Nicholas Brown and Worick Arcangelo, known in the city of Ergastalum as the "Handymen," are mercenaries for hire who take on jobs no one else can handle. Contracted by powerful mob syndicates and police alike, the Handymen have to be ready and willing for anything. After completing the order of killing a local pimp, the Handymen add Alex Benedetto—a prostitute also designated for elimination—to their ranks to protect her from forces that want her gone from the decrepit hellhole of a city she has come to call home. However, this criminal’s paradise is undergoing a profound period of change that threatens to corrode the delicate balance of power.
Ergastalum was once a safe haven for "Twilights," super-human beings born as the result of a special drug but are now being hunted down by a fierce underground organization. This new threat is rising up to challenge everything the city stands for, and the Handymen will not be able to avoid this coming war.
If I can describe Gangsta in one word it would be... disappointingpieceofshit.
A title that's so half-baked that it's truly deserving of a tailor-made portmanteau.
And if you're one of the fortunate individuals who hasn't watched Gangsta yet then HALT, do not pass go, do not collect $200, stay away! As for the rest of the poor souls that suffered through the pilgrimage viewing that is Gangsta, on with the review.
Gangsta, a title name that immediately invokes imagery of money, sex, power and violence, and as luck would have it, a very appropriate namesake as well, as we're given just that in spades. This is a
story that takes us to the deepest depths of society's bustling underbelly. Where law and order is traded in for carnage and mayhem. Where a wrong step can easily become your last. And where maturity is handled with as much subtlety as a Grand Theft Auto game. When it comes to try-hard entertainment, Gangsta has catapulted itself into another league but for all the wrong reasons. With content that can only be described as a pubescent teen's wet dream, it somehow managed something that's nigh impossible; taking a gratuitous amount of "adult" subject matter and making it all tepid in nature. A show stuffed from head to toe with lurid material yet invokes nothing, failing at even becoming lowbrow sleaze. For everything that Gangsta could have done it ended up doing nothing at all. Narratively, it also introduces a myriad of questions one after another but never once provides an answer for any of it, making this a double-edged sword of bad meets worse. With nothing to excite or stimulate you, this anime has mastered the art of blue balling.
The story follows the lives of three characters: handymen for hire, Worick and Nicolas, and former thottie, Alex, as they navigate their way through everyday life in the godforsaken hellhole of a city named Ergastulum that they call home, while also fighting off their own personal demons along the way. Because of Worick and Nicolas's line of work, they often find themselves caught in the cross-hairs of the city's perpetual battles to maintain power and balance. These inner-city civil wars are overseen by crime syndicates with the main source of conflict often tying back to a subgroup of humans named Twilights: people with genetically enhanced strength that could perform physical feats that far exceeds average humans while under the aid of certain drugs. They're basically pill poppin x-men. And as one would expect, due to these innate abilities, the Twilights are constant victims of societal discrimination while also serving as living weapons, which is an escalating issue just waiting to keel over.
With such a unique decrepit city serving as its setting and a premise that promises heavy-hitting content, you would think the creators would just run with it. But instead, what we get is a story that meanders around without any sort of uniformity behind its actions, effectively ending before it gets a chance to begin. It's like watching someone with ADD trying to multitask. Characters are constantly introduced only to be left hanging in the open with no explanation as to their overall involvement. Major events that develop in the backdrop would simply never exfoliate. Plot points are brought up to only come to a dead end with no resolution. And all of it leads towards an ending that can only be described as the biggest cock-tease of 2015. With its inability to finish anything, this anime is the spiritual embodiment of Finbarr Calamitous from Jimmy Neutron. It's incredibly half-assed.
And as if to add insult to injury, despite all the over-the-top fights and constant debauchery going on in the city, the show itself remains painfully dull and uneventful. There are long stretches of time where absolutely nothing of relevance would happen. There may be a plot point itself that's "grand" in scope, but the build-up for it is often nonexistent, making it the equivalency of watching paint dry, even if the "paint" looks exciting on paper. Sometimes, when nothing of importance is going on, we're given an introspective look into the lives of our main characters. These are some of Gangsta's better moments as they help to get the audience familiarized to the psyche of the leads, as well as showcasing how they may have landed in their current positions in life. And while these moments may help elevated our ragtag group beyond cardboard cutout status, it doesn't stop the narrative from operating on AOL dial-up speed. The pacing is simply sluggish, even when what's being displayed would have you think otherwise. Story advancement is treated like an afterthought, which doesn't bode well for those that have a genuine interest in where the show would go next.
Thankfully, Gangsta doesn't spread itself too thin when it came to the characters, as most of the content centered around our three main leads. Worick is the level-headed member of the group and also the one in charge of keeping things in order. His quick wit and chill demeanor made him instantly likable. We're given a lot in the way of his complicated backstory that he shares with Nicolas; a backstory that helps thread the duo's connection to each other. Alex, the former thottie, is an emotionally damaged person that spends a majority of the show opening up to her new lifestyle with her two new companions. Despite her previous profession and general skimpy appearance, she's a rather reserved individual that we only learn more about gradually as the show goes on. But possibly the most memorable of the three that chews up all the scenery he's in is Nicolas himself.
While not crucial to the overall material, one unique inclusion that Gangsta deserves credit for is giving us a main character that's Deaf. As of the time of this writing, there has never been a Deaf lead in an animated TV series before. For the most part, Deaf characters are usually reduced to taking up insignificant roles, like the brief uncredited scene in Mobile Police Patlabor: WXIII, or even worse, they're used in a way that screams tokenism, placed in the story to rack up sympathy points instead of being treated as just another person. This is the first time an anime has placed a Deaf character center-stage and treated them as a person, never once resorting to excessive victimizing. This can help open up dialogue for a better understanding of Deaf culture for those that were previously oblivious to it, making it a progressive move on Gangsta's part.
Having taken ASL (American Sign Language) for two years myself during high school, there are mannerisms and behavioral patterns that are commonly recognized among any Deaf community, regardless of if it's abroad or not. And I can say that Manglobe did a commendable job in portraying that (for the most part). Of course, there are limitations to what they could accomplish, due to the fact that it's an animated feature and not live-action. But with all things considered, the translation came out better than I would have expected.
And while Manglobe deserves respect on that front, it doesn't mean everything was smooth sailing for the presentation as a whole. If anyone has familiarized themselves with the studio's catalog, their creative output has always been plagued with inconsistencies. With many instances of distorted character models and janky choreography, Gangsta was far from anything you would call prim and proper. Where the show did shine was with its overall tone and atmosphere, the likes of which swept over every aspect of the audiovisual output, creating a sense of uniformity that melded the characters and narrative together. This wasn't much of a surprise given that director Shukō Murase was responsible for bringing it to life. His trademarked style, blending neo-gothic aesthetics and vogue-like character models to create a kind of occult aura—as prominently showcased with Ergo Proxy and Witch Hunter Robin—bled its way into Gangsta, if only to a lesser degree to adjust to the show's more "urban" outfitting. Murase brought his A-game once again, gifting Gangsta with a tone befitting its content. A directorial facelift that it desperately needed. While that didn't make the false sense of maturity that the show was hiding behind any better, it certainly made it more palatable as a viewing experience.
To help heighten the atmosphere even further, the music was brought to life by Tsutchie, who's famous for his work on Manglobe's fan-favorite, Samurai Champloo. Instead of drawing back to the Hip-Hop/Trip-Hop genre fusion of his work on Champloo, Tsutchie embarks down a sonic path that's more EDM inspired. Being nowhere as heavy-handed as Parasyte's take on the genre, Tsutchie took a far more stripped-down approach. Those that are fans of the more house/drum 'n' base aspects of EDM would find something to enjoy with Gangsta's musical choice. The opening theme "Renegade" by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION was a nice J-pop/EDM track that kicked things into high gear for each new episode. Despite its niche sound, it's an opening that has easily received broad appeal due to its melody, glitch-pop flavoring, and midway breakdown. The ending, while also nice, was a more morbid song that wrapped up the episode nicely but didn't really serve as something you didn't want to skip after a few listens.
All in all, the music was a fine fit and worked a lot better than expected for a show that tried to have a more dreary depiction. But for the brief glimpses of actual merit that Gangsta may have had, it's immediately snuffed out when you begin to factor in the issues it was plagued with. No little amount of good it had could outweigh the ton of bad that saddled it down.
There's really no way around it; Gangsta was a flop. With each new episode, the show found itself struggling to stay afloat. What started out with audiences crossing their fingers for that eventual "Aha" moment to kick in, quickly fizzled away into disinterest as it slowly trudged towards the chopping block of its final episode. And with no solid conclusion in sight, Gangsta took what little potential it was holding onto and proceeded to run it into the ground, as it faded to black and people began moving on to the next best thing, erasing the thought of its existence from their memory.
