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Gantz - volume two

voice cast: Daisuke Namikawa, and Hitomi Nabatame

director: Ichiro Itano

50 minutes (15) 2004
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 5/10
reviewed by Alasdair Stuart
Arguably one of the strangest anime series of the last few years, Gantz has divided fans squarely down the middle. Its combination of extremely crisp animation, savage violence and nightmarish plot has turned as many people off as it's brought in but for those who can stand the course there's a lot to enjoy.

The premise is both simple and surreal. 'Gantz' is an apparently sentient sphere that resurrects the recently dead and forces them to play a game. That game involves hunting down aliens hidden amongst Tokyo's population and killing them, with the aid of hi-tech weapons and armour. Once they accumulate a hundred points, they can choose to leave, resurrect a friend or receive the ultimate weapon. The only other way to leave the game is to be killed.

Volume two begins in the aftermath of the first hunt and finds main characters Kei, Kato and Kishimoto struggling to accept their second chance at life and the price they've been forced to pay for it. Three plots play out across the episodes, one following Kei and Kato as they return to school, one following Kishimoto and one dealing with a group of bikers whose connection to them is only revealed in the final minutes of the disc.

The Kei and Kato plot takes up much of the disc and is also the toughest one to stomach. The pair deal with bullies at their school, and Kato in particular is forced into a head-on confrontation with the gay, sadistic head of his year's main gang. The intention behind this story is clear, to show how exposure to such horrific violence has affected the basically heroic Kato but it makes for frankly queasy viewing. Few series have ever managed to be both homophobic and misogynistic at the same time but Gantz manages it with unfortunate ease.

Kei's plot is clearly designed to provide comic relief to this but again fails miserably. His lusting after Kishimoto plays as the worst sort of extreme sexual comedy and falls utterly, utterly flat. Supposedly the hero of the series, Kei comes off as nothing more than a selfish, horny teenager in these episodes and whilst that's a brave narrative choice, it makes for difficult viewing.

Only Kishimoto is given a story with some actual meat to it. Much of the disc is concerned with her discovery of something horrific about her new life and the end result not only provides the series with a fascinating concept but also gives Kishimoto some real character. There are moments of subtlety and poignancy here, although they're often buried under Kei's rampant lust.

Gantz really isn't for everyone. The violence is savage and genuinely unsettling, the characters are at times deeply unsympathetic and the humour is flat at best and offensive at worst. However, if you can persevere and make it to the next volume there's a marked improvement. It's just a shame you need to wade through these episodes to get there.
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