DVD
Gantz
Volume 1 - Game of Death

Starring (voice): Daisuke Namikawa, Masashi Osato, Hitomi Nabatame
MVM
RRP: 19.99
MVD2106
Certificate: 15
Available 17 October 2005


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.

Volume 1 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 who are also dead. All the people in the room have recently died and have been given a second lease of life, "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 fantastic 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).

The American soundtrack is fantastic - no forced acting or corny dialogue anywhere to be seen. And the opening and closing music tracks for the show are fantastic. This series oozes quality from every pore.

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).

It's great to see that 30-something's, like me, can enjoy a modern animated series just as much as we did those '80s animated shows - although I can't imagine this been broadcast on Saturday morning kid's TV. Thank goodness that animation has matured with us. Everyone who is alive should be collecting this series.

Darren Rea

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