Feb 14, 2011


If I could list one archetype I'm never pleased to commune with it, it would be an avid Anime fan. Rather, anyone so obsessed with Eastern culture that they feel this profound itching to venture to a Sanrio store to pick up Pocky or a bottle of Ramune. These rabid fans cling to their manga and 25 dollars-a-volume-disc containing three episodes of their recent Japanese animated obsession. For me, this was a niche I spent most of high school struggling to avoid. It seemed no matter where I ran off to, cat ears or skunk tails twitched atop heads and derrières.  I finally settled on a specific series as an introduction, however. When a friend boasting tastes I knew not to be poisonous summed up Hiroya Oku's Gantz in a nutshell, I had become smitten with the general outline. What about an afterlife spent slaving over the corpses of aliens with advanced weaponry and lavish nudity/violence doesn't appeal to your palate? Regardless, the tale of Gantz that was serialized with hand-drawings was something unique and addictive. This live-action abomination does nothing in place of what the original Gantz had strewn about with precision.

For any of you out of the loop, Gantz (2011) is a film you wouldn't want to happen upon without prior knowledge to the more intricate mechanics of the series. The basis of Gantz involves two old friends reunited in death, obliterated by a subway train after saving a drunken vagrant who stumbled onto the tracks. Upon death, they are warped into an empty apartment high above the city, overlooking the Tokyo Tower. Among Kei and Kato are other recently deceased patrons and a obsidian sphere. This sphere is known as Gantz and is outfitted with a hostile and cynical conscious towards its participants. Not much else is known about the game, other than they have a time limit to execute aliens scattered around the city in an alternate realm. Taking something so wrapped up in childish fantasies of senseless brutality and sneering sexual overtones should be very easy to replicate within film, that is, before the plot really kicks into gear. The fact that the two lead characters are students should lend to their blossoming and whiny characteristics. However, in the live-action Gantz interpretation, our characters are very passive, only to flex hints of inspiration accordingly to the scene of combat. Which brings up the atrocity committed to our lead character, Kei.

At the very beginning of the show, Kei was animated as an insolent pervert who often fantasized about his teacher and classmates in the nude. The thesis of Gantz was built around his rite of passage; losing his virginity. So already Gantz has one over the average animated science fiction actioner. It caters to both adults and those experiencing puberty which leaves it effortlessly accessible to any demographic. Kei eventually becomes desensitized to the plight of the expendable "refills" Gantz accordingly drops into the room. As the mysterious character Nishi before him, Kei will not be bothered to explain repeatedly that they're trapped within an alien purgatory. After all, who would believe him or anything of the other babbling contestants limited to hysterics? Naturally, Gantz (2011) fits the bill bestowed upon most all other live action films based on anime. These characters were created solely as cartoons, therefore inheriting outlandish features and personality traits that should not, in any case, ever be replicated onto film. For example, take L's character in either Death Note film. The "wacky", untamed eccentricity can only go so far before being limited by flesh. This very same logic applies to every character within Gantz (2011). The director Shinsuke Sato cared enough to cast several characters that were obviously modeled after the drawings. This was all in vain though for the prominently white features of the persons within the series/manga do not translate to the Yellowkin within the film.

Reprising my statement towards the emptiness of Kei's character, in the film, we're only given two instances of a possible sexual side to our hero. No longer bellicose, Kei glances at a subway advertisement depicting a woman in the nude and in a scene with Kishimoto, he grabs a condom. A character included in the series, Sakuraoka, whom Kei has sex with in spite of Kishimoto's willingness to childhood friend, Kato, does not exist in this canon. This in turn renders Kei just as flaccid an attribute to Gantz (2011) as is the disappearance of rules and limitation to their game; mainly, the boundaries of the fight and the strange realm they exist in. The realm in which your actions affect the surroundings on both planes as well as your incarnation being invisible to the human eye. These elements are largely ignored by Shinsuke Sato, who must have been whistling a tune while approving the screenplay. It is also my firm belief that the Japanese are without an acting pool, so to speak. Most every Japanese film features unbearable facial gestures and Gantz (2011) is no stranger to this. The enigmatic Nishi contorts his jaw in a sarcastic manner as if to belittle his opponent. Absent in the show, the only thing this addition provides is a bit of irritating culture shock to even the most jaded Eastern film connoisseur.

Gantz (2011) is a complete, all around failure. It has absolutely no redeeming qualities save for the brief and disconnected scenes of alien mayhem. The absence of many characters could easily be overlooked on my part but I find myself so perturbed at the general embodiment of flesh within Gantz. For being a fan of the animated show, the release of this film marks a sad day for fans of Gantz worldwide, even if they are sniveling parasites wearing eyeliner and hair extensions. The strange lack of sexuality and even nudity strips Gantz (2011) of the very things that made up its grandiose package of teenage masturbatory fantasies including attempted rape, weaponry that triggers a delayed implosion effect, and attitude. Gantz (2011) is a lifeless being, devoid of any substantial traits as its predecessor boasted lovingly and I am not looking forward to its sequel. This is something that cannot be realized within the confines of reality. Something as seamless and open-ended as animation is exactly why the more ludicrous ideas are transposed on paper and not celluloid. Leave this one to the artists.



George Beremov [Nebular] said...

Saw it last night and couldn't believe how lame and terribly-executed it was. Not that I expected a masterpiece, but..

Soiled Sinema said...

I expected a competent companion to the loose-fitting show. A waste of time and some of the worst English dubbing I've heard in quite some time.