Gangsta Episode 1: First Impressions
Ergastulum is a nasty city, rife with crime and decay. It’s a place where the police can’t even exercise control without needing the cooperation of the mafioso, or even ‘neutral parties’ such as our main characters Worrick Arcangelo and Nicolas Brown, better known as the Handymen. They are helping the local police clean up a mess for a reward, which happens to include a quiet prostitute Alex Benedetto that the 2 happen to cross paths with on the job.
Screenshots (a few comments on them as well)
Sidekick’s First Impressions
If you’ve read the blog’s seasonal previews, you’ll know that I was pretty excited for Gangsta, in fact it’s one of the only series I actually look forward to. Watching the episode though, I don’t exactly feel let down, but rather slightly unsure of why I thought it would be my thing in the first place, since it clearly isn’t. I think the only way I can go about explaining why I didn’t quite like it would be to make a comparison to Black Lagoon, one of my favourites and something which probably resembles Gangsta quite a bit, at least on the surface. Both series feature characters in what is basically a cesspool of immorality, gangsters, mafia, immense amounts of violence, but I think Black Lagoon has something I feel like Gangsta sort of lacks. Unlike Gangsta’s characters, which are pretty far gone to a point where they clearly revel in violence, Black Lagoon’s main cast (or at least its main protagonist) features someone struggling with this lack of morality in a world he’s introduced to. There’s a genuine reluctance to resort to violence in the protagonist Rock, and is mindset clearly affects the rest of the cast as well. It draws a line between the gratuitous amounts of violence within the world and the characters that deal with (or deal out) the violence.
Another difference may also be in the way the sex and violence is portrayed. Shows like Black Lagoon and Baccano! push them to impossible extremes, where there’s this obvious absurdity to everything on screen that does make it a lot more palatable for audiences like myself. Gangsta’s portrayal falls under the extremely dark, gritty and bleak. It’s just hard to enjoy myself when there’s close to no end to all these atrocities on screen.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that Gangsta seems to include violence and sex and drugs for their own sake, to a point where it feels disgustingly sadistic, where it got rather uncomfortable for me to watch. Now, I’m not saying that’s all there is to Gangsta (clearly, there’s more). There’s definitely a lot of potential for great character moments in the nice little OT3 Alex and the Handymen seem to be forming, and I quite liked the moments of genuine….humanity between the characters, most notably the scene with the handkerchief between Nic and Alex, but its rather few and far between, and overshadowed by the rest of the series. And while I do like Nic and Alex enough to give the series another episode or two, I’m not the biggest fan of the rest of the cast, in particular Worrick, whose sadistic, joking yet coldly professional businessman nature makes me a little bit too uncomfortable.
I can definitely see this getting an audience though. Despite what I personally feel about it I do think it’s more than worthy of a shot in the dark for anyone curious about this – you may find something like this to be your cup of tea. It definitely isn’t something you usually see in anime, and I think for what its trying to do it at least deserves to be given a shot. Who knows, you may find more humanity in this episode than I do, and if so then good for you :-)
Possibility of Watching: I’ll give it 1-2 more episodes to see if I can get past the initial discomfort. I think there’s enough to like here still, the relationship between the Handymen and Alex seems like something I can dig.
Possibility of Blogging: Nah. I’ll pass, hopefully someone else on the blog will pick this up.
Oki’s First Impression
I’m actually on a completely different wavelength on this one. Personally, I felt that Gangsta did every bit of violence that it did in order to leave an impact. The ‘handymen’ are called ‘tags’ – at least one of them is, and they’re essentially hired hitmen who do the dirty work of people who ask. All the violence we see by them is on terrible awful people who beyond deserved it, and we see just how cunning and terrible these two can be.
I really loved every minute. Seeing Alex as basically a sex slave who was to the point of biting her customer’s . . .well, you know, appendages. Seeing her be like that, I could see how much her ’employer’ deserved his fate and not a second felt undeserved or done for gratuity. I was happy when she was freed.
Everything about this anime feels unique. I think that having Nicolas be deaf and allowing for a such a unique twist really breathed life into the show. I’m really into everything happening and I felt most of it was done well. It was painful to watch the sexual violence but it was done to make us understand why the men who would die would eventually die- because they were awful people who needed to be taken care of.
I’m excited to see Alex, Worick, and Nicolas do things. Namely it was hilarious how the episode presented Nicolas not picking up the phone, you think he’s an ass, then you learn- oh shit, he’s deaf. Learning about everything made for a good pace. I want to know more and I’m hoping as the show goes on, Nicolas and Worick will right the wrongs in the show even if they do it in a less than moral fashion with not so many morals of their own.
I’m definitely on board to blog this!
I have to second a lot of what Oki said, the show has a very interesting way of presenting things that I found rather interesting. I thought this show had a lot of interesting concepts that I could really get behind. I really dig the fact that Nicolas is deaf, when the episode started there was a message saying something along the lines of ‘Due to the nature of the main character, there will be subtitles.’, I assumed the main character was American or something and we’d be in for a lot of Engrish.
However, the way that they had Nicolas slur his words because he’s deaf is beautiful and massively realistic, I saw then what the subtitle at the beginning of the episode meant.
I’m really hyped to see where this is going to go, I’m super interested in what being a ‘tag’ means. Dog tags to us mean that you’ve done military service, but what does it mean in this world? What’s so special about him that everyone was willing to back away and give up? I feel almost like Nicolas was an experiment of some sort.
Thus why he is deaf, and so unnaturally strong. I mean, did you guys SEE what he did to that police car? I have my bets on some kind of experiment.
There’s also Worick what’s his deal? You see him do a few things this episode but not a lot, what’s up with his eye? How did him and Nicolas meet? How long have they known each other? Their relationship and status as ‘Handymen’ is something i’m rather curious about.
I can’t wait to see more about these two, and Alex now that she’s free of being a sex slave. I’m totally down with Oki to cover this one!