Gantz Season 1 Complete Collection - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: TV MA
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 69.99
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gantz

Gantz Season 1 Complete Collection

By Dan Barry     February 02, 2007
Release Date: February 21, 2006


Gantz Season 1 Complete Collection
© ADV Films


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.


The Review!
With the exception of some ancient, fittingly forgotten OVAs (like, say, Violence Jack), Gantz is quite possibly the most offensive anime you can get outside of the hentai section. Certainly it's the most transgressive made-for-TV anime to emerge in recent memory: its broadcast run in Japan was heavily edited for gore and nudity. No, really. Heavily. ADV seems quite happy to capitalize upon this reputation, with promotional materials calling it "the series that shocked Japan." Let us be the first to tell you that everything you've heard is true, including ADV's own pitch "Gantz is nasty. But if you cut through the scandal, Gantz is also an excellent action series rife with social criticism. With a plot that reads like a cross between a sci-fi shoot-'em-up, a reality TV show, a black comedy, and a dating sim, Gantz may be total guy anime, but it has deeper themes and mysteries that the thinking crowd will appreciate, too.

Audio:

Sharp and crisp. There's good panning across the sound stage, and it makes the action scenes in this series shine.

For this review, I began listening to the Japanese language track, but after taste-testing the English dub track, I found myself going back to it more and more. The dialogue of Gantz is incredibly foul-mouthed "comparable to the amount of swearing you would expect to hear from real-life delinquent high school students. Thankfully, the English voice actors brook no hesitation in letting their potty mouths rip. They don't overact their swears, and they don't underact their characters' more serious or introspective moments in order to play up the show's "shocking" content. The cast understands that the individual lines aren't meant to shock "it's the inner attitudes of the characters which make them despicable and magnetic at the same time.

The opening theme, "Super Shooter" by Rip Slyme, is a good song in its own right: it features the popular Japanese MCs rapping in both Japanese and Engrish over a catchy drum 'n bass beat. It may seem a little light given the morbid tone of the first episodes, but once the series settles into its dark humor, the tune fits just right.

Video:

Totally awesome. No artifacts; vivid colors; excellent (if not groundbreaking) merging of cel animation and CGI. (The 3D panning effects are especially impressive.) The character designs, the visual consistency from scene to scene, the technology designs "it's pretty much perfect. Only the occasional poorly-executed, over-the-top gore scene prevented this from being an A+. (Refer to the ridiculous double-decapitation in Episode 1 for an obvious example. Those arteries just keep spraying... and spraying...)

Packaging:

The box is just about as good as you can ask for: it's a slick, durable cardboard affair with an open face so you can take individual DVDs down straight from the shelf. The box art features main characters in their uniquely-designed jumpsuits. The DVDs themselves are thin-packed, which is a nice space-saver. But even the thinpack cases are no cheap affair: the plastic itself is tough and glossy, and each volume has the original Japanese cover artwork, which is detailed and wonderfully reprinted. Visually, the artwork doesn't clog the box or the DVD covers, and (unlike most boxes), there's not an image competing for every square inch of space. Short of attaching "freebie" bells and whistles, this is the standard that thinpacked anime packaging should try to meet.

Menu:

Straightforward, if a little unappealing: you just select which episode you want against a background of the black Gantz sphere. The intro theme plays as background music, but it's looped at an annoying point in the track. The menus are designed to get you to the show, rather than act as an extension of it.

Extras:

Each disc has a little something "and I mean "little." It's usually an interview with a voice actor from the show. As such, they're not very enlightening, and offer more in the way of backstage anecdotes than they do secrets or insights about the show. You won't learn anything here you can't glean from the series itself. However, it's worth noting that some of the seiyuu (Kurono's, especially) are pretty interesting and charismatic people "often with an eerie real-life resemblance to their characters.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Before the Show Begins...

Let's not mince words: Gantz is sick. When I had started to become desensitized to its graphic violence and depraved sexuality, I watched it with some friends "and their shocked reactions reminded me how I felt when I first saw it. I was kinda embarrassed to be the dude that was showing them the series.

No, really: it bears stressing. Within the first episode you'll catch a double-decapitation, a suicide, and a dog licking a girl where the sun don't shine. If you think that's demoralizing, just wait until they start killing the children and elderly. So here's the best warning we can give you: unless you can stomach gore, the bald sexuality (think David Lynch films), and a nothing-sacred approach to taboos (much like Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris and The Dreamers), we want to urge you, don't watch Gantz. Heads explode in showers of gore; unrestrained, graphic sex shows everything except genetalia; weak and powerless people (including noncombatants, women, and the aforementioned children and elderly) are killed left and right; and the main character is a perverted ball of high school hormones whose sexual fantasies are frequently acted out on screen.

Still here with us?

Not scared away? Good. Then let's dig in to the good stuff.

