Many people love Gantz. They praise it with adjectives such as ‘awesome’ and ‘pure w1n’, and can never be said to be slow to defend its perceived greatness. Unfortunately, I never really appreciated the appeal of the series, and so what better pastime than to
rile the fanboys introduce an opposing point of view? Please note, however, that I’m only talking about the Gantz anime; I have yet to read the manga, although I may do so in the future.
Gantz tells the tale of Kei Kurono, one of the few main characters to die at the beginning of a series when he and an old friend are hit by a train whilst attempting to help a hobo off the tracks. Fortunately for the long term prospects of the series, they (among others) are revived by a mysterious black ball known only as Gantz, and instructed to defeat a particular type of alien if they wish to survive. From then on, their lives follow a pattern of periodically facing up to deadly aliens in exchange for being allowed to return to their normal lives in between- although turnover rate is high, and not everyone makes it out of a mission alive.
Even though this is a rant, let’s start off by addressing the good points, of which even I was able to find a few. At its core, the series can be said to be an examination of the ugliness that lurks within the human psyche, and in that sense, it performs admirably, pointing out everything from the wanton cruelty that some freely choose and others are forced into, to the basic selfishness and unwillingness to interfere that most of us can be accused of. It is perhaps a little too large a dose of it to take, but it still provides something to think about if you are so inclined.
Unfortunately, any message the series may have to impart is overshadowed by various other factors, the first of these being the notoriously high volume of gratuitous sex and violence. Some will surely find this titillating, others will argue that this rams the message home more clearly, but for me, it just seemed (as I have said before) as little more than an adolescent boy’s wet dream, filled with big breasts, big guns and RAGING HARD-ONs. Subtlety, a somewhat underrated virtue, was not to be seen here, and whilst I’m not one to run and hide at the first sign of blood or nipples, you have to question the inclusion of a dog that enjoys licking the crotch of a naked girl.
Off-putting as all this may sound, it was something I could have just about lived with, if not for the series’ other main flaw- its painfully slow pacing. In an attempt not to run out of what manga material was available at the time, the anime was forced to take each arc at a measured pace, to the extent that it became a little too tiresome for its own good. Each time an alien was defeated, there was an almost certainty that it would prove to be just one of a wave of enemies, each designed to stretch the current arc out as much as possible. You may have already tired of that particular storyline, but that’s not going to stop the series from giving you three or four more episodes of it.
The fact that the manga remains unfinished also gives the anime another obvious problem- it remains unable to answer many of the driving questions behind the series. Who exactly is Gantz, and what is its ultimate purpose? How does it choose who to resurrect, and what are the aliens they are fighting? To be fair, I knew that these questions would not be answered in the anime and so I don’t count it against the series that they were not addressed, but even so I am still curious about the answers.
As well as answers, something else that the series fails to provide is basic character development for anyone beyond the three main characters. With its high turnover rate of supporting cast members, there is barely time to get to know most of the characters that appear in the series, and whilst some are clearly meant to be one-dimensional personalities designed to play as brief a role a possible, even those with vastly more potential tend to be killed off all too soon.
Finally, the presentation must be addressed, and although Gonzo is usually known for placing style before substance, unfortunately here they seem to have neglected their usual aesthetics. Whilst technically clean and well done, character designs are hardly attractive, and even though this is an acceptable move for the tone of the series, everything looks that much worse for being placed in ugly CG backgrounds that make the characters seem divorced from their surroundings. Background music is generally forgettable, although the OP is oddly catchy despite its leanings towards the dreaded realm of J-rap.
Love it or loathe it, Gantz is the kind of series that creates a strong impression, and it cannot be denied that it has left its mark on the anime community. As the above rant goes to show, it never really clicked with me for various reasons, but even so, I cannot deny the notoriety it has earned.