DVD
Gantz
The Complete Series

Starring (voice): Daisuke Namikawa, Masashi Osato, Hitomi Nabatame
MVM
RRP: 59.99
MVD6018
Certificate: 18
Available 06 August 2007


While waiting to catch a subway train home from school, 16-year-old Kei Kurono sees an old childhood friend, Masaru Kato, on the railway platform. Suddenly, a drunken homeless man falls on to the tracks. Despite the number of witnesses who could help, only Kato goes to his aid. Recognising his former friend, Kato calls for Kurono's assistance in rescuing the man. Together they manage to get the man to safety, but in doing so they are hit by an incoming express train and killed instantly. Seconds later, with no idea of how it has happened, Kurono and Kato find themselves in an unfurnished apartment in Tokyo in the company of several strangers, a dog and a large, black spherical object they are told is the Gantz...

Based on Hiroya Oku's comic, originally serialised in the weekly magazine, Young Jump, Gantz is the controversial anime series that, even in its heavily censored TV broadcast version, shocked Japan with its splatter-punk violence, explicit profanity, stark eroticism and unerring tendency to challenge the limits of acceptability for a primetime animated TV show.

The first disc in this collection contains the first four episodes in the series and neatly introduces viewers to the world of Gantz. As our two heroes are killed, they suddenly find themselves in a room with a number of other people. All of these people have recently died and have been given a second lease of life, after being resurrected by the Gantz. As Kurono and Kato are trying to come to terms with their situation, they witness the transference to the room of a naked girl, the victim of an apparent suicide. It is soon revealed that a new life comes at a price. Their reprieve from death's clutches is dependent upon one thing - to remain alive they must follow the Gantz's instructions to seek out and destroy alien life forms known to be hiding on earth. Failure to comply will result in a second, permanent death.

Gantz is bound to be compared to The Matrix, but that is an insult to the intelligent writing behind this animated series. This is certainly not the sort of Japanese animation I remember from my youth. Gantz is a hard hitting, adult-based series which sets out to entertain and shock the viewer. And it works - on both counts. The series is part shocking (there is a rather harrowing attempted rape scene as well as the rather graphic death scene of Kurono and Kato), part humorous (Kurono's voice-over is amusingly detached as his body is torn apart, and his constant erection problems are laugh out loud funny) and part social commentary (the thoughts of all the individuals on the subway platform in the first episode illustrates what a cold way most of us live our lives).

Extras include the opening and closing credits without the rolling credits, and an interview with director Ichiroh Itano and Daisuke Namikawa (who voices Kurono on the original Japanese soundtrack).

Disc two features episodes 5-8. The first game is over but will the horrors committed be forever burned into the souls of those who remain "alive"? As new shocking developments rip the survivors' "real" worlds to shreds, the sins of the flesh grow and spread, festering until the line between good and evil ceases to exist. In a world where the laws of life and death have been overturned, what other forbidden passions remain?

What I loved about the four episodes on this collection was the fact that the writers are not afraid to shift pace as the story progresses. The first four episodes thrust viewers into Gantz's messed up universe without leaving them with any space to breath. On disc two we get to learn a lot more about the background of the characters without the writers feeling the need to quickly set out on another Gantz mission immediately. This helps to not only build up a relationship with the main characters, but also builds tension as to when Gantz will call them back. Also in this collection random characters seem to keep cropping up for no real reason - there's a spoilt child and his doting grandmother, a male model and his stalker, and a gang of bikers - but worry not their appearance isn't there just to confuse you... every thing is made clear as the episodes progress.

Episode 5, That Means at the Time, opens with the mysterious tooth collecting bully beating up a man for reasons not yet known. It later transpires that this juvenile thug attacks anyone that fails to pay protection money to another member of his gang, and that he is currently beating up the school's karate instructor because he dared to challenge him and his gang for picking on his karate students.

Back in the Gantz room, one of the seasoned players of the cruel game explains to the survivors that they are fax copies of their real selves and that they are free to return home. However, they must not talk of Gantz or their experiences. Kurono goes back to school, Masaru goes back to looking after his younger brother, but Kishimoto cannot go home as her real body wasn't destroyed (Kurono and Masaru's bodies where totally torn apart by the tube that ran them down, and no one knows who the two mystery school boys are that were killed) in fact she survived her suicide attempt. This now means that Kishimoto has nowhere to stay - she can't really go home and explain to her family why there are two copies of herself.

Episode 6, Alright, sees Kishimoto turn up at Kurono's front door and ask to stay with him. Kurono has the hots for Kishimoto (well, for her huge breasts) and agrees to take her in on the off chance that she will sleep with him. And he really thinks his luck is in when he realises that she'll have to share his single bed. But, just as he's managing to get somewhere (in his eyes) she starts telling him about her self-abusive past and the fact that her real body is still alive.

