Category Archives: GANGSTA

GANGSTA Episode 4

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I am enjoying the story to GANGSTA quite a bit.  It’s vastly different than a lot of series that are airing this season in that it’s gritty by design, mature with its story and leaves a lot to the audience to speculate each week.  Talk about a cliffhanger this episode, can’t wait to see that fight between Doug and Nicholas in the next episode!  Looks as though there was an issue with the original broadcaster for this show as it’s moving their time to Sundays.

Key animator of Mushishi, Eiji Abiko directed this episode and I’m amazed at how he was able to shift between slow-paced scenes with Alex’s fears of the past and gradually discovering the Handymen’s pasts to maintaining a momentum with Worwick’s backstory in order to build up to Doug’s appearance.  I say this because this is Abiko’s first time directing an episode. Is it just me or is this animator freelance?  Artland is the production studio for Mushishi and Abiko was the animation director for the Zoku Shou and the two 1-hour specials we had last year.  On top of that he’s worked with BONES on a few Space Dandy episodes and with MAPPA on Zankyou no Terror.  Glad to see he’s gotten a promotion this year direction an episode for GANGSTA. Because this was really good! This also takes me to my next point about MANGLOBE.  They’ve kept a ton of their key animators from Ergo Proxy and Michiko e Hatchin to work on this show.  The animation was really good this time around–there are at least 5 animation directors on this!  Hiromi Okazaki, Itsuko Takeda, Noritomo, Hattori, Masaiku Tayori, and Shinya Kitamura.  All of which are lead animators at MANGLOBE–working on some of the biggest productions between 2006 and 2010!  Ergo ProxyMichiko e HatchinRistorante Paradiso and 2013’s Samurai Flamenco!

We finally get a good look at when Nicholas and Worwick were young and how they met each other.  I like how unhinged Worwick used to be–his reaction to Nicholas being deaf was fantastic! Wonderful way to build this up through Captain Chad and Cody’s interrogation on the murder cases.  Worwick’s been around Ergastulum for a long time and this episode barely touched the surface on the things he’s seen.  His connection with the prostitutes and various gangs illustrates his value to the police and Barry Monroe without shoving it down our throats with a long information dump.  Smart move on the original author, Koshke, to develop this with a quick analysis of the actual murders themselves!  I like how his innate ability to memorize  transitioned back towards his childhood and the social status his family upheld.

The adaptation doesn’t leave anything out, however, it does switch the placement of scenes around.  Doug showing up, taking out Monroe’s men is the highlight of the episode because we get a chance to see how an A tag handles his own against a group of normals and more importantly another A tag, Nicholas!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

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GANGSTA Episode 3

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A-1 Pictures, MADHOUSE, MAPPA, BONES–any one of these studios could have made this series really pretty. Taking a year break benefits this show in numerous ways.  It takes a while getting used to their style and MANGLOBE pulled in a few new talented animators for this show.  From what I can tell in this episode there are a few scenes that has blocky designs and the buildings aren’t very detailed when the action hits the screen.  They’ve got a ways to go in growing as animators but as a whole for GANGSTA it pays off.  It’s good to see them working alongside key animators from Production I.G. and Nakamura Production because these new artists will be able to get inspiration from them.  A washed out look on the characters, dismal and dark backgrounds portrays Ergastulum in the best way possible.

This episode dives into Worwick’s other job–a gigolo.  The dynamic between the main cast is awesome–Nicholas is driven by killing and nothing else.  His fight with the dogtag last episode was a large indication of this.  As well as his tribal tattoo that Alex notices early on in this episode.  He’s a warrior with a very grim past that’s connected to Worwick’s family.  I’ve been reading the manga so I will avoid any future spoilers that the anime hasn’t covered yet.

Speaking of the manga what is interesting is how this adaptation has changed the placement of scenes.  Big Mama’s introduction ends up before Nicholas’ entanglement with Doctor Theo and the dogtag as well as a few other scenes.  I’m not sure why they did this because the show’s writer Shinichi Inotsume didn’t leave anything out of this.  Alex is slowly learning about Nicholas’ habits but this episode jumps into her relationship with Worwick and his lifestyle.  I like how understanding he is–taking Alex under his wing by giving her a job as Handymen’s secretary.  He really understands how much Alex had suffered by Barry and I’m glad the story hasn’t neglected how important the napkin is to her.  The trio’s close relationship is nicely woven into   Ergastulum–  there’s a lot of respect between the Handymen and Daniel Monroe, head of the Monroe family syndicate.  We’ve never seen Nicholas be so kind to anyone until now–his conversation with Monroe left quite the impact considering how amazing Kenjiro Tsuda is at pulling off a deaf character!

