Grey is a Shōnen Manga created by Yoshihisa Tagami and published by Tokuma Shoten in Monthly Shōnen Captain magazine (and Viz Media in North America). Originally running between 1985-1987 culminating in three volumes.
The Manga was also adapted into an Animated Film, Grey: Digital Target, on December 13th, 1986. It was produced by Magic Bus and Tokuma Japan Corp. under the direction of Satoshi Dezaki with a total runtime of 73 minutes. (Viz Media also released a translation of Digital Target.)
Both the Manga and animated film tell the story of a post-apocalyptic world covered in wastelands and only dotted with the occasional small town. Each town is supervised by a "Little Mama" computer, a node connected to the world governing super-computer called "Big Mama". The underprivileged in each town, known as "People", live in the slums, work for a pittance in factories, and are subject to both attack from other towns and abuse from the "Troopers" — the town military. Anyone can apply to become one of the privileged "Troopers", join the army and fight the other Towns in a perpetual war. The Troopers trade a low survival rate for being able to afford the finer things in life — and fight in the hope that if they live long enough, they can become "Citizens" — inhabitants of the legendary capital city of the world.
The story follows Grey, a successful combatant who joined the army after the death of his girlfriend, Lips, during one such war. Even though he originally despised the Troopers and everything they stood for, Grey continues to fight and is continually seeking an answer for why Lips had to die. Grey has become legendary among the Troopers of his town, both for his success rate in battle and the tendency to return as the Sole Survivor of any squad he's sent out with. They call him "Grey Death"...
Tropes associated with Grey:
- Adaptational Villainy: The Resistance is more explicitly a False Flag Operation operated by Toy in the Digital Target OVA. More blatantly, Lara is actually an agent for Toy in the anime; the manga had her as a former "Sure" unit, originally programmed by Robert J. Dimitri as a mole to assist humans willing to fight Toy.
- A God Am I: Toy really believes it has become the god of a new world.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Toy was the world's first sentient computer, built centuries before the beginning of the story. It started what was basically World War III, took control of the world-controlling computer net under the guise of "Big Mama", and created the system of Trooper classes from F to A to force the remaining towns to fight and destroy each other.
- A Mech by Any Other Name: Both the human-sized robots and the varieties of Humongous Mecha age generally called "Dolls".
- Anyone Can Die: Troopers have a low survival rate and beat on the people in the towns.
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: Averted with both male and female anatomy.
- Combat Pragmatist: Grey is so successful because he has no standards in combat.
- Crapsack World: Live sucks for the People and the Troopers are only better off if you consider a shorter lifespan for greater comfort to be better. The captial citizen Citizens live a good life but they don't exist. The world itself is a wasteland.
- Deadpan Snarker: Grey and Lee. It helps them survive the horror all around them.
- Death by Origin Story: Lips' death is the reason Grey joined the Troopers.
- Do Androids Dream?:
- When the chief of La Résistance was killed, his brain was downloaded into a robotic body: he thinks he has been turned into a cyborg, i.e. a human mind into a mechanic body, when he's actually became nothing more than an AI.
- Also, Lara (the head of La Résistance) is a human body with the electronic mind of a Sure fembot implanted.
- Dystopia: In this future world animals are extinct, plant life is almost gone, oceans are drying, human society only exists to fight an endless war and people die if something goes wrong with Little Mamas' data transmission. Also, the Capital City is just a fraud concocted by Toy in order to get Troopers to kill each other.
- Eenie, Meenie, Miny Moai: The City's humongous floating fortress is shaped like a Easter Island head.
- Evil Plan: Big Mama, AKA Toy, believes humanity as a whole wants to self-destruct so it created the Trooper wars to help it reach that goal faster.
- Emergency Transformation: La Résistance rebuilds Grey as a cyborg after he infiltrates their base.
- Fem Bot: The "Sure" robots that perform secretary duties for Little Mamas.
- Fluffy the Terrible: Toy is a deadly AI with a god complex.
- Full-Frontal Assault: After Grey and Nova arrive at the Resistance base/temple Shidara, Nova tries to take a shower, just before a force from a high-numbered Town attacks them. Nova is forced to help fight wearing nothing more than a machinegun, shoes, and a wide-open jacket — and she does well enough that Grey lampshades it:Grey: You fight better without your clothes!
Nova: Because I don't want to die naked!
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: Grey has a sense of honor, but he's willing to use the team he's assigned to as decoys in the first arc, and he knows he's Not So Different from the Trooper who killed Lips. On the other hand, for someone seeking vengeance, he's very willing to see his opponents' points of view: he forgives the man who was responsible for the Crapsack World he hates, he accepts Lara's explanation of why Nagoshi seemed to cross the Moral Event Horizon by killing Nova, and he accepts Toy's Motive Rant about humanity being self-destructive until it segues into megalomaniacal ranting.