I have a rather complicated relationship with studio Manglobe. On the one hand, they've created some of my most beloved shows (Ergo Proxy, Samurai Champloo and House of Five Leaves) but on the other, they're responsible for some of my most detested ones as well (Deadman Wonderland and Karneval). But instead of falling into either category, Gangsta lands somewhere in the middle ground for me, with the studio's other works like Samurai Flamenco, The World God Only Knows and The Sacred Blacksmith. Shows I don't quite like but don't hate either. They're simply titles that fell short of the mark for me. It's really aggravating seeing what Gangsta ultimately became, given all the untapped potential it was working with. But the overall lack of purpose in its plotting and the abrupt ending has assured that it'll be more loathed than remembered with fond memories. But perhaps the most disheartening thing about this show is that it serves as Manglobe's swan song since the studio went bankrupt and disbanded right after finishing this show. They were my personal favorite studio, so it's sad seeing them go out on such a sour note.
Gangsta is yet another title from the 2015 summer season that had potential but quickly dissolved away into nothingness. With plot points that went nowhere and characters that were never given reason to exist whatsoever, Gangsta squandered its run-time with too many issues to get a pass. And when taking into consideration what could only be the biggest cock-tease ending in years, there's no solid defense that could protect Gangsta from getting the ax.
Gangsta is the type of show that sounds catchy as it gets. As the name implies, there are gangsters which means there’s crime. However, there are people who takes care of business these problems in the city of Ergastulum. Enter Nick and Worick, a pair of badass bishounen who takes cares of crime like another day in the park. As ordinary as the show sounds, it gets more complicated once they are assigned to a task that goes beyond their expectations. But for the audience, what should your expectations be for the show?
Based on the manga written by Kosuke, Gangsta is essentially a series of
crime fighting and classified as a more mature seinen. The urban city setting invites a lot of attention when it comes to violence such as prostitution, drug dealing, and other illegal activities. Luckily, we do have Nick and Worick to take care of the troubles. To make their task easier, we learn that Nick is a “Twilight”, the type of person who has heightened abilities enhanced by a special drug. While Worick doesn’t possesses heightened senses, he does make it up for his smooth way of talking and photographic memory. The two aren’t really alike as partners to kill crime. However at the end of the day, it’s hard not to feel attached to them with their roles in the story.
The pacing of the story is not hard to get comfortable with. The first few episodes quickly establishes the vulnerability of Ergastulum. Sometimes, it feels like a Gotham city where crime runs loose with Nick and Worick playing the roles of Batman and Robin. The mature style of the show can be quickly realized when they undertake an operation on screen in the first episode. The show isn’t shy about making the violence happen on screen because it needs to create a bit of realism. At the same time, Nick and Worick recuses a young woman named Alex, who plays many important roles in the story. As a show like Gangsta, we learn much more about the characters. And that’s a strong emphasis that needs to be realized because we want to learn more about the characters. They come from such different backgrounds and their lives are often at risk in such a dangerous environment. In Ergastulum, there are essentially no rules. It’s about making a living and surviving each day.
When it comes to characterization, I can safely say that Gangsta knows its characters quite well. We get background storytelling especially for Nick and Worick. In fact, we learn much about their past including the people Nick associated with and how he got involved as a member of Twilight. On the other hand, there’s also Worick who became his partner. The series reveals his true name and how he used to be neglected by his parents. A good amount of focus is the chemistry between the duo. It also takes elaborate time to detail how Twilight members are made and what their rules are. In the present, we can see how their past affected their relationship. As characters themselves, Nick is also unique as he suffers from a disability; he is deaf. At first, this may seem like a big problem as partners needs to coordinate well vocally. However, it’s quickly established that he and Worick can work well with sign language and seemingly instinct to trust one another. And that’s important development for the two. With such dangerous assignments each day, trust is a vital part between partners and the series does a good job to show their trustworthiness. On a comedic note, we also see what Worick does on his time off. The smooth antihero has a way to give ladies pleasure and his keen sense of photography plays important roles in breaking cases. Nick is more like a warrior – armed with a sword, ruthlessness, and self-sense. This is an antithesis compared to Alex, a frail girl who suffers from PTSD-like symptoms. As the story progresses on, we learn more about her as well that reveals the darker side of Gangsta.
Despite having some comedy here and there, the majority of the show has a mature feeling. Most of the characters are adults and in their mid-30s. The gangsters in the show are also prone to violence and some show how reckless they can be to accomplish their goals. Guns, swords, and bombs are no strangers to the series along with the fast paced action. With a setting that has a Mediterranean-like feeling, the show also seems like a social satire at time with its cultural themes. In particular, Nick and Worick are dressed with style while other characters such as Alex are portrayed with vulnerability. While it gets top and gory at times, the show is also something I’d describe as a smart flick. The themes of prostitution, child soldiers, and experimentations are an anti-establishment of what we try to make society as of today. Because in Gangsta, there’s all types of trouble running loose with gangs and the mafia. The underworld is nothing short of what we try to eliminate from today’s society. And in this show, that’s clearly an understatement.
