Almost immediately following the January release of Gantz in Japan came the sequel Gantz: Perfect Answer. The first film came with an intriguing concept, that of a group of recently ‘deceased’ people given a second chance of life by a mysterious black orb known as Gantz. In return, they must assassinate aliens living on Earth. Based on a long-running manga by Hiroya Oku, much of the first Gantz builds to towards this sequel, and on this level that film came to a wholly unsatisfying conclusion for a number of viewers. Very little time is wasted in launching into the action for this second outing.
It has been five months since the events of the first film, and Gantz has let Kurono (Kazunari Ninomiya, The Lady Shogun and Her Men) return to a semblance of a normal life. Tae (Yoshitaka Yuriko, Kaiji 2) wants to begin a relationship with him, but he is still distracted by the disappearance of Kato (Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Norwegian Wood). In reality, Kato was ‘killed’ in one of Gantz’s missions against the aliens. With those same aliens now on the offensive, Gantz recalls everybody to its plane of existence before it is too late. Yet there is something different about Gantz, and things may change forever.
One of the complaints of the first film was that it took a terrific setup, some magnificent action pieces and complicated exposition before ending up nowhere. Gantz: Perfect Answer lives up to its title and responds to this criticism directly with a high-octane action film that very rarely pauses for breath. The first hour does a magnificent job of taking Gantz’s ball and running with it, building on the premise of the first film and expanding our knowledge of the mysterious and enigmatic titular sphere. This includes not only developing the newer characters such as sexy fighter Eriko (Ayumi Ito, Solanin), but following the detective Masamitsu Shigeta (Takayuki Yamada, MILOCRORZE – A Love Story) as he tracks down the people who have gone missing as a result of Gantz. This builds up to a set-piece aboard a train where all of these new and existing storylines intersect, and the resulting bloodbath is one of the finest pieces of action ever filmed.
This action-packed approach is, like the weaponry carried in the movie, sometimes a double-edged sword. While it undoubtedly pleases a wider audience, much of the subtlety of the first film is forgotten what amounts to almost 141 minutes of gun and swordplay. It is magnificent too, with the reported 4 billion Yen (US $45 million) budget clearly being put into this second half of the saga where the effects, action and production design are flawless. It is amazing that this is a fraction of what a Hollywood blockbuster would be made on, and it is virtually impossible for a casual viewer to be able to spot the difference between the production values. By the same token, like a Hollywood blockbuster, it suffers from a similar popcorn mentality, assuming that more of the cool stuff is better. There are moments when the extended action feels oppressive, as there is only so much kablamy one can take before it all starts to look like a slick black blur.
However, as with the first film, it is difficult to take either Gantz film in isolation. This is not simply dispensing with the drama or intrigue in favour of the action, but it is the action pay-off to the setup of the first chapter. Unlike Matrix Reloaded or Matrix Revolutions, with which there are some obvious comparisons, Gantz: Perfect Answer never betrays the feel of the first film. There is certainly more of the same, with no less than two Ken’ichi Matsuyamas, but it is a slick affair with the kind of action money shots that will send geek and idol worshippers alike all aflutter.
Gantz: Perfect Answer is playing at the Japanese Film Festival on 19 November (Sydney) and 2 December (Melbourne) 2011 at the 15th Japanese Film Festival in Australia.