Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gangsta Review

Gangsta Review

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers of the show Gangsta. If you wish not to know some plot details, or simply don't wish to find out what happens in the series, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched the show. Or you know, you can continue to read, since you don't care about spoilers.

Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:

When I first saw this show, I wasn't fully interested in watching it. Though it did sound promising via which studio was animating it and the interesting character designs, I wasn't going into this show unless opinion changed my mind otherwise.

But around when the Broadcast Dub of this show premiered and I heard some great things about it, I was reminded of how this show was going to have some nice gritty action, much like Jormungand. Jormungand's two seasons were pretty good overall, though the first half of Season 2 needed to be so much stronger then what it turned out to be. Now that my mind was set on watching this show, I was hoping that the show overall would be better than the near mess and bore that could be described at the first two arcs of Jormungand: Perfect Order. I was also interested to see how this show would handle a diverse character (Nicolas is deaf).

So, did the show impress me? Or did it manage to let me down?

Well, here's the thing. While Gangsta was pretty good in the beginning, it didn't last for very long. Because by the end, Gangsta kind of disappointed me. In my mind, this still was a fairly good show, but the end could have been so much better than where it ended off.

I went from being fairly moderate in my mood after the first few episodes to the show leaving me very confused in the middle (though it still had issues with this in the beginning) with the addition of characters and motivations that it left me like this:

And by the final episode the show left me feeling emotionally gutted and devoid of anything, thinking "Boy, this could have been so much better."

Let's first talk about this show's story:


Welcome to Ergastlum, a home full of dirty criminals, prostitutes, cops, and Mafia families (one guild too). Think of it as a city in Need for Speed, but with the addition of prostitutes and the Mafia. It is also home to a group of humans with superhuman strength and agility known as Twilights.  This is where 2 men, Worick and Nicolas (one of those Twilights), live. They are known as the Handymen, who make it their duty to take on jobs that the Mafia and the police force can't seem to solve. This is because they are neutral in the conflicts that arise between humans and Twilights, along with various others.

One day, Nic notices a prostitute named Alex getting abused by her pimp named Barry for not earning enough money. We see Alex in the beginning of the first episode with a bloody nose or completing a job. The Handymen get an order from their most trusted police officer, Chad, to take down Barry's gang for getting on Mafia territory. After a short talk with Alex where Worick tells her about the job he and Nic are set out to do, Alex is finally free of Barry's clutches. But now she has nowhere to go. Worick and Nic take it upon themselves to ask her to live with them, and help answer phone calls for them if they are out.

Many secrets are lying underneath the grimy structure of Ergastlum. Mafia families are holding secrets of their own, anti-Twilights are going after Twilights even though they're of the same breed, and many other incidents that turn the town upside down by the end of the show. Is there a reason behind this chaos? And which characters will either face their demise or face trouble because of it?

Explaining the story of Gangsta is very complicated for me. Though some events of this show are very exciting and there are continuous reasons to keep watching, the end result is akin to Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere. The show tries too many things with a large character cast, and it doesn't really work as well as it could have gone, especially in the latter half. There's not a ton of reason to care when you really don't have a clue what's going on and who you should support. The recap episode does help with some of the events, the characters, and other things associated with the show, but it doesn't really help enough, especially with the last 3 episodes of this series, where the plot is at its most messy.

The anti-Twilight group finally attacks, we have the city's reaction to the attacks that are going on, a character from the Monroe family named Delico is looking for his younger sister who's working for the bad side, and on top of that, the villains are in the background, twiddling their thumbs waiting to see what happens next.

Meanwhile, this is my reaction:

This was probably even more confusing than some of the things that confused me at the beginning, like which Mafia families were evil, and how exactly the Twilights operated. The managing of the events felt so disjointed and fragmented, even more so than the oddly placed flashbacks of when Worick and Nicolas met. It doesn't help out that the duo isn't even involved in the main conflict at all at this point in time and Worick's down for the count.

And then, we have Episode 12. Which, quite frankly, made me just as angry as I was when watching the final episode of Uta Pri Season 3. The ending is completely open, leaving absolutely no closure behind, and ending on a very sour note. I guess the staff was trying to go for this reaction from viewers like me:

When in actuality, it made me do this:

I really have no idea why the anime ended the way it did. Where series like The Ambition of Oda Nobuna, Karneval (also done by Manglobe), and No Game No Life have slightly open endings but get questions answered, this series doesn't, which made me all the more mad when the ending started rolling in Episode 12.

*takes heavy breath*

The story wasn't the complete disaster as it was in the last few episodes in the beginning though. Like I mentioned earlier, there were some fun events that happened in the story, and some twists that were actually very interesting. For example, Alex getting some of her earlier memories back, a fight between Nic and a Twilight in Episode 2, another fight with a Twilight named Doug from the Paulkee Guild in Episodes 4 and 5, and how Worick and Nicolas met. These still ring clear in my mind besides the mess at the end.

I'm going to leave off this section by comparing Gangsta's story to a dog trying to find the perfect spot to pee in. It goes in circles a few times, searching and searching for a spot just right, before finally claiming that perfect one. This is, to me, what Gangsta is like, however without finding the perfect spot, as it tries to explore as much as it can, but doesn't fully know how to utilize its potential.

Let's move on to something slightly better in this series:


Since there's a good chunk of characters in this series, I decided to dwindle it down to talk about only the main 3 that first appear. Discussing the others wouldn't be the best of decisions, considering the fact that some of these characters don't really have development, though I will say that Delico is my favorite out of this bunch.

Worick's up first:

Formally known as Wallace, Worick was born into a very rich family, being an Arcangelo. As a child, Worick was treated pretty terribly by his father over the fact that he smoked (at 13, which is pretty young for what's common), and it was during one of his rages that caused Worick to have a eyepatch, due to his eye being burned by his father with a lit cigarette. 

Besides working with Nic as the Handymen (both met in the past, which I will discuss in Nic's character section), Worick also works as a gigolo (that Nick Cannon song pops in my head whenever I think of that word). Granted, we don't see him take many clients with that job besides one, but it's still a big aspect of his life. He also has hyperthymesia, a condition where a person can possess an extremely detailed memory of a past event. Worick uses this to identify victims, and has a pretty good memory due to it. He has also shown moments of having this in his childhood.

Out of the main cast, I enjoyed Worick the most out of everyone. I liked how his more flirtatious moments are always played up for kicks, but he still has a soft spot for his partner and later on for Alex. Though he's neutral in the ongoing wars, he does know when things get a little off-kilter, and isn't afraid to step in and offer help. He's also pretty badass compared to some of the Twilights we see throughout the show. He definitely goes up with some of the better ones I saw.

Nicolas's is next up for me to discuss:

Okay, before we begin, I really need to give the creator of this show (manga to be more precise), Kohske, a hand. I never really see main characters who are impaired in their senses (closed eye characters kind of count, but not really) and I thought Nicolas was handled very well. Hopefully we have a more diverse coup of diverse characters as leads in the future, because an actual blind character would be pretty interesting.

Moving on, Nicolas, as mentioned previously, is a Twilight, a human with abilities gained by the use of the drug Celebrar. He was birthed from a West Gate mercenary named Gaston Brown, who impregnated a Twilight prostitute and killed her shortly after Nic's birth. Due to being a Twilight, Nic gave up his sense of hearing, but the good news is that he doesn't use that against him. He can easily read lips and has enhanced vision. He also communicates some things through sign languages, which some of the characters have managed to learn a bit of to communicate with him.

Worick and Nic eventually connected over the fact of having an abusive parent, as Gaston would abuse Nic on a regular basis. Thinking Nic to be nothing more than a monster, he left him behind at the Arcangelo mansion while he left with the rest of his troop. After seeing Worick's eye getting burned, Nicolas stepped in and killed Worick's father, before killing some of his other relatives. It as after this that they formed a partnership, going to Ergastulum.

Like other Twilights, Nic is identified by his tags. Normally, he would be a B/5 level Twilight, but due to the habit of overdosing on Celebrar to not feel pain, he is classified as an A/0 Twilight.

I really liked Nicolas and how he easily could overcome being deaf by being a pretty strong fighter. He showed that off multiple times through the series, and each was just as entertaining as the last. I also really liked the moments where he has inner monologues when he figured out some details or just providing extra monologue in a completely normal tone of voice. This was pretty nice to see, as I wasn't expecting it. Looking ahead in the manga, he seems like he's going to have more issues with Celebrar in the future, so I might need to read it, due to the way the anime ended. I did get some of my bigger questions answered down, but a little on that later.

Last up is Alex:

Also called Ally by Worick, Alex was a former prostitute who worked under Barry Abbott. She joins the Handymen after they take out Barry's gang. Her main character development arc in this show is her trying to regain some of her previously lost memories, which were erased by drugs she took provided by Barry in order to keep her submissive. She starts experiencing various hallucinations of Barry's bloody corpse and him being alive due to the withdrawal of the drug from her system. It get serious enough that she accidentally mistakes Worick for a customer at one point, and after slamming his head into hers, they seemed to have died down.

While Alex's character arc was pretty good, the writers really didn't know how to use her. While she sings for the Cristiano family as a party and gains back memories of her brother Emilio, she doesn't really do much throughout the show. The sole thing she did throughout the show was to help Loretta fight off some of the Anti-Twilight group, but besides her character arc, she doesn't really do a lot. Even when she wants to help out in the current arc, Nic just tells her to go back inside and wait until further notice, which leads to her final scene on the staircase outside the Handymen's apartment in the rain. And this made me very frustrated.

I really wish she could have shown off a stronger side to her, like this:

But she didn't unfortunately. Oh well, I have her development to look back on.