Tsutchie’s soundtrack came off wonderfully in this episode we’re finally hearing some main themes come across in the story!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 8/10

GANGSTA Episode 2

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This was awesome.  All that gritty build-up of the city and it’s trio–Nicolas, Worwick and Alex pays off wonderfully in this episode.  Theo is a grim doctor definitely aware of the city’s inhabitants and its great to see it reflect his character and his calm demeanor.  He’s missing two fingers and takes care of the only innocent character we’ve seen so far, Nina.  She’s absolutely adorable and played by Aoi Yuki of Puella Magi Madoka Magica‘s Kaname Madoka!  She’s voiced some of my favorite characters in the past–Gosick‘s Victorique, SHIKI‘s Sunako Kirishiki and of course Kurenai‘s Murasaki Kuhōin!  Nina is very young compared to the rest of the cast as she knows exactly what Nicolas is and I like how the roles are reversed between the two female leads of this show!  It feels as though Nina is maturely adapted to the city more than Alex has!

After being used by Barry, Alex has finally been given a second chance as Benriya’s assistant and it’s the beginning of this episode that really embellishes the finer points of how she’s learning the ropes of their killing business and Ergastulum.  It’s just the tip of the iceberg on the dogtags and what they represent–frightened by Nicolas’ strength and strong attachment to death Alex amplifies the mystery behind the dogtags quite strongly.  We are seeing just the beginning of what sort of corrupt people live in Ergastulum–famous for its prostitutes and drug smuggling that episodes that are slow with their pacing end up being really rewarding for episodes like this one with a heavy amount of action!

Tsutchie’s soundtrack really comes through by the second half–there’s a strong distinct melody playing that pays tribute to GANGSTA‘s grisly crime themes.  Tsutchie’s real name is  Shinji Tsuchida whom started out as a DJ and producer for the rock group ShakkaZombie.  Since his departure from them his work consists mainly of solo and a few collaborations works like with Forces of Nature, Fat Jon and Nujabes on the score for Samurai Champloo.  His style with this show is sublime to say the least offering a nice atmosphere to this anime’s toned down artistic choice in background designs and adult appeal towards its rugged character designs.  Not Masaaki Yuasa rugged but worn-out looking.

Would like to point out that Yasuomi Umetsu storyboarded, directed and drew all the key animation segments for GANGSTA‘s ending.  Known for creating the feature length film  for Kite as well as its series back in 1998.  Throughout his career in the anime industry, Yasuomi Umetsu is really versatile in staffing work.  Ranging from original creator to character designing, key animating and directing!  What’s strange is that he’s working on such a seinen series like GANGSTA rather than his usual ecchi productions.  That’s great and all but I’m very glad he didn’t direct this show as I’ve seen how horribly planned Wizard Barristers was back in the Winter 2014 Season.  I’ll admit his work on Kite was decent putting aside the horrible voice directing but his two original anime series Galilei Donna and following it up with Wizard Barristers were disastrous for his career.  Not to mention the latter using one of the worst studios in the business, Arms.  Perhaps he’s learning from his mistake of “don’t write and direct at the same time” method.  Some can pull that off where others cannot.  This ending on GANGSTA is probably on his top tier in collaborative works out of his entire career.  Please, please don’t let Umetsu do anything original for a while–he’s got a lot of ambition but isn’t able to put it down on pen and paper too well.  On a positive note he must be learning a lot from MANGLOBE and Ergo Proxy director Shuko Murase right now with this show.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10

GANGSTA Episode 1 [Initial Impressions]

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I’m still backlogging a bunch of titles that I’ve been gradually getting through [watching] and will be getting to these throughout the following weeks, but I won’t be forgetting about the new summer season.  There are a ton of series I’m looking forward to especially this one!

This is everything I expected it to be and more.  It delivered! The manga is written by Kohske and is actually the only thing she’s ever done.  Most of her other works are one-shots that act as influential pieces in the making of Gangsta.  This.  This, right here, is a prime example of where the industry should be heading.  Hajime Isayame, the creator of Shingeki no Kyojin, has only written three titles in his repertoire, but Kyojin managed to be a huge success.  The gore (the unique narrative about Titans consuming people) isn’t something that’s been done before.  In the past decade or so, we’ve had a great many artists from Japan and South Korea come up with a number of manga that have some strikingly similar stories.  Between ‘girl with magical powers saves boy’ or vice-versa, ‘the mysterious classmate,’ ‘school setting with fantasy elements’ are a few to name.  Come to think of it, there are about five series airing this summer season that follow one, if not two, or all three of these trends.  This is probably why there’s been such a high interest in the adaptation of light novels like the Monogatari series.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed quite a few series based on light novels, Bacanno!Spice and Wolf and Gosick, but let’s see some more originality!  If the production studios want to adapt, there are the gems out there like Shino Torino’s, Ohana Hololholo–a josei series that depicts the life of a bisexual girl living with her former girlfriend, Michiru, and Michiru’s son, as well as, Kim Hyang-Min & Yang Kyung-II’s March Story.  Something this generation could learn from older mangakan and a few of the breakout-newer mangakan are defeated characters.  Shingeki has them, and Koshke’s Gangsta does a very good job at weaving them into the story.  The market in Japan isn’t very large so finding even a Western audience breaks the mold and Gangsta does just that.

