It’s not the latest torture porn movie or trending clickbait. Homeless hunting is an actual monstrosity of our times.
Gantz, be it the manga or the anime version, is notorious for gore and violence. How many times 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 i.e. both are homeless hunters. One even did so while cheerfully humming a jingle from a Japanese radio morning exercise segment. To him, bashing homeless people was a healthy exercise. A free and socially beneficial form of entertainment.
Incidentally, this characteralso loved reminding others about his age. As in, how his underage status would shield him from the worst of criminal prosecution even if caught. Later in the series, it was heavily implied that he was actually hopelessly psychotic. This “explanation” didn’t 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 just to get over it. 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.
There simply couldn’t.
And so I forgot about Gantz. That is, for a few months 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 teenage homeless hunterswho 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 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 victims subsequently died.
I also found this. A similar case of violence against homeless people that happened in December 2015.
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 but 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 the country too too. It is doubly puzzling given that some Japanese homeless are literally just “homeless” and not completely unproductive in society. During working hours, they could be contract labourers or suit-wearing “salary-men.” Just that, they are unable to afford a rental home and are too ashamed to return to their hometowns. Thus, they resort to illegal residences. In parks, at riversides, beside train stations, the likes of.
Now, about the homeless hunters. My belief is that teens who indulge in homeless hunting are simply terrified. Of course, they do have that sadistic, murderous streak in them, but beneath it all, they are no more than terrified kids. 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. Instead, it is 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 that these teens are actually swiping at their worst fears. In other words, they refuse to see or be shown what possibly awaits them in adulthood. What they do not see, they then assume would become reality.
In the same way, this applies too 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 are instead lazybones who refuse to work. Not that there is totally no truth in these accusations, but such arguments tend to be magnified till they are the only argument. Yes? In my opinion, supporters of this argument are doing no more than to sustain the illusion of their own perfection. The illusion they have found the best formula for life and have been living it. Vice versa, those who are down and out are the ones who are too stupid or too lazy to discover the magic equation, and so they deserve being destitute. To blind themselves to the flimsiness of this belief, to blind themselves to the fact that mishaps could strike in spite of the best laid plans, they then hope for the downtrodden to die out like an unfed fire. In this way, they unconsciously play the same homeless hunting game albeit without the bloodshed. An appalling game based on moulding reality through denying reality.
It’s tragic and heart breaking. Also ironical because such simplistic denial frequently worsens the situation. In the case of teenage homeless killers, a whole new world of evil is created, one that substantially taxes social, legislative, and judiciary resources because of its complexity and shock. What do you think then happens? Everything else that threatens lives and homes and jobs receives lesser attention. The country becomes deadlier, more unforgiving, more condemning for everyone. As much as they might believe they are ridding their cities of hobos, these teens have actually increased their chances of becoming one. Here, I think it’s unnecessary to highlight how violence also attracts violence the same way rotting meat attracts flies. Oh, these kids might not end up sleeping on the streets, but who can say for sure? Would they one day end up being bashed in the head by a baseball bat for the ten dollar watches they are wearing?
It’s a horrible game nobody wins at. Doom lurks at each turn. Even bystanders are punished.
At the risk of sounding preachy, if there’s any indication of such senseless violence festering around you, please do whatever you can to stop it.
No country benefits from easy victimisation. No city will ever thrives on the preying of the weak.
No person needs homeless hunting. Let us have lesser of such monstrosities.