Gangsta is a show which keeps trying to fool you it is mature, with a setting that is suffocating, deprived, and gritty, filled with criminals and prostitutes. It quickly fails to maintain said maturity by adding rule of cool, resulting to making you not care about what is going on in that society as much as seeing some guys doing improbable acrobatics.
And it’s not even successful at being about rule of cool, since the production values are not good enough to suspend your disbelief. If you have people that can kill dozens of gunners with a sword, you are supposed to make it seem like they are fast enough to dodge a volley of bullets. But that is not what it makes you think is going on, and it’s not like we can imagine time moving in slow motion to excuse it. The gunners are shooting once every ten seconds, and never as a group, so it’s like you see them waiting in line to be killed without doing anything to defend themselves.
The addition of the dog collars was also a stupid idea that didn’t fit the setting. I understand the need to have some sort of an excuse for why some guys with swords can kill dozens of gunners, but by making them a result of human experiment, they become detached from the otherwise realistic setting. The creator wanted to make the whole thing a spectacle of improbable martial arts instead of keeping it down to earth, and thus more relatable to the viewer. It would have worked if it was simply about highly trained soldiers, but that way they would be snipers, hiding all the time behind walls or in the shadows, instead of storming the opponent with crazy acrobatics.
And even that fails as a spectacle, despite being the highlight of the show. The battles amongst Twilights are very disappointing to the most part, since they all play out in the exact same way. I felt like I was watching a Bleach rip off. Some poser kills dozens of pitiful thugs, meets another poser, they start measuring their cocks by talking about how amazing their skills are, and how high the number on their collar is, how they are going to mess their opponent, then they fight for awhile, while on-lookers keep commenting about irrelevant crap nobody cares about. The only major difference is how they don’t reveal hidden sword transformations, somebody always jumping in to stop them, and leaving the battle inconclusive. Rinse and repeat in the next episode.
There is not even a sense of progress in all this mess. Nothing really moves forward, we get battles taking place in alleys, mafia leaders talking about minor irrelevant stuff, more characters getting introduced, dozens of people getting constantly killed, and nothing changing. You don’t feel like this is a power struggle amongst mafia bosses because nobody seems to gain or lose ground after every event. And no, having Alex showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder once, before forgetting about it, is not progress.
Although we might get more character development and plot progression in a possible sequel, the show completely fails to make the viewer care about what will happen next. Even if they make another season, it will be too late to make a difference.
All characters in general have very little about them to make you care. They are easily separated into three simple categories.
1) Defenseless women and children who are constantly victimized to make the world they live in, a cruel place
2) Criminals who act like cartoon villains, laughing maniacally, mistreating women and children for fun so we can hate them right away
3) And poser vigilantes who use cool martial arts and kill the criminals while smirking sardonically, so we can cheer for them.
There is nothing wrong with the categorization by itself, but it simply doesn’t fit the setting. It makes you expect characterization of the level of Scarface or Casino, and instead you get Vizards fighting Arrancars. Fist of the North Star is one of my favorite anime and has the exact same categorization. And yet it was working there because guns were kept to a minimum, the setting was fairly bland and more like a sandbox, and the strong dudes were changing the world with their actions. There was a strong sense of presence and achievement, something that you don’t get out of Gangsta, which is just constantly introducing more and more characters, without doing something with them.
This anime is an average, forgettable time waster. The animation is weak, the characters are bland, the story goes nowhere, the setting goes to waste, the action scenes are repetitive and inconclusive. Go watch the flashback arc of Gungrave, and skip this one entirely.
When watching this title, I said to myself, based on the opening alone it would be an exploitative ride down a dark path of violence, sex and bloody action. Then I watched episode 1 and realized, yep, not for little boys and girls, but then I kept watching. Soon it felt like I was watching a Gonzo title. It has a fantastic start, and a so-so end. At first the title seemed like a seedy world of tough guys who bludgeon, dice and blast through a trove of gang minions. But then the show seems to take an almost comical turn when they introduce a crime family ran by a young girl. From the point she becomes a bigger character, the overall grittyness looses some grit. This is not dreadful, it just feels like it changes tone. However, what lets Gangsta down a notch, is a lack of conclusion. Until I see an ending (it has an on-going manga) then it will probably have to sit at a 6 for story.
The two main male leads run a sort of business for hire, which is paid for muscle, or handling law-and-order. They have the aptly named "Handymen" name which covertly means they can carve through a batch of baddies, but they can also fix your pluming.
