Gangsta. ended its twelve episode run back in September and had the bittersweet honor of being Manglobe's last show. The studio filing for bankruptcy and the way they handled the ending most likely killed any hope of a second season. The anime series was directed by Shuko Murase, the notable director of Witch Hunter ROBIN and Ergo Proxy. The original manga by Kohske is still being published, albeit at a slow rate of only one or two volumes per year (maybe she's been hanging out with Kentaro Miura).
The show centers around Worick Arcangelo and Nicolas Brown, two "Handymen" that are hired to perform odd jobs by the criminal underworld and the corrupt police force. Nicolas is a "twilight," a race of people with abnormal strength and agility who are recognized by their "tags." Twilights wear dog tags with a rank on them to signify how powerful they are among other twilights. Nic's ranking is A/0, the highest possible status. The two come across Alex Benedetto, a prostitute who they hire as their secretary. The three live in a dingy apartment which serves as their work headquarters.
The setting of Gangsta. takes place in the city of Ergastulum. The buildings are tall and monolithic with red and orange roofing. You can tell the city once had tremendous beauty, reminiscent of richly colored and textured cities in Europe. However, the architecture has begun to decay and the city seems like a bleak depressing shell of what it was once. Imagine what the town in Kiki's Delivery Service would look like if a bomb went off.
The desolate atmosphere is a result of Ergastulum's poverty. A city of such grandeur can't be maintained without money to go back into it. Conversely, once a city starts to decline culturally and economically, its citizens don't have ways of receiving proper income. It's a cycle that continually plunges the city into further desolation. As no one wants to be in poverty, people have to find solutions they can grasp by themselves without help. Ergastulum's poverty manifests itself in three ways that we see continually throughout the anime.
Organized Crime Families
There are four main crime families in Ergastulum. The Monroe Family manages the drug business and hires twilights who are not mercenaries. The Cristiano Family deals with Celebrer, a drug twilights need to survive. The Corsica Family are in charge of the weapons market. Finally, the Paulklee Guild hire mercenary twilights. The anime doesn't show us much that happens in Ergastulum outside of its criminal underworld. This leads us to believe that most major business in the city is in someway linked to one of these four families.
This means that most people in Ergastulum have resorted to illegal means of obtaining money. These crime families promise large amounts of money to their members and others who choose to deal with them. Anyone who delves into the criminal underworld is hoping to climb the ranks and become rich. Their current state of poverty provokes them to make more money and the only way they are able to is through organized crime.
This is just for normal people, twilights are a different story altogether. Twilight slavery used to be commonplace in the world of Gangsta. This was only abolished recently, about twenty years in the past from when the main story takes place. Although they are legally equal, twilights still face social discrimination. Most twilights are also orphans because their parents leave them behind, which contributes to how poor they are. These factors and the fact that they have shortened lifespans make it safe to assume that they would not have promising job opportunities. This is where crime life comes in. Virtually every twilight in the show either joins the Monroe Family or the Paulklee Guild. The other two families also hire twilights in lesser numbers as security and bodyguards.
The reason people in Ergastulum are able to make money through organized crime so easily is because the police work with the four families. The crime families are so powerful that the police know they won't be able to take them down. They end up working together to target street gangs and newcomers who are attempting to pose a threat to the four families. This means that unorganized crime is not a safe bet for the poor citizens of Ergastulum. Therefore, they turn to organized crime instead as their risks are lower and potential profits are higher.
Poverty also manifests itself as prostitution in Gangsta. Women who come from poor financial backgrounds often turn to selling their bodies as their only way of making a sufficient income. An example of this that we see in the show is the character of Alex Benedetto. Alex's mother died at a young age and her father was unloving towards her and her brother Emilio. This meant that Alex essentially had to raise Emilio herself, despite being so young. She became involved with prostitution so she could support herself and Emilio.
When we first meet Alex, she is working for a low level street pimp named Barry. People like Barry are commonplace in the city. They handle all the low stakes prostitution in the city and work independently. They make it so if you go down a back alley in Ergastulum, you are almost certain to come in contact with a prostitute looking for customers. These types of pimps are not an organized institution like the crime families are. Instead they compete with each other, which can end in bloodshed. They offer young women who are desperate for money a chance to make their start in the business.
Street level prostitution is not the only form that exists in Ergastulum. Perhaps more popular are the established brothels. The brothels are owned and run by the Corsica Family. They put lots of money and effort into maintaining these institutions to attract more customers. One such place that we see in the anime is "Pussy," run by Big Mama Georgiana. The brothels offer more safety and comfort for those looking to partake in prostitution. However, they are far more expensive than going to a street prostitute. The bosses of the brothels treat their girls with much more respect than the small-time pimps and also provide the girls with a higher income. However, it is much more difficult to obtain a position at a brothel. Not to mention, if the Corsica Family gets involved in a conflict it will also affect its prostitution houses.
Prostitution is not just for women though. When he's not working as one of the Handymen with Nicolas, Worick makes his living as a gigolo. It comes full circle because Worick is actually the illegitimate son of a prostitute. His father was rich and Worick grew up in a mansion where he had servants, butlers, and maids. Worick's father was abusive and was killed by Nicolas when Worick was still thirteen. Since his father had no love for his son, this makes it safe to assume that he didn't leave any of his wealth behind for Worick. As such, Worick became poor after the death of his father. He then became a prostitute at the age of thirteen. Big Mama took notice of the young man and hired him to work under her. He has now established himself as an independent entity who doesn't work for anybody, but is still renowned in his field.
The third way in which poverty influences Ergastulum is with drugs. As we can see with the Monroe and Cristiano Families, the drug market is a surefire way to make large amounts of money. However, a market can't flourish if there is no demand. These families are able to make so much money from drugs because people want to buy them. The oppressing poverty rate of Ergastulum influences its people to turn to drugs. It's why we see homeless people in the real world who are often alcoholics or drug addicts. Being in a financial crisis causes tremendous amounts of stress and affects a person's emotional state. People who feel this way often feel like they need an escape or a release, something which drugs provide. There are several different vices that we see used throughout Gangsta.
Celebrer is a drug that is mandatory for all twilights. It was made during wartime to enhance the physical prowess of soldiers. Twilights exist because their parents used celebrer, unaware that it would have an effect on their progeny. Twilights are born with the physical enhancements the drug causes and need to take it throughout their life to maintain their biological makeup. The acceleration of their bodily processes causes twilights to have a shortened lifespan, which usually ends in their thirties. If a twilight went without celebrer, it would cause severe ailments and potentially death. However, many twilights, including Nicolas, become addicted to celebrer. They intentionally overdose on the drug to make themselves more physically capable and shut out the pain they feel in a fight. (It's similar to the Berserker armor Guts uses in the Hawk of the Millennium Empire Arc of the Berserk manga.) Addiction to celebrer is made easier by the fact that Doc Theo gives the drug out for free because he sympathizes with twilights. Although it may not be obvious, this is linked to poverty. The more accomplished a twilight is as a fighter means the more money he can make as a mercenary. Thus taking more celebrer is going to contribute to financial gain for twilights.
TB pills are another form of drug use we see in Gangsta. We primarily see them being taken by Alex. They are a hallucinogenic drug that Barry and other pimps use to keep their prostitutes obsequious. However, after Barry's death in the first episode, Alex begins to experience withdrawal which causes her to have hallucinations that he is still alive and haunting her. The only way she can stop these hallucinations is by taking more TB pills, sending herself further down the spiral of addiction. TB pills are linked to poverty because they are tied to prostitution. If people didn't have the need to make more money through means of prostitution, then they wouldn't experiment with the pills.
The main drug that we see the Monroe Family deal with is cocaine. This is certainly one of the most marketable drugs we see throughout the series and it's implied that the Monroe Family built most of their wealth upon the drug's distribution. Although we never see anyone explicitly using the drug in the show, the reason for its marketability makes sense. Cocaine is an upper which provides users with a feeling of elation and accelerated mental processes (watch any of Marc Maron's stand up from the nineties for an example). The drug therefore provides the depressed and poverty-stricken citizens of Ergastulum with a sense of joy and relief that they can't find internally.
Alcohol is a substance that's actually more common among the wealthy within the world of the show. Worick's father was a raging alcoholic who had violent tendencies. He would often go off on drunken fits where he threw wine bottles at his son. We also see alcohol in every meeting between the four families. The table at which the four fathers sit is always full of liquor bottles and shot glasses. That raises the question: if alcohol is used by the rich, how does it relate to poverty? Well, the rich characters in the show use alcohol as a sign of status. They are pronouncing their financial importance to others by drinking expensive wines and liquors. We never see Dan Monroe drinking cheap beer or cider. Since the rich use alcohol in this way, it makes it evident that there is a strong gap between the rich and poor in Ergastulum. If there weren't masses of people in poverty that are lower on the economic food chain, then the wealthy wouldn't feel the need to emphasize their importance by drinking alcohol.