It’s a mature, gritty story,about hitmen, prostitutes and thugs in the backdrop of “Ergastulum,” a fictional city.  The name derives from a Roman building that was used as a prison to chain and punish slaves and other dangerous people.

I couldn’t have asked for a better team behind the TV animation adaptation!  Manglobe is the studio working on the animation.  I can see why they took a year off–they needed it for how detailed the character designs and action sequences are!  There were a few times where characters in the background looked a bit off, but I think that’ll improve over time.  The last thing they did was back in 2013 with Samurai Flamenco, where many of the episodes had an abundance of wonky-drawn scenes that were cleaned up on the retail releases.  [I own that entire series on Blu-ray and it’s definitely a step up from the broadcast!]  Speaking of retail releases: Gangsta‘s Blu-ray Single volumes will contain English subtitles.  [I’ve already pre-ordered the first volume!]  The studio is most-known for animating Samurai ChamplooErgo Proxy and Deadman Wonderland.  It’s a shame they did all these fan-service series between 2011 and 2013 because they fell out of the industry a bit for me.  The more adult-like designs is really where they work their magic–Ergo Proxy, Samurai ChamplooMichiko e Hatchin, and now this.  It’s been a long time coming, but this studio is back and better than ever!  A number of the key animators that worked on Michiko e Hatchin worked on this series.

The mannerisms of the characters are solid–especially with Nicolas Brown’s sign language.  So much authenticity!  All wonderfully acted, while having a surprising performance out of Kenjiro Tsuda (voicing Nicolas Brown).  The scene where he is kicking the car was breathtaking!  There aren’t a lot of anime series that touch on disabilities, and deaf characters are rarely used.  The only character that I can recall that was deaf was Houichi Koisumi of Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge.  Where Nicolas lacks in hearing, he more than makes up for in  sight and lipreading, which is a fantastic way to balance out his partner.  Worwick Arcangello has this outgoing flirtatious behavior and most of his scenes are downright cool.  His chemistry with Alex Benedetto is really solid!

The pacing is very slow and benefits greatly with Ergo Proxy‘s director, Shukou Murase, behind it, plus Ristorante Paradiso‘s script writer, Shinichi Inotsume, on board!  I remember that show being very slow and took its time each episode to flesh out Nicoletta’s relationships with the Casetta dell’Orso staff.

Tsutchie’s smooth hip-hop sounds for the anime’s soundtrack illustrates how grim Gangsta will be.  Aside from this, the only other soundtracks he’s written and produced were from Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop.

This first episode really sets the stage well.  There are factions within the city and this first episode is a primer in establishing the corrupt atmosphere wonderfully.  Captain Chad of the local police working with Worwick and Nicolas behind his bosses to take down Barry Abott’s drug-dealing gang provides a very strong beginning that hooks you in!


OP: “Renegade” by Stereo Dive Foundation

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This may be the best opening to air this season.  Not every series has aired, so only time will tell–but this rocked!  The animation, the music, the color paint effects, everything came off so smoothly!  Very upbeat sound by Stereo Dive, the vocals are edgy providing justice to this show’s dark content.  Stereo Dive Foundation is a sound-making project by producer and guitarist, R・O・N, the same creator of OLDCODEX, as well as scads of other musicians.  Their first animation single was “Daisy” for 2013’s Kyoukai no Kanata.  If Namie Amuro did a song with Jason Derulo it would sound a little bit like this.  Really colorful!

ED: “Yoru no Kuni” (夜の国; Country of the Night) by Annabel with Stereo Drive Foundation

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Really, really awesome.  Annabel’s voice captures the tough life Worwick and Nicolas have lead, and the instrumentals by Stereo Drive Foundation give off what the opening sequence has–a rough and edgy atmosphere.  The visuals don’t have much movement but I feel that is its strong point.  It’s all about redemption for these two men and it’s great to see that it reflects their lives in a sort of dismal way.  The opening sequence’s pacing is a nice contrast to the driving music; this ending is also really colorful!

OVERALL IMPRESSION: 10/10