It's hard to go into something like Shinsuke Sato's live-action Gantz adaptations without a little bit of skepticism in tow. While the first part isn't flawless by any stretch of the imagination, however, the weight of its execution really surprised me. Gantz looks, well, like a film, and in a world where so many Japanese features look like slightly higher budget television dramas, that was refreshing. Oddly enough, Gantz II: Perfect Answer seems to take a step back in this department, but those who enjoyed the first will definitely want to stick around to see how the curtains close on Sato's adaptation.
After a handy recap of the first Gantz film, we're thrown right into the action, and the stakes are much higher this time around. With Masaru Kato dead, our hero Kei Kurono is working hard to earn 100 points by defeating aliens for the mysterious black ball known as Gantz. 100 points nets you a choice of two prizes: you can either be freed from Gantz and return to your normal life, or you can resurrect someone who has died playing the deadly game. When we join in on the fun this time, Kei and his teammates are much more experienced, and Kei is fully invested in using his points to bring his friend back from the dead.
That's not enough, though, is it? With the thought of escaping now far in the distance, Kei hopes to continue playing until he can resurrect everyone. It's a tall order, and something more sinister is going on behind the scenes. Another player has entered the fray, but she's invested in a different game entirely. Armed with a tiny version of the Gantz ball, model Eriko Ayukawa—played by Ayumi Ito (Swallowtail Butterfly)—is assigned various targets that Gantz refers to as "keys," and is taking them out one by one. Going any further than that would tread into spoiler territory, and half the fun of Gantz is following along with the mystery.
While the first film was riddled with gun blasts and exploding aliens, most of Perfect Answer is packed to the brim with ridiculous, over-the-top sword fights, one of which literally chops a subway car in half. Kei and the others find a formidable foe in the form of the "Men in Black" aliens, who appear to be much more closely tied to Gantz than any of the alien targets before. Action sequences are a reminder that, whether or not you think the Gantz movies properly grasp the tone of Hiroya Oku's original manga—which has been running in Weekly Young Jump magazine since 2000—they at least remain unflinching in their violence. Pedestrians are mowed down nonchalantly as the Men in Black aliens alternate between manifesting guns and swords from the obsidian liquid inside their bodies, and most of the Gantz squad hardly knows what to do against an enemy they can barely manage to scratch.
Thankfully some of the new folks, much like Kei himself, appear to be naturals at fighting. This plays into the plot in a major way, intertwining with a lone detective's goal to solve the mystery behind the black ball and finally find the room in which Gantz is located. Beyond the action, Perfect Answer's narrative tends to take more of a TV drama turn, from the staging of scenes to the performances themselves. It's kind of jarring at times, but doesn't detract from the overall spectacle. Whenever Perfect Answer kicks into high gear, which is frequently enough for fans of action films, it's just as gripping as the first chapter.
In fact, there are only a few aspects that keep it from surpassing its predecessor. The story is a little too tightly packed, even for the healthy 142-minute running time. A lot of it could have clearly benefited from the breathing room and tension the pacing of a comic, or even a TV series, provides. As a result, revelations pertaining to Eriko Ayukawa's mission, the return of a false Kato, the past of the new players, and more aren't quite as heavy-hitting as they could have been. Sato and writer Yusuke Watanabe, who also worked on the first two 20th Century Boys films, do an admirable job of pacing things despite this, but the impact is nevertheless dulled.
Gantz isn't an easy property to adapt, and there are about a million ways this pair of films could have gone horribly awry. I haven't read all of Oku's manga, so I'm not qualified to say how accurately the events are depicted at this point in the story, but the final product manages to be entertaining and appropriately dark. Perfect Answer is destructive, and maintains the first film's dedication to using as many practical effects as possible. Blood sprays with little CG assistance, and explosions rock the city streets and provide a satisfying heft to the setpieces. Perfect Answer may not be as perfect as its title implies, but those looking for a fun, action-packed manga flick shouldn't come away disappointed.
New People's 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo is a solid set for those who want to own Gantz II: Perfect Answer, and the film itself looks fantastic. With all the special effects work, however, it would have been nice to get some behind-the-scenes footage, at the very least in the form of a small featurette. The interview with director Shinsuke Sato (The Princess Blade, Oblivion Island) on disc 3 is a good, if brief, extra for anyone looking for a little insight into taking a whopper of a manga like Gantz from page to screen.
Distributor: New People Entertainment
© HIROYA OKU / SHUEISHA
© 2011 "GANTZ" FILM PARTNERS