Be warned reader that this show is not for the young ones in your life. If you’re underage I’d recommend you get permission before watching this anime. My review is pretty tame, but the show itself is very graphic. Crime, drugs, and occasional nudity are all over this title. If you are of age (or have permission) then you’re going to find an excellent show in…
“GANGSTA” was one of the anime I had slated for my top spot when the season started. It opened with a flash of a brilliant world that you couldn’t help but want to know more about. Both its opening and ending themes were amazing, and set the tone for an interestingly dark world. If I had to describe the vast majority of the show in a word it would be “phenomenal”. This is why it kills me to say the ending absolutely screws all of that up. Still there’s a long way between the start of this show and the writers completely screwing the ending, so let’s start from the good side of the story.
We enter this world in a city called Ergastulum (A city that appears to be European) where Nicolas Brown and Worick Arcangelo work as “handymen”. Essentailly they work as a team to suss out undesirables for the police and for the mafia families of the city. We’re introduced to this through Barry Abbot, a low level drug dealer/pimp, who has been moving in on Monroe Family (Mafia) turf. Worwick and Nic bring down this petty thug fairly brutally, and in the process they free a very abused prostitute (Alex Benedetto). After this Alex comes to live with the handymen while she regains her memory that was lost when Barry got her addicted to drugs. She works as a secretary for the two and overtime learns, (along with the audience), about the town she’s in and the men she works for.
Through various jobs, we learn that this world is inhabited by people with a disease that ensures a short life, but that also gives people super human strength and agility when they use the drug known as Celeber. These people are called Twilights, but are often referred to as “tags” for the dog tags they are given at birth. Aside from the normal information placed on real world dog tags, the back of the twilight dog tags are marked with a letter and number denoting the strength of the twilight. (SPOILERS) Nicolas runs around with A/0 dog tags, presumably the strongest tag there is, however it is later revealed that he is in fact a B/5 (or C/3) and that his unusually high tolerance for pain (even for a Twilight) is due to an overdose of Celeber every time he fights. Still the fact that he is a stone deaf ass-kicking mercenary who’s on a huge high while fighting is impressive enough.
There are anit-twilight members of society that fear and revile the drug dependent humans, but the mafia families of Ergastulum (the Four Fathers of the city) keep the peace along with the Guild. The Guild is a twilight organization that maintains peace by enforcing the three laws that were set up by the families after the anti-twilight war. The three laws were set up to ensure twilight/human relationships maintained a peaceful nature, and that twilights would be able to stay employed in the city. The three laws are as follows:
- Twilights must not intentionally kill humans.
- Twilights must obey an order given to them by a human, so long as it doesn’t conflict with Article 1.
- A Twilight has the right to defend its own existence, so long as it doesn’t conflict with Articles 1 and 2.
Worick is tied to Nic through a war that happened when they were both young. The young Worick was part of the wealthy Arcangelo family that employed tags as a personal army, and these tags fight the anit-twilight rioters. Worick takes to the young deaf twilight, and soon tries to teach him to read and write despite the handicap. Throughout their youth both are abused by their respective fathers, and Worick’s dad even takes out one of his eyes in a rage. Enraged by the mutilation of his friend, Nicolas kills Worick’s father and attempts to kill himself. Worick stops Nic, and the two flee the mansion for the dirty streets of Ergastulum where they become handymen and Worick becomes a gigolo.
Throughout the show a shadow organization works in the background, killing tags and hurting the Four Father’s buisness. Unknown to all is the mole in the Monroe family (Ivan Glaziev) who is helping a group under mind the major players in the city. In the end a group of “Hunters” (regular humans with super human abilities) shows up and starts murdering Guild members indiscriminately. They stop short of fighting the head of the guild (Gina Paulklee) and we learn that hunters are trained to seek and kill Twilights. The last episode has Ivan taking the head of the Monroe family (Danny Monroe) somewhere with the understanding that he too is in on the Twilight extermination plan, and Worick getting stabbed by one of the hunters who is looking for Danny. Much like the ending of GATE, it just ends here.
I really enjoyed this show’s grittiness, and willingness to talk about “unpleasant” topics like drug abuse, prostitution, and bigotry. It speaks to how far Japan has come in recognizing the need to talk about societal problems like this, where in normal polite Japanese society such talk would be shameful or at the very least embarrassing. I especially liked Alex’s journey through Barry inflicted drug abuse, to withdraw induced hallucinations, and finally to recovery. The way in which the writers of the manga and the anime fed us information piecemeal was brilliant, as it kept us coming back for more week in and week out. That’s why it’s a damn shame that the end of the show simply leaves gaping plot holes open, and opens up new questions that we’re not even sure are going to be answered. No announcement has been made on a second season of this anime, so we are left with a fantastic show that had a cliffhanger ending.
The ending is not enough for me to wholesale condemn this show, because after all there might be another season on the horizon. Still it does knock the show down a couple pegs in my book. How do you have such a great IP in “Gangsta”, and then completely drop the ball in terms of the ending? You couldn’t find a better ending point than that? I’ll probably be rewatching this show if and when they announce another cour to the show, and maybe then I’ll catch some stuff I missed. There is a lot going on in this world, so it’s easy to forget certain things or miss certain events. I’m hoping to hear more from “Gangsa” in the future, but until then I suppose I’ll have to content myself with American mob movies to get my criminal story fix.
Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!