Gantz Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: �19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Gantz

Gantz Vol. #1

By Dani Moure     November 01, 2005
Release Date: October 17, 2005


Gantz Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
No one knows where it came from. No one knows who sent it. It chooses who lives and who dies...

The last thing Kei remembers is the train running over his own body. Now he is in a room filled with strangers, all resurrected by the featureless black sphere known only as Gantz. But their reprieve from death may only be temporary, for unless they undertake the brutal missions that the Gantz assigns, none of them will live long enough to leave the room. It a game? A nightmare? All Kei knows is that if they fail, they will die again.

The series that shocked Japan is unleashed! Directed by Ichiro Itano and produced by GONZO Digimation (Chrono Crusade, Full Metal Panic, Macross Plus) 'Gantz' is based on the ultra-violent, totally twisted manga series. The series had to be heavily edited for broadcast on Japanese television but this DVD has been restored to its original, uncut form!

The Review!
One of the most hyped series to come out of Japan in recent years hits UK shores not too long after its controversial US debut. But can it live up to the talk around it?

Audio:
For this review I listened to the disc in Japanese with subtitles. The stereo track is your standard mix, and I noticed no dropouts or distortions during regular playback. The voice acting is actually quite good, with the principal cast performing quite well. The actor for Kei portrays his selfishness and conceitedness with the right amount of emotion, and Kato's actor is likewise pretty spot-on as well.

I briefly sampled the English 5.1 mix, which adds a bit of directionality to things, and I noticed no problems with this track.

Video:
The four episodes on this disc are presented in anamorphic widescreen, and look excellent for the most part. There are a couple of moments of aliasing, most notably during some of the strange pans, though they're occasional and didn't really affect my enjoyment of the disc.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font and I didn't notice any major grammatical or spelling errors.

Packaging:
No packaging was included with this check disc.

Menu:
The menus are pretty simple but fit the tone and style of the show. The show's logo appears taking up most of the screen before it shrinks and becomes a part of the main menu screen. This features the cover image of Kei to the right, with episode numbers, and links to the setup and extras menu down the middle. A section down the left has movies from the show looping round beneath a red silkscreen. The opening song plays over this menu. Sub-menus are static and silent, just providing their selections in the same theme as the main menu. It's simple but fits the tone of the show, and access times are nice and quick.

Extras:
A couple of good interviews grace this disc. The first is a quite revealing 5 minute interview with director Ichiroh Itano, in which he's really quite vocal of his feelings about censorship and having to censor the first thirteen episodes of the series for their TV broadcast. He also discusses his feelings on the show's themes and the "director's cut" (DVD version) of the show. The second is with Daisuke Namikawa, who plays Kei, in which he discusses his feelings on the character and recording for the show. Both interviews are definitely worth a watch, even though they're short. There's also the usual clean opening and closing as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gantz is certainly a strange one. Broadcast in 2004 in Japan it became notorious for its high content of violence, so much so that the broadcast of the first "season" (episodes 1-13) was cut to shreds, while the second "season" (episodes 14-26) was broadcast uncut. The show was quickly snapped up by ADV in the US, where they decided to experiment with its release by bringing the show out at two episodes a disc for a lower retail price per unit. Alas, fan outcry ensued but for all intents and purposes it wasn't exactly a failure, it just didn't really make much difference at all to sales. So after releasing the first half on 6 discs, they switched to the standard four disc format for the second half.

However, when the series was licensed by Madman in Australia directly from Gonzo, they decided to do a more standard seven disc/usual retail price release format, and thanks to their working relationship this is the format that MVM will be releasing the show in. And here we are with the first disc, and the first four episodes. And strange the episodes are.

The story follows a young boy called Kei Kurono as he's on his way home from school. He drops by a shop to buy some girly magazines, and sees the store being robbed by some kids. He then arrives at the train station, and while waiting he looks around and sees a lot of people he looks down on. He has a bit of a chip on his shoulder and even when an old lady asks for directions he snaps at her. He soon spots a boy standing near him who he recognises as an old friend Kato, who now goes to a different school. He chooses not to speak because he thinks it's too awkward, but things are about to change.

A drunken man stumbles on to the railway tracks, and Kato decides he can't just stand by and watch the man be killed. So he jumps onto the line to help, but not being able to do it himself he asks for Kei's help. They get the man off the track but just then the train is on its way, so the pair decide to try and outrun it, figuring it'll stop at this station. Except this is the express train, and it doesn't stop, and the pair are killed (we see Kei's decapitation in great detail).

