Reviewby Theron Martin, Aug 20th 2005
DVD 7: Fatal Attractions + Artbox
The survivors of the previous game – Kurono, Kishimoto, Kato, Tetsuo (the biker), Hojo (the model) and the stalker – return to troubled private lives, where each of the first four has a significant personal development. The downtime does not last for long, however, as soon Gantz brings them back to the apartment for another game, this one set in a prominent temple complex against much bigger aliens than they have previously encountered. As before, they are joined by a group of newbies, some of whom have a harder time accepting what's going on than others. Amongst them is Sei, a tall, shapely young woman who catches Kurono's eye, and a Buddhist priest convinced that the Gantz room is the gateway to the afterlife.
“Fatal Attractions” kicks off the second season of Gantz by representing a major shift in ADV's release policy for the series: this volume contains four episodes (#14-17), while the remaining three volumes will contain three each, which will be released on a bimonthly schedule at a more typical MSRP. The series will still be released in the same total amount of time as it would have been under the original 13-volume plan, albeit with a higher per-episode retail price for volumes 8-10, but it's the correct move for ADV, both financially and in terms of catering to their fans. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was highly annoyed with only getting two episodes per volume, even if it was at a reduced price and monthly release rate.
This block of episodes follows the pattern established earlier in the series: an episode and a half of down time concentrating on character development, followed by an episode or so of set-up in the apartment before the game is on again. As before the major characters are joined by a new crop of recruits, but unlike the previous time we don't get to see what fates brought them to the room and only one, the hot chick, has appeared before. (She first popped up in episode 7.) She must be one of the keepers of this group, as she has a distinct impact on the core group dynamic before the game even starts and is the only newbie with much of a defined personality. All of the others are one-trick ponies (the Pompous Priest, the Reasonable One, Stoic Karate Guy, Military Nut) if they have any personality at all. Mix in the two young men on a hobo-bashing spree in the same setting as the game and you have a huge cast by the time the game gets started, though, so that's to be expected. Also watch for a couple of minor characters from much earlier episodes to reappear, and the stalker still doesn't really do anything (though the Next Volume preview suggests that she will do a lot more the next time around).
As a series Gantz has four primary strengths, all of which are heavily in evidence in this volume: great visuals, heavy doses of graphic content, exciting action scenes, and, most importantly, credible portrayals of flawed central characters. Horndogs like Kurono are usually used for comedic or villainous value in anime, so it's refreshing to see that trait not only treated seriously but also used as integral part of the personality of a seriously flawed hero. Kato serves as Kurono's perfect complement, saying all the right things that Kurono can't (or won't) say and generally being a decent guy, though one with a repressed rage he tries so hard to keep buried that it makes him reluctant to pull the trigger. Kishimoto, who so ached for freedom that she slit her wrists to get it but now finds herself once again being trapped by her circumstances, continues to be the most perplexing character. Though she has fallen in love with Kato, this volume suggests that she may feel more than just tolerance for Kurono, too. Yet to be made clear is how Kato feels about her; one gets the sense that she isn't even registering on his radar, romantically-speaking.
As good as Gantz is in some respects, it does have significant weaknesses. Its biggest problem, which is as pervasive here as in previous volumes, is its pacing. The whole thing just drags, especially in the game scenes. There are too many dramatic pauses, too much perspective-shifting, too much needless babble, too much wasted time in general. Granted, the series is trying to be heavy on character development, but the editors seem to have lost sight of the fact that Gantz is also an action series, so a steady flow of action and plot progression is critical. So stretched out is the story that a good editor could probably trim a couple of full episodes from the first 17 and end up with a much tighter story without sacrificing meaningful plot or character development. On the flip side, an impossible concentration of events happens within a very short time frame in scenes overlapping the end of episode 15 and the beginning of episode 16, in addition to some continuity gaps. (How did the hot chick get her suit when Gantz didn't open up until after she left the room?) This volume also has some consistency issues, such as how Kishimoto's panties mysteriously change from pink to white between the middle of episode 15 and the beginning of episode 16. A minor point, admittedly, but it's still a goof that professional-grade quality control should have caught.
Gantz's visuals continue to be one of its strongest selling points. Character designs are all distinct, well-detailed, realistically proportioned, and generally appealing; they may not always be the prettiest characters, but they are exceptionally well-rendered. Equipment is also shown in great detail. 3D CG effects are heavily used in the background art and animation, especially in the game scenes, which gives the (perhaps intentional) effect of being in the middle of a top-end video game. It does allow the perspective to zoom around quite dramatically, though, and ably supports the series' top-rate animation.
The graphics for the opener are updated again beginning with episode 14, though the dynamic hip-hop-flavored number “Super Shooter” remains the same. The gentler closer also remains unchanged. The soundtrack in between, which is good at heightening tension but also prone to melodramatic effects, often sounds like something which might be heard in a high-end video game; given the visual artistic style, I doubt that's a coincidence.
While not all of the English VAs used in this volume are good matches for the original seiyuu, they are invariably well-cast for their respective characters. Performances are smooth and accurately capture the essence and attitude of each character, creating an excellent-sounding English track. A few minor quibbles might be raised over the script, but all of the discrepancies beyond slang use are at least in context. Complaints about the English script being heavier on expletives will fall on deaf ears here, since the subtitles aren't shy about using them, either.
Extras in “Fatal Attractions” included typical stuff like company previews, clean opener and closer, and a preview of the next volume, but it also adds in commercials for the Japanese Gantz console game and two 15 minute interviews. The first, with the director and CG director, focuses on the 3D CG techniques used on the series, while the latter, between the original creator and one of the female seiyuu, inanely deals with general story and character issues. Both of these interviews do have spoilers in them, so heed the warnings at their beginnings and skip them if you want to be surprised by, say, who's going to get offed later in the series.
Since this is the unedited version of Gantz, viewers get their typical doses of gore, fan service, and foul language. New are the explicit sex scenes, which do push this volume into the realm of soft porn but not quite to the level of hentai. Those not bothered by such content should find this to be a sharp-looking, well-acted volume which continues both the promise and problems posed by previous volumes.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B-
Animation : A
Art : A-
Music : B
+ Sharp visuals, excellent voice acting
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