Gantz (2004) – Episodes 1 & 2 Pre-Review – By Duane L. Martin

It’s been a while since I’ve watched any anime, and I’ve never actually reviewed an anime film, much less a series before. Not that I was opposed to doing it or anything, but it just never came up until now. Recently, ADV Films sent me the first two episodes of an upcoming anime series release called Gantz. I had never heard of the series, but I was looking forward to reviewing it nonetheless because it gave me a chance to get back into the whole anime thing after being away from it for so long. Unfortunately, ADV only sent the first two episodes of the series, which is actually run on television in Japan and comes in at close to 22 minutes per episode. I say unfortunately, because after seeing these first two episodes, I was hooked.

Gantz is the story of several people from different backgrounds and different walks of life died in one fashion or another, and their souls were then transported to an apartment overlooking Tokyo where a large black sphere (the Gantz) waited for them. There was even a dog included in the mix, which actually led to one of my favorite shots in the first episode when the dog was looking up at the teacher in a point of view shot, and everything was in black and white. Being a dog lover, I got a good laugh out of that and found it to be really clever on the part of the animators. The great thing about the group that was assembled is that they covered a wide variety of age groups, careers, and personal attitudes about the world. It was a very nice mix that created some very interesting personal interactions.

Once the final person arrives, a girl who committed suicide in her bathtub, the group is informed that they have been recruited to become bounty hunters. Their job is to hunt down criminal aliens that are living here on Earth, and for each one they kill, they will be given the sum of ten million yen. Naturally this gets them interested. The sphere opens and provides them with weapons and uniforms. It’s outer surface works like a computer monitor and provides them with the information on the aliens they’re to hunt down. Once they’re geared up, they’re transported outside, where one of the members, an aging politician, decides that he’s going to just leave and go back to his political career. Unfortunately for him, the sphere didn’t take kindly to him trying to leave the group and as he was walking down the street, his head exploded. Oh yes, there’s blood and guts and gore and sex and you name it in the Gantz series, which is why it’s so awesome. It’s actually geared towards adults rather than being tamed down for little kids.

The thing that I think struck me the most about Gantz was the character development. Each character had his or her own background, history, experiences, attitudes, etc… It gave the whole show a depth that most live action movies never seem to be able to achieve. One of the things that created such an incredible sense of depth to the characters was that often times you would hear what they were thinking. They even did this in the subway with various bystanders, and it really created a feeling that these were all real people, and that each one was different and had different priorities in life and different attitudes regarding humanity. I just cant stress enough what a great job they did in making the characters three dimensional. Not in the visual sense, but in the depth of their character. That was what hooked me on the series after seeing only the first episode. I wanted to know more about these people and watch their interactions and see how they evolve throughout the series. I honestly can’t wait to see more.

Something else about Gantz that really struck me is that it was visually beautiful to look at. The characters all looked great and their appearances went quite well with their personalities. There was a lot of nice visual eye candy and you could tell that a lot of thought had been put into the whole look and feel of everything. There were a couple of things that really stood out for me though. One was when the sphere would transport people to the apartment and then reassemble them slice by slice using a laser. The other was the way the weapons worked. Basically they shoot some sort of a light energy that has no immediate effect, but what happens is, there’s almost like a massive pressure buildup on the target over the course of about eight to ten seconds, and then whatever got hit bursts apart in a huge explosion. We see this first on a wall, which was utterly destroyed, but then when the alien is shot, first his left arm swells and bursts, and then a few moments later, his right arm does the same. Then his legs, and then his head. One of the main group, a yakuza, gets attacked and lifted up off the ground by his head by the alien’s father and is shot accidentally by another member of the group who was trying to shoot the alien. The Yakuza’s body swells up and explodes after about 10 to 15 seconds.

I won’t be able to comment on the full DVD release until I actually receive it from ADV, but I do look forward to being able to review the rest of this series. It’s well written, thoughtful, and has a coolness factor that is unmatched by anything I’ve seen in a really long time. This is one series you should definitely add to your collection once it’s released, because as a whole, it’s just utterly amazing.

You can check out this and other releases from ADV Films by visiting their website at http://www.advfilms.com.