What They Say
He thought he was dead. The last thing Kei remembers is the train running over his own body. But now he is in a room filled with strangers, all resurrected by a strange, featureless black sphere known only as the Gantz. Caught in a strange realm between life and death, Kei and the others must undertake brutal missions that the Gantz assigns. Otherwise, none of them will live long enough to leave the room. Is it a game? A nightmare? All Kei knows is that this reprieve from death may only be temporary. If they fail, they will die again.
For this viewing, I watched the English 5.1 dub. The Japanese sub is offered in 2.0. The audio was clean and clear throughout with no dropout, and the channels were balanced nicely. The dialogue was never overwhelmed by the music or sound effects, which can be an issue sometimes. The only issue I have with the sound is that, especially for an action based show like this, it seemed that the 5.1 technology was not used very well. Directionality was mostly contained to left and right, like a 2.0 track, and no real front/back directionality was present. Not a major issue, but it was something I was expecting. Still, the sound was really high quality, and the music always fit the mood; so no real complaints here.
Originally airing in 2004, this show is given in 16:9, and optimized for anamorphic playback. This is a very beautifully designed show. I loved the artwork throughout, and the animation is top notch as well. Everythingfrom the characters, to the monsters, to the settingsis a joy to watch. Technically, this is a solid transfer. The colors, while mostly dark and/or muted, show up nicely, and the characters stand out, even when in their stealth suits. There were no instances of cross-colorization or distortion to be seen. From the artwork to the technical details, everything is great on this release.
ADV really went above and beyond for the packaging on this release. The box is a cube, with various clear plastic panels to see inside. All around the box are images of Kurono, Kishimoto, Kato, and Sei in their stealth suits. (Click images to see larger versions) The back of the box has images from the show, along with a summary and a picture of the contents of the box. The technical details and summary of the extras are on display on the bottom. Inside the box is a small, metal replica of Gantz which contains the DVDs themselves. The sphere is a dark navy and is six inches in diameter; a foam interior holds the DVD folder in place. The folder itself is made of a thick card, and when folded up, it is held together by a magnet. The outside of the folder has the same images of the characters from the box, while the interior holds the DVDs. The DVDs are held in place by a soft, foam rubber disk. The piece actually folds open two more times to reveal three more discs. What I really like is the time display behind the discs. This mimics Gantzs time display, but shows what episodes are on the disc that goes in that spot. I thought that was a nice touch.
If I have any complaints about the packaging of this set, it is that it does not fit very well on my DVD shelf. That said, the effort put into this makes that completely worth it.
The menus for this release have a nice simple design. The menus are again designed to look somewhat like Gantz, though the coloring is a little different. With a black background and white text, the selections cannot help but show up well, and moving through them is easy. Rather than a play all button, there are selections for each individual episode listed horizontally on the main menu, with language selection and extras listed below. An instrumental version of the main theme plays while surfing the menus. Clean and simple, the menus will not win any awards for design, but fit the shows theme and mood well.
Aside from the standard textless songs and previews, which appear on the final disc, there are a decent amount of extras on this release. Scattered throughout the first three discs are various interviews with many of the Japanese talents like Ichiro Itano (Director), Daisuke Namikawa (Kurono), Masashi Osato (Kato), and Hitomi Nabatame (Kishimoto). There are also TV spots, including a commercial for the Gantz video game and a music video. On the fourth disc is the Gantz DVD Special Features Collection, which is essentially a review of all of the interviews on the first three discs, which is nice if you do not want to listen to all the interviews and just want the highlights, but is essentially pointless if you do watch the interviews. Finally, and this is really nice, on the fourth disc is a fifteen minute documentary titled The Secret Behind the Impeccable Images of Gantz, which is a tour of the Gonzo art department with small interviews with various artists and a look at the techniques used in creating Gantz. A fun watch if you are at all interested in how an animated show is put together.
Gantz is a gritty look at what happens to humanity when forced into impossible situations. Through the twenty-six episodes, we see every human emotion come into play, from violence and blood-lust, to caring and team work, and even to lust and sexual desire. Yet, while Gantz attacks our senses from many different angles, some of them fall flat and leave the overall effect a bit lacking.
Kei Kurono, a self-centered, high-school jerk, is waiting for the subway train one day when a drunken homeless man fall onto the tracks. Another young man hops onto the tracks to help and beckons for Kuronos aid. Kurono is disinclined to help until he realizes that the man is Masaru Kato, a childhood friend of his. While he still does not want to help, Kurono finds himself moving without intending. With some effort, Kurono and Kato get the passed-out bum back on the platform, but are hit by an oncoming train before able to get back up themselves.
Despite remembering the moment of their deaths, Kato and Kurono soon find themselves in a small apartment room in Tokyo with a number of strangers. Before they can fully grasp the situation, an attractive, and completely naked, young woman named Kei Kishimoto appears in Kuronos arms. When she comes to, she is bleeding at the wrist, though that quickly disappears.
As it turns out, they have been rescued at the moment of their deaths by Gantz, a strange man living inside a dark, opaque sphere located in the back of the room. They cannot escape the room; instead they are forced to wait until Gantz reveals its intentions. Gantz has brought them here for the purpose of hunting aliens that live out in the city, and they are only given a certain time limit in which to do it. The aliens are extremely dangerous, and most people brought in never finish, their interrupted deaths being completed. However, if anybody survives, they are given a score based on their performance and allowed to go free. Well, at least until next time Gantz wants them to hunt. According to stories, if one should get to one hundred points, Gantz will completely free them. Nobody has reached that level, though.
