Seeing as this is my first time out writing for The Chewns, I thought it might stand me in good stead with the site’s fellow constituents if I started off with something relatively new and fresh and manly in all the right ways.. GANGSTA.
This show has been on my radar for ages because of the voice actor Junichi Suwabe. I’m a huge fan of seiyuus and will usually try to find out the shows that they have coming up and release dates. This was one of the shows on that list and it took a lot of patience to not watch it week by week. I’m one of those people that can’t handle the suspense of waiting from week to week so I’ve learned to collect the season and then watch in its entirety. It sounds like it may be a form of “cheating” in a way because I don’t have to endure the torture that everyone else does in having to wait, but I think it balances itself out because I end up having to avoid the otaku water-cooler, as it were, to avoid hearing/seeing any spoilers for 13 weeks! But I digress.. Let’s take a look at the show itself shall we?
The source material
This show falls under a traditional seinen category, including plenty of action, drama, crime and even sex. The manga is currently still ongoing (thank goodness!) and is written by Kohske with 7 volumes and counting having already been written. In addition to the anime adaptation, there have also been audio drama episodes as well as a novel that recently came out. The anime was written by Shinichi Inotsume, directed by Shukou Murase, who has worked on “Samurai Champloo”, “Ergo Proxy” and some of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” series, with music provided by that hip-hop/chillout guru, Tsutchie. Manglobe (the same guys that brought us “Samurai Champloo”, “Karneval” and “Deadman Wonderland”) was the studio in charge – and I say “was” because the company has recently filed for bankruptcy. So for those of us yearning for a season 2, we’ve got ¥350 million worth of debt to clear before that can happen. It’s a tough time for anime fans when we find out studios like that have had to close shop.. But we can always hope that someone else will take up the GANGSTA. banner in the future…
Nicolas Brown (Nic) and Worick Arcangelo (Ric) live in the city known as Ergastulum, which appears to be modelled on European style cities where there are main roads and back streets. It’s in these back streets that Nic and Worick make their living as mercenaries – guns (or samurai swords) for hire. Within the city, there are 4 main families headed by Daniel Monroe, Loretta Christiano Amodio, Sir Gina Paulkle and Uranos Corica. These 4 families serve to keep order in the town, but from time to time problems arise and people go off on their own and hatch plans to make some cash or just cause general havoc. It’s at times like these when Nic and Ric are brought in to take care of the problems and thus keep the city running like clockwork.
The town itself is also rather special in that it is home to ex-military types known as Taggers or Twilights – people with superior fighting abilities as a result of the use of a drug named Celebrer. The drug comes with a cost though and usually leