(from the press literature)
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.
(and now, my synopsis)
Kei, a snobby, cynical jerk, gets himself into a really dumb situation and literally loses his head because of it. Next thing he knows, he wakes up in a room filled with random, apparently dead people ... and a dog. There is a big ball in the middle of the room that gives them weapons and tells them to kill things and not question why. He does so, while whining the whole time.
Maybe it's a little unfair that I'm the one reviewing this show. However, the word of mouth had been positive, and actually, this arrived for me to watch right after I saw Elfen Lied, which I enjoyed. (That's another review for another time.) So, I'm not this squeamish person who only watches fluffy romantic comedies -- I have a fairly high tolerance for viscera and gore. My parents clean blood for a living and talk about it in great detail at the dinner table; it comes with the territory. Mature themes? Highly sexual content? Dude, normally I'm all there.
Gantz really wanted to push the envelope. Unfortunately, they succeeded. The result is a show that makes Battle Royale look like Marmalade Boy.
But when I think about titles like Elfen Lied and Battle Royale, they're violent, but they succeed because the protagonists at least have something to them that makes them human. There's something about them that you identify with, that despite all the horrible things they do, you can tell they're trying to rise above it. Just because circumstances force them to become monsters, they don't have to stay that way -- they can redeem themselves or at least try.
The thing that galls me about Gantz is Kei - from the moment he comes onscreen, you just know he's a soulless monster already. There's nothing there. He's already just a tool -- he's mean, extremely selfish, very cynical, and you almost get the feeling he's happy that way, or at least unapologetic. There is no fall from grace; he's already fallen, and has no desire to get back out.
Right at the beginning, the creators let you know Kei is a character you aren't supposed to like. How? In one of the initial scenes, a naked girl appears in front of him, an obvious suicide. One of the other men in the room drags her into the back to rape her. Kei stands there, not quite sure whether to save her ... or just watch and be turned on. When his childhood friend Masaru goes over and selflessly saves the girl, and the girl thanks him, Kei gets pissed off because she's not paying any attention to him. "What a prissy girl." Kei then decides she is there so he can get into her pants. He is no better than the attempted rapist. But that isn't the worst of it.
In the very end of that scene, the girl is molested by the dog, and she is giggling and cutely trying to "stop" the dog, without putting up much of a fight.
And that part of the scene is what makes Gantz itself unredeemable. Honestly ... that they had the gall to depict a girl who had just committed suicide and then seconds after a violent rape attempt, being giggly and laughing over a dog going down on her? I just ... can't compute this. It's beyond offensive, it's just insulting.
I continued on through the first two DVDs, and after that, Gantz just becomes an excuse for morally bankrupt people to blow stuff up. The plot is paper thin, and very stock sci-fi when you stop to think about it. People abducted for an experiment (in this case, social) by a foreign entity with some man-hunting thrown in for fun ... yeah, they're supposed to be hunting aliens, but it just feels like it's all a thin pretense for having hot people running around in tight outfits with cool-looking guns. It is incredibly exploitative -- it's along the same lines as pornography or war propaganda, and almost more offensive in some ways.
The most redeeming factor of the show, at least early on, is the character of Masaru (Oosato Masashi in the Japanese track), Kei's childhood friend who basically got them in this situation by saving a man who had fallen on the train tracks. If this show were centered around Masaru, a troubled teen with a violent past, but a good heart and a strong desire to do good, maybe it would easier to take, especially since Masaru is a much stronger and more well-rounded character. He alone out of the cast is an actual character, rather than just a cardboard cutout or a blowup doll, and he alone questions the situation, but of course, it's already foreshadowing at the end of the second DVD that he's not long for this show. It's a crime, but frankly, Masaru deserved a better show, rather than playing second fiddle to a complete cretin.
At the same time, this is one of the best animated television shows I've seen in years. The artwork is gorgeous, the character designs are beautiful, and the blending of the CG and cel style just looks good. Technically, it's one of Gonzo's best; they also pushed the envelope in that sense, and did it right. The music om the show, both the score and the songs, are awesome. The opening ("Super Shooter") is by Rip Slyme, one of the most popular and skilled Japanese rap groups out there. (Yeah, Japanese rap -- and it's fun!)
The voice acting is also top-notch, both in English and in Japanese, especially considering the material they had to work with. Voice actors really will do anything you pay them for ... but it takes a good cast to put feeling into something as unfeeling as this.
You can tell a good story using extreme methods. Sex and violence aren't inherently wrong - life is often dark and ugly, and people do bad things to each other, and yes, it can be highly entertaining to watch the dark side of humanity. However, Gantz does nothing but wallow in its own depravity. Moreover, with the amount of money and time you'd have to devote to this time given its release format (thanks to Shueisha enforcing its 2-episode a DVD policy on an international level), Gantz simply isn't worth it.
Gantz is really the pinnacle of anime exploitation.
In trying to be edgy and relevant, Gantz glorifies everything that is seen to be bad about manga and anime, and makes you ashamed to be human in the process. — Christina Carpenter
Recommended Audience: A hard R for extreme violence, sexual content, and very mature themes. Not for the squeamish - you almost have to be a sick, twisted individual to want to watch this, thanks to the main theme of the show.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD
Review Status: Partial (4/26)
Gantz © 2005 Hiroya Oku / Shueisha • Gantz Partners
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