SciFi Japan

    Ninomiya Fans See Nino and GANTZ Premiere, Too

    Kazunari Ninomiya and Kenichi Matsuyama present GANTZ World Premiere in Hollywood Author: Richard Pusateri Official Movie Site: (Japan), (US) Special Thanks to Erik Jansen and Rieko Fuji

    The fans were restless at the GANTZ World Premiere in Hollywood. Above the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater January 20, the fans lining the entrance corridor of Mann’s Chinese 6 theaters were fidgeting and nervously chattering long before the film’s stars Kazunari Ninomiya (LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA) and Kenichi Matsuyama (DETROIT METAL CITY, DEATH NOTE) arrived for what was billed as the “GANTZ WORLD PREMIERE.” One of the first things master of ceremonies Patrick Macias told the crowd was the stars were just in from the World Premiere earlier that day in Tokyo, leaving the description of this event as the "World Premiere" needing some clarification. I had arrived 90 minutes before the event’s scheduled launch and two long lines of fans were already on both sides of the inner hallway leading to the lobby. The mostly female fans, who varied widely in age, ethnicity and other demographics, were more intent on discussing the appearance of the stars than the motion picture being premiered. Some male fans present appeared to actually be interested in the film`s artistic content, rather than in the performers. The reality was this event offered Ninomiya’s fans a chance to see and hear him in person. Even though the film and presentation were broadcast in 333 locations by NCM Fathom, fans came from all over the United States, some even from as far as Peru to see this live event firsthand.

    From the signage and remarks overheard, Ninomiya (or Nino as he is called by fans) was clearly the main object of the fans’ affections. After ten years of acting on Japanese television Ninomiya gained fame as an actor, but his role as a singer/songwriter in the J-Pop boy band Arashi is his main claim to stardom or ascension to "Idol" as the brand of fame is known in Japan. Apparently Matsuyama sensed his less-than-idol ranking and was the more laconic of the pair. If the stars’ entrance was intended to thrill the fans, it certainly succeeded. Ninomiya and Matsuyama entered from the front and their passage up the long corridor became a running of a gauntlet of loving fans. The idols had to almost run to get to their VIP room as order broke down and hundreds of fans demonstrated their affection by charging with flash cameras blazing. The excitement might have been more than some staffers expected as they were seen frantically trying to restrain the fan throngs to allow the stars to pass through the lobby. After a minute or two of crazy fan rampaging, the crowd settled down to the business of jockeying for position in the line into the auditorium. When the event finally started, Patrick Macias, editor-in-chief of Otaku USA magazine, made a few seemingly extemporaneous introductory comments. He began by reminding the fans (who photographed and video recorded the entire event) that there was to be no photography of the stars.

    GANTZ is the live action feature based on the 29 installment manga series created by Hiroya Oku. The director of this feature, Shinsuke Sato, was also on hand in Hollywood. GANTZ begins with the two principals being killed and going to a strange afterlife in a waiting room where they are prepared by a machine named Gantz for battle with various entities. As the battles go on, the characters are quite concerned with injury, pain and death. I began to wonder just how dead these characters really were as they were concerned with injury or death and there is a prospect of returning to their own lives, which would be considerably easier if they were not dead to begin with.

    The movie was an enjoyable balance of action, gore and light humor. The tension of mystery was sustained by delicate acting and pacing, but after the first couple of battles played out, the episodic nature of the manga source became all too apparent. The fantastic designs of the heroes’ opponents were entertaining, but the formula of the battles (or rounds) and the resulting scores became all too predictable. The attention to detail of suits and weapons paid off, but several parts appeared low budget. Perhaps being seated in the second row press section was too close to the screen as much of the action seemed dark and blurred. Rapid editing of a multitude of brief shots also seemed to amplify problems with blurriness. Then again, I could have just been sitting too darned close. As the action unfolded, the format of each battle being scored grew a bit tiresome for me. As the progression of battles continues, it becomes obvious that the viewer will need to see part two of GANTZ when it arrives later this year. During the live interview after the movie, Ninomiya and Matsuyama seemed truly humbled by the outpouring of affection in Hollywood. Perhaps the format of this gathering left the stars visibly surprised. Nino said they have not had such a meeting with fans like this in Japan. Perhaps the Japanese fans might have been more responsive to Macias` repeated admonitions against photographing the stars (stipulated by Nino`s management, Johnny & Associates) as the fans in Hollywood photographed and video recorded seemingly every moment of the event.

    As the stars offered standard answers through interpreters to the usual questions, the audience laughed, cheered or moaned. Many of them apparently understood Japanese as they cried out in approval before an answer had been given in English. When Nino said that a real photo of him at age twelve appeared in the film, at least one fan shrieked "Kawaii!"— Japanese for "Cute!" Matsuyama said he was hopeful that GANTZ, as a sci fi genre film would be successful in the U.S. without being a period piece like THE LAST SAMURAI and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA. If a viewer has not already been indoctrinated into the world of GANTZ from the manga or anime TV series, the feature film might be a challenge to become immersed in. GANTZ pays homage liberally to many films (inescapable parallels to MEN IN BLACK) and other Japanese entertainment icons. The dubbing was not the worst I`ve heard in Japanese sci fi genre although no attempt whatsoever was made to sync the dialogue with the actors lip movements. and The fans of Nino and Matsuyama were quite vocal that they had been deprived of hearing the idols’ own voices. In fact as the live presentation wound down, the topic kept returning to the upcoming second part of GANTZ. Many answers from the two stars seemed to hinge on the reception of GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER, currently in post production. Ninomiya, Matsuyama and director Sato repeated they would love to do another event like this for GANTZ: PERFECT ANSWER if part 1 of GANTZ is a success. GANTZ opened January 29th in Japan and topped the weekend box office with a take of ¥592,823,900 (approximately $7.2 million US).

    For more information on GANTZ please see the earlier coverage here on SciFi Japan:

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