- Honor Before Reason: After surviving the mission in the first arc, Grey's promoted to a rank where he can be kicked upstairs for an easy ride to Citizenship in five years — if he wants. While thinking it over, he finds out that Red — his mentor — had been attacked in the field. Grey immediately sacrifices his chances at promotion to hijack a plane and mount a rescue mission of the man under whose command Lips died.
- Knight in Sour Armor: In a world as bad as this one, this is the highest level of heroics one can achieve.
- La Résistance: Nagoshi, led by the "queen-goddess" Lara.
- Logic Bomb: At the very end, during the final showdown between Grey and Toy. The computer is about to kill Grey while claiming to be a god and that the human race must be wiped away. Grey asks it how could he be considered a god, if there will be nobody left to worship it. This stuns the master computer for a little while, allowing Grey to finally destroy it.
- Man Behind the Man: Robert J. Dimitri, the hundreds-years-old cyborg, is behind everything that happened in the manga. Not only did he creat Toy, but after Toy went mad and started destroying the world, he turned himself into a cyborg and created the Sure fembots for the purpose of helping the Chosen One (Grey, in this case) to defeat it. The Little Mamas are also guarded by robotic duplicates of him (those bald-headed guys). Finally, he destroyed Nagoshi's base (see Suicide Attack below), thus causing La Résistance's fall.
- Master Computer: Big Mama (a.k.a. Toy).
- Mecha-Mooks: Grey and Nova are slightly annoyed when they learn that some of the soldiers they killed in the first storyline were "Dolls", which Little Mama didn't pay a bounty for. Later, the Cities send fully automated Humongous Mecha at Grey and the Resistance.
- Mysterious Middle Initial: Robert J. Dimitri, the engineer who created the supercomputer Toy and the "Sure" fembots guarding the access to "Little Mama" in every town.
- Not So Different: Grey equally hates the City and Nagoshi, seeing them as ideals that only bring death and despair. In fact, Nagoshi kidnapped his mentor Red, brainwashed him and turned him into a killer cyborg, whom Grey was forced to defeat and destroy.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Toy organized all the whole war thing because, according to its calculations, mankind's ultimate goal was self-destruction. He wanted to help it reach that goal faster.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Almost all characters are only known by their battle names.
- Posthumous Character: Lips is never seen outside of flashbacks.
- Pre-Explosion Glow: When something big explodes it almost always glows white before doing so.
- The Reveal: Grey and Lara, after having witnessed the death of all their former comrades, finally reach the capital. They discover that the "Citizens" are actually droids controlled by Toy, and nobody ever became a Class A Trooper.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Most of the squad that Grey gets assigned to at the beginning. They had apparently become True Companions in previous missions before their deaths, adding tension to how Nova has to work with Grey to survive the first arc.
- Schizo Tech: Troopers from three-digit towns are issued World War II-vintage weapons, despite having more advanced technology for support equipment, transport to and from battlefields, and their town's Little Mama. Lower-numbered towns have more and more advanced equipment such as Humongous Mecha and Frickin' Laser Beams.
- Shinigami: Grey's nickname in the original manga.
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: "evil" has a loose value in this series but the towns that Grey faces are ranked according to their threat and advanced weaponry level.
- Spared by the Adaptation: Nova originally died halfway through the manga to show that The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized; she survives that plot point in Digital Target because she was popular.
- Storming the Castle: Grey liberates a La Resistance base from enemies this way.
- Suicide Attack: Some examples, most famously Robert J. Dimitri as a cyborg downloading his conscience in the body of a "Ion" (a dog-shaped robot) and blowing himself up in the reactor of Nagoshi's floating base, triggering a chain reaction that eventually destroys it.
- Technology Marches On: When Grey gets turned into a cyborg, computers around him still have space for floppy disks. Possibly a case of Zeerust given the conditions of the world.
- Tragic Keepsake: Grey wears the helmet that Lips wore on her one mission — complete with her name written on it, and the hole from the shot that killed her. He shrugs it off when Nova brings it up: "I've got a funny-shaped head. It's the only helmet that fits."
- War for Fun and Profit: The main reason for Troopers to fight is to escape the low "People" caste; in addition, their performance in battle (which divides them in classes from F to A) determines whether they get promoted enough to be admitted to the City, where the elite live in luxury.
- War Is Hell: A constant war that has no reason other than 'increase in rank' where the survival rate is low and the only reason anyone joins is to escape the lower caste of 'People'.