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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

GANTZ World Premiere

Gantz

Kenichi Matsuyama and Kazunari Ninomiya have a fetish for leather in GANTZ

Two nights ago, I was checking movie times in Ann Arbor, and saw that GANTZ — a live-action adaptation of a popular sci-fi manga and anime series — would be screening on January 20th in one of the local theaters. Puzzled by this very peculiar turn of events, I did some additional digging and found out what many fans already knew — GANTZ was making its international world premiere in 334 movie theaters across the United States in an exclusive”one-night only” event thanks to the fine folks at NCM Fathom, New People, and Dark Horse Comics.

I plan on writing a full review of the film soon, but in the meantime, I’ll give my initial impressions of the film, as well as a rundown of the event itself.

Introductory Remarks

Otaku USA editor Patrick Macias was the emcee for this special event and did so with a great sense of humor. The man is responsible for several interesting books about Japanese film and culture, so it was cool to actually see the guy “in-person,” so to speak.  Before screening the film, he introduced its stars — Arashi’s Kazunari Ninomiya (Letters from Iwo Jima) and Kenichi Matsuyama (Norwegian Wood, Death Note), to a very, very appreciative and largely female live audience at Mann’s Chinese 6 in Hollywood.

The Film

The very first thing that jumped out at me about the film was the disappointing realization that it had been dubbed in English, a fact which eluded me despite the English localization being noted by several online sources. I think the people who took it the hardest in my theater might have been the large group of Japanese aunties sitting behind me. Why these women came to see an R-rated film based on a manga series reputed for its blood, gore, and sexual situations, I’ll never know. Maybe they were just dying to see a Japanese film, no matter the content.

Like I said, I’ll be reviewing the film in-depth at some later date, but what I can tell you is that the plot revolves around former childhood friends Kei Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya) and Masaru Kato (Kenichi Matsuyama), who reunite under seemingly fatal circumstances: when Kato tries to save a drunk who falls on the subway train tracks, Kei is reluctantly pulled into his old friend’s good Samaritan act, and they both end up dead.

Or do they? The two men wake up in an apartment with a giant black orb against one wall of the room. Kei and Kato aren’t actually alone, as several more people who were thought to have “died” are also present.  To add to the confusion, the orb comes to life, providing the abductees with an arsenal of crazy-looking guns and some snazzy leather costumes. GANTZ, as the orb is known, gives them all a simple task — kill an alien. If you think that’s weird, just wait ’till you see the rest of the movie. It’s a doozy.

What did I think of the movie? I’ll be honest here — it took me a little while to get over the English dubbing. Unlike the more commanding (and perhaps more ridiculous) English dubs of the 1960s and 1970s, I tend to find contemporary dubs to sound slightly ethereal, if not downright disembodied. GANTZ is no different. Although I recognize the commercial reasons why this film would be presented in English, the fact that it’s R-rated would necessarily exclude younger viewers who might not want to read subtitles. I mean, if you’re an adult fan of Japanese cinema, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to hear the actors’ actual voices, even if it meant reading some subtitles. Maybe it’s just me.

Kishimoto The next hurdle I had to get over was the initially embarrassing fact that this movie was presented as every teenage Otaku boy’s wetdream. First off, consider our two heroes: Kei comes across as an out-and-out dork (albeit a good-looking one), while Kato is a sensitive soul with a troubled past, both of whom get to fight aliens dressed in cool super-powered costumes while wielding a whole lot of badass firepower. If this isn’t appealing to a specific set of male fantasies, I don’t know what is. A second moment of pause for me was the fact that the buxom female love interest, Kishimoto (Natsuna) is introduced dripping wet and naked, an aesthetic choice which suggests to me that GANTZ in its previous comic and cartoon incarnations was crafted to be the  ultimate in fan service. Combine these elements with the film’s silly premise, and I began to wonder if I could survive the film’s two-and-a-half hour running time. To the filmmakers’ credit, GANTZ won me over.

I think the tipping point for me was when they introduced the Tanaka Alien, an evil robot that was well-designed and fun to watch.  I really loved his ability to execute a rapid-succession of DOOONNIIIEEE!-style multi-punches. By the time the film dipped into serious Ray Harryhausen territory in the film’s final act, I was totally on board. I loved the way the CGI looked, almost as if it was stop-motion animation. It sounds strange to compliment technology for looking “primitive,” but this nostalgic flourish gave the creatures a real weight to them.

By the way, the film ends on a cliffhanger, so be prepared to not have all your questions answered by story’s end. Luckily, a second film is on the way.

Q&A

Patrick Macias moderated the Q&A with Kenichi Matsuyama and Kazunari Ninomiya. While the fan-submitted questions were standard fluff, it was amusing to watch Matsuyama ramble off long-winded answers, totally oblivious to burdening his interpreter. At times, the poor guy had a tough time synthesizing everything the actor said, although he eventually pulled through. Hell, I don’t blame him. I have trouble summarizing what someone is saying in English, and that’s my first language! Ninomiya was a bit kinder to his interpreter, as he spoke in natural stops and starts to allow his interpreter the opportunity to convey his words effectively. It was a good way to cap off the evening, giving the “event” the feel of a film festival, despite the fact that we were seeing a live broadcast and not a live performance in front of us. I would have loved for the director to be present to field questions, but it just wasn’t that kind of show.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed GANTZ and look forward to sharing my more in-depth thoughts on the film in a LoveHKFilm.com review. I’m also looking forward to seeing the sequel, although if it gets a US premiere, please, please, please let it be in Japanese with English subtitles! Fans of Japanese cinema and native speakers of the language will thank you.

2 Responses to “GANTZ World Premiere”

  1. Desmo Says:

    I watched the premier last night in Emeryville, Ca. (Berkeley). I thought there were many things wrong with the movie adaptation of the Anime adaptation of the original Manga, but, all in all, I liked it.
    I feel the actors got the characterizations all wrong except for Natsuna Watanabe as Kei Kishimoto.
    There was the expected and usual Japanese sense of the melodramatic and that’s OK. But the dubbed dialog really missed the mark (unless it was that poorly written to begin with).
    I would have much preferred the original actors’voices and interpretations.

    3 stars

  2. John Beaz Says:

    I agree with Desmo,I prefer the original actors voices and interpretations.I love the CGI, I love the actors they picked for the movie and can not wait for part 2 of GANTZ.

    The up side - The CGI was great ( I think it is the fist CGI in Japan that was GREAT, so I am actually surprise) , the right pick of actors, sound effects are good, story line is great, great setting and awesome sarcastic bloody action horror film. I can not wait for part two and see how well it will continue .

    Now the down side - the story is cheesy. The movie has that feel of Dragon ball Z , it takes five episodes to kill a enemy but that is how dramatic the Japanese film industry. No, they did not follow the manga series but that is how all other live manga action films are. Finally , the english killed it so i wish for subtitle . I guest that is why I also had so many Japanese old people behind me.

    Over roll I give it 7 out of 10 or 3 stars.

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