Kei Kurono

Kei Kurono
Gantz character
close-up drawing of Kurono
Kurono from the manga
First appearanceGantz chapter 1 (2000)
Created byHiroya Oku
Voiced byJapanese
Daisuke Namikawa (anime)
Yūki Kaji (Gantz:O)
Christopher Ayres
Portrayed byKazunari Ninomiya
RelativesAkira Kurono (brother, deceased)

Kei Kurono (Japanese: 玄野 計, Hepburn: Kurono Kei ) is a fictional character in the manga series Gantz written by Hiroya Oku. In the story, Kurono is a teenager who feels forced to save a man from a subway train alongside his childhood friend Masaru Kato, but is killed in the process. He is revived by a being known as Gantz and with others is forced to fight aliens hiding in human society. Despite starting as a selfish character who does not care for others, Kurono feels more optimistic when he becomes the leader of the team and starts a romantic relationship with a teenaged girl named Tae Kojima. The character is also present in Gonzo's anime adaptation of the series, live-action films and a CGI film, Gantz: O, where his role and fate highly differ from the original manga.

Kurono was created by Oku as a character that would be relatable to manga readers, resulting in his having multiple weaknesses; he is one of Oku's favorite characters, alongside Kato. He was voiced by Daisuke Namikawa in Japanese and in English by Christopher Ayres. For the live-action films, he was portrayed by Kazunari Ninomiya. Both actors for the anime adaptation stated they enjoyed voicing the character to the point of relating with him.

Critical reception to the character has been mixed. While multiple writers who review manga, anime and other media enjoyed his character traits and growth across the series, he has also been found as an unlikable character due to his indifference toward others and preoccupation with sexual relationships. Similarly, Ninomiya's acting has received mixed opinions by critics.

Creation and development

Hiroya Oku developed Kurono's character with the goal of having manga readers identify with him. He was also created to "make a synthesis of the basic conditions for a work of entertainment".[1] Oku originally created Kurono as a character who would fit in a college comedy series. To make him the Gantz character readers would identify with, the author gave him traits such as his sense of insecurity, fears and other complexes.[2] Before the manga started serialization, Oku told his assistants that with Kurono's exception, all the major characters from the series would die in order to surprise readers with plot twists.[3] As the series continued, Oku felt that Kurono was his favorite character though he stated it might have been because he was the main character. In the making of the live-action adaptations, he felt that Kazunari Ninomiya fit the image of Kurono well.[4] In another interview, Oku said Masaru Kato was his favorite character based on his heroic traits in contrast to Kurono who he felt was a more flawed character with conflicting thoughts.[5]

Gantz: O director Yasushi Kawamura said that as a result of Kato replacing Kurono as the protagonist of the film, he felt unsure of the audience's reaction even if they had not read the original manga.[6] For the live-action series, director Shinsuke Sato said that Ninomiya was perfectly cast for the role, that he visually resembled the manga character and represented the current audience. According to Sato, Kurono goes through some "very subtle changes of the heart" in the manga and Ninomiya could portray those particular qualities.[7]

Kurono's Japanese voice actors were Daisuke Namikawa in the anime and Yūki Kaji in Gantz: O. Namikawa stated that his first impression of Kurono was that of an attractive person. However, once reading his lines while interacting with other characters, Namikawa found Kurono cynical and later stated that Kurono was bold due to how he often spoke his mind. Because such people are rare, he felt that viewers would sympathize with Kurono. Due to the frequency of recurring characters dying in the anime, Namikawa joked to fellow actors if they would stop working together and feared Kurono might also die in the plot. He admitted wishing that Kurono would obtain a power to get through difficult situations, and enjoyed seeing Kurono surviving the action scenes in each story arc. Once doing so, Namikawa felt the character became a hero as well as a "great person". Despite liking his character, Namikawa felt it was challenging to voice Kurono.[8]

Caucasian man with glasses and groomed beard
Christopher Ayres voices Kurono in the English dub of the anime.

Kurono's English voice actors were Christopher Ayres in the anime series and Lucien Dodge in Gantz: O. Ayres had previously worked with Matt Greenfield of ADV Films dubbing for Megazone 23. Ayres auditioned for Kurono and for Kato, and was given the former role the following day. He originally thought he was going to voice Kato, but the director felt he was more fitting for voicing Kurono, whom Ayres felt was a "jerk". Initially, most of Ayres's friends told him Kurono was a "jerk and an ass" which left an sudden impression on him. Greenfield did not want Ayres to know of his character online, instead wishing to learn of Kurono while working on the English dub. Upon working in the Gantz dub, he stated "I've always been drawn to anti-heroes and characters with an edge, and Kei is definitely both. I love the fact that he's flawed and makes mistakes [...] Perfect people are so much more boring to play as an actor." He enjoyed working as the character to the point of relating with him.[9]

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