In a first for the A.S.S. series, I implore you to perhaps look elsewhere for your anime fix.
Hiroya Oku’s Gantz manga is a fine series, and the Gantz: 0 film is incredible; the 2004 anime is….well, A.S.S!
What if when you die, instead of whatever afterlife you believe exists, you’re transported to a small room with an ominous black ball and a number of other strangers in order to play a game? A hunting game, a game in which you have one hour to find a target and kill it or you’ll die in its place? You’re given your supplies and tracking equipment, but you’re essentially tasked to suddenly kill something that has never affected you or anyone you know, but it’s either them or you. Welcome to Gantz. Hiroya Oku’s long-running manga and short-lived anime series in 2004 from studio Gonzo that attempts to hold the proverbial mirror up to the selfish and survival instincts of humanity.
Gantz was certainly a mainstay of anime in the early aughts, as I recall seeing it always lining shelves and advertised prominently online. It was always a series I’d heard and seen a lot being discussed regarding the show, but no one praised it much. Its manga’s art was highly acclaimed, as it certainly is often stunning with its detail and unique representations, but the story was hardly brought up as a positive. After spending some time with the English dubbing, and then reading the manga in its entirety, Gantz is a very hard series to recommend. I do not think it’s an absolute waste or throwaway, and there truly is a charm and style Oku has in his art, but the anime is a train wreck in this viewers eyes.
It suffers from a few of my personal hang-ups anime adaptations often getting hooked into: pacing, animation, and on the dubbing side, questionable levity with the dialogue. Episodes often have a tendency to plod and drag out scenes and moments at tooth-pulling degrees. Monologues and declamations are presented as panoramic shots and characters stare at one another. Thankfully most of Oku’s art looks great…at least as long as most of the characters are stationary. To their credit, Gonzo had some shows under their belt by the time they took on Gantz, but their style of blending the CG and cel styles simply do not work for me. There is this almost a sheen or tracer quality to a lot of the movements that is more often glaring, rather than accentuating. Lastly is the dubbing, oh man, the dubbing in Gantz.
I love swearing, it’s something that is a part of my vocabulary that I’ll likely never remove. Swearing can be a powerful effect by helping exclaim a sentence, showcase anger or a number of other emotions. That being said, swearing for the sake of swearing is simply lazy to me. It comes off as edgy and juvenile. People often laugh when a child swears because ‘ha-ha, get it? Children aren’t fully aware they said something that’s usually reserved for an older situation, how hilarious.’ But I’m not here to argue them moral ideals people have with swearing, it’s Gantz’s abundance overuse of the idea that sends it into another stratosphere of obnoxiousness. Kurono Kei is the main protagonist, and he’s instantly an inveterate creation. Kei is selfish, reserved, and arguably a tragic figure, but once his English voice actor opens his avatar mouth, any remote affection one might attempt to flourish with Kei is gone. Chris Ayres is a marvelous voice actor, and his true efficiency with voices and Kei’s in particular is always terrific to hear. He accurately sounds as though he is in the various situations the characters he voices are in. Unfortunately the dialogue in Gantz completely ranks him as excruciating thanks to its near-ceaseless need to have nearly every other word a swear.
Kei’s character is hardly the only one that’s subscribed this ideal either. Half of the ever-changing cast is continuously pushing swearing to the point where even I refuse to want to utter another swear for a while to give the language a needed break. Now while I don’t fully understand Japanese, nor if the subtitles were 100% correctly translating the Japanese dialogue, but there seemed to be considerably less in the original dub. Even the manga had less, so I’m lead to believe that Funimation got a bit of leniency to allow the characters to swear as much as they did. And I fully get the logic that may have been in place: if I were thrust into a world where it’s kill-or-be-killed, I’d understandably panic and swear here and there when I see some of the grotesque creations that Gantz is throwing at me. But I would hardly ever go to the extreme a lot of Gantz’s cast do. I’d certainly recommend subs over dubs if you’re willing to digest Gantz in its animated adaptation.
Gantz is not a pleasant story. It’s not a happy story. It’s not a really even an uplifting story. Gantz likes to constantly harm, maim, and kill its characters in often brutal ways, and there is clearly an audience for that. Gantz is brutal, so if you’re squeamish and not a fan of blood and lots of it, Gantz really isn’t for you. Actually, assume any and all trigger warnings you may have could likely be touched upon by Gantz. Series director Ichiro Itano has mentioned in interviews that his aim with Gantz was to not only push the censorship envelope, but showcase the desensitization of society. I definitely think Itano has succeeded in showcasing that, as Gantz is and was a success, but I’d speak for the manga to express this ideal far better. I don’t aim to perceive myself as a braggart, but I like to consider myself largely desensitized to a lot of what life or the internet can thrust my way. But I also know my limits and I rarely seek out stuff I know could potentially affect me to that level. I can stomach a manga viscerally tearing apart a character, or seeing waves and oceans of blood overtake cities, even Junji Ito’s works which are often ‘nightmare fuel’ rarely illicit a reaction from me more than ‘that’s gnarly’. What I’m trying to say is: Gantz was once an edgier, decidedly more controversial creation in the early aughts, but it’s been left to fade into obscurity because its anime lacks what makes it a sustainable legacy.
I’ve said a couple of times already in this write-up, but the manga is a better route to intake Gantz’s story. Its characters improve while being more competently paced, and Oku’s art is simply a sight to behold. I certainly recommend Gantz in its original manga form over its truncated sibling. Additionally, do not sleep on the Netflix exclusive Gantz: 0 CG-anime movie. It has arguably some of the best, most creative animation I have ever seen. Pixar has obviously set such a high standard for CG productions that most films like this go overlooked, I urge you: check it out! It’s a self-contained story that is from the middle of the manga’s storyline, but it’s immediately accessible and visually striking to watch. It is what actually finally gave me the kick in the ass to check Gantz out. Nonetheless, if you’re a sadist on a level I’ll never comprehend, you may check out Gantz fully subbed and dubbed via Funimation, but I think you’d be happier with Gantz’s manga, or Gantz: 0 on Netflix.
Like most people here, I’ve been watching anime for many, many years. I owe blocks like Toonami for getting me into the medium. Shows like Dragonball Z and Ronin Warriors shaped my beginning years, while shows like Neon Genesis Evangleion and Cowboy Bebop showed me that there’s some true artistic ability and expression found within anime (moreso than big burly dudes punching and screaming for hours on end). I now try to watch anime showcasing many genres and storytelling. Anime is just another great, creative medium for telling stories, and I’m happy to share my thoughts on the series I enjoy with you!