Gantz Vol. #01 (also w/box) (of 10) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, May 26, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 08, 2005



What They Say
The last thing Kei remembers is the train running over his body. Now he is in a room filled with strangers, all resurrected by the featureless black sphere known only as the Gantz. But their reprieve from death may only be temporary, for unless they undertake the brutal missions that the Gantz assigns, all of them will die again. The series that shocked Japan is unleashed in the first uncut and brutal volume of GANTZ!

The Review!
All good deeds are paid back in kind, though for Kei it looks like what someone considers kind isn't all that good.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese track has a pretty decent stereo mix to it which is mostly really active during the action sequences. There is some good directionality to various dialogue scenes when there are a lot of people in a given area and it shifts nicely with some of the ambient sound effects. The music makes the most use of the stereo channels though and uses it well. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing in 2004, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer is also of the uncut version of the show that wasn't fully aired in Japan but used for home video. The shows design is similar to a number of recent Gonzo shows where it has a lot of bright bold colors and has a very digital feel across the board, from the layered look of the characters on top of the backgrounds to the camera movements. The transfer is essentially free of problems and looks really good though there is some noticeable color gradient issues but that's just inherent in how this is animated.

Packaging:
Using some of the character artwork from the first Japanese volume, the cover has a good looking pose for Kei in his black suit while a bit from the animation is brought in of the girl arriving in the room with half her head being visible. The mixture of the blacks and reds in the background and the Japanese logo for the series gives it all a rough and raw feel. The back cover provides a number of shots from the show around a circle in the center that holds the summary of the premise while most of the background is similar to what's on the front cover background. The discs features and technical information are easily found along the bottom along with the production credits. The insert replicates the front cover on one side while the reverse side lists the two episodes titles and… that's it. This is definitely one of the biggest wastes of space for an insert.

Menu:
The main menu layout uses a lava lamp like background with murky blacks and reds while the bulk of the menu is given over to the round black orb from the show where the menu selections reside. A brief bit of the opening song from the show plays along before looping back. This is one of those where using just the first 30 seconds really doesn't work out well at all and leaves you with a highly annoying menu. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc also properly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The first volume has a couple of extras, such as the expected standards of the clean opening and closing sequences. It also provides a video interview with the series director that was done to commemorate the shows arrival on DVD in its uncut format.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Initially we weren't going to cover this release due to its release schedule, but with the change in that for the remaining volumes we've decided to cover it since those volumes will be in a format/episode count that doesn't feel like it's insulting. While I don't have problems with an OVA series being done two episodes per disc because I understand the differences in costs, licensing and such, a TV series should never be done that way unless it's under six episodes.

The premise of the series is simple and it's designed in the early episodes to be not necessarily confusing but minimal on the information with the intent of leading on the characters to do what someone wants. We're initially introduced to Kei, what's supposedly passing for an average high school student. Unlike a lot of series we get into the heads of these characters and if you listen to what Kei thinks about just about anything, it's pretty much negative and disparaging. He's apparently the butt of jokes at school at times, but he's equally as mean when he's out in the world and generally uncaring of what happens to anyone else. He gives in to his desires in various ways such as purchasing adult magazines. When he's standing in the station waiting for the train, an elderly woman asks him if she's in the right station and rather than explain how to get to where she needs to be he says she is.

But he's just the same as everyone else around him. In the station, the camera shifts back and forth among others there waiting for the train and they're all fairly negative or just trying to get by without causing problems. When a drunken bum walks by, the distaste is universal and we hear it, as is their lack of concern when he falls onto the rails. Nobody moves to help him and the station attendant is nowhere to be seen. Kei's surprised when he realizes an old classmate of his is standing next to him, Kato, and he drops down into the tracks to try and help him. Kato had gone to a lesser school and apparently is considered something of a punk for it but he's the only one with a sense of what to actually do and he tries to rescue the bum but he needs help and calls to Kei to help him.

The entire thing ends badly when the train arrives and the two boys aren't able to get off the tracks as they realize it's an express train and it slices their heads off clean as can be. Before they know it though, they've stepped into a small apartment room where a group of other people are lined up around a large black globe. Each of them relate how they died and how they arrived there while one more person arrives, a young naked girl who has no idea what's going on. As we find out, the group has been recruited to hunt down rogue aliens that are on Earth. A series of instructions and weapons are presented to them along with skintight uniforms. Since their supposed deaths, they're now invisible to the average person it seems and they're given a tracker to go and hunt down the alien that they're told is their target and they have an hour to do it.

With a pretty diverse crowd, from a school teacher, some yakuza and others, nobody gets along from the start and everyone is on their defensive but they slowly learn some of the basic rules, such as stepping outside the target area means your head explodes. The weapons they're given are powerful and the creatures they hunt seemingly live normal lives in the town. Kei and Kato try to figure out how to get home during this while the others follow their own agendas though most end up going after the alien. It's not a confusing series of events, it's actually quite easy to decipher if you've seen any amount of science fiction in your life (which is why I always want to smack characters that are dense like this) but it's rough going for this diverse little crowd.

With only two episodes they don't really get far and the way they have certain key things to introduce so early on means that you don't get a lot in these episodes other than some basic introductions and a couple of action moments with the weapons. The premise is certainly interesting enough but my guess about the volume/episode lengths seems to be right in that it's like when you get to the point where you really want to settle into the show, it's over. Another aspect that I didn't like with the show is some of the camera tricks they did. Such as when they were on the train platform, the camera would move in and out and across the characters and then give them time for their thoughts. With the smoothness of the camera and the way they were all lined up, this reminded me of so many video games or various web flash animations and it just felt cheap.

In Summary:
Gantz certainly has enough going for it, it's definitely violent, it's definitely sexual and it combines the two into skintight outfits pretty quickly but it's also over quick. With the first two episodes, we barely get the beginnings of what to expect and it's already over but it certainly piques the curiosity if you can stomach just how gratuitous it is. I'm looking forward to more episodes so I can really determine whether I'm going to like more of this or not.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening and closing animations,Interview with director Ichiro Itano

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 17.98/27.98
Running time: 50
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Gantz