This is where the psychology of the how comes into play. Gantz provides the hunters with powerful weapons and protective body suits that will enhance various abilities like strength and speed, but provides little other details about their mission other than a general location and what they look like. Nor does it tell how many there are. This leaves the hunters, most of whom are just typical people with no combat experience, to figure out how they need to go about destroying the aliens. This is made harder when many people do not fight because either they are scared or they are unwilling to accept that this is all real. This always leaves the groups in tough situations since each hunt goes from bad to worse at a moments notice.
Each hunt only has a small percentage of the group come back, with the dead people replaced with new recruits each time. A few people, such as Kurono, Kishimoto, and Kato continue to survive the early encounters, giving them a greater purpose and need to get the new people to understand the gravity of their situations; however each person deals with it separately. Kato takes on a leadership role, trying the best he can to make sure that most people make it back each time, though ultimately he has guilt over killing the aliens. Kurono on the other hand slowly becomes something akin to a berserker, recklessly entering each fray with little regard for his own life because he is convinced of his abilities, and convinced that it is pointless to get anybody else to understand. Kishimoto, who finds herself attracted to both men, is the bridge of reason between them.
On the outside, we spend more time with Kurono and Kishimoto than anybody else. Kato lives with his abusive aunt and does the best he can to protect his little brother, while Kurono lives on his own and makes his own way through life. Kishimoto discovers that she was wrongly pulled by Gantz, and another version of her still exists in the regular confines of society. Since she now has nowhere to go, she ends up living with Kurono.
This causes problems as Kurono is now determined to do all the things he wants to do, just in case he does not make it back from one of Gantzs missions. He finds himself sexually attracted to Kishimoto, though she refuses his advances. She may like him, but not that much. When a new girl named Sei enters the hunt and is herself attracted to Kurono, the relationship between Kurono and Kishimoto becomes strained.
Where the show starts to lose its way a little bit is in the lead up to the last hunt. The previous hunt sends the group to a temple to fight against statues that have come to life. This proves to be the toughest test yet, as Kurono is the only member of the group to make it back this time. Kurono tries to destroy Gantz upon returning, only to find that the weapons Gantz provides do not work on himself. When the last hunt begins, Kurono finds himself now forced to be the leader, though it is a job he is psychologically unequipped for. For this last hunt, Kurono is made to be the target, presumably since he threatened Gantz, and while some of the new people are willing to question the morality of that order, two murderous psychos that Gantz has brought in are more than willing to lead the hunt. Now Kurono becomes the hunted, though he has never had any desire to hurt humans.
The problem that this show has is that in trying to create an air of mystery, it leaves too many details out, and it is not apparent what those answers might be. For example, we never learn what would happen if the hunters run out of time on a hunt. They always complete the hunt right before the time limit is up. We also never really learn why Gantz is doing what it does. As the last two hunts progress, especially the last one, the players begin to feel that Gantz is just playing with them, and what they are doing is not really all that important. Yet, the mystery of who or what Gantz is never gets solved.
The other problem with this show is the pacing. For a twenty-six episode series, the pacing is very slow. While this in itself is not a problem, and in some ways is a nice change of pace from the typical lets get as much stuff as we can in tempo, it means that there are many moments during the hunts where characters are standing around and talking, or sorting out their feelings, or whatever, rather than getting on with their jobs and figuring all that out later; and since the majority of the show takes place during one hunt or another, this meant there was a lot of seemingly wasted time. In fact, most people would die because they would take their minds off their objectives. This was a frustrating part of the show because it meant that characters I had come to really like would die for stupid reasons.
That said, the show does a really good job exploring some of the more base natures of humanity, especially when it comes to Kurono. At the beginning, he is just a typical self-centered, horny teenager, whose only real goal in life was to get laid. When he agrees to let Kishimoto stay with him, he assumes that he will get sex in return for it, and acts like a petulant child when she turns him away, ultimately throwing her out. This leads him to be more and more reckless as the hunts go on, continually putting himself in harms way to show everybody that he is the best. When Sei finally agrees to sleep with him, it only makes him even more reckless in his attacks. It is not until he finds himself all alone that any vestiges of humanity start to return to him. Kuronos character arc in this show is one of the more dramatic arcs I have seen in a while, and while he is not all that likeable for much of the show, he is certainly one of the more sympathetic characters out there. Characterization is definitely a strong point for Gantz.
Gantz is a show that wants to be an introspective analysis of humanity, but unfortunately does not quite accomplish all that it sets out to do. What we end up with is a show that hits many emotional buttons but still ends up a bit flat around the edges. Strong characters and an intriguing story make for an overall good product. People who are looking for happy stories and happy endings need look elsewhere, as Gantz is everything but happy. Those who are interested in reflective pieces would probably enjoy this, as long as they do not expect a completely mind-blowing, psychological show. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Interviews, Original TV Promos
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A-
Released By: ADV Films
Release Date: November 6th, 2007
Running Time: 650 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Phillips Magnavox TP3285 C129 32 TV, Samsung DVD-V5650 Progressive Scan DVD w/ DD/DTS, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System