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Gangsta. Review

Hey, guys! I’m back with another review! I was thinking about which series I really wanted to do a review on because I had finished a few all at once. But this series stuck out to me because I wanted it to be my next favorite thing SO BADLY…but it failed hard in some regards. So I’m here to talk about it. Welcome back to The Anime Inspectors! I’m your host for today, Ringwormsherm, and the series up for debate today is Gangsta.

Lets rock!

Review

Do you know what I love about anime? Well, a lot of things, but the aspect that I am currently referring to is how anime can cover so many different genres. You’ve got sweet, sugary, child-friendly shows; you’ve got psychological, suspenseful shows; you’ve got animated gore-porn; you’ve got deep romances; you’ve got gritty action series; you’ve got whatever the hell FLCL is…and the list really could go on. Gangsta., a 2015 series done my the now-defunct studio Manglobe, happens to be a gritty, mature action drama. When I first saw that this series was going to air, I was stoked beyond belief. It had been a while since I watched a raw action series like Black Lagoon, Jormungand, or Gungrave, so I was preparing myself to flip some more tables and revel in my own pool of testosterone. For the most part, Gangsta. delivered mostly what I wanted (at least for the first half). However, I don’t think it was as top-notch as the shows that I previously mentioned. Before I touch on that though, I would like to get some praise out of the way.

Firstly,  the show sets itself up exceptionally well. It introduces us to some unique characters and their brutal line of work, making for a beautiful foundation for the series to build off of. The crime-ridden, European-style world that is introduced, while not completely original, is one that isn’t seen often enough in anime and I appreciated how well thought-out it was. It reminded me of a cross between the Black Lagoon’s hostile city of Roanipur and Gunslinger Girl‘s post-modern Italy. The show also did a good job at making itself stand out from other shows of the same genre, with unique side characters and an excellent representation of how the system between mafia families operated.  The first half of the series did a fantastic job of world-building, increasing character depth, and trying to explain the complicated system between mafia families and the rest of the city. This could be a controversial statement, but I even kinda appreciated the recap episode. Though it was slow and drawn-out, it really helped untie the rat’s nest that was the convoluted system of the mafia hierarchy and its relationship with the public. Nevertheless, after the recap episode, the show started to spiral downwards.

The show introduces a plot (sort of) in the middle of the series. I’m not against the fact of there being a plot – quite the contrary. But I think that the show introduced the plot too late in the game for a 12-episode series. Though I liked where the plot seemed to be heading, I could tell that the show was running out of time to go through with it. This unfortunately lead to a pretty despicable ending.

Loads of plot elements and characters were left unresolved, unexplained, and unattended to by the time the series ended. Come to think of it, the plot doesn’t even hit its climax by the end. Instead, the show ends on an unexpected cliffhanger like it is expecting a second season. It sets itself up for a second season quite nicely, actually. This wouldn’t bother me if a second season was on the way. However, as of right now, no second season has been announced to my knowledge (please correct me if I’m wrong). Also, unfortunately, seeing that Manglobe no longer exists, a second season probably won’t be made unless some other studio feels the need to pick the series up. I wouldn’t be giving this series nearly as much shit if Manglobe still existed but with the chances of another season being made are decreasing by the minute and the ending being as unsatisfactory as it is, I can’t in good conscience give this show as high of a mark as I originally thought I would.

Characters

To be honest, I liked the characters in this show for the most part. The main three handymen (and handywoman) were unique and had a decent amount of depth to them. Unlike the characters for the past few shows that I’ve reviewed, the main trio in this series don’t fit into any anime stereotypes. Worick is partially a womanizer, but also has the ability to read extremely quickly and memorize everything he reads. He’s equal parts charismatic, strong, and intellectual. Nicholas is the token brute with unmatched strength, but what sets him apart is that he’s deaf. He also has some surprisingly realistic and sarcastic banter with Worick, despite not being able to speak all that well. Alex is also special being an ex-prostitute that is rescued off the street, but still retaining PTSD stemming from the abusive relationship she had with her boss. She is sweet and caring on the outside, but is suffering greatly from her past experiences which is shown in detail onscreen.

These three really feed off of each other and it’s the dynamic between all of them that helps propel the show along its rickety plot. What is also great is that their backstories in addition to their charming personalities made them really easy to root for. You want them to succeed, even in spite of some of the more horrible things they’ve done. The side characters also do their job fairly well. They range from mafia bosses and their families, to the resident doctor and his assistant, to guild members that specialize in combat, to the police chief and his right-hand man, to some crazy psycho children just for kicks. There are even more, but I won’t go into them.

