Gantz Vol. 3 & 4

Curiosity killed the cat.

I admit it: I am fascinated by Gantz. The first disc was a cruel, sadistic crapshoot that I found needlessly violent, callous, and superficial. If I hadn't been sent the second disc to review, I wouldn't have continued. That second disc finally lent enough weight to the story to make it worth continuing, but just barely. Now I'm through to the second set of four episodes, found on discs 3 & 4 of Gantz...and though I am still occasionally repulsed by the show's brutality, it is growing on me. It is still too focused on graphic violence and leering T&A, but man if this show doesn't keep you guessing as to what the heck is really going on. (And since we're to the third review in this series, I'm assuming you've seen up to this point or read the other reviews. Thus, spoilers about what's happened in the past may aware.)

We've finally reached the end of the first night, and the next four episodes send our anti-heroes back into the real world. They are doppelgangers, merely copies of their original selves. Nevertheless, if their original self has completely disappeared from the normal world, they can take back up their old lives as much as possible...until Gantz summons them again. Kei and Kato head back to their respective worlds, but there's a problem for Formerly Naked Girl (now known as Kei Kishimoto) -- somehow, her original self is still alive. Thus, she can't go home. She winds up hanging out at Kei's apartment (yes, there are now two Keis to keep track of), and Kei's got the hots for Kishimoto. What's a guy to do? Especially if you're a jerk with only one thing on your mind?

Life may be different after death for these folks, but there's plenty of action still occurring. Between bullies that pull out victims' teeth and ones who have nasty sexual peccadilloes, there is a long list of evil folks in these two volumes. They just turn out to be human, not alien. But before everyone can settle into a new existence, Gantz will be calling and bringing a whole new set of dead people into its strange game.

Gantz continues to be a title with pretty average animation. Some of the secondary characters look bad, but that's intentional. There are plenty of CG tricks, but all of it pretty low budget. However, the pacing of these episodes means that the animation fits more appropriately into the actual program. And for my dislike of "Super Shooter," the opening theme, when I originally heard it, I'm finding myself listening to it now. I must be losing my sense of taste.

But amazingly, Gantz is finally starting to come into its own. It's still not great, and the levels of fan service and rampant violence are still high, but it's starting to settle down. Because of Netflix, it's pretty easy to get a couple discs together, and that's really the way to watch this show -- at least until I catch up to the point where they expand the episode count per disc. Episodes 5-8 are a good story arc as we get into the "life after death" motif. There starts to be a realization that, if you're already (in some manner of speaking) dead, why not stand up for yourself? Why not take chances? The possibilities are vast, and Gantz only discusses a few of them up to this point, but there's room for it to grow.

We also start seeing character personalities develop here, and that's why this set of episodes works. Kishimoto was a tragic figure in the first couple of episodes as a suicide victim, but the show was so concerned with her breasts that we didn't really relate to her. Now that she has no home and only the friendship of a libidinous moron to count on, now that we know the story of why she was so desperate that she would do the unthinkable, Kishimoto is a complex person with a backstory. And though we see little of Kato in these four episodes, the bonding he does with his little brother (who seems to have figured out that something's not quite right) is effective. Kei is still hopeless, and as the central character, that's too bad. But at least the main supporting cast is worthwhile.

I'm still not happy that after two more discs, I still know so little of what's going on. We just barely get to see Gantz a second time before these two discs are up, let alone learn more of the mystery surrounding it. But I suppose it's that way to keep us coming back. Though I'd never buy this show in a million years, renting it is the perfect way to go...and I'm a little embarrassed to say that I'm kinda hoping the next disc gets here soon. It's going from an abysmal start to an almost guilty pleasure. Almost.

Gantz Vol. 3 & 4 -- violence, nudity, adult situations, disturbing themes, rated TV-MA -- B