Review: Gantz + Gantz Perfect Answer (15) / Director: Shinsuke Sato / Screenplay: Hiroya Oku / Starring: Kazunari Ninomiya, Ken'ichi Matsuyama, Yuriko Yoshitaka / Release date: Out now
It seems like after ghostly dark haired girls ran their course, the next craze to sweep the Japanese film industry may well be adaptations of anime into live action. In recent years we have had Casshern and the Death Note series adapted with varying degrees of success. The problem is that many of these anime series’ are actually 22 part season long arcs and condensing the narrative down into one or two, two hour movies is going to lead to some incoherence and the loss of some satisfying subplots and characters. The latest anime to get this treatment is Gantz.
Gantz was first of all a manga written and illustrated by Hiroya Oku before becoming two 13 episode series’ worth of anime and tells the story of Kei Kurono and his friend Masaru Kato who die in a train accident and wake up in a room with several other recently deceased people. In the room with them is a black sphere that calls itself ‘Gantz’ and contains a bald man on life support. Gantz instructs them that they must track and kill aliens living amongst humanity using their power suits and high tech weapons. At the end of each mission the team are given scores and once they gain 100 points they are given the chance to either return to life or resurrect a fallen comrade. The first film follows this plot to the letter and is merely a collection of sequences of the team clumsily killing a series of bizarre aliens in showers of gore. There is very little character development or personality on display from the attractive cast and the film is at least twenty minutes too long making it a bit of a chore to sit through. Where it gains points however is in the depiction of its aliens. The designs are frequently bizarre, taking the form of vegetable headed oafs, demonic Lego men or giant Buddha statues with swords. The sequences where the team take out these enemies are really well done for the most part and the films biggest selling point.
For the sequel Gantz: Perfect Answer, the mythology is deepened although still remains surreal and obtuse. The action quota is ramped up with something resembling an actual plot. Vengeful aliens who take human form begin to take out members of the team and Gantz itself starts to malfunction bringing much confusion to the team as they score points randomly and random regenerations of fallen comrades occur. The aliens also seem to have small black spheres of their own giving them instructions. As a result, allegiances shift, people are betrayed and the stakes are higher as people from Kei and Masuru’s private lives are dragged into the melee.
The second film is much better than the first although still too long. It has the best set pieces of the two with an extended sequence on board a packed subway train as alien’s gun down members of the public and our heroes fight them off with swords being the stand out. Director Shinsuke Sato definitely has the perfect balance of craft and editing in order to make an exhilarating action sequence. Sadly for a film subtitled Perfect Answer, there really are not any answers. It is never fully explained what the hell is going on with this black sphere commanding resurrected contestants and why this is happening. This may infuriate some, it may delight others.
Whilst they never hit the stylistic heights of Casshern and lack the clever narrative of Death Note, if you can just go with the bizarre plot that offers no easy answers and enjoy them for the Japanese style exercises that they are, then there is much fun to be had with the Gantz films. Undoubtedly they are best enjoyed back to back for full effect.
Extras: Making of, Interview, Trailer, TV spots