Now that being said, characters were hastily introduced and never properly fleshed-out through to the end of the series. Most of these ill-explained characters were shuffled in post-episode 8, so it’s not like the show brought them in early on and then just decided to discard them.  Instead, the show just brought them in ungodly late in the series, which didn’t give the show enough time to give them any explanation seeing that it was already struggling with resolving its newly-introduced plot. The show even introduces some of them as characters that will be super important to the plot only to never refer to them again. So, I think their lack of proper introduction, backstories, and motivation was a product of the plot being implemented too late. Even with this being said, it doesn’t excuse them from saturating the show and leaving me wondering what the point of most of them were by the end of the series.

Animation/Sound

So, if you read my disheartening news about Manglobe or my list of shows that need a second season, you’ll probably know what I’m about to say here. Manglobe isn’t a household name when it comes to animation. It really should be. Manglobe has pumped out some pretty kick-ass stuff in the past and never really received the proper credit that they deserved. Now while this is true, Gangtsa. looked good in some parts while slipping in others. Though the animation in this series is good, it’s not Manglobe’s best job. The still frames all looked pretty damn good, but the actual fluidity of the animation was suspect. The color pallet is filled with rich, dark browns, reds, and grays, which resonate splendidly with the dark and grungy tone of the series. The character designs are also pretty unique, especially with Alex being as tan as she is. The other critique I might add is that the animation style is a bit generic and uninspired. However, I almost think the more realistic look of things helps the show retain its mature and serious persona.

Not bad, eh?

Now, the sound wasn’t really a high point for the show. The soundtrack consists of mainly synth-rock tracks with some interspersed, bluesy piano tracks. The piano tracks are a nice touch, but the overall sound of the show didn’t do anything for me. At the very least the music wasn’t overpowering.  I mean, if you’re a fan of the synth stuff, you might like this. But I didn’t think it was anything special. The OP was decent, but wasn’t astounding. I liked the animation and the song used. However, I just don’t think that it really matched the theme of the show very well, especially with all of the bright colors in the animation. Luckily, there is a dub for all those who prefer to watch anime dubbed. Though I haven’t heard it myself, it was done by Funimation, so I’m assuming that it is of exceptional quality.

Overall

Gangsta. is a series that I have a difficult time with. The characters are actually pretty good considering everything the show tries to do. Without overloading the viewer, the series does a solid job of providing enough backstory for the main cast to make them likable, interesting, unique, and in some ways, relatable. The setting is not completely new, but it does having a refreshing feeling to it, seeing that most anime these days are based out of a Japanese high school. The series also does a phenomenal job at setting up the world itself, all of its inhabitants, and their intricate relationships with each other.

The first 5 or 6 episodes truly are some examples of top-class anime that need to be watched by most people.  The art, while seemingly generic in style, can be pretty damn good and is a perfect example of the quality that Manglobe was able to produce. Unfortunately, during some of the more action-intensive scequences, the animation takes some pretty stark dips in quality. The show is also not without other flaws...and they're painfully obvious. The least of all the critiques I have to make is in the sound department. The soundtrack is really nothing special. I’m not sure if it will do anything for you, but it’s rather unoriginal sound did nothing for me. The opening, while good and paired with some good animation, didn’t fit the feel of the show to me. Now onto the big stuff.

They didn’t think the ending was good, either.

The show doesn’t fucking end and that is a mammoth problem! This is because the show introduces the main plot ridiculously late in the show and never had the time to wrap everything up. This left us with an ending that was as open as Kim Kardashian’s legs on a Saturday night. Almost none of the main plot points were ever laid to rest and we were just left wondering what the hell happened. Coinciding with this, new characters were lazily shoved into the story and were never given proper explanation as to why they were there. They were just quickly introduced and then made one or two more appearances before having the show end on the obnoxious cliffhanger that it did. This show seriously reminded me of how No Game No Life handled things toward the end, only possibly worse. It sets itself up perfectly for a second season, but there is little to no indication that there will ever be one. It also doesn’t help that Manglobe went down. So it just seems like the show was one, gigantic advertisement for the original material which is a pain in the ass. Now, don’t get me wrong, this show was quite enjoyable at times. It was just a damn shame baring witness to such a good show killing its pacing so much and then ending in the manner it did.

So, to conclude, if you want to see some unique characters with solid interactions in a more refreshing setting, this show will do you some justice. If you even just want to see some intense fight scenes with guns and swords, this anime will probably work just fine. However, if you want a cohesive ending in any sense of the meaning, this show will thoroughly disappoint you. I want to give this show a recommendation so badly, but I just can’t in good conscience give a show a recommendation if it doesn’t do its plot justice. My final thoughts are as is: if you really want to watch it, go for it. The show has some merits. But if you’re looking for something that will knock your socks off, there are much better shows out there.

Watch or Don't Watch: Don't Watch

Anyway, until next time, keep watching anime!

ringwormsherm

Greg is a 23 year-old from Traverse City, Michigan. He likes catching frisbees, drinking coffee, and driving over the speed limit. His favorite anime is definitely not School Days.

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