Anime Spotlight: GANGSTA.

GANGSTA. is based on a manga by Kohske. The anime is produced by Manglobe and directed by Shuko Murase. The series aired on Japanese television from July 1-September 27, 2015. As of this writing, FUNimation Entertainment holds the North American distribution license for GANGSTA.

The series is set in the city of Ergastulum, which is a shady placed filled with all sorts of criminals, cops that aren’t on the up-and-up, as well as “women of the night.” The series focuses on two “Handymen” named Nic and Worick, who take on the jobs that no one else wants to touch. Nic is deaf, but he’s very adept at reading lips and taking down enemies with his swords; he’s also a “Tag,” which appears to give him extraordinary strength. Tags are also known as Twilights.

Nic and Worick seem to keep bumping into a prostitute named Alex. She’s treated badly by her pimp, who turns out to be the head of a gang trying to get a foothold in the area. Nic and Worick are asked by the police to take down Barry, Alex’s pimp. But the job gets complicated when the two men are told they must also kill Alex. But Nic and Worick come up with an idea of how to save her life. Alex goes on to live with them and answers the phone for their business.

It turns out that Worick and Nic have a connection from when they were kids, which explains why they’re working together. Various flashbacks throughout the series explain that connection and how they both ended up in Ergastulum. Near the end of the series, Alex begins remembering things she’s forgotten from her past, since her pimp had been giving her drugs which helped her lose a lot of her memory.

As the series progresses, we learn about the city’s Four Fathers, their gangs, and their relationships with the Twilights. The Twilight Hunters are introduced near the end of the series, which leads to chaos and war being declared on the Twilights.

After watching the first episode, I was impressed with the effort the animators went to in order to accurately depict the Japanese Sign Language (JSL). At the time, I also thought that GANGSTA. had a lot going for it. The animation quality complemented the interesting characters who were introduced in the first episode, and the background music score also fit with the moods and scenes that are being established. I had hoped that Manglobe could keep the quality of the series like this as much as they could in future episodes.

Unfortunately, the animation quality went downhill drastically near the end of the series. The storytelling, while not as strong as it had been in the beginning, managed to hold things together until Episode 11 or 12. Episode 12, the final episode, was by far the worst. It threw out a ton of exposition in rapid-fire succession to try to progress the story forward. For a series that had spent its time slowly revealing these kinds of facts and information, and generally taking time to build up the story, I felt this wasn’t a good sign due to how much they were rushing to throw information out. Also, the ending of the series was rather vague, and a lot was left unresolved. Unfortunately, it’s not known whether there will be a second season, so there’s no guarantee that anything that was left unresolved will ever be answered. It was quite disappointing to see GANGSTA. go from showing so much potential at the beginning to falling apart right at the end.

I had enjoyed GANGSTA. up through episode 11, although I was a little frustrated with how exposition heavy that had been. But Episode 12, though, ended up souring my opinion of series to some extent. I almost felt like I had wasted 13 weeks of my life following this series due to how unsatisfying of an ending the final episode had.

If a second season ever materializes, I may change my opinion of the GANGSTA. anime. But with what’s been presented to viewers here, Episode 12 ended up being rather confusing and disappointing for a finale.

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