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"That boy's a demon. He wouldn't die, even if you killed him."
Zetman is a manga series created by Masakazu Katsura, currently serialized in Young Jump, where it also premiered in 2002. Though the series was created by the same guy responsible for Video Girl Ai and I''s, Zetman is closer to fellow-Seinen series Berserk in its story and art.
The series focuses on two teens, Jin Kanazaki and Kouga Amagi, who combat the demonic 'Players', creatures created, and currently hunted, by the Amagi Corporation. Jin was the last experiment conducted by scientist Gorou Kanzaki, who escaped from the Amagi Corporation when he found out that they intended to exterminate their creations. Though Gorou wished nothing more than for Jin to live out a normal life, he is pulled into combat as a teenager, upon realizing his powers as the eponymous Zetman. Kouga is the intended heir of the Amagi Corporation, and has long dreamed of becoming a superhero due to a childhood of cartoons and comic books. He eventually does just that using a variety of nifty gadgets, calling himself Alphas after his favorite childhood hero. The two protagonists are often found in opposition to one another due to their conflicting methods and personalities.
The series mainly deals with the spectacularly depressing lives of both characters, and offers up a generally cynical portrayal of the traditional superhero. A lot of attention is also placed on the contrast between Jin and Kouga, who are essentially exact opposites.
- Accidental Hero: Kouga's first moment in the spotlight comes as a result of Jin's efforts to save a family in a burning building. Kouga leads the firemen to the family, and therefore gets the credit for the deed.
- Adaptation Distillation: The adaptation blasted through 60+ chapters in about 5 episodes, leaving out entire arcs.
- Aloof Ally: Jin's attitude toward Kouga.
- Anti-Hero: Jin, for the most part.
- Badass Abnormal: Even when he's not ZET, Jin is abnormally strong, and was a skilled fighter even as a kid.
- Badass Normal: Kouga, prior to becoming Alphas.
- Black Suits A and B also definitely count.
- Also Inspector Sayama. He may not have the training to deal with Players, but he can definitely hold his own against any humans.
- Bathtub Bonding: After taking young Jin home with her, Akemi climbs into the bath with him in a scene that's played much more for pathos than fanservice.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Hayami. He first comes off as one of the few good people among the Amagi executives, but it turns out he'd been plotting to take over the Amagi Corporation for a long time, and had been behind several of the incidents in the series.
- Break the Cutie: Kouga, more or less, but Jin could also count to some extent.
- Brother-Sister Team: Averted: Kouga tries to convince his sister to go with him on his first mission, but she shoots him down.
- The Cape: What Kouga aspires to become.
- Cast of Snowflakes: Hell yeah.
- The Chessmaster: Hayami. He even specifically refers to his minions as "pawns".
- The Chosen One: Jin was originally designed by Mitsugai Amagi to hunt down and destroy the rogue Players. Later subverted when Jin makes a deliberate choice to hunt down and destroy the Players, despite the opportunity to live as a normal human.
- Clothes Make the Superman: Kouga's Alphas suit.
- Compressed Adaptation: Not only the anime did some original changes in the story, but it is rushing some events out; the first episode basically adaptated the entire 1st Volume of the manga.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mitsugai Amagi; though he's technically the ex-CEO of Amagi Corp., he holds most of the real power.
- Crapsack World
- Cursed with Awesome: Jin has had preternatural physical abilities since his childhood, and they only get stronger with age. The catch? The powers stem from the fact that he's an artificial human weapon who is incapable of coexisting with Players because the ring in his left hand forces them into their irrational inhuman forms.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Basically everyone as the series goes on, but especially Jin and, later, Kouga.
- The Determinator: Kouga during his escape from Jirou's underground lair.
- Elaborate Underground Base: Twice!
- Emergency Transformation: The only way Jin could originally transform was when he while in great danger.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": So far, the leader of EVOL is only known as "the Boss"
- He practically personifies the trope in that he poses as an unassuming bartender at the EVOL club.
- Failure Knight: Kouga's two assistants, who provide most of his nifty gadgets.
- Fake Memories: Implanted in Jin during the experiments performed on him by Amagi. He eventually begins to wonder if all his memories have been implanted, considering how bizarre they all seem.
- Foe Yay: Jin made one hell of an impression on Kouga the first time they met, with the latter often imagining entire conversations with the former. This one doesn't work in reverse, as Jin seems largely ambivalent toward him.
- And in case you don't see it, just read the first 9 pages of chapter 112.