Nicolas, one of the main pair, is deaf and carries a big sword, and the other wears an eye patch and is the vocal side of the duo. The deaf gimmick is an interesting piece thrown in, and the fact that Nick is labeled as a Tag (a person wearing some military looking dog-tags) leads one to believe he was made for killing. Adding to the handyman team is a full figured woman who has a rough past. The title has at its core is a two male lead with a female in tow. It harkens back to Samurai Champloo mixed with the rough underworld of a Black Lagoon. There has been other cast introduced in the form of a doctor who's practice is as shady as it is helpful. He has a little nurse who looks pretty young, but has obviously seen a rougher life, and an older detective who stratles a grey line of right and wrong. *** As of the writing we also have a dreadlocked young looking tag and a young lady who runs one of the mafia styled factions.
There is a certain bent appeal in the fact that you get setups with unredeemable baddies who for example hit women as a drug pimp. Our two "heroes" who are most definitely going to make him and his team pay for their actions in blood. But it is not rocket science watching the title, nor is it trying to be. It comes across as violence with attitude. It is probably going to lean heavily on simple set ups and throw in a challenge that will throw our Handymen for a loop. Luckily it has fleshed out some backstory of the two main stars.
The animation is sharp and shady, which fits the mood. It has drafts of light that seep through alleyways and streets, and the character designs make our "heroes" look like they should be the actual bad guys. Overall budget strains in later episdoes. The show started with great noir in sunlight, and later turned stiff and off-model.
The music is a mixtape of lo-fi downbeat jazz that is slightly remixed with some tinged beats. Again, Champloo, Bebop, come to mind. The opening is a blood racing, uber red light district, dive through dark streets and the Ed is a brooding chill tune. The acting seems to go along with the characters nicely. I especially liked the vocal Seiyu for the deaf Tag. His somewhat hard to understand talking, is true to a person who cannot hear himself.
I lked the show, but it did take a bit of a stumble toward the end. Some titles can pull off a full story with an opening for a sequel, some middle movies or titles can still follow a basic 3 part act and still have need for a sequel to wrp things up... but then there is an ending like this, that is abrupt with no preparedness of the future.
I am not a fan of "well there is a manga that is still going, just read that." I would say; No, I am not going to search out a different medium to have to conclued a story. This is not a franchise review, it is an anime one. I still give it a marginal pass and If your a fan os Speed Grapher or Gantz, you will probably still find this a worthy title. Just remember it might leave you hanging in the end.
Gangsta. is an anime I had intended to dismiss until I saw multiple people with a similar taste in anime to me expressing their excitement for this adaptation. I then knew that I had to check it out, even if their main reason for liking Gangsta. did turn out to be the ‘hot’ older guys. Do I regret my curiosity? No. Well, after the first episode I thought that I might drop it, but now I’m hooked on this summer adventure into the shady world of Gangsta.
Gangsta. takes place in the fictional city of Ergastulum which is a gritty environment full of guns, drugs andprostitutes. It is not a pleasant sounding setting and I did not have much expectations for it but it has grown on me and is not nearly as crude as I was expecting. Also, the world of Gangsta. promises (and delivers!) plenty of the blood and violence I love. I think this series is mostly about the characters though rather than the city and what goes on in the back streets.
CHARACTERS: If you don’t like Worick and Nic (the main characters) then you are fucked. They are Gangsta. and they are the main reason why this series has avid fans. Our first Benriya (or handyman) is the character Nicolas Brown, a deaf guy who wields a katana and is what is known as a Twilight in the series. Our second Benriya is a gigolo called Worick Arcangelo. Together they work as gangsters that are hired by various people, including the police and a crime syndicate, to carry out jobs that often involve a lot of blood being spilt. If these guys were erased from Gangsta. it wouldn’t be an anime I’d want to watch. They add colour to an otherwise somewhat unattractive anime. Two other notable characters include: the former prostitute Alex, who becomes their secretary after they ignore orders to get rid of her, and the recently introduced Twilight Doug. Gangsta. is still currently airing and so still has many characters to further develop and plenty of new characters to introduce. It certainly has a diverse and fairly interesting cast of characters and is a welcome break from the abundance of anime centred around young people.
MUSIC/ANIMATION/ART: I surprisingly do like Gangsta. but… I don’t love it. You’re greeted with a stylish and visually interesting OP with a fantastic Stereo Dive Foundation song. It is 100% impossible to skip this opening unless you are having a marathon. It smacks you right in the face and gets you hyped for a whole 23 minutes of badassness and then that fades to… utter uninspiring dullness. A bit more creativity please!? The soundtrack also isn’t that great and doesn’t have the meat and attitude required for Gangsta. It is entirely unmemorable which is a shame because Gangsta. is the kind of anime you would expect to have a great soundtrack. It really does have a negative impact on the anime overall as some decent music could really enhance some scenes.