Episode 7, We're After You, sees Masaru and his brother have a serious run in with their aunt, who is a bit of a bully. They've lived with her since their parents were killed. She makes them sit on the floor without an evening meal while she and her two young sons stuff their faces. The reason they are banished from the table is because Masaru's younger brother accidentally got his aunt's carpet a little dirty.

Meanwhile Kurono and Kishimoto are out shopping for supplies, but things start to take a turn for the worse when the shop assistant offers to let them take the groceries home for free if they can direct her to the right underground train platform for a journey she wants to make. Startled by such a bizarre request, Kurono and Kishimoto make a run for it. Later, back at his house, Kurono reflects on the odd event and comes to the conclusion that Gantz is gearing up to transport them in for another game. He insists that Kishimoto tries on her gaming costume as it is her best chance of survival should they suddenly find themselves in the Gantz room. However, does he have other motives than Kishimoto's well being? Could it be that he can't wait to see her huge chest crammed into that tight black latex outfit? Yep, it looks like Kurono is perving after large breasted women again.

Episode 8, Uh-oh!, sees Kishimoto reveal to Kurono that she is in love with someone... and the only reason she is continuing with Gantz is so that one day she will be able to make her feelings known. Everything points to this special person being Kurono. Could his luck finally have changed? Has the girl that he's been lusting after since he met her, finally fallen for him?

Gantz also decides that it's time to bring back the survivors from the last game as well as a few new recruits to track down and kill another alien being...

There are plenty of amusing elements to these episodes. Kurono is infatuated with Kishimoto's breasts is. He's totally blinded by them and convinced that she will fall for him - especially after she asks him to keep her in his house like a pet. Two items were left at the scene of Kurono and Masaru's messy underground train accident. Masaru left a plastic umbrella with initials engraved on it, while Kurono left a specialist porno mag that caters for those that like top heavy girls. The police seem intent on tracking down the owners of these items in order to find out who the two dead boys are.

Extras on this disc include textless opening and closing titles (as with the last volume); 2 x 18 minute Q&As with the voice actors (the second one has too quiet a soundtrack); and some trailers for other releases.

On to disc three, and the violence erupts as the second game not only pits the resurrected against aliens, but against each other as well. As the new group of players fight amongst themselves, a newer and deadlier alien menace is thrown against them. Against the sonic screams and ever increasing numbers of their new opponents, the enhanced power suits and weapons provided by the Gantz are no guarantee of survival... but for the unsuited Kurono the likelihood of survival is almost non-existent.

Episode 9, I'll Kill You Without a Moment's Hesitation, opens in the Gantz room. Kei is starting to panic because he realises he's left his suit at home. Everything is starting to go pear shaped - the bikers are not taking the idea of Gantz seriously, and as a consequence are refusing to put on their suits. But when Kishimoto goes into the hallway to change, several of the bikers follow her so they can spy on her as she gets undressed. As Kato tries to keep order and get everyone to change, Nishi tells them all that they are not a group, and that they won't all be coming back from the game. He states that Kei is as good as dead without his suit, Grandma and Ryota are not likely to make it back alive, and that the bikers are society's rubbish. Kosuke, one of the bikers fires his gun at Nishi. When nothing happens Nishi fires at Kosuke, who's head promptly explodes. Then Gantz sends them out into another game.

Episode 10, Yuzo?, and Kei materialises into the path of his target, the Suzuki Seijin alien. He has the chance to shoot it in the back, but when he realises it has bones he can't bring himself to pull the trigger. The alien keeps saying "Yuzo" over and over again. Kei runs for his life and soon runs into the rest of the gamers. Nishi seems to be the only one who is up for trying to complete their mission. For some reason, the rest of them stand on a bridge and argue while Nishi struggles with the alien. Eventually, after much deliberation and pointless arguing Kato goes to help Nishi.

Episode 11, He Can't Shoot, sees Kato attempting to kill the Suzuki alien, while the rest of the gamers watch on and continue to argue. Nishi has been badly injured, in fact it looks as though he may not survive for much longer. But if he can stay alive until the game is completed, he knows he will return to the Gantz room as good as new. Kei watches from the bridge, knowing that Kato won't shoot no matter how bad things get. Most of the other gamers have decided to make their way home, and leave the battle behind. But they are not aware that if they leave the gaming area they will be killed. Eventually the Suzuki alien is destroyed, but for some reason the gamers remain in the battle arena. They soon realise that there is more than one alien to destroy and that they can't return until they have killed all of them.

