Every now and then you’ll hear about a full CG movie coming out and worry about its quality. Then you go to see such a movie and, instead of simply amusing you, it knocks your socks off in ways you did not expect. Gantz: O is such a movie.
Gantz: O is a new full CG movie based on the original manga works of Hiroya Oku, Gantz. For those who’ve never encountered it—although you’ve likely seen some kind of image from it somewhere—Gantz is an action story about recently deceased people forced to fight strange alien(?) creatures using fantastic futuristic weapons and gear at the behest of a black sphere called Gantz. That description may seem awfully sparse, but trust me, it’s all you need to know.
The manga enjoyed a nearly 13-year run across 37 volumes and 383 chapters. Two 13-episode anime series were aired in 2004, and a two-part live-action movie premiered in 2011.
While both the anime and live-action movies focus on the manga protagonist, Kei Kurono, and cover the initial plots lines from the manga, Gantz: O takes an entirely different route, focusing on a much later chapter in the story with a different character, Masaru Kato, serving as the protagonist.
Gantz: O follows the events of the Osaka chapter of the original Gantz story—hence the O in the title. However, there are some changes to allow the new movie stand alone as its own story. In the story, after news of a disastrous event leaves part of Tokyo in chaos, the city slowly recovers amongst rumors of a strange group of black-suited individuals fighting monsters.
Masaru Kato is on his way home to his little brother when he encounters a stabbing at a subway station. In an attempt to stop the culprit, Kato is himself stabbed and dies only to awaken in a strange room. There, he, along with a burly gangster-esque man, is greeted by an old man, a young girl, and a junior high school boy. The three tell him that they are the mysterious black-suited people.
In their last battle, their leader was killed, leaving their team crippled in terms of fighting strength. Kato is then informed that he has been recruited to fight for a mysterious black sphere called Gantz. Soon after, one by one, the people in the room are transported only to find themselves in the western city of Osaka where chaos is already breaking out as monsters roam the streets.
Gantz: O is very much an action movie with Kato as its generic hero protagonist. And hot-damn is there some pretty cool and fantastic action. Crazy super-weapons, super suits that pretty much turn people into Übermensch, and a what a light show. Everything you see is heart-pounding bad-assery and cool, cool, cool.
Kato himself is the full protagonist package: Able body, strong sense of morals and empathy—to a degree bordering on suicidal self-sacrifice—and the ability to quickly adapt to whatever situation he finds himself in. He’s molded, fired in the kiln, and polished right from the get go—and as such, goes through very little character growth throughout the movie.
Rather, it’s the characters around Kato who grow from watching his actions and struggle throughout the film. The movie does an excellent balancing act of giving you tense and exciting action bits with Kato sprinkled with moments of evolution for the people around him. In particular are the other members of the Tokyo team who start as hopeless and directionless, and end up a strong determined unit.
The movie is full CG and the graphics are spectacular. If you’ve seen the trailers, you probably have a bit of an idea of what the movie looks like. The character models do an amazing job of stradling the uncanny valley, looking fake enough that you know they’re not real, but real enough that you believe they really exist while never looking “wrong.” The CG also allows for effects and shots to seem more realistic and natural than they would have if they’d been digitally added in post to a live action movie.
Full CG is also the perfect mode for conveying the futuristic and other-worldly tech used by the characters. Though, despite all their tech, the “jiggling” of some characters is pretty extreme—you’d think a super suit would offer some more support.
While there were some sound balance issues, the acting itself was great with no mismatched voices and characters. Everyone fit into their roles very naturally to the point that I didn’t even recognize Shūichi Ikeda—the Japanese voice of Char the Red Comet—was part of the cast until the credits rolled.
In a word, Gantz: O is “hella entertaining.” Okay, that’s two words. But that’s still how I would describe it. There isn’t much in terms of depth. Everything is pretty much straight forward (other than a brief note at the end that feels a touch convoluted for the movie’s sake). But that doesn’t mean the movie treats its viewers like they’re idiots.
The rules of the game that Gantz plays are all shown through actions and not dialogue in various ways where you quickly get what’s going on even if you may not be familiar with the source material. It’s also a great achievement in that the creators managed to take what is essentially a mid-chapter to a longer overarching story and make it its own thing. Overall, Gantz: O is a great popcorn flick—which is exactly the style of the original manga.
Gantz: O is currently playing in theaters in Japan. No word on a Western release yet, but an English dubbed version will be playing at the 29th Tokyo Internation Film Festival, so an international release seems likely.