3 Reasons You Should Be Excited For Gantz:0

If you are unfamiliar with the franchise, Gantz is an unbelievably bleak sci-fi/horror tale about life, death, and morality. It’s existed as a sprawling manga, a truncated ‘first-ish arc’ anime, and alt-direction live action movies. Each of these treatments is absolutely worth your investment, and I’ll outline why below, but each also has weaknesses… Gantz:0 is poised to fix.

  1. Gantz’ story is fantastic. That said, if you read the manga, it’s absolutely clear Hiroya Oku had no idea where the story was going at first, or even at several points along the way. While enjoyable on their own, entire chunks of narrative like the Vampires and the Secret Government Conspiracy or even the human psychics feel unresolved and unrelated to what turns out to be an alien invasion story.

Gantz:0 has the distinct advantage of being scripted after the manga’s completion and, by the looks of it, hops over some of the introductory arcs (that are full of characters who die almost immediately). It looks tighter, more show-story than talk-about story.

2. Gantz’ heroes play a blend of selfishness and sacrifice off of the conventions of Japanese culture…but the individual stories can be lost amongst a massive and regularly shifting cast. The very fact that it has two heroes (Kuruno and Kato) that occasionally sit out arcs due to being dead (again) dilutes either of their stories.

Gantz:0 appears to have dropped Kuruno in order to focus on Kato, which is unexpected because Kuruno’s rise of a kill them all warrior is a more obvious choice than Kato’s rise as a compassionate keep them all alive leader to focus a movie. But if they blend those two stories together, Kato has more interesting stakes:

Where Kuruno has a love triangle/square that includes a duplicate of himself created by his frustrated Idol love interest, Kato has a younger brother with no parents to protect him — and relatives that beat him –and Kato’s love interest is single mom with her own son to protect as a love interest.

Both boys die more than once, and both grapple with the idea of not being the ‘original him’ but Kato has more at stake than ‘which girl should I tap?’ Further, without Kuruno to serve as his idealized childhood hero, Kato will have to build his own sense of heroism from scratch.

3. Gantz’ visual style is a big part of its appeal. Uko’s choice to render weapons and complex vehicles in full CG but keep the cast hand drawn brings contrast. It emphasizes how out of place humans are in the struggle.

Gantz:0 will lose some of that juxtaposition but it also clearly shines in another important way the anime and manga struggled: visual effects necessitated by the scifi weapons and gear. The teleportation effect alone is fantastic.

Now that you’ve seen the preview, what do you think?

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Berserk – 01 (First Impressions)

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“Guts, known as the Black Swordsman, seeks sanctuary from the demonic forces that pursue him and his woman, and also vengeance against the man who branded him as an unholy sacrifice. Aided only by his titanic strength, skill, and sword, Guts must struggle against his bleak destiny, all the while fighting with a rage that might strip him of his humanity. Berserk is a dark and brooding story of outrageous swordplay and ominous fate, in the theme of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.” —MAL

Full disclosure: I’ve never read the manga this is based on, so I came in knowing nothing. I also haven’t read Macbeth since junior high, so all I remember is that there’s a manipulative Lady in it. So forgive my ignorance and read on to learn a fresh perspective on Berserk unblemished by prior consumption of the material (at least that I remember).

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Berserk definitely has its draws: a lush yet grim fantasy world full of violence both human-and-human and demon-on-human; an overpowered cursed antihero with a bad attitude and even worse effect on the lives of the innocent; decent voice acting and a great soundtrack. Some  strong elements of horror (body and otherwise), blood, and gore, though all tastefully censored.

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Those pros were not able to overcome the cons for me, at least in the first episode. The cons are pretty big: the CGI animation of characters is distractingly weird. If you know my work you know I reviewed (and loved) two seasons of Sidonia, but for some reason this style works far better in a futuristic sci-fi milieu for me.

It took me a couple of episodes to get used to Sidonia (and I never got far with Ronja), but I’m less optimistic about Berserk. It’s not so much the uncanny valley effect as the inescapable feeling that these are wooden CGI armatures moving around very awkwardly mechanically.

That suits the frenetic combat at times, but any natural movements, including mouth movements and expressions, suffer greatly, marring the overall viewing experience.

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This comes down to a question of style: Berserk’s producers for whatever reason decided not to use conventional animation, and frankly, that could well be a dealbreaker. Even if not, the naked annoying motormouth Puck would be (sorry, Puck fans out there).

I can’t immerse myself in a world that announces its “fakeness” so transparently, in a manner most anime manage to avoid. Some say more and more full CG will be the future of anime, but with some notable exceptions, I hope that’s not the case.

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Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – 00

The preview episode begins with a hallucination, as Kadoka dreams of an ideal world with ideal versions of his friends having fun together, with a recurring image of a hot pot always simmering nearby said fun activities. He wakes up in the midst of a dark hot pot, in which two of the girls he’d been dreaming about – Yozura and Sena – are trying to see who can outlast t’other in an eating duel. They both end up vomiting and passing out with the others. It’s established that Kodaka, Yozura, Sena, and four others are members of a school “Neighbor Club” dedicated to building relationships.

This is another case of a lull in the output of fall 2011 series we’ll be reviewing (Last Exile won’t air till Friday), so in the meantime we take a look at this 11-minute preview of a series we won’t will be reviewing, the title of wihch translates to “I don’t have many friends”. If “I” is Kodaka, it would seem he has many friends, and they’re all have distinguishing marks making them easy to distinguish: Rika has the glasses; Yozura, Black hair; Sena, the busty blonde; Maria, the nun; Yukimura, the redhead; and Kodaka, who is odd-eyed. It would appear on the surface to be a harem of Index rejects.

We’ll admit, we actually started the first episode of Kimi to Boku, but scrubbing through it we realized there were five main characters, and not one of them was a girl. On the other side of the spectrum we have this series, with six girls, but at least one member of the opposite sex, and it doesn’t seem like everyone’s in love with the one guy. And while that was a rather slow-paced school slice-of-life, this was far quicker-paced, and threw a lot of curveballs vis-a-vis reality vs. fiction; showing us an idealized version of Kadoka’s friends before the real thing.


Rating: 2.5