At the moment of death, various people are transported to a special room where they’re sent to kill aliens.
What They Say
If you are chosen by the bizarre black sphere known as the Gantz, you are already dead. You remember dying, yet you can eat, sleep, have sex; it feels a lot like life. Strangers join you in this limbo. While some are good, some are very bad. All are dead like you – for now.
You might be able to reclaim your mortality, but first, the Gantz demands that you undertake missions of brutality and madness, killing aliens hidden among the population. It is your only chance and you have no choice. You must play this disturbing game. You must experience this nightmare. And if you die again – and you likely will – it’s permanent.
Contains episodes 1-26.
The Review: Audio:
The audio presentation for this release utilizes what we saw with the ADV Films release in that the Japanese track is in stereo and is encoded at 192kbps while the English 5.1 language track is done in 448kbps. The two tracks work rather well as the Japanese track manages to have a good amount of impact and directionality to it and the English takes it up a few notches with the 5.1 encoding that has more thrown to the rears which makes some of the action sequences considerably more interesting. Gantz plays up both sides of the mix really well as there are a lot of quiet scenes and the dialogue is well handled but when it goes big, it does so pretty well, especially with the sequence at the temple. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The twenty-six episode series is spread across four discs with seven episodes on the first three while the fourth has just five but a variety of extras. Gonzo was exploring the use of CG in camera work with this series so we see a lot of movement through the spaces and techniques that were fairly new at the time and while it stands out a bit now, it looks good overall. The transfer captures the look of the sources materials pretty accurately, especially with the darker blues and blacks as it doesn’t introduce much in the way of noise of break-up, but it also makes the gradients where are staples of Gonzo shows from this time pretty apparent. The camerawork for the show does introduce some line noise to it when it does all these panning, but it’s more minimal than it could be otherwise.
The packaging for this release is a single sized keepcase with two hinges inside to allow for the four discs. The keepcase is wrapped in a cardboard slipcover and both it and the keepcase have the same design to it. The front has some very slick looking artwork of the two Kei’s together in their special gear so it’s plenty sexual and action oriented with the way Kurono looks. The background is kept simple with a red wall and floor with a few other angles introduced. It’s an unusual background that doesn’t seem to click too well but it keeps drawing you in to look at it. The back cover uses the same background flipped with the left side has a few shots from the show and a large font listing of how many episodes there are on it. The right side has the summary and a decent breakdown of what extras are here as well. There’s a bit of empty space here compared to some other covers and the bottom has the usual production information and technical grid which is easily read with the colors used. There aren’t any show related inserts but the cover is reversible. The left side has a breakdown of episode numbers and titles for all four discs while the right side has a cast shot of several of them from throughout the series, both sides of which are done against a white background same as the front in its design.
The menus for this release are pretty basic as they use the character artwork we see from the covers and the overall background design as a static menu. The layout is very simple considering that all the discs except the last have nothing on them but the show itself so there’s only a couple of selections to be had. The artwork looks good and ties well to the music used but they’re basic menus overall, which seems to be the norm for titles that they acquired from the ADV Films library. The submenus are quick and easy to load and the discs completely ignore our player’s language presets by defaulting to English with sign/song subtitles.
The fourth disc has all the extras for the show and there’s some good material to be had here. The standards are here with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences as well as a music video featuring just scenes from the series. The big extras here are a pair of interviews with the director. There’s some good material in there as Itoh talks about the production and what went into it which is fun to watch after the show is over.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga by Hiroya Oku which began back in 2000 and finished with thirty-seven volumes, Gantz is a twenty-six episode series that definitely earned a name both in its anime and manga forms when they came out. The manga goes further with its violence and brutality, but the anime made some waves because of the combination of it and the sexuality to it that you don’t see in too many series. I had originally seen the series when ADV Films released it in a truly bad way back in 2005 and 2006, so I was keen to see how it would hope in watching it over a couple of days in one set. FUNimation’s release of the set is definitely well timed with the live action movie out there getting some positive buzz so having this available when people look up more about it is definitely smart. The main thing I learned with this set though is that my opinion of it largely hasn’t changed much.
Gantz takes place in modern day Japan with a central character of Kei Kurono. Kei’s a sixteen year old kid who doesn’t have the best of things going on at the moment. He’s in high school and living on his own but he’s kind of an outcast in a lot of ways with few friends and none of them like a real friend. He gets teased by his classmates and his teacher when one of the girls points out that he’s got an erection during class. He spends some of his discretionary money on things like adult magazines, which is what we see him doing at the start of the series. When he’s waiting on the train to come so he can head home, a drunk stumbles down onto the rails and nobody moves to help until another student jumps in to haul him out. It turns out that it’s a childhood friend of sorts of Kei’s named Kato and that gets Kei to get down to help, though not exactly willingly.
This situation goes south quickly after they save the guy as both Kurono and Kato find themselves unable to get out of the way and the express train nails both of them, beheading them easily, though their bodies seem to disappear afterward which confuses the numerous people who watched it all unfold. At the time they died, several other people did as well and they all find themselves being rebuilt by a laser inside a small apartment in the city. The mixed group isn’t exactly friendly and there’s one middle school student there named Nishi who explains somewhat reluctantly that they’ve all been brought there as they’ve died and are just carbon copies of their old selves. They’re under the control of large black ball that’s in the room which tells them that it controls their lives now and it wants them to hunt down aliens. If they score enough points, they can get out of the game. If they don’t survive, it’s the end for them. Unfortunately, most of them don’t really get this and they either don’t take the weapons given or the special uniforms that allow them to survive better.
