For those of you who may not know, Gantz is an anime known for being a hardcore seinen series. Hiroya Oku’s 29 volume manga series was adapted into a 23 episode anime series by Gonzo filled with a gratuitous amount of gore, sex, and violence- the perfect combination, eh? Gantz did so well that it was even adapted into a live-action movie, also titled Gantz, which we were able to watch, review — and recommend.
I honestly did not know what to expect when I started this movie. I had discovered a few shaky reviews, but a few positive reviews as well; but, like any movie I watch, I don’t decide whether or not I will watch a movie based on two or three people’s opinions. The movie is in Japanese with English subtitles, but English dubs are available (however not recommended, just throw on those English subtitles. If you are a true otaku, you should be used to reading subtitles by now).
The movie starts off with the main character, Kei Kurono (played by Kazunari Ninomiya), reading a book on how to have a successful job interview while waiting for his train. Kei appears to be an average Japanese college student looking for a job and preparing for his future. Someone calls out that a man has fallen onto the tracks and, while bystanders appear worried, no one seems to do anything about it. The train is approaching the station.
With this drunken man’s death drawing near, Kei notices recognizes a childhood friend, Masaru Kato (played by Ken’ichi Matsuyama). Kato hops down onto the tracks to help the drunkard, and requests assistance in getting the man to safety. He calls out to Kei, recognizing him. Kei, however, pretends not to see him. Kato manages to get the drunk onto the platform with the help of a few people, but he cannot pull himself up. With the train collision imminent, Kei finally goes to his aid. Unfortunately, he is unable to pull Kato up, and is pulled onto the tracks himself. They both meet their deaths as they are run over by the train.
Immediately after they were “killed”, they appear in a strange, empty room devoid of anything except a few other strangers, and a giant black sphere, with no distinguishing traits at all. Shaken and confused, Kei and Kato ponder their situation; are they dead? They were just hit by a train, right? Shortly after their arrival, the sphere begins materializing something (reminded me of Tron). As the figure continues to appear, they realize it is a girl — Kei Kishimoto (played by Natsuna). She is completely naked and dripping wet. The others inform them that they appeared the same way, just before she did. Kato offers her his coat.
Officially confused, they have no time to start asking questions, as the sphere begins to play a creepy anthem. Upon completion of the anthem, the sides of the sphere, which would later be known as “Gantz”, eject, revealing several suitcases with each of their names on them. In addition to the cases, there are several racks armed with an arsenal of weaponry. Inside the cases are custom fitted, mysterious suits which grant superhuman strength, cloaking, and various other combat enhancing abilities. As the crew investigates the orb further, they notice a bald man inside connected to a breathing apparatus and various other sci-fi tubes.
Gantz informed them all that he will decide how they will live from now on, and instructs them on their “target”. A creature is shown on the orb as well as a brief profile, including personality, likes, etc… and a time limit is given. As more questions arise, there is no time for answers, as the team is dematerialized. They reappear in a dark street. Joichiro Nishi (played by Kanata Hongô) informs them that they are all part of a TV show, wherein if they eliminate the target, they will win $100,000. Their target is an alien who loves onions, stinks, and has green hair. As the rest of the team is new, they believe him, and pursue the alien. Kei, Kato, Joichiro, and Kishimoto are the only ones who don’t immediately go after the alien.
Aside from being a bit on the slow side, I found Gantz ‘s story to follow a great and engaging path and enjoyed the film’s special effects. The acting was much better than I had initially anticipated (I don’t usually watch foreign live-action films). I was relieved that there weren’t any Sharktopus-type creatures (Google it…) and that they weren’t poorly made.
I would have to say that my favorite character had to be Kei. Initially, he seemed like this average guy who just went with the flow. Even when Gantz first sent him on a mission, Kei literally let everyone else have the spotlight, almost as if he was no longer the main character. But near the middle of the movie, he finally realized he wasn’t escaping this fate any time soon, and accepted his role. He totally became this awesome, seemingly fearless warrior who would “protect everyone”. Unfortunately, at times he can be a little too cocky and Rambo-ish, but his friends bring him back off his high horse.
As I mentioned before, I don’t typically like watching foreign live-action movies, mainly because my perspective of foreigners in movies comes from bad actors starring in American movies (most of the actors in Gran Torino…) However, I was pleased to see that the acting was great. Granted, every movie has a bad actor or two (usually extras) but the cast of Gantz was well picked and I didn’t spend half the movie laughing at those awkwardly-serious scenes that I shouldn’t find amusing.
I highly recommend the film to those interested in Japanese live-action or anime live-action adaptations. A word of warning: if you’re queesy when it comes to gore, this movie may not be for you. The beginning was especially gory (as you’d expect from a train killing two people).