When I was asked to review Gantz, a 26 episode series from GONZO, I had never heard of it. I did a little bit of reading on it before adding it to my Netflix queue, and I was immediately intrigued. The screen shots show some beautiful animation. There was the promise of graphic violence, and the premise of the series was interesting. Sometimes, pretty pictures and a good story are all that are needed to make an entertaining show. Unfortunately, Gantz needs a lot more help than that.
High school students Kei Kurono and Masaru Kato are struck by a subway train after helping a homeless man who had fallen on the tracks. Instead of finding themselves in some kind of after life, they end up in an apartment overlooking Tokyo with several other people, all of whom have also just met with tragic ends. Also in the room is a mysterious black ball called Gantz. After letting the new arrivals stew for a while, Gantz beings to play an old exercise song, and then it reveals, sort of, its purpose. Instructions appear on the surface of the ball for the occupants of the room to eliminate a certain type of alien. They are given weapons, special suits to increase their strength and defense and a time limit.
Sounds cool as hell, doesn't it? Maybe it could be if I took the idea and wrote my own story.
From the very beginning, not a single one of the characters inspires any sympathy. Kurono is a typical, horny fifteen-year-old. All he thinks about is sex. Kato, who tries really hard to be a good person and generally is, idolizes Kurono to a point that's almost scary. The third main character, Kei Kishimoto, is so annoying that I found myself wishing her suicide attempt had worked instead of putting her in the room with Kurono, Kato and the rest. All the female characters are drawn with absurdly large breasts, and this seems to be the only reason there are any female characters in the series. Towards the end of the series, Kurono gets a bit more dynamic, but by then, it's really too late to care.
Just as annoying as the characters themselves are the constant voice-overs, mostly from Kurono. When he's not ogling Kishimoto's breast, he's complaining about the situation he finds himself in, especially when people start to look to him for answers. While the voice acting in general is good, the voice-overs are delivered in a high-pitched whine that makes you want to slap Kurono and anyone else who starts in on a soliloquy. If the thoughts expressed each time were different, if we could see Kurono's slow acceptance of the weird situation and his decision to play the game the best he can, maybe these wouldn't be so bad. It's the same every time, and it does nothing to advance the plot or flesh out the character.
I'm the last person to have anything against graphic material. I don't have a problem with the level of violence, the graphic language or the inclusion of a couple of sex scenes. What I have a problem with is that none of it seems to have anything to do with the plot. It seems like the only reason this particular story was chosen to be made into an anime was the excuse to throw all these things into the mix. They don't help. In fact, I think they hinder the series greatly.
The overall theme of the series is that human nature is, for the most part, a deplorable thing. People do awful things to other people and are too wrapped up in themselves to help out others who are in need. Okay, fine. I like a little social commentary with my entertainment now and then, but the way it's handled in Gantz is so overbearing that I found myself wishing all the characters would hurry up and die so I didn't have to hear them bitch about it any more. At the end of the series, this theme is encapsulated in a character we meet earlier on who ends up dying and joining the gang in the apartment. He delivers his spiel of excuses for his reprehensible behavior while trying to kill Kurono, but hearing the theme laid out that way only makes it worse. For a theme to work at all, in any kind of fictional work, it should be obvious but also subtle. The not-so-subtle nature of the criticism of human nature in Gantz just makes it that much more unwatchable. I was actually pleased to discover that the disc I received was damaged and that I couldn't watch episode 25 or the last half of 26.
Last but not least of the annoying factors of the series is the number of episodes per disc. For the first six, there are two episodes per disc. Then you have a disc of four episodes, and the series finishes off with three episodes per disc. Most anime series of the same length give you four or five shows on each disc and usually contain a total of seven discs per season. Gantz ends up with ten discs, and there's not a whole lot of extra material on the discs that makes this format worth anything. Apparently, a lot of viewers have complained to distributor ADV Films about this. It's part of the reason I've been trying to work my way through Gantz since November.
Despite the gorgeous animation and the fascinating plot, Gantz has nothing to offer to the viewer who's seeking more than gratuitous sex and gore. It's tempting to try, yes, but don't give in. The hours you spend watching this one will be better spent on better anime.
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