STORY: Storywise, it is fairly episodic so far and focuses on the exploration of the two main characters. Just who are they? How do they know each other? The anime is slowly revealing their pasts and with their new secretary Alex also knowing very little about them we are bound to find out plenty through her observation and questions. Episode 4 also introduced Doug and it looks like he is a worthy opponent for our Nic. I’m without a doubt looking forward to more Gangsta. and if this is the only season we get then I will likely read the manga when it is finished.
I would definitely recommend Gangsta. to every anime fan this summer, especially those who enjoyed anime such as: Black Lagoon and Cowboy Bebop.
I will update this with a complete review.
First off, this show is not for the faint of heart. Gangsta contains a number of mature themes, including drug use, prostitution, and physical/sexual abuse. That being said, Gangsta does an excellent job of dealing with these topics. Rather than glossing over or glamorizing them like many mafia style anime, the show uses these issues to thoroughly develop its characters and explain their motivations. The fact that it prominently features a deaf character who isn't stereotyped or portrayed as weak is another bonus. Nicholas might not be able to hear, but he can still kick ass! My only complaint is that the ending is a cliffhanger, since the studio went bankrupt and was unable to produce a second season. Despite that, Gangsta is well worth a watch. Be prepared to laugh and cry in the same episode.
This was the anime I was waiting for the most this year. It looked like a more modern take of stories like Black Lagoon. These kinds on animes can be really good sometimes, other times they lack in many departments. So how was Gangsta?
Kind of a roller-coaster ride. One of the best intros ever, a very good atmosphere that combines darkness, hopelessness with the occasional humor. Some very well coreographed fights scenes and very strong pictures, but other times the fight scenes become mediocre slasher-scenes of the likes of Tokyo Ghoul and such.
Story: I have to compare it to Black Lagoon. Compared to that it actually made some strong improvements, for example we actualy get a decent amount of background story and we get to know the characters and their motivation(Balck Lagoon also improved in this department after season 1). I also like the fact that they took the time to present the city. A city full of darkness, sadness and depravity.
Its not complicated. The first few episodes show us the city from the viewpoint of the free-lance mercenaries. And these are the best episodes. The problems come when they really want to create a storyline. It becomes a simple slasher-flick instead of a character anime with great atmosphere. They somewhat redeemed themselves with the great last episode, but that wont make up for about 4 episodes of mindless bloodshed with the rare scenes that are actually good. So, starts out good, ends good, but they should not have included this stupid and bloody storyline.
To be honest if they hadnt included the whole super-strength fighters part it would have been way better. 6/10
Animation: I usually dont like this style much, but here, it suits the mood perfectly and I could not imagine a better animation style for Gangsta. Some fight scenes are very well coreographed, but others are just people getting chopped up like firewood. The last episode is a huge dose of what they can achieve if they actually put time into it with all around great visuals and strong scenes. 8/10
Sounds: I dont really remember the music, but the intro song is great. 7.5/10
Characters: I like them. Most of the main characetrs have a pretty decent background story and are interesting. I actually want things to turn out good for them, altough I kind of doubt it.
The thing I dont like(and I have the same complaint about Attack on Titans) is the body count. Ok, we understand, the Hunters are strong, but showing them kill people again and again and again is repetitive, it only adds some shock-value and its completely unnecessarry. (and I used the word "and" so much here just to demonstrate how repetitive it is to do something over AND over AND over again). 8/10
Overall: So, as I already said, I expected a lot from Gangsta(I expected it to be the anime of the year), so was it a disappointment? Well, yes and no. No, because I like it overall and it has very strong episodes and scenes, and yes, because they kind of ruined the whole thing with a few episdes that were just not needed. Im pretty sure that this huge body count is partially because of the success of animes like Attack on Titan, but I honestly feel that this is not the best way for anime to evolve.
Some anime were always bloody and dark, I actually like that aspect, but they are really going over the top. Watching a girl chop up people with an axe is cool and all, but watching it 1 time and 15 times doesnt really make a difference, it only demonstrates what the creators lack in storytelling skills. 7/10
I recommend Gangsta to fans of Black Lagoon, Requiem of Phantom, Cowboy Bebop and maybe Samurai Champloo, Gungrave.
If there wil be a second season, I will watch it, altough this time my expectation will be far lower.