Episode 12, Kato, You Wait Here, and Kato explains that they must all work together if they are to have any chance of getting out of the game alive. They realise that there is at least one other alien that needs to be dispatched. Kato, Kishimoto, and Hojo go after the alien that they can see on their tracker, while the rest of the group go looking for the other gamers who have wandered off (they need to warn them about not stepping outside the gaming zone). Kei's group eventually follow the tracker to a large warehouse, which seems to be filled with aliens. But when Kei enters the building things seem to be worse than they'd feared. Not only are there a whole gang of Suzuki aliens, but there is also a huge boss alien too.

After the fantastic episodes that we were presented with on disc one and two of this collection, I was a little disappointed by this disc. Sadly the writing was not as tight as in previous episodes and as a consequence this disc seemed to drag a little. Not only that, but I was confused (that's not difficult these days) by a number of things:

Firstly, why after spending previous episodes setting Nishi up as a cold and mysterious character did they half-heartedly attempt to make us feel sorry for him. It felt out of place and didn't work. Maybe if they'd focused on the fact that Nishi was a normal kid before Gantz had hardened him, then we'd have felt for him, but all you end up doing is not caring whether he is going to survive or die. Equally, the grandma and grandson characters are pretty pointless. This is a shame, because their introductions and original deaths showed promise of possible interesting characterisation. Sadly what we get is a rather two dimensional spoilt brat and his doting grandmother cluttering up the scenes.

And I couldn't work out why everyone spent ages arguing on the bridge when they should be killing the alien. And as for Kato's inability to fire his gun... He's just seen one of his team's eyes and eardrums explode due to the alien's attack. I'm sorry, but however much of a pacifist you are I'm sure that you could pull a trigger with the threat of that happening to you hanging over your head.

Extras include textless opening and closing titles, Japanese TV spots (an interesting collection of Japanese TV ads for the DVD release); and trailers for other anime releases.

Disc four and as Kato struggles to maintain control, Kishimoto realises that with her new body comes a new hope. Unfortunately, before she can act on those options, the second game begins. As a new group of players is initiated into the world of the sphere, the survivors of the first game are confronted with an entirely different breed of opponent... one that's smarter, more aggressive and more organised... and that's before the real game even starts.

In episode 13, Please Die, Kurono stumbles into a room where the final boss alien is hiding out. For some reason the Suzuki aliens surround Kurono and treat him like a friend, that is until he accidentally steps on one of the little chicks that is wandering around. Suddenly the aliens turn nasty, and the boss alien suddenly notices the intruder. Kurono opens fire, which results in the building collapsing and luckily saves him from certain doom. While Kurono managed to escape, so does the boss alien - who picks up Kurono and soars high into the sky. With time running out for them to complete the "game", how can Kurono kill the last boss in time?

Episode 14, Goodbye, sees everyone returned to the real world after a successful mission - that is all those that survived. After a failed attempt at talking Kato into allowing her to return home with him, Kishimoto goes back to Kurono's house. Returning to school, Kurono starts to daydream about Kishimoto - getting an erection in the process - much to his embarrassment and the classes amusement. Meanwhile, Kishimoto is hanging around a book shop when she spots a beautiful girl called Sei Sakuraoka. Kato returns home to find his aunt mistreating his younger brother, Ayuma. After a confrontation Kato and his brother are kicked out. But Kato was prepared for this and has already found a flat to rent. Back at Kurono's flat, Kishimoto is still clueless as to why her and Kurono keep falling out. After another night of arguing she decides to leave.

Episode 15, I Wanna Be There Now, and Kurono regrets arguing with Kishimoto. Before long everyone is transported back into the Gantz room. However, this time there is another bunch of strangers awaiting their fate. Amongst the newcomers is Sakuraoka, the girl that Kishimoto saw earlier, and a loud mouthed Buddhist priest who explains to everyone that they are in limbo, waiting to find out if they will be going to Heaven or Hell. Trying to stay out of Kishimoto's way, Kurono heads out into the hall. Sakuraoka follows him and the two start to chat. Kurono brazenly asks her if she will have sex with him. Although surprised, she agrees. While they are in the middle of making love Kishimoto walks in on them.

In episode 16, I Will Do It, the priest convinces the new gamers that Kato is a demon, but then they are all transported into the next game. Outside a Buddhist temple, the tracking device tells them that their prey is inside. Someone asks whether the two large statues outside the temple are aliens and so they decide to scan them and discover that they display life signs. But before anyone one can do anything both statues come to life.

Extras include interview with creator Hiroya Oku and actress Chiaki Kuriyama; interview with director Ichiro Itano and CG director Yashurio Kato; clean opening and closing titles; trailer for the Gantz console game; and trailers for other anime DVD releases. Although I seriously suggest that you wait until you've watched all the DVDs before you watch the interview with Hiroya Oku and Chiaki Kuriyama. There is a major plot development spoilt for those that haven't already read the original comic.

