published in Empire No.63, Sydney
As the rugged pounding theme song says: "Yes, now, this instant - die, die, die." Gantz is as bleak as it gets, making it an absorbing if sometimes repelling anime. Having apparently been run over by a subway express train, estranged high school friends Kei and Katou are shuttled between the afterlife and 'the living' as they are forced to play the deadly 'action game' Gantz and kill aliens. It all happens suddenly - and continually. This is a nightmare that doesn't end across 26 episodes.
The main feat Gantz achieves is its ability to draw one into what ultimately is a nihilistic world. Kei is a self-centred alienated teen - sexually frustrated and incapable of engaging anyone in an open manner. The series intensifies his mental state by granting us unimpeded access to his inner thoughts. He rants and raves excessively, yet there's also a humbling counter-effect we feel by auditing his most private thoughts.
This mode of invasiveness is central to Gantz's projection of contemporary Japanese youth. Despite the Twilight Zone entrapment of its psycho horror/sci-fi world, Gantz is a dark symbol of disaffected kids in Japan. Part social document, part existential mindscape, Gantz is anime compacted into a silent black orb of frightening nothingness. Unsurprisingly, the Gantz orb is just that: a big black marble, teletyping missives to Kei and fellow 'recently departed' who now must engage in killing supposed aliens in this unreal reality-show of survivalist murder.
Despite its overriding oppressive atmosphere, Gantz is riveting entertainment. The trademark stylized flatness of Gonzo Studio continually reminds one of the killer-POV shoot-em-ups of game-play - though this is deliberately employed to evoke a 'real human' effect in the characters. The mashed-up score erupts erratically and unpredictable throughout, generating a nervy audiovisual meld which adds to the series' tension. Now available as a boxed Complete Collection, Gantz is essential.