- Chapter 148 anyone? That's the chapter with the huge...uhm, bathtub.
- Fountain of Youth: Subverted with Jirou; he generally appears to be, and actually is, 65, but must take special drugs to keep him from aging toward the point of disintegration.
- Glasgow Grin: Akemi picked one up when she saved Jin from a Player. It's all but outright stated to be the reason she left her job at the hostess club.
- Gratuitous Rape: A major criticism of the manga, especially the infamous 'mansion arc'. The anime has toned it down considerably so far.
- The Grotesque: Jirou's son.
- Heroic BSOD: Jin, after seeing his 'aunt' Akemi being tortured by the fake ZET. In his case, it makes him fully transform into his ZET form. Kouga also gets one, when Jirou slaughters about 30 high school girls right in front of his eyes, severing his hand in the process.
- Heroic Wannabe: Double subverted with Kouga.
- Hero Worshipper: Kouga looks up to Jin, and considers him to be the sort of hero he wants to be.
- High School
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Akemi, the kind-hearted hostess club worker who a ten-year-old Jin saves from a gang of rapists. She later proceeds to adopt him after his 'grandfather' Gorou is killed by a Player, and nearly suffers the same fate herself as a result.
- Humans Are Bastards: Humans are largely responsible for the murderous Players, and currently hunt them down in an attempt to correct their mistake. The fact that most Players are attempting to lead a peaceful life is complicated by the fact that their "awakened" forms are often uncontrollably murderous in nature. The Players were themselves a side project, designed to raise funds by forcing the monsters into gladiatorial combat, with bets being cast by the rich and powerful. When the Players gained self-awareness, they slaughtered their captors and escaped.
- It Amused Me: Half of Haitani's reason for doing anything seems to be "for the fun".
- Jekyll and Hyde: Most of the Players qualify for this; their human forms are capable of rationality, but their monstrous "Reverse" forms desire little more than bloodshed and death. Those Generation 3 Players shown thus far all seem entirely in control when transformed.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jin is often gruff and rude, and can be pretty violent, but at heart he's a Nice Guy.
- Jet Pack: The Air-Booster addition to the Alphasz suit, which allows Kouga to challenge flying Players.
- Justice Will Prevail: The core belief of Kouga, which is worn away as the series goes on.
- Lord Error-Prone: Kouga, until his Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- MacGuffin: Jin's necklace.
- Manipulative Bastard: Haitani.
- Martial Pacifist: Jin strives for this due to his grandpa's teachings, but his overwhelming desire to kill tends to override it.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Gorou kicks the bucket in the very first episode.
- The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: Players generally become animalistic following a transformation. Even Jin develops a strong desire to rip and tear.
- Old Master: Played straight with Gorou, Jin's 'grandpa', and later subverted with Jirou who tries to make Kouga a better hero by forcing him to participate in increasingly difficult "hero trials".
- Painful Transformation: Variation: Jin's later voluntary shapeshifts into ZET are painless, but the drug causes intense side effects a few hours later. Also, if he remains in the ZET form too long, his body will slowly dissolve.
- Prophecy Twist: Gorou is tricked into telling Mitsugai Amagi how Jin can fully become ZET, but Gorou tricks Amagi right back by using a process that makes Jin almost entirely human, removing all but .75% of the ZET cells.
- Punch Clock Hero: Jin will help basically anyone, for the low price of 10,000 yen. Later on, he switches into more of a...
- Reluctant Hero: As long as no one he cares about is being directly threatened, Jin basically doesn't give a damn.
- Science Hero: Kouga, though he doesn't create the gadgets himself.
- Secret Project Refugee Family: EVOL
- Shadow Archetype: Jin and Kouga are almost perfect contrasts to one another, and Jin's general Anti-Hero attitude stands in direct opposition to Kouga's ideas of heroism.
- Shapeshifting: Both the voluntary and involuntary varieties.
- Shapeshifter Mode Lock: Most low-level Players get stuck in their Reverse form due to their lack of rationality. The higher level EVOLs can control this.
- Shut UP, Hannibal: From Kouga, to Jirou. "You are... full of shit."
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series falls very firmly on the Cynical end of the scale.
- The Starscream: Hayami is trying to take over the Amagi Corporation.
- Haitani may be this to the Boss of EVOL.
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Kouga, though this begins to slip as the series progresses.
- Wolf Man: The first Player.
- You Said You Would Let Them Go: Jirou keeps his promise to let all of Kouga's "fangirls" go. With lasers. "I set them free from this living hell!"