Funimation // 2004 // 650 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // February 20th, 2011
Flesh will be torn. Minds will bleed.
On paper, Gantz is everything you could want in an anime: violence, conspiracies, gunplay, naked girls and paranoia. So why does it suck? Let's discuss.
Kurono is your average Japanese teenager: under-sexed, cynical, suspicious and convinced that humanity is worthless. One day in the subway, he encounters an old childhood friend, Kato, and the two try to save the life of a homeless man who fell onto the tracks. Kurono feels angry for being pressured into altruism, especially after the rescue goes awry and they both get killed by the train.
Without explanation, Kurono and his friend appear in a mysterious apartment in Tokyo with other hapless citizens, also teleported moments after their deaths. A gigantic black sphere sits like a monolith in the center of the room. Suddenly, text appears on its face, announcing that their lives are over. They are instructed to go hunt down aliens, masquerading in the real world, and supplied with black suits and high-tech weapons.
At first the group is reluctant to believe this strange turn-of-events, but it soon becomes clear that the sphere (called Gantz) has them trapped in a horrible game. It's kill-or-be-killed, and if you die on a mission, you die for real this time. Only by surviving the game do you stand a chance at returning to the real world...
At first glance, Gantz is an exercise in teenage fantasy and excess; an endless string of ultraviolent slayings and naked girls in tight leather suits, like a mash-up of The Matrix and Das Experiment. How much enjoyment you get out of Gantz depends entirely on how far you descend down the empty rabbit hole of cynicism and repetitive gore. Decent moral folk are going to have a problem with it. Even perverts are going to need a shower after. If this were a satire, Gantz would be brilliant. Instead, you just feel terrible for having watched it.
A faithful adaptation of the popular manga series by Hiroya Oku, Gantz feels empty and soulless, violent for the sake of violent. Then again, I may just be getting old here. Ten years ago, I probably would've thought this was the coolest thing since sliced bread, but now I find this kind of series one-note and aggravating. The protagonist Kurono is a walking caricature of every bad teenage element: sexually repressed, sarcastic, mistrusting, cowardly, self-centered, selfish and self-absorbed. He is a horrible ass with virtually no redeeming qualities, and only mildly preferable to the other wankers assembled herein.
A cyberpunk purgatory of sorts, Gantz is something of an esoteric exploration into the lousiness of humanity. Moments after their death, random citizens from all walks of life find themselves teleported mysteriously into an apartment in Tokyo, are given super-powered bondage gear and futuristic weaponry, then sent out to kill aliens. If they survive the ordeal, they are given a chance to return to their normal lives, albeit briefly, until Gantz calls upon them again. All the alien killing is a backdrop, of course. The predictable outcome to this perverse experiment is that the average, ordinary citizens of Japan are revealed to be a goon squad of humanity's most undesirable elements. Misanthropes, rapists, cowards, sociopaths -- you name it; everyone becomes it once faced with the possibility of their death. After all, if you die on your mission with the Gantz, you're dead for real.
Sadistic brutality is the name of Gantz' game, with normal everyday citizens become murderous monsters in an arena of violence before getting horribly dismembered by alien creatures. The point of it all is that there is no point; at least none immediately apparent. With only two seasons of material, Gantz: The Complete Series does not even begin to scratch the mythological surface on the anime (which has been ongoing for the last decade). The last episode ends as abruptly as a car crash. No explanations, no real resolution other than a New Age montage that feels totally at odds with the tone of the series, leaving audiences reeling and confused. It feels inexcusably half-baked, a dive into the armpit of humanity without a purpose.
At the risk of spoilers here, a lot of people die in Gantz, so don't bother getting too attached to anyone. Each mission gets progressively deadly, and the odds of survival become increasingly improbable. The anime puts a fair amount of effort into fleshing out the back stories and motivations of these hapless individuals, only to snuff them out of existence three or four episodes later. Frankly, it gets a bit depressing. The women are leered at and molested; the men are dismembered and brutalized. The few individuals with a small measure of goodness in them end up getting saved for last.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, Gantz looks pretty nice on DVD. Lines are clean, black levels are solid, detail is sharp. Colors are slightly unsaturated and there is some grain and aliasing present, but nothing out of the ordinary with a Funimation anime release. Audio comes in both Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround English and a stereo Japanese mix. Bass is thin on both, but dialogue is clear and environmental details are all sharp. The English dub makes things a bit worse, as the voice actor for Kurono makes the character twice as whiny.
For extras, we get interviews with director Ichiro Itano and Yasuhiro Kato, a music video (terrible, don't even bother) and the obligatory textless songs and trailers.
There are some intriguing elements in Gantz, and it is a shame the anime never explores them fully. An example is Kishimoto, the full-figured heroine endlessly molested and traumatized throughout the series, finding out that she isn't exactly dead. Snatched up by Gantz in the last moments of her life, her "real" body survived, and is living a normal life. The implication here is that all the people trapped in the Gantz aren't really dead, but sort of walking "photocopies." Gantz starts to explore this little wrinkle, and the psychological head trip Kishimoto suffers through as a result, but gets bored and quickly goes back to the violence.
There are so many missed opportunities like this in Gantz, so many opportunities to balance the violence with the cerebralÉ and instead, we just get more exploding eyeballs. It's tragic, really.
Chalk it up to a desire to understand the madness, to bring order to the chaos, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a small part of me fascinated by Gantz. Unfortunately, the occasional spurt of brilliance is not enough to counteract the shameful feelings of disgust and malevolence you get when you watch it.
An awkward mess.
Review content copyright © 2011 Adam Arseneau; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Music Video
* Textless Songs