Then in a room in some other place, Kei and Kato are somewhat reassembled. The room is home to several other people, including a famous politician and a teacher. They have all been brought here after "dying", and they can't get out. They soon receive instructions from a giant ball in the centre to go out and hunt for some aliens, and the countdown is on. Only Kei takes the armoured suit and weaponry provided, but the pursuit doesn't go all too well and has quite literally deadly consequences. The group are forced to try to survive while trying to figure out exactly where they were brought and what happened to them.

In itself, the story is actually very intriguing, but there are so many oddities in its execution that it just left me with mixed feelings about the show as a whole. For a start, the pacing always seems off. It's all set up that the show will be a big action packed extravaganza, and yet so often the pace is slowed down right in the middle of the action that it loses all its steam. You have the characters running from one of the aliens in the third episode (which ends up mostly becoming a chase episode), and yet it becomes laughable as they have so much time to pause and think about everything, and all the time they're running and the alien is exactly the same distance away from them the whole time. Then all of a sudden they decide it's time to move to the next sequence in the chase, and the characters top, face it, then run again. It's just done in such a strange way that it's almost as if it's a comedic chase.

Then there're the characters. The creators have clearly tried to get inside their heads, explaining what they're thinking, but the way they go about it doesn't always work out for the best. There will be strange pans across all the characters heads, like in at the train station in the first episode, but much of the thoughts you hear are of no consequence and you almost wonder why you're even hearing it in the first place. Then when Kei and Kato are transported to Gantz's room, there are pans across all the characters some more and it just keeps happening but often it seems a bit pointless as it breaks up conversations and the run of the narrative, instead of providing a more interesting insight in to the characters.

The problems extend beyond just the style the director employs though, into the characters' personalities. The simple fact is that really, not many of them are likeable at all. Perhaps that was the point, and the original manga on which the anime is based may be the same, but it becomes a bit hard to empathise with any of the characters no matter what predicament they're in if they're just annoying, and Kei often falls in that category. He's arrogant, pompous and thinks he always knows best, but to the point of just being annoying. It certainly leaves the door open for character growth as the series continues, but I don't get the feeling that his character is being set up for that.

Likewise, Kato is annoying because he whines so much and thinks Kei is the best. When he's watched people killed but then hesitates and gets all upset at the thought of hurting the alien that murdered them, you have to wonder what his problem is and it becomes a bit grating. The other characters have their annoying points as well, although I didn't mind Kishimoto quite so much, she was a bit frustrating at times as well.

My final gripe is more to do with the animation style. Being new from Gonzo, it's one of their shiny digital series, and although in general the production values seem quite high, there are some techniques used that often leave it looking and feeling a little bit budget. For example, the animation used during the alien chase looks just plain silly, and at one point in one of the episodes I'm sure one of the characters walked over to another and when they got to them their legs kept moving for a few frames. Then of course there are the "stylish" pans that the director uses. Not just those used when you're seeing a character's thoughts, but the camera often swings about in weird ways when action heats up or people are walking around, and instead of it coming across as stylish it is just a bit grating.

Yet for all the oddities and negatives I've highlighted, you'll notice the grade doesn't seem to reflect it. That's because for all its faults, there was actually quite a lot in Gantz that had me captivated. The storyline itself is intriguing, and there's just enough in each episode to pique the curiosity as to what's going on, leaving you hooked for the next episode. By the end of the disc the first arc of the show is over and the result is pretty interesting, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the mysteries of what's going on unravel more. Gantz itself is also an interesting entity and Nishi is a mysterious character who knows a lot more than he lets on.

I also like how the characters are put into situations where they are forced to make choices they rather wouldn't, and do things that they would not normally do. It keeps things more interesting and although it's hard to care too much about them at this stage given how some of them act, I like that things won't be an easy ride for them.

The soundtrack to the series also deserves a mention. It's a rocky sound, from the excellent opening song "Super Shooter" by Rip Slyme, which completely fits the mood, to the pumping background music that accompanies the action, it fits really well and helps with the atmosphere a great deal. Oh, and the violence appeals to me in a very twisted way, even though sometimes it gets a bit comical.

In Summary:
While I'm not entirely convinced on a lot of aspects of the series, there's enough in this first volume of Gantz to have me intrigued and looking forward to more. The story is good and keeps you guessing as to the situation the characters are in, though the execution at least at this early stage leaves a bit to be desired. But it's still early days yet and hopefully the series will get better as it goes along. Given the violent nature of the show, it'll probably sell really well which is a good thing for MVM, and while I'm a bit disappointed after the first disc I'll be eagerly awaiting the second volume to see how it fairs.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0),English Language (5.1),English Subtitles,Interview with Director Ichiroh Itano,Interview with Daisuke Namikawa (Kei Kurono),Clean Opening & Closing

Review Equipment
Philips 28" Pure Flat Widescreen TV, Pioneer DV-464 code free DVD player, JVC gold-plated RGB SCART cable, standard stereo sound.

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