of game the teenage homeless hunters play.
Simplistic, knee-jerk reactions. For socio-economical situations that are vastly complicated and have no solution on the horizon. What’s most heart-breaking too is the fact that while there is no complete solution, it is actually not difficult at all to prevent such rifts in society from worsening. Chide me for being naïve, but I think a simple step anybody could take would be to start with empathy, rather than accusations. A little less differentiation of us versus them, strong versus weak, or success versus failure. (For that matter, a little left versus right, pro versus opposition, and so on) Perhaps I could go as far as to say this is one of those, “how on Earth could you ever be sure it wouldn’t happen to you too” arguments. Idealistic, yes. You could tag it as being overly maudlin 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, or irresolvable rifts, or senseless hatred.
No person needs homeless hunting. We could all do with less of such monstrosities.