Plot: In an alternate future, the worth of people is based on their ranks as soldiers. If you’re not a soldier, you’re the lowest class and typically live in ratty conditions with little money. The goal for most people is to become a citizen; the highest rank soldiers who seemingly have the best lives and most money.
In addition, the world is separated into separate cities that are run by computers called Little Mamas, and there is a resistance against these cities and computers that the soldiers typically fight in order to gain higher rank. A lowest class man named Grey is living with his girlfriend, Lips, when Lips decides to become a soldier to increase her rank in hopes of becoming a citizen. However, Lips tragically dies in battle and Grey decides to also become a soldier in order to achieve her dream for her. As the years go by, he greatly increases in rank and is known throughout the cities as Grey Death since he’s such an amazing soldier. However, as Grey racks up more assignments and climbs the ladder, he discovers there’s far more behind the scenes and far less to hope for.
Breakdown: This series doesn’t really start to shine much until the second half. Until then, it’s really just fighting and being awed by how awesome and incredibly lucky Grey seems to be. That’s not to say the first half is a chore to sit through, it’s not, it’s just that it takes quite a bit to get to really interesting aspects.
Let me tell you something right now; don’t get attached to any character. This manga is in no way afraid of killing off who it wants or needs to at any time.
The second half really is the most interesting part as I can’t even really think of many things to compare it to. I obviously won’t be spoiling anything, but you really start feeling depressed for the characters because humanity starts to get into really bad shape.
Grey’s a bit of a forgettable character. He’s the typical bad-ass lech who, despite seemingly not having a significant background in fighting or combat, he quickly and easily becomes a master solider above all others because of a lost loved one. He also gets unbelievably lucky and sometimes there are situations where you just go ‘He COULD NOT have survived that.’ Not to say Grey never gets injured, God no, but there are times when people are blown to bits in front of his face and he has little to no effect by it.
The rest of the characters are pretty good even if most of the women, despite being good soldiers too, are really there to get Grey laid and provide fanservice pointless or otherwise.
The story, while being really good and even pretty damn original especially for a manga made in 1980, also had its issues. It’s somewhat hard to follow the story, especially in the second half as characters pop up from nowhere and it’s like Grey knows them personally but I was just ‘huh’ing the whole way and eventually learned to just accept that this is a thing that happens quite often.
Also, the ending just left me feeling disappointed. The whole series built up to that one confrontation and it just ends on such a hollow note.
The artwork is probably the weakest point. The art, while being detailed in landscapes and machines, just falters a lot with the humans and storytelling. The humans look weird and the story’s art is arranged in such a way that you can go pages without being able to follow what’s happening very well.
Bottomline: Despite the flaws, this is a good story that is a fairly quick read. It’s not mind-blowing, but it’s definitely entertaining and fairly memorable.
Additional Information and Notes:
Grey was written by Yoshihisa Tagami and was published by Tokuma Shoten. The English translated version was released by Viz Media.
An anime spinoff movie called Grey: Digital Target was released in 1986, right in the middle of its run. I have never heard of this movie, but I look forward to seeing if it delves even more into this very interesting world.
Recommended Audience: Swearing, several instances of nudity, allusions to sex, quite a bit of blood and gore, dark tone. 15+