When they’re on the missions, nobody else can see them but they can impact the world and cause plenty of problems, but the aliens they fight are unseen like they are. Over the course of the series, we see some five missions and across it there are quite a few characters brought in as quite a few of them die along the way. There’s a primary cast to be had with Kurono and Kato as well as the attractive Kei Kishimoto, a young woman who committed suicide and ended up in this situation. The show alternates between the very extended sequences with the fights that go on for a few episodes and time spent in the real world afterward as they deal with what they just went through and who was lost. There’s a lot to deal with but the amusing part comes with Kurono as Kishimoto asks to live with him for a specific reason and he thinks it’s going to be great cause he’ll get to have sex with her.
Gantz is the kind of show that it really doesn’t make sense to learn any of the characters names for the most part because seemingly everyone is capable of being killed. Especially since they all start off dead. And this is a good thing because being dead is the only thing that can explain the majority of their actions. Taking out that the aliens they have to fight are pretty strange and nonsensical and the situation has its problems with how it all works, but the human characters are the kind that make you yell and scream at them because of how they act. While you can understand at first that the situation is so strange that you hesitate, when things start to get serious and you really realize it, especially by the second mission what the reality is, seeing them still trying to figure out ways to get through it without killing someone makes no sense.
A lot of this goes back to one of the social points that the show tries to make about how we all lead such safe and secure lives for the most part that we’re becoming very disconnected from each other. And that disconnect keeps us from doing what we need to when someone needs help. The cast that we’re introduced repeatedly to over the course of the series are all highly self involved people who can’t see past themselves. Nobody listens to each other, nobody believes what the survivors pass on for information and there’s just such a sense of disgust you can come away with at times that you want to see them all brutally murdered. The aliens are unsympathetic in the slightest which says a lot right there that you want the people to be sliced up regularly. The moral of the story is made apparent very early on and it’s just hammered away repeatedly as more and more characters come on to replace the dead. And they just get progressively worse, which doesn’t help either. The Gantz system seems to only go after the worst of the worst but then fills it in with some kids and a grandmother at times as well just to be cruel.
While the violence is high on the shows priorities, it does play well with the sex side as well. Some shows hint at it or there’s a lot implied and some strong suggestions, Gantz takes it up a few steps further. Kurono has the hots for Kishimoto and he takes advantage of her a few times but only gets so far because he can’t quite bring himself to be that kind of guy. He gets called out for having an erection in class and he’s quite jealous when Kishimoto takes to Kato more than him. There is another woman he manages to hook up with after Kishimoto makes it clear she doesn’t see him that way and it’s amusing how quickly they get hot and heavy and intense. It’s more graphic than I expected from the show but it fits in with the way they tried to push the envelope at the time. Few shows go this far, either in its home video or broadcast versions, but Gantz did and it certainly gives it a very different feeling of honesty about it.
It’s been several years since I saw Gantz last and the show certainly does have a lot to offer. Ther are a number of hugely frustrating aspects to it simply because the characters act like they do, and when they start to wise up it’s when the series draws to a close with the proverbial “it gets even better in the manga from that point” angle. Gantz is the kind of show that has a whole lot of potential here but the cast can’t see past their own greed and issues. I like the style Gonzo used for it, I loved the heightened and overt sexuality of it all and the kind of power that these characters exude when they take things seriously. But there isn’t a likable character here overall that you’d really want to see more of or actually spend some serious time with. Which is part of the thrill of watching them get taken down or smarten up enough to live. Yet at the end of it, you really have to wonder why the show was never picked up again by someone else, especially with the two live action features out there. It could certainly use either a big budget anime film or a sequel series to show us things getting really serious.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Interview with Director Ichiro Itano, Interview with Daisuke Namikawa (Kei Kurono), Cast Talk Featuring Daisuke Namikawa (Kuron), Masashi Osato (Kato) & Hitomi Nabatame (Kishimoto), Cast Talk Featuring Masashi Osato (Kato), Hitomi Nabatame (Kishimoto) & Rakkyo Ide (Suzuki Alien), Interview with Director Ichiro Itano & Yasuhiro Kato (CG Director), Japanese TV Spots, Interview with Hiroya Oku (Gantz Creator) & Chiaki Kuriyama (Japanese Actress), Interview with Hiroyuki Hayase (Sound Director), Hitomi Nabatame (Kishimoto) & Masashi Osato (Kato), The Secret Behind the Impeccable Images of Gantz, Gantz DVD Special Features Collection, Gantz Music Video, Textless Opening Songs, Textless Closing Songs
Content Grade: B Audio Grade: B+ Video Grade: B+ Packaging Grade: B Menu Grade: B Extras Grade:B+
Released By: Funimation Release Date: January 25th, 2011 MSRP: $49.98 Running Time: 650 Minutes Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2 Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Chris has been writing about anime, manga, movies and comics for well on twenty years now. He began AnimeOnDVD.com back in 1998 and has covered nearly every anime release that’s come out in the US ever since.