Yasushi Kawamura's GANTZ:O
Review by Dennis D. McDonald
Now available streaming on Netflix, this all-CGI manga based film from 2016 sounds like it's made entirely of recycled components. Yet, the on-screen experience is surprisingly entertaining -- if you like this sort of thing. Which I do.
The story: A group of individuals, recently deceased, reappears -- alive -- in a windowed Tokyo office clad in skintight black high-tech military uniforms. They are instructed by a giant faceless black sphere about the "game" they are now playing. The sphere explains the rules:
- Kill monsters that are attacking Japanese cities by using sphere-supplied high-tech weapons.
- Earn points.
- Earn enough points and you get a chance of three options:
- get better weapons;
- bring a killed team member back from the dead; or,
- exit the game and return to the realm of the living.
The movie then follows this group as it is digitally transferred to downtown Osaka. Immediately the mayhem begins.
The animation is terrific. Characters are significantly more lifelike than more traditionally animated Japanese sci-fi films. While facial expressions may still be a bit on the "uncanny valley" side it is interesting to see how far we've come from older films like 2013’s Space Pirate Captain Harlock and, of course, 2001’s groundbreaking Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
The many characters (and monsters) interact in quite fluid and “realistic" fashion. Gravity-defying leaps and bounds occur but are usually kept within the realm of possibility. The monsters -- and there are many of them -- include some that are peculiarly Japanese. Others are typical of the monstrous aliens and enemies in today's combat video games. One in particular is as far as I can tell completely original; I won’t spoil the fun other than to say that there are females involved.
There always seems to be something new and interesting around the corner. The action is continuous. Each battle seems to bring a new twist to weaponry, tactics, and character development.
I was surprised that this held my interest as much as it did as I've grown tired of the slugfests typical of so many Western superhero movies.
One annoyance: some female characters are drawn with an over-emphasis on voluptuous "jiggle" that demonstrates effective but distracting sexist animation.
There is character development of sorts as our main "hero" learns the ropes and takes increasing responsibility. Other characters are a bit flatter though there are repeated attempts to integrate humanity and even sentimentality into the story. That's good and is typical of the sentiment present in many Japanese animated films where family relationships are addressed. It’s a welcome addition to what might have just been a mind-numbing series of deafening battles.
In summary, if you like constant action, monsters, and high-tech weaponry, and you enjoy some surprises along the way, you just might enjoy GANTZ:O. Recommended.
Review copyright © 2017 by Dennis D. McDonald