Other characters include Dr. Theo, the main doctor in Ergastulum, Nina, his young assistant, Chad, a police officer, and Cody, his assistant. On the family side of things, we have Daniel Monroe, the head of the Monroe family (was definitely suspicious of him since the beginning, since I thought all of the family leaders were evil, but that isn't the case fully), Delico, a Rank D/0 Twilight who works for the Monroe family, Erica, his sister who is working under Corsica alongside a young boy named Mikhail, who murder various Twilights and keep the tags (literally), Yang, Delico's closest friend who also works under Monroe, Loretta, the head of the Cristiano family at only 14, Marco, who works under her, Galahad, who also works under Loretta,  Gina, the head of the Paulkee Guild, Ginger, who works under her and might be involved in a relationship with Gina, Doug, a rank A/0 Twilight who works under the Guild who has a stunted growth, Uranos, the head of the Corsica family, along with his team of anti-Twilights. Some of them are pretty interesting, like Striker and Sig (who might get boring since they seem to be a little too strong), and the other two can easily be dismissed as of now since they haven't really shown their stuff yet. As for other minor characters, we have Constance, who owns a gun shop, and Joel, her grandmother.

Yeesh. This easily levels the cast of characters in BlazBlue Alter Memory. And comparing this list to BlazBlue, I care more about some of the characters who didn't get a lot of development in that show than this one.


The animation for this series was produced by Manglobe, most known for their work on Ergo Proxy, The Sacred Blacksmith, and Samurai Flamenco.

As a whole, the animation for this series is actually quite nice. The griminess of Ergastlum is captured very well, and that's the main thing that works for me. The atmosphere that this anime is trying to create is done very well that it's believable for me as a viewer. The characters also look very good, and the fights are always fun to see. The gore isn't too bad either, besides someone getting beheaded.

However, sometimes the animation doesn't always retain its grungy glamour. In some cases, the animation goes from looking very good to downright awful in some episodes, especially in Episode 9. There were so many things that had me cringing, from off model character designs, choppy movement, weird facial positions, or just odd looking scenes. This episode easily goes up there with some of the worst animation I've ever seen, along with the original airing of Episode 3 of DRAMAtical Murder. It doesn't aide matters when Manglobe filled for bankruptcy a few days after this show wrapped up in Japan. There are some instances where animation is covered by unflattering censoring, such as when lightning gets in the way of a background, or when a scene is so dark that you can't see what a character is doing, even though you can hear and guess what's going on. I understand Mikhail's probably playing with some organs, but c'mon! You've shown some gorier stuff before.

Overall, this show has good animation, but it starts faltering later on, making the signs all the more obvious. At least it picks itself up at some moments though.


The score for this series was composed by Tsutchie, most known for his contribution to the Samurai Champloo OST.

I didn't expect this score to be very interesting all throughout the show. Much like Jormungand, it's very experimental, but it decides to explore the more electronic route while doing so, producing some really epic tracks that got my blood pumping and my energy up. The show did know when to strip back and go for more slow pieces. However, a mellow melodic piece played during a very odd moment when Sig was slaughtering a bunch of mercenaries, which felt very odd in that situation. But all of the pieces are interesting in their own way, and most are pretty memorable.

Now onto the topic of Japanese and English (Broadcast Dub) for the show. As a whole, both are pretty good and are very consistent. I'd say that both are pretty equal in how good they are, though I did see this show all in Japanese. There are going to be some voices that will work better in English then in Japanese, or vice versa, but there's not much to complain about. Both are pretty darn good examples of an original Japanese anime and an English dubbed one, so props to FUNimation for keeping up the standard of the Japanese!

Highlights in the original Japanese are Junichi Suwabe, Kenjiro Tsuda, Mamiko Noto, Tetsuo Kanao, Satoshi Mikami, Aoi Yuki, Ami Koshimizu, Ayumu Murase, Natsuki Hanae, Tomohisa Hashizume, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Yoshiko Sakakibara, Kana Ueda, Yu Shimamura, Atsumi Tanezaki, Tomokazu Seki, Shiori Izawa, and Satomi Akesaka.

Highlights so far in the English dub are Ian Sinclair, Brandon Potter, Felecia Angelle, John Swasey, Robert McCollum, Bryn Apprill, Jad Saxton, Mark Stoddard, Justin Briner, Micah Solusod, Greg Ayres, Clarine Harp, Jaime Marchi, Alexis Tipton, Josh Grelle (probably the first time I've heard a deeper voiced character from him), Monica Rial, Colleen Clinkenbeard, and Alison Viktorin.


In the end, this series was good. It's honestly that simple. It would have been a little better had the show didn't end with what it did, but I still had fun for the most part (in the first half mind you). If you've been following my reviews for a while, you might suspect what I'm going to give this on a number scale, but I'm going to surprise you. This show gets that little extra push because of little things that are still great about the show: Alex's character development, the Twilight fights, heck, even Nic being deaf alone gives me high hopes that this series will get better if a second season is down the road. I'm also planning on checking out the manga to see if my main issues will be solved, or at least become somewhat better. I have hope.

I recommend this series for people who liked Jormungand but need something gritter, or for a fan of anime that have a lot of action and violence. Be prepared for at least some frustration though.

Score: 7/10


First half has nice pacing.

Good main characters.

Solid animation.

Interesting score.

Alex's character arc in the first half.

Very exciting at points. 


Story runs around in multiple directions.

Past flashbacks aren't placed well compared to other shows. 

Completely open ending.

Some characters undeveloped.

Animation dips in last half.

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