Disc five and this time, they thought they were ready for anything the Gantz could throw at them. They were wrong. The third horrifying game rips into the resurrectees, decimating their ranks as wave after wave of deadly opponents exact their bloody toll. No one is spared, no one is safe, and for any of the players to survive, one of their number will have to make the ultimate sacrifice. And even then, it may all be for nothing.

There's very little point in me breaking down the this disc into episodes - because to be quite honest very little happens.

Episodes 17-20: Confronted by the red and green giant statues, the team have to fight for their lives. And when a few, smaller statues come to life, several of the unsuited players realise that they can beat them without any problem. Once that threat is over a number of other statues come to life - including a big bad boss that seems impossible to kill. Then, just when they think everything is going to end well, tragedy strikes and all of a sudden their world is turned upside down.

And that, in a nutshell, is it. In all honesty these four episodes could easily have been spread over two parts. One of the biggest problems (and I've mentioned this before) is the fact that when confronted by a deadly enemy, or the need to act quickly to save one of their team, all they do is stand around talking rubbish or shouting at each other.

Extras are, as ever, thin on the ground. All we get is a Gantz music video; textless opening and closing titles and some trailers.


Disc six
opens with episode 21, Big Brother? In this episode the team is still attempting to kill all of the aliens before the time runs out. But with many amongst them already dead, will they be able to kill the remaining statues in time?

Episode 22, Don't Ever Say That Again!, and having barely survived the last mission, Kurono goes back home. But it's not long before he is sucked back into the Gantz room. This time the players include a bookshop clerk, his teacher, and the two kids who have been seen in previous episodes killing tramps. Just why has Gantz brought a number of people that Kurono knows into the new game?

Episode 23, Kurono Alien, and just when Kurono thought it couldn't get any worse, Gantz throws a spanner in the works. Kurono's challenge seems impossible now. To survive he must kill... himself. But, with the other gamers after him, his attempts to stay alive may not be as easy as he thinks.

Extras include clean opening and closing credits as well as an interview with cast and crew. Thankfully this featurette warns viewers that it contains spoilers on the end of the series.


Disc seven and the fragile bonds that hold the survivors together are frayed to breaking point, but in Gantz's game, survival is impossible without a warm body guarding your back. As the Gantz reaches into the "real" world and a fresh batch of resurrectees are offered up on the altar of slaughter, Kurono finds himself partnered with a new lady killer. If looks could kill, he would have died a second time, but will she be his salvation or his death?

The final disc sees everything come to a head. In the show's three remaining episodes, Kurono must first convince his fellow gamers that he is not the alien threat that they have to dispose of... as well as convincing his teacher that he didn't have the hots for her in school.

Episode 24, No Labyrinth is Inescapable, and Kurono finally manages to convince the other players that the two tramp killers are total nut jobs - that they will kill anyone that stands in their way. Some of the team still need some proof that the two psychos are really dangerous and this proves a fatal mistake as it allows them the chance to kill off a few of the competition. It soon becomes obvious that the tramp killers intend to kill everyone else in order that they can survive the game.

Episode 25, Let's All Go Back Alive, and working together, the team finally track down the tramp hunters, who have split up. The youngest of the two pleads for forgiveness (once again) blaming his partner for everything. Surely no one will fall for that old trick?

Episode 26, Please Live, and the pressure is on for Kurono and the others to survive the game. With only minutes left, it looks like there will be no winners. How can Kurono have come so far only to be beaten at the final hurdle?

This volume, far from wrapping things up neatly, leaves everything hanging in the air. It's down to the viewer to decide what they think happens at the end and whether the conclusion is a cop out or an ingenious way of leaving us wanting more. Because of this, the final episode may disappoint some viewers - although personally I found it to be a refreshing change from the norm.

However, as in previous episodes, there is a little too much emphasis on the characters screaming and shouting at one another - which can be rather distracting.

Extras include The Secret Behind the Impeccable Images of Gantz (16 min featurette that goes behind the scenes at the animation studio); DVD Special Feature Collection (16 min featurette that collects together TV spots and interviews with the cast and crew).

Personally I found the final three episodes to be a fitting conclusion to this entertaining series - although I'm sure it won't be to everyone's liking.

One final point I wanted to make was about the incredible music. The opening track (Rip Slyme's Super Shooter) rolls around your head for ages and I can't think of a better way to close each episode than with Bonnie Pink's Last Kiss power ballad.

When originally release on DVD between 2005-2006 as individual discs, this collection would have set you back almost £140. The fact that you can now pick up all the episodes for £60 should be all the reason you need to purchase this collection.

 

Darren Rea

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