An awesome mix of aliens, angst and armory!
What They Say
The last thing Kei remembers is the train running over his body, crushing him. Now he finds himself in a room filled with strangers, all recently deceased, all resurrected by the strange black sphere known only as Gantz.
Their reprieve from death may only be temporary, however. Unless they complete the brutal missions that Gantz assigns, none of them will live long enough to leave the room. Is this strange "afterlife" real, or just a dream? All Kei and the others know is that if they fail the mission, they will all die again.
For the purposes of this review, I mainly listened to the 5.1 English dub. Even though special effects rarely found their way into the rear speaker, the track was still cleanly separated and layered well. The first episode of the series features several internal dialogues at once and you can actually catch what most of them are saying instead of the track devolving into a chaotic mess. The score gave the mix enough rear activity to make up for the lack of effects in the back and helped with some incredibly dynamic bass.
Originally produced in 2004, Gantz is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. It boasts one of the cleanest transfers I’ve seen on DVD in a while. The only instances of grain are intentional and there are only a few fleeting moments of banding in open skies. Colors are deep and rich. The splashes of red that frequently appear and lit street lamps never bleed into the night-time black and dark blue backgrounds. Contrast is also nice so flesh-tones stay separated from warmly-lit yellow or orange backgrounds. Gantz is crafted with the same care that Gonzo brings to almost every show they produce and this collection does an admirable job at conveying their stellar mix of 3d/2d imagery and fluid animation.
Every disc features a simple episode select across the screen with languages and extras below arranged on Gantz’s simple black ball while the main theme plays. It’s simple but pleasing to the eyes. It’s easy to see what’s selected and access times are fast.
The five discs are held by three slimline cases housed inside a sturdy box. The art on the box manages to be busy but arranged well. Colors are mostly reds and blacks across the box and cases. Both display character artwork and stills from the show that tease its violent nature as well as the casual fan service common to Kishimoto. The discs are plain white with black lettering and the simplicity contrasts well with the busier case designs.
This boxset features a huge assortment of extras that will please hardcore and casual fans alike. The first three discs each feature interviews with the Japanese cast as well as people behind the scenes such as the creator and director. (Chiaki Kuriyama fans take note: Ms. GoGo Yubari is featured quite prominently in the talk with the creator.) Each interview segment ranges from six to 18 minutes and usually skews longer with some decent insight into the creation of the show. There is also a compiled retrospective of the interviews on disc 4. Disc 4 also contains a 16 minute behind-the-scenes segment on Gonzo’s work at creating Gantz’s striking imagery. There are also a few extras that are decent although they offer no depth: a music video using scenes from early episodes, TV spots, an ad for the Gantz videogame and clean opening and ending credits.
Kei Kurono is just your average selfish teenager, except that he’s dead… sort of. After witnessing a homeless man stumble on to the subway tracks, his childhood friend, Kato coerces him to help the vagrant when none of the present crowd would. They save the man and catch the express train- between the eyes. Kurono is on death’s door when he closes his eyes but wakes up to find them both in an apartment filled with a group of equally confused people and a monolithic black ball that calls itself Gantz. It informs the people in the room that their lives now belong to him and if they want to return home, they must kill aliens hidden amongst the people of Tokyo. Can Kurono overcome his own nature and become the leader that this situation demands?
What appears to be Gantz’s greatest weakness at first ends up being its greatest strength. When the audience meets Kurono, he appears self-centered, whiny and all too at home in the uncaring world. His constant objectification of Kei Kishimoto (who is warped into the room from a bath and completely naked) also becomes a little grating. It’s with her that he exhibits rare moments of sensitivity though, and it becomes obvious that he is capable of change (for the better or worse). Their relationship actually becomes one of the best in the show because it is so imperfect. Kurono desperately wants to be together with her but she has already fallen for Kato. His constant lust and unfulfilled desires lead to a lot of the show’s laughs, both genuine and uncomfortable, and they contrast nicely with sincere moments of sentimentality. The audience is also regularly witness to his internal dialogue which progressively shows that he’s more complex than initially indicated.
The only other initial problem with the show is that some of the sci-fi elements seem tacked-on at first and less involving than the social commentary which fills the first episode. This is mainly because of the inclusion of aliens. However, the innocent appearance of these aliens adds to the moral dilemma as people from all walks of life make the decision of whether to pull the trigger or not. All of the sci-fi elements get stronger once the show reveals how people are transported to the room following death. It’s explained that people are transported like a fax machine so the people in the room are copies of the people who died. Gantz isn’t infallible though and it’s revealed that one of the originals didn’t really die so the character in the room is misplaced for lack of a better word. This development makes all of the sci-fi elements more complex and and marries the disparate parts together.
If the show has any flaw after the first few episodes, it’s the previously mentioned objectification of Kishimoto. Like all of the adolescent characters in the show, she is deeply confused, and it is occasionally used to other’s advantage. She is almost raped on more than one occasion, and she regularly appears weak. Fortunately, she overcomes her surroundings and her nature to become a strong character. It just takes longer than it should and the show appears increasingly misogynistic until it happens (especially when coupled with the copious amount of nudity).
As was indicated, these complaints disappear as the show goes on. After the viewer gets past these points, they will find a show that manages to deliver some satisfying sci-fi action with some poignant psychological development. It transcends the usual guns and aliens show by providing some decent statements on humanity and modern society. Add in the fact that the action provides constant tension on the battlefield and most episodes end with cliffhangers and you have a show that will always have you watching “just one more episode” every time you sit down.
It should be noted that this show is incredibly nihilistic and the rare moments of comedy are just as dark as the drama. No character introduced is safe from death, and the psychological insight into these constantly changing characters makes their passing more traumatic than most shows. The cruel situations depicted in the series might be too much for some to bear, but the character interaction and well-paced story will keep most watching even when they want to look away.
Gantz is able to transcend some cliché sci-fi trappings and become the rare intelligent action show thanks to deep characterization and engaging relationships between the believably flawed characters. The series is tense and filled to the brim with violence and sexual content, but this “mature” title actually appeals to an older crowd for its psychologically complex presentation and social commentary. ADV’s boxset features great audio and video and a ton of extras. It’s also a great price point to pick up both seasons of this show. For those interested in the material, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Japanese Interviews, Behind the Scenes, Music Video, TV Spots, Video Game Commercial, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
37” Olevia 16:9 LCD HDTV, Sony Playstation 3 (upconverted to 720p through HDMI), Yamaha YSP-900 Digital Sound Projector