What They Say:
In a city filled with sin and scandal, the charming Worick and powerful Nicolas have made names for themselves as men who can get even the dirtiest of jobs done. Working independently, taking jobs from both the mafia and police, these unique Handymen navigate the seedy underworld of Ergastulum in style, leaving a trail of chaos behind them.
The discs come with two audio tracks: English in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD and Japanese in 2.0 Dolby TrueHD. English subtitles are available for those hard-of-hearing and those who prefer subs to dubs. I listened to the English track and the audio is solid in this transfer with no discernable drops in quality or weird hitches.
Gangsta is a very nice-looking anime. The episodes are presented in 1080p high definition in 16:9 “HD Native” and it looks great. Very good transfer here.
The show’s twelve episodes are spread over two Blu-ray discs which come housed on the inside of the front and back covers of a standard Blu-ray case.
The front cover is pretty minimalistic, which fits the show’s tone. The three main characters, Nic, Alex, and Worick stand in the foreground. Nic and Worwick stand facing the front, Nic leaning on his sword and Worwick casually holding his gun. Alex stands with her back to us, her dress dipping down to her mid back, one strap sliding down her left arm. She looks haunted and vulnerable. They stand before a neutral beige background.
The spine features Worwick and Nic and one of Worwick’s guns as sort of bookends for the show’s title.
The back features the standard show synopsis, DVD specs, and cast and crew list. The synopsis is written on a bloody newspaper page in Courier font, which is a nice touch that matches the show’s aesthetic. Overall, it’s a solid package that tells you what you’re in for with this show.
The menu’s pretty cool and goes against the typical format I’ve seen done for the past fifty someodd anime releases. The majority of the screen is taken up by clips from the show. The show’s title is written in blocky red letters, and a beat plays for a good thirty seconds, building in intensity before giving us another thirty seconds of techno-ish music. The bottom third of the screen is a red ribbon with the “Play All,” “Episodes,” “Setup,” and “Extras” options in white font. The option selected is in black font, making this easy to navigate.
Pretty good list of extras here:
Episode 01 Commentary
Episode 02 Commentary
Textless Opening & Closing Songs
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Right off the bat, you should know that Gangsta ends on a cliffhanger, so there are quite a few lingering threads that never get tied together. I found the series enjoyable despite that, but this is definitely a case of “your mileage may vary,” so keep that in mind.
Based on the manga by Kohske published in Shinchosha’s Monthly Comic @BUNCH, the show was produced by Manglobe and directed by Shukō Murase. It first hit the air in Japan in 2015 and came over here to the States fairly quickly.
The show follows the exploits of Worwick and Nic, the “Handymen” who solve problems in the town Ergastulum. As the only freelance operators in town, the Handymen occupy a unique place within the convoluted and deadly political realities of the town.
It all goes back to the drug Celebrer. The drug was discovered during a rather nasty war and was used to create superhuman physical abilities in soldiers. Unfortunately, the drug has harsh side effects—some unique to the individual user, and others across the board. A new group of people were born out of the war: the Twilights, children of men and women who used Celebrer. Also called “Tags” because of the dogtags they’re forced to wear, the Twilights have all the benefits and consequences of their parents: they’re supernaturally tough, strong, and fast, but they also suffer from a significantly decreased lifespan and some sort of “compensation” for their abilities. Nic, for example, was born deaf because of the Celebrer in his father’s system.
With the war over, no one really knew what to do with the Twilights, so they were rounded up in Ergastulum. Soon they became pawns in a three-way power struggle between the powerful mafia families ruling the city, the police, and the government. Some, like the Cristiano family, do what they can to take care of the Twilights: making sure that they have the Celebrer they need to survive, providing them with housing, that kind of thing. Others, however, want nothing more than to wipe the Tags off the face of the Earth.
The Handyman move through this intricate maze political and criminal intrigue, helping out where they can, but never taking a side, other than the Twilight’s. Although the series does build an overarching plot about a group of Twilights hunting their own kind, the stories are generally more character-driven, and a great deal of this show focuses more on learning about the world, and Worwick and Nic’s past.
Gangsta is an interesting mix of hardboiled crime with science fiction. Its tone and its characters are definitely hardboiled, but Celebrer and its individual and societal impact are pure science fiction. For me, the mix works well, but I can see some who might get a little tired of the over-the-top grunginess or the morally-questionable characters. In some ways, it reminds me of the best and worst of Frank Miller. Minus the Islamophobia, of course. The characters are prostitutes, hitmen, mafia members, or corrupt-yet-honorable police working within a broken system. There are no heroes here, only antiheroes, and, depending on your tastes, that’s either going to work or not.
On a more objective note, the show does a good job of parsing out information. You learn a little more with each episode, and, like a flower, the world and characters blossom the further you go, drawing you more and more into this strange city and its strange, wounded inhabitants. I particularly found the way the Twilights impacted economics, politics, crime, and general society to be some high quality world building.
That’s not say that there aren’t issues, though. First and foremost, the story just stops, it doesn’t conclude. In its favor, I will say that it stops at a fairly decent part, making it feel like you reached the end of a chapter or section, but, of course, with no chapter to follow, that’s a dubious comfort.
The other issue is how Nic’s deafness is handled. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Nic’s portrayed almost selectively deaf, but there are times when it feels like it. It’s like every now and then the show forgets that he’s deaf, and he “hears” something he shouldn’t be able to. That’s more than a little insulting to the truly deaf, and it’s bad storytelling. Thankfully, at least Nic’s deafness isn’t his defining characteristic, and it’s never played as a handicap. It’s just part of who he is.
It’s rather impressive just how much world and character building this series packs in just twelve episodes, and, for me, that’s worth the price of admission. I can see others being turned off by the hyper-masculine noir atmosphere, though. I’ve seen come compare this show to Black Lagoon, and while I can sort of see that with the character designs and overall art style, Gangsta isn’t as good. It’s quite a bit of fun, but it doesn’t have the same focus or edge as the other show.
Dr. J gives this a…
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 01 Commentary, Episode 02 Video Commentary, Episode 9.5, Promo Videos, Commercial, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Menu Grade: A
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNIMATION
Release Date: January 29th, 2019
Running Time: 300 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection