Gantz Vol. 5 & 6

Ah...another day, another bloodbath. As the next two discs complete the first half of this insanely over-the-top series, we reach some conclusions, make some discoveries, and watch more heads blow up. For two discs, it's not a whole lot, frankly; those who are already engaged in Gantz will find volumes 5 & 6 frustrating and perhaps even a little dull, but the story stays just intriguing enough to stay with it. (And if you haven't seen any of the show or read about Gantz before, I suggest starting with our first few reviews, especially since I cannot guarantee this far into the series that spoilers won't be in play.)

In these five episodes, we see the second "game" for Kato and our two Keis. Brought back by the mysterious Gantz for another run, they are transported to their starting point along with a new group of players. The arrogant but deadly teenager who survived the first game with them returns along with the most lecherous dog in the world; among the new players are an older woman and her grandson, a small gang of biker punks, and a young man who's been stalked by a secret admirer. Kato tries to explain what he knows about what's going on, but chaos erupts from the various factions not listening to friendly advice. And although their foil seems to be a mild-mannered robot, there're going to be a lot of decapitations in the netherworld before they find out who their real target is.

The budgetary constraints of Gantz, which weren't so bad in the third and fourth discs, are starting to show at the seams. Because discs five and six are completely focused on the takedown of another opponent, there's more action and less of the character moments we saw before. Action, frankly, requires motion, and the CG work just isn't adequate. There are a few shots where it's clear everything is standing still and the CG camera is doing all the work. The characters themselves still look decent; there are no trims in that department. However, if you're like me, you'll find the animation looks worse, not better.

Gantz nearly lost me in these episodes, but not for the reasons I've mentioned before. Yes, there is the obligatory and gratuitous violence and nudity, but after eight episodes I knew those were coming. There is some unnecessary cruelty (though describing to whom it occurs would be a major spoiler in itself), and that bothered me, but again, it's nothing new. No, what surprised me this time out was just how long and stretched out this story arc became.

Gantz gives the characters one hour to complete their assignment (which is hardly an assignment at all, since they don't know all the perimeters when they are transported out of base). What happened this time out is that we actually moved in slow motion, not literally but figuratively. It actually took over an hour in real time to tell the story! Not only was that dumb, but it made the proceedings tedious. You'd think that the action bits would be the most exciting, but instead it turns out that the character development in the last two discs was far more interesting. I wasn't falling asleep, but I was annoyed and a little bored.

So why does it still get a low recommendation? We are finally getting more answers...not many, but a few. We added at least two new interesting characters. For once, our female Kei showed a spine. We also have another mystery into why Kato cannot fire on aliens; does he find it impossible to kill even when his life is on the line? And, perhaps most importantly, we are starting to be asked questions of morality and ethics. When would you kill, and why? What could drive you to that point? At what point do you risk your life for a stranger? These are all background issues, but they increasingly come peeking through. It's still violent, too interested in being extreme for its own sake, but I'm still intrigued.

Gantz is not an easy show to love. It has some amateurish animation, a sluggish plot, and a bit of overkill. Nevertheless, there's no denying that it is a fine mystery, and good mysteries have a habit of pulling me in even through their faults. After getting halfway through this series, I can't say that I'll ever give it my blessing, but I'll probably be around for the rest of the ride.

Gantz Vol. 5 & 6 -- extreme violence, strong profanity, nudity, rated TV-MA -- B-