In essence, artwork is crude for the show. By crude, I don’t mean it as sloppy but rather by the way society is depicted for its story. For its setting, the show does a clever job to make it seem like Ergastulum is a separate space from the outside world. The urban style combined with its classic atmospheric setting is very fitting for a show such as this. The characters are dressed neatly with the expensive suits and jewelry. However, it’s the way the violence that’s handled that gets cruel. Make no mistake. Gangsta is uncensored glory and enters a territory where cops cannot handle jobs on their own. That’s why we got people like Nick and Worick. Speaking of which, the duo can seem like an eye candy for the ladies. In particular, Worick has that womanizing like charm with the way he looks. And as stereotypical as it can be, the guys in the show are designed like bishounen with hardcore abs and well-built figures. The show also has fan service with sex, in particular involving Worick. That’s right. He’s a ladies man and the show doesn’t make us forget that.
It’s really hard to ignore the soundtrack. There’s no easy way to describe it but there’s a combination of upbeat, chilling, and jazz. It almost gives off a feeling of relaxation even during the most intense of scenes. Of course, action itself is also well coordinated with the OST. I’d also have to say that both the OP and ED theme song are very attractive. It has a stylistic way of portraying the themes of the show with a montage of the main characters. And speaking of the characters, a strong plus for the show is their character voice mannerisms. In particular, Nick is the one to take notice of because of his lack of hearing. When he does speak, his voice seems like it’s disconnected especially with the broken sentences. That’s what really makes him different from the other characters though as it also establishes a link between him and his past. But really, when it comes down to it, Gangsta’s music is bold and can be relentlessly appealing to the ears.
So what’s to say about Gangsta in the end? It’s a pretty much a badass show ran with its premise and knows what its intentions are. The cast of characters has an enthralling presence and throughout the story, we learn a great deal about the main protagonists. Sure, the show can seem a bit cruel at times but it’s important to realize its purpose. Gangsta is not a show with colorful rainbows and where happy endings happen. In fact, I would say that the ending of the show is a bit controversial in itself. Regardless though, it’s still a show that I’d recommend anyone to give it a try especially for fans interested in a mature action flick.
Despite a few extraordinary contributions, the pulp crime genre is one that anime does not do particularly well. I felt compelled to write this review of Gangsta because of the many unwarranted comparisons to Black Lagoon. Gangsta is nothing like Black Lagoon, and it will be especially disappointing to watch with such an expectation.
If you want to watch pulp crime involving heists, car chases, and briefcases full of guns, cash and drugs, well that's not this anime. Gangsta has no grounding in real world politics or criminal activity. In fact, the mob families seem uninterested in any actual criminal activity, outside
of episode 1, and some mobsters, like Miss Christiano (the Tohsaka Rin of mafia bosses), seems so goodhearted as to be a downright pillar of the community.
You may be disappointed to find that Gangsta has no relationship to reality at all, set in a fictional city with a past that does not fit into our real-world history. Many of the characters are superpowered humans called Twilights, and the story arcs are driven by the existence of Twilights and how humans interact with them - as opposed to something that is more grounded in real world situations and groups- like say, looting a Nazi submarine for fun and profit.
Gangsta is also not a fast-paced action-movie roller coaster, but rather has languid pacing. This could make for a fine noir tone, but except for Nico, Worrick and Alex's flashbacks, Gangsta has neither good writing nor execution.
The entire series felt disjointed and fragmented, with the characters aimlessly shuffling through one poorly animated, forgettable vignette to the next. Conflict built up from episodes 9 to 11 ends anticlimactically, with an final episode that fails to resolve the remaining plot threads.
It was very difficult to maintain any interest week by week, let alone care about minor characters that suddenly begin to "matter."
Gangsta has no soundtrack to speak of, which only makes the show an even more low-key affair and frankly, the OP is better than some episodes.
The artwork begins on the cheap side of average, with uninteresting backgrounds, and suffers increasingly egregious off-model shots in both fight scenes and dialogue (such as episodes 8 and 9). Poor art can be forgiven if other elements fall into place, but that is not the case here.
Gangsta has some clever moments, mostly Alex's character development, Nico's unique character and his past with Worrick. But the rest of the storylines unfold clumsily with no sense of urgency, drama or resolution.
A comparison between Gangsta's 12 episodes and Black Lagoon's first cour reveals the difference in quality. The last episodes of Black Lagoon's first cour tie into and build upon themes of belonging that are raised beginning with episode 3, and ends on a self-contained high note with arc resolution and character development for its female and male leads. All things considered, maybe it's lucky Manglobe's storyboarding team have just managed to stumble the show as far along as they have, unlike Bones and their handling of Blood Blockade Battlefront earlier this year.
Gangsta is probably better compared and contrasted with Darker than Black. Both Darker than Black and Gangsta feature superpowered humans that work in the criminal underworld as a result of their superpowers. Darker than Black offers noirish story arcs rather than action movie pacing. Ultimately, both Gangsta and Darker than Black are about pleas for acceptance of the different and marginalized (Darker than Black's "Contractors").
However, Darker than Black features clever writing and compact, film noir storylines while Gangsta does not. Darker than Black grounds its science fiction elements in real world politics, locations, and organizations, enough that character motivations and situations make sense despite the vague handwaving of how people acquired their powers. It's a much better execution of a similar sci-fi/crime hybrid concept.
In the Ergastulum justice system, breaking any of the three laws is considered especially heinous. In Ergastulum, the dedicated individuals who investigate these vicious felonies are members of the laid-back duo known as the Benriya. These are their stories.
In the city of Ergastulum, violence, narcotics, and sex run rampant. For a series named Gangsta, it comes as an expectation of sorts. For anime, as a medium, an excess of violence, drugs, and real world sexual themes (doping prostitutes and pimping, which is far different than ecchi) are rarely put in place as a combination to form the core of a series. Gangsta utilizes this fact
and diligently puts it to use, allowing it to lure in those who are curious. In more ways than one, Gangsta comes off as a flashier mobster film equivalent from Western media.
The narrative of Gangsta follows the life of three main characters: Worick, Nicolas, and Alex. As Benriya (the Handymen), Worick and Nicolas are depicted as hired muscle doing odd jobs around the city, mainly for the big organized crime families — of which they are very acquainted with — and the police. The duo supposedly walk the line of neutrality, but it is seemingly a farce, given how deep they are affiliated with the powerful figures that run the city. The overall story of the series revolves around Twilights, people with enhanced, drug-induced capabilities which exceeds that of a normal person's by varying amounts. Their strength, or combat capabilities rather, are ranked from D to S, the latter being the highest. Like the case with all differences, being a Twilight brings upon discrimination. This acts as the main strife in the series, as increasing tensions build up around the city.
While the environment of Ergastulum is eventful and entertaining, the direction that Gangsta moves towards often strays from a decisive path. This is one of the biggest issues that Gangsta has: the sub-plots are shallow and detract from the story as a whole. As one goes progresses through the series, countless characters come and go. New characters seem to pop up every couple of episodes, but you can never be sure if they're actually going to be anyone that's relevant; usually they aren't. Because of the amount of characters and their individual problems, there's simply too much information and too little time to present it. The series only just begins to get into the big conflict during the last third of the show but, even then, it ends abruptly at a cliffhanger.
Another aspect of the series that seemed very dull and recycled, to me at least, was the rankings of tags that the Twilights possess. To put it in honest terms, it's really just power-levels renamed. I'm personally not a big fan of power-levels being ranked; it takes a lot away from the potential of fights in a series since you already know who's stronger and projected to win. With that being said, the violence in Gangsta is probably still a great selling point for many. The fights aren't bad, but they leave something to be desired.
As previously mentioned, the amount of characters that Gangsta introduces in such a short amount of time is seriously astounding. We get enough backstory about Worick and Nicolas, obviously because they are the main duo, but there's not much regarding any of the supporting cast affiliated with the big families, the hunters, or the guild. Ginger? Gina Paulklee? Literally who? As one of the main characters, I was expecting a bit more out of Alex. Besides recovering from her destructive lifestyle as a prostitute, she doesn't do much else other than house sitting the Benriya bachelor pad. I understand the purpose behind Alex's character, but she feels a bit out of place and useless as a main character. Her struggles with coming clean adds a light element of a feel-good story, but she could have easily been just a supporting character and not much would have changed. From how the series portrays her, she appears to only serve as a staple that showcases how Worick and Nicolas are good guys. Oh, and fan service.
In terms of visual quality, I thought that Manglobe did pretty well. Visually, the show appears to be a good adaptation of the manga. In terms of audio, Renegade, by the Stereo Dive Foundation, is memorable. The overall OST is also pretty good.
Whether or not Gangsta can actually be considered good is up for debate and what you come to expect when defining something as actually good. In comparison to the rest of the Summer '15 season, it was certainly one of the better shows that aired, but that's simply because the season as a whole was quite barren. Ultimately, Gangsta had a lot of interesting ideas, and even potentially interesting characters, but none of that matters if it is not utilized.
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