The blatant images mentioned above make Gantz an easy write-off. And I feel sorry for those who do so. They're missing some of the most intelligent topical material and realistic portrayals of humanism I've ever seen in any kind of series, live-action or animated. Gantz doesn't traffic in depravity for depravity's sake; it uses it as a plot device to separate the wheat among its characters from the chaff.

In an interview on one of the discs, series director Ichiro Itano says that he thinks "Gantz is a training ground for people to develop the power to deal with the irregular." His assertion is dead-on, and if it was his intention to bring that view across in the series, he certainly does so. Gantz, the title character, runs what is essentially a survival game. Participants are "recruited" (read: killed), resurrected into the game, and given advanced weaponry and armor in order to kill "aliens" "some seemingly extraterrestrial in origin, some robotic, others just plain weird.

There's no shortage of action scenes, but the social and moral battles the characters face make Gantz truly galvanizing. Imagine this judgment call: an alien is about to kill one of your "teammates," a yakuza who just attempted to rape a girl. Whose life do you save? Is it ok to kill a being that's clearly sentient, even if it isn't human? The show is filled with similar questions, but the big one is: now that society has atrophied our natural survival mechanisms, what do we do when the shit hits the fan? Can we re-awaken those primal instincts "and if we succeed, can we still be good people? Gantz may look and feel like a game, but when the characters realize there are no extra lives and no continues, they begin to react like real people. Which is to say that the characters without sufficient will to survive "and those who hesitate at the wrong moment "drop like flies.

Kei Kurono, the show's main character, is halfway decent hero material wrapped up in a slimeball package. He's not a bully, but he's definitely a punk. From his childhood, when adrenaline gave him the choice of "fight or flight," he fought. When placed in the midst of the Gantz game, he's in a unique position among the characters to adapt to the new challenges, because he knows how to make snap decisions.

Kei demonstrates several times that there's an incredible realism to the mechanics of adrenaline and battle in Gantz. Those who try to avoid an essentially inescapable confrontation die; those who attempt to reason their way out of the situation are killed by those who are less moral; and only those who harbor an abject determination to survive actually do so. The Gantz suits "the skin-tight black suits that the characters wear in all the promo art "function as both armor and a muscle power-up (and, for the ladies, act as a wonderful bust-booster). They also equalize any physical disparities between the participants. Old men in the Gantz suit are essentially as strong and hardy as anyone else wearing one. Viewers quickly learn that any characters' survival is based on their willingness to don the suit, and, given that, their psychological will to survive.

It's this idea "that survival is a choice that must be defended, not a God-given right "that may be the most disturbing element of Gantz. We prefer not to think about surviving, namely because we can afford not to. Supermarkets, urbanized communities, the availability of safe transportation, police presence, the fact that no species are flying around out there threatening to bite our heads off "all these factors have not only dulled our survival mechanisms, but have also instilled in us the notion that our instincts are crude, base, and meant to be ignored. Gantz takes regular people from first-world nations and throws them into a situation where wits, stamina, and even a degree of physical recklessness are suddenly one's only important traits. Sex, race, gender, class, creed "none of them matter, because the suits equalize everyone. Can't pull the trigger? You're dead meat.

The Episodes

Each of the two Gantz Boxed Sets divides neatly into two arcs, each of which revolves around one Gantz "mission." Each mission pits a team of players (each of whom recently died in real life) against an alien threat. Players who die in or after the battle die for good this time; there are no additional resurrections (although there are in the manga, which is still running in Japan as of January 2007).

Box 1 gives us the Green Onion Alien Arc, which introduces the series' main characters, and the Suzuki Alien arc, which pits them against their first substantially difficult foe. The arcs are paced out over several episodes each, which means that the action moves in fits and starts "usually with a good deal of Kurono's horniness spliced in.

In Summary:

Sex and violence is the oldest formula in the book because it works. It's easy to criticize Gantz for being over the top in both categories. Still, graphic sexual/violent imagery does not preclude artistic excellence. Many of art's most compelling pieces (Picasso's Les Demoiselles D'Avignon; James Joyce's Ulysses; the films of Akira Kurosawa) force us to confront feelings and images beyond our everyday thresholds. Such is the case with Gantz. In America, questions about survival and self-defense are usually only posited by loony militiamen and Second Amendment advocates. Gantz makes those questions real to the reality TV generation by couching them in a fictional world familiar to anyone who's played a first-person shooter. Unfortunately, the series never quite develops any answers to these questions "you can't discuss Gantz the way you can discuss Perfect Blue or Fight Club. Still, it's a good starting point, which in this reviewer's opinion puts it head-and-shoulders above brain-dead action shows like Naruto or Bleach.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Toshiba 34HF81C (16:9, 32", HD-ready), Sony DAV-C700 5 DVD Changer (5.1 DTS) w/ Sony speakers

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