|Cover of the GANTZ DVD package|
This past Saturday was a big day for GANTZ fans. NEW PEOPLE Entertainment, which had previously released the original GANTZ film, released its sequel, GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER, on DVD and Blu-ray/DVD combo-pack. Those in the San Francisco Bay Area were afforded the additional treat of screenings of both films at the S.F. Film Society / NEW PEOPLE Cinema.
The two films (or more accurately, the two parts of the GANTZ live-action cinematic saga) were shown at Japan Society this past summer as part of the Japan Cuts film festival, where they were co-sponsored by the New York Asian Film Festival. Those screenings represented the New York premiere of the original and the North American premiere of PERFECT ANSWER. Since I wasn't able make those screenings, I was eager to watch the DVDs NEW PEOPLE sent me, and just finished watching both of them, as well as the extras provided on both 2-disc editions. Here's my report:
Megumi Kishimoto (single-monikered actress Natsuna) is one of the few female fighters
When a drunk man falls onto the tracks as a train is approaching a Tokyo subway station, a young man named Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama) jumps down to save him. Another youth, Kei (Kazunari Ninoniya), who knew Kato years before, winds up on the tracks with him after the man has been put safely onto the platform. The train bears down and hits the two of them. But instead of dying, the pair finds themselves in an apartment in a high rise with a view of the Tokyo Tower. Some others are there as well, most equally bewildered as Kato and Kei.
|Kato (left) with the injured Megumi|
The main room of the bare apartment is dominated by a large, smooth sphere. This is GANTZ, which announces that their old lives are over and that it will control their new lives. They are provided with special suits and weapons and then transported on night missions to kill aliens. Those who are still alive when the time allotted is over are returned to the room and permitted to resume their "normal" lives during the day. They are assigned points for their performance on these missions. Those who survive and reach 100 points can either be erased from GANTZ's memory and return completely to their previous lives or they can chose to resurrect a fallen comrade.
There are three missions in the first film, and one of the main characters dies near the end. But some most peculiar developments occur in the last few minutes, creating mystery and suspense, and setting the stage for the second film.
|Cover of the GANZT II: PERFECT ANSWER DVD|
GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER begins with an under three minute summation of the first film. The story continues with one Masamitsu Shigeta (Takayuki Yamada) investigating the strange disappearances and reappearances of individuals believed dead and the unexplained destruction that has been taking place around Tokyo at night. Also there is a group of young people who are seeking access to the room in which GANTZ resides, their purposes unclear. The action ramps up as a confrontation on a subway leads to the death and injury of numerous civilians, which had not occurred on any previous missions. Meanwhile, something strange is going on with GANTZ itself.
What does it all mean, and who -- if anyone -- will survive or be resurrected? These are the questions that seek the PERFECT ANSWER
|Some of those seeking GANTZ for reasons unknown|
The GANTZ films, each a bit over two hours long, are based on an epic science fiction manga (31 volumes and going) by Hiroya Oku, that is published in North America by Dark Horse Comics. Shinsuke Sato (The Princess Blade) directed both films and has done a remarkable job of combining live-action and CGI. The special effects and the action sequences are truly top-notch. The cast members, almost all of them young and very good looking (both male and female), acquit themselves admirably. Besides the two male leads, Yuriko Yoshitaka deserves to be singled out for her lovely, natural performance as Tae Kojima, a college student and Kei's love interest.
NEW PEOPLE Entertainment has done a terrific job on the DVD packaging, and I'm confident that's at least as true for the Blu-ray/DVD combo-pack. Both DVD packages provide both original Japanese and English dubbed audio tracks, with optional English subtitles. The second discs include original Japanese trailers (no English subtitles for these) and interviews with the director discussing the respective films in Japanese with English subtitles.
The two GANTZ films offer a high-octane sci-fi thrill ride, smart, thoughtful, and packed with exciting action and special effects. I give them a 3.5 out of 4 star rating, very highly recommended. And while the two films constitute a self-contained and resolved tale, the possibility of other GANTZ films remains.
Both GANTZ and GANTZ II: PERFECT ANSWER, as well as other films from NEW PEOPLE Entertainment, can be ordered directly by clicking here.