Genre: Anime, Action, Horror
Duration: 25mins (26 Episodes)
The next on my list of animé to get through; a list that seems to grow quicker than I can keep track of, and with many decent reviews and promise of 'adult' themes, I hoped to leave behind the childish notion the plagued my last foray into the genre. This wasn't to be the case; the themes are adult but without any trace of intelligence, which comes as a particular shame given the strong initial premise. Following the tale of Kei and Kato, two recently recently re-united childhood friends who don't get long to reminisce before being struck by a train and transported to the room by the mysterious black ball known as “Gantz.” Emerging to discover an entire room of recently deceased, they all begin to question why they are there, but before long Gantz issues his orders, handing them their weapons and armour that will be needed for the upcoming battles.
The plot, as it would turn out, feels like nothing particularly special, relying heavily on internal monologues with immature swearing, childish sexual desires and fantasies, and the bloody carnage of the battles. This all makes for a very slow beginning and long periods of 'downtime' where very little actually happens. Where this show actually succeeds – and certainly where it scores the most points from me – is in the actual Versus-style-OTT action sequences which are inevitably filled with epic battles between giant demons against the multiple victims of Gantz' game, all struggling to work as a team, each episode successfully raising the bar a little further. Whilst drawn out over long periods of time – the final battle alone spans 1/4 the series (excluding the last few episodes that deviated from the original manga) – it's in far more depth than a simplistic gun battle, following many of the characters in turn as they all display slightly different tendencies in the heat of the moment (even if the same three take the centre stage).
The characters do little help this lack of plot either, as many end up feeling incredibly one-dimensional; the goody-two-shoes male, the horny teenager who eventually turns into a psychopath and a woman whose tits had more of a personality than she does forming the main recurring roles. In fact the general rule seems to be that the more interesting the characters the smaller the roles; the biker leader that straddles the line between rebel and loving husband and father, creating an unexpectedly affectionate character, and the slightly deranged 'Nishi' who for all his social problems has a morbidly fascinating outlook on the value of human life both briefly showing us some much needed variety. As time went on, more of this becomes devoted to the core three leaving only time to present us with a very quick stereotyped role to replace those that died in battle without stagnating with further lengthy detailed portrayals.
The character animation had a distinctly 'old-school' feel to it, more at home with Urotsukidoji, Akira or even the American animated film 'Heavy Metal,' which gives the show a more personal and artistic touch to many of the scenes, even if by modern standards fell shy of the general quality to be expected. Sadly, this was often butchered by the CGI fly-by's of the landscapes and backdrops which at times felt more like a rushed computer game than an animé, though thankfully only detracts from the overall piece in a minor way. There is also a semi-philosophical questioning that occasionally raises its head only to be forgotten, and early on the emergence of a genuine story that tries to involve you in their lives but being told through the eyes of the misogynist it contradicts its own purpose, trying to be both intelligent and – somewhat – thought provoking whilst simultaneously packing in as much sex and violence as possible. The potential for something with emotional weight was present from the beginning but all too soon deviated into something less mindful. Gantz feels a little like a re-imagining of Urotsukidoji before it; there are severe pacing issues, a lack of plot, and unnecessary and gratuitous sex scenes that get in the way of what could have otherwise been an interesting action show.