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Gantz Box Set PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Friday, 28 September 2007 17:00
GantzGantz gets the boxset treatment, and I'll be upfront in saying that this is a strange one. While it does have areas of appeal, as a whole Gantz is a trainwreck of a series, with so much bad about it that picking holes in it actually becomes part of the fun. "So bad it's good" is definitely the phrase I'm looking for - but can that make dropping £60 on the set worthwhile..?

It's turning out to be a particularly bad day for Kei Kurono, after he gets run down by a train while helping an old friend save a drunk man who had fallen onto the tracks - although he's such an inconsiderate, negative-minded asshole I doubt anyone will miss him. Just when it appears he's died, though, he & his friend Masaru Kato find themselves in a Tokyo apartment with a group of other people who have just 'died'. In the room is a black sphere, with a message: "Your lives have ended. How your new lives will be used will be up to me. That's the rule." It seems they've been given a second chance at life - but at what price..?

Game StartDreaming of Kishimoto

The sphere has a request: there's someone it wants killed, and along with a description of the target it's got all the weaponry needed to complete the job. A few moments later, everyone in the room is transported to a location out in Tokyo. A few of those in the room are smart enough to pick up weapons before they're transported, and they're soon glad they did - one of them has done this before, and explains that they're job is to hunt down and kill alien criminals who are living on Earth. Back in the apartment, the sphere is ticking down a 1-hour countdown, so time is running out. At least one of the group doesn't believe the story they've been told, but soon finds out that refusing the sphere's requests isn't an option...

At the start of the series, our three "heroes" are Kei Kurono, and objectionable jerk who thinks only of himself and really needs to find himself a girlfriend to work off some of his frustrations; Kei Kishimoto, a young girl who has family problems and had attempted suicide; and Masaru Kato, an old acquaintenace of Kurono's who has a strong sense of values, justice, and Doing the Right Thing™. Don't get too used to them - of all the characters featured in the series, only one makes it to the end, and even that may be up for debate.

Nishi gets angryEnemy

Gantz really comes in two parts - the game itself, which is brutal, gory, violent, and as shallow as hell in story terms. To a certain segment of anime fandom, that'll be enough to make this a must-buy set, right there - but to be brutally honest, this side of the show suffers from horrendously bad pacing, some supremely cheesy set piece conversations, and what must be the highest level of stupidity on view in any anime series I've seen. Gantz's game is deadly serious, and yet most of the people it chooses to play it are completely out of their depths, leading to them meeting their ends in a variety of violent and sticky ways. There are so many occasions where you find yourself shouting at the screen, begging the characters to either get a move on or develop a brain cell (even one would do), that you can't help but wonder why you bother. And yet, it's like watching a train wreck - you know it's horrible, you know it's a disaster, and yet you can't quite tear yourself away - you have to keep watching until it's all over, cursing youself all the while. As an example: Kurono and Kato both know the risks of playing Gantz's game, and yet neither will take golden opportunities to kill their targets and move things along, opting rather to spend time agonising over the morals of the situation. Likewise, when another player is facing certain death, it's a five-minute conference on a bridge to decide whether to help him or not. All this indecision paralyses the story and leaves the hunts to take far more time than they really should need. These are meant to be the action scenes, but there's precious little action going on.

Not looking good for KuronoBad face day

It's not all gloom and doom. In the early part of the series, the games are interspersed with some really good character development episodes that flesh out the characters of Kurono, Kishimoto and Kato to a good extent. For Kishimoto and Kato, it really does help you to connect to them and like them - for Kurono, it just goes even further to pointing out what an arsehole he is, but either way the character episodes are very well done and infinitely more enjoyable that the games. The problem here is that as the series goes on and characters beging to fall by the wayside, the development episodes get dropped - primarily as there's no-one left to develop. I suppose it's appropriate that Gantz's more visceral side eventually kills to side that's really worth watching.

At the end of the series, we're left with a whole lot an unanswered questions. Gantz's origins and reasons for being, why the aliens were being hunted (you suspect they'd never done anything to deserve it), and several other issues that could be thought key to what was going on are all unaddressed. There's also no real indication of who lived past the final round - it's all left deliberately open to interpretation, leaving you to make up your own mind. I'm not sure I like that approach, personally. A lot of this open-endedness flows from the series being based on a manga which was still running - there's no ending simply because it hadn't been written yet. The anime's writers have done their best to provide some sort of resolution, but it's not quite up to the task.

In the end, Gantz lives or dies on how you enjoy the games themselves. All that gratuitous violence has a certain appeal, if it hadn't been padded out with so much stupidity. While the character pieces during the early part of the series were well worth watching, all that good work was undone when some of the "lead" characters were killed (although it's refreshing to see there's no reset-button revival for them). In the end, I'm a bit confused by what the writers were trying to do with Gantz - it's a jack of all trades and master of none. Overall, it's okay to watch once through as there are some really good moments hidden in there, but once the shock value's gone I can't see it being a series I'll be replaying. Another one for the rental list.

For full episode details and screenshots, check our reviews of the individual discs:
» Volume 1: Game of Death
» Volume 2: Aftershocks
» Volume 3: Process of Elimination
» Volume 4: Fatal Attractions
» Volume 5: Deathwatch
» Volume 6: Judge, Jury and Executioner
» Volume 7: Endgame

Rating - ***

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