What They Say:
In a city filled with sin and scandal, Worick and Nicolas have made a name for themselves as men who can get the job done.
Set up in Stereo 2.0 in Japanese and English in a 5.1 release – with it very westernized I went with the English dub but a bit of tinkering of the volume was needed to make it of an acceptable quality, though there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video, was surprised about needing to do so even in a DVD format that had to raise the volume on a 5.1 release. No problems outside of that, just a bit surprised.
The video is of a decent quality, with no noticeable issues with lag or video in poor resolution during viewing – being a more recent release and reviewing the DVD series it doesn’t suffer from the problem I do get sometimes with DVDs via the grainy pausing and with the show the colours vary and it intertwines humorously but still well done especially with the gritty setting the show is set in – there are no delays with timing with subtitles with animation in either language or slowdown with normal rates or via pausing where the animation can become fuzzy so one of the better recent DVD releases.
There was no packing for this test release, however there is collectors packing in the full release in the Blu-Ray edition.
The menu is pretty standard, with pretty much the full cast on the screen with our leads and side characters pretty much sharing the spotlight – the menus have the selections below of Play All, Episodes and Set Up. It is very standard and basic, and whilst perfect functional it feels a bit underwhelming for a series which has the niche of a Black Lagoon at heart…
There are no extras for this release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gangsta is one of these series that feels to have flown under the radar in Japan (the company who made it was sadly their last anime release) yet is getting a lot of buzz especially in the US, the manga ongoing since 2011 and with shows like The Big O, Cowboy Bebop and Black Lagoon seem to do better western wise, this is another one of those series that can fit the bill. With unique mechanics, great characters, and a deep message amongst the violence, it is one of those that works….mostly…
Our two main characters are lovable rogues of an interesting degree. We have the more ‘normal’ one in Worick, a mostly happy-go-lucky guy with no real superpowers (though we discover has an amazing recalling and memory ability) and is one of the Handymen, a freelance gangster if you will – along with Nic, one of the most interesting male leads I’ve seen in a while. A badass with a sword thanks to being a ‘Twillight’ as we discover later, the most unique thing is that he is actually deaf and credit to the dub whilst not quite Silent Voice level, the voice actor Brandon Potter puts the work in with his speech and was very impressed. We get our third lead in the first episode as well, a beautiful prostitute named Alex who is being beaten around by her boss and the two seem to take a pity to her – and with their connection with the police (namely their head Chad – not a corrupt cop per say but is perfectly winning to bend the rules if necessary) they actually have been hired to kill Alex’ pimp – which leads to a scene where Alex grabs a gun and it appears she might kill Worick, but instead fires into her now ex-boss body – she now works almost as a secretary with a few tricks up her sleeve…but also some bad memories of the past…
We get a lot of characters who interact with the Handymen – ranging from Nina and Dr. Theo (who help out with Nic’s medicine, turns out being a Twilight isn’t the same as not needing drugs for said abilities) to Miss Cristiano, the young mafiazo leader who is quite a reasonable and likeable boss/character. The interactions combined with what the Handymen can get up to makes the premise of the story, as we see that Nic can be practically superhuman and also surprisingly nice as well….and yet there are higher powers that seem to want rid of him…
Worick is also got a past where we learn his history with Nic, combined with his present as a Handyman (and a gigolo part time – he’s surprisingly quite the looker with the ladies) but the story of his past with Nic and his role in his family is quite unnerving…and the drugs needed for Twillights brings us the idea that there is an anti-Twillight faction (insert book reference joke here…) and with Alex suffering from delusions of her old boss Barry due to not taking the drugs he was giving/forcing on her, allows some great contrast with all 3 – especially as she is making an effort to get to know Nic, even trying to learn sign language – their relationship is very subtle, but it makes strides throughout the series- and considering Nic is probably my favourite character, it works all the better for his own character.
With other people the Handymen get involved with, naturally, there will be anti-factions and enemies. One of the noticable is a young man named Doug, who seems to just do what he wants and is part of another guild who was sent to assassinate some known friends and affiliates of the Handymen in the Munroe family – fortunately Nic manages to stop this (and you learn of his drug addiction as a way to ‘cheat’ the system in terms of his powers) and then you learn that there is more to this attempted assassination – and that it is all part of what appears to be an anti-Twillight faction, bringing almost an element of us vs. them and prejudice thrown around. With the flashbacks back to Nic and Worick as a kid, it all comes together in their relationship, and how he is so dangerous…
The trio begin to bond well and with all the other acquaintances, there is some calm before the storm (Alex singing at the club owned by Miss Cristiano a highlight) as there is an obvious suspect who seems pro-Twilight but you know there is something beneath that mind, and of course plans begin to come forth. With more flashbacks becoming prominent, it is all set for a cluster rush…
…which leads to probably why this series isn’t perfect. The ending…is sadly very rushed and almost anti-climatic – it feels like they were setting up for a sequel but also had to end it quite finally just in case it didn’t get on. And in either scenario, it feels pretty poor. Which is an absolute shame, because there is so much depth with the story between Nic and Worick beforehand, combined with both of their skills (manipulation and memory vs. skill and power) Adding Alex to the group is almost at first seems just like the generic girl to see if she becomes a romance interest, but amazingly the show doesn’t go that route. Whilst there is a moment where she kisses Worick and appears to try to have sex with him, she is clearly suffering from withdrawal and Worick doesn’t take advantage of it – and with her friendship with Nic being actually quite cute to a strange degree, and Alex steadily getting mixed with their world and making new friends.
Nic as mentioned is my favourite character, and how he knows Worick, his powers, his interaction with the cast, it is all done superbly considering he is technically a disabled superhero with him being deaf. Worick doesn’t treat him any differently either, and neither does most of the cast as his disability is clearly a non-issue and the fact his lip-reading means it doesn’t even matter. He clearly also values his friendship with Worick, to a scary degree when we see his past – and with so many mysteries by the end of the series…it does feel that it sucks that it ends abruptly, especially as we find out the villain of the piece, we see the Twilight killers and see what they are about, what Nic truly is, Worick’s super memory, the evolution and how awesome Miss Cristiano is, the true bad boss….
…and then nothing. Which is a shame, because if I knew this was a set up for a sequel, I would be fine with it – however as mentioned, it sadly was the last entry for the studio, and as of yet, no-one else has picked it up and with an ongoing manga still around, it means you really need to get into that to continue the story, as it is starting to get to the good stuff, and the abrupt ending sadly downsizes this…which is a shame as especially for western audiences, this is one of those animes who can truly get into. Violent, yet intelligent. Large cast, but the focus is on the core ones and even then they get their moments.
I hope it does get a sequel, but until now, I’ll enjoy the 95% that was awesome…
Gangsta is one of those series that works better in the west, due to the idea of Mafioso, violence, and drugs, yet also a very clever series that has a lot more background and story than you’d expect. The characters intermix really well and the story progresses subtly and smartly, which is why it’s a bit of a kick when it ends quite like it does. I still highly recommend this series and will be looking into the manga now, and just pray there is more to come…
Cleaning Opening/Ending, Trailers, Episode Commentaries
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: C
Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: January 8th, 2018
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: PAL
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.