DISCLAIMER: I did not read the manga. This review should be taken as an anime-only perspective. This WAS my most favorite anime last summer season until it showed its ugly head. What happened?!
Character Development: Great for the first eight episodes
The Hunters: Unnecessary addition which stagnated the show overall
Plot: Evenly paced but desperately needs a sequel
Ending: The most inconclusive ending this season
Artwork and Animation: Often passable but terrible at times
Gangsta. will always be a shining example of how terrible animation can destroy the mood of the show and why not to adapt a manga which is still on its world building phase.
To be honest, this has the most compelling premise and characters this season which was unfortunately given a very low budget for its own good. The staff has done a few tricks to cover that problem via zooming in and out some of the scenes and the use of still images but it shows its ugly head when the characters engage in action. Character expressions were awful and deformed during close ups and drawn poorly when distant. The fight scenes are dragging and the character movements are really stiff.
A viewer whose priority is the visual appeal will be turned off by how sluggish the animation could be and will find himself dropping this show once he reaches episode 9 which is really unfortunate for Gangsta because of its masterful storytelling for the first eight episodes. Exposition in particular can be a double edged sword as it ruined Fate Stay Night's great moments but this anime showed that it can be used to further enrich the plot while also entertaining the audience. In Gangsta's case, we were not spoonfed by dull narration but the staff decided to show us tidbits of their past and what drove them to what they are right now. Episodes six and seven in particular were the best episodes this summer season which explained what Alex, Worrick and Nicholas were like in the past and man, these are two episodes which seamed heartwarming and cold scenes seamlessly.
While not new in terms of plot, this was executed properly at least for the first eight episodes. The show excelled when it presents the character interaction between the leads and the intricacies of its story when taken to a larger picture. Moreover, Gangsta.'s ambitious when it comes to its world building since its premise was thoroughly explained, from Alex' reason to stay in town to the powers that be whose interaction was fragile enough to exude an uncomfortable feeling when we are watching this show. This however, faltered the show's quality because it has only an episode left to iron out multiple plot line and it failed to do so.
The character interaction is also excellent too. The Handymen plus Alex are quite a pleasure to watch. Their backgrounds were sufficiently provided and man, this is not your typical sad or bubbly flashback. Only a few anime series give detail to all other minor characters while not forgetting the main leads and Gangsta. is one of those. If we are to base Gangsta's merit for the first eight episodes, I have no reservation to say that it was the best anime last summer.
NOW WHAT WENT WRONG WITH GANGSTA?
Given that the artwork is a mess in Gangsta. (see episode 9), the story should at least be complete and compelling. The balance between action and character drama was stable until the end of episode eight then its ugly head showed afterwards.
The inclusion of the Hunters and the sudden shift to focus on the larger events in Ergastulum marred this already flawed show. The intimate relationship it built with its viewers were destroyed the moment we were presented the Hunter's psychotic demeanor and shounen like powers. Their motives for killing Twilights were never explained and they did not add anything to the complexities of Ergastulum. With the abrupt focus in the city and the addition of these characters, Gangsta. was reduced to your generic dark anime. Character interaction between the leads is now sporadic from episodes nine onwards to give way to new characters which we barely know. How can a viewer possibly care for dozens of new characters in a span of three episodes?
The soundtrack is mostly good in this show. However, there are moments when it is weirdly placed. Doug's death scene could be a compelling one due to all the direction the staff has given but was inserted with very upbeat tone which destroyed its poignancy. Another misstep is the sudden cut of the lovely piano piece at the end of episode 5 which is thankfully still an elegant episode by all means.
However, this is not the biggest flaw of the anime adaptation of Gangsta. If we are going to base the quality of each episode, I still think it is a fine show. It seemed like the staff and the publisher forgot that the manga is still on its early phase but still decided to animate the show. The series ended right in the middle of the large war it created and it caught up with the manga. New characters are barely introduced, the main leads' resolve are nowhere to be seen and the Hunters continue to ruin the show with their shonen-esque attributes. There is no resolution and we were given a finale which is a good episode in its own but a letdown as a series ender.
Will we be able to see the next season? No. It was a shame that this anime was adapted a season too early so we will never be able to see the end of the current arc. The staff could've done an anime original ending but they still stick to adapt this one faithfully until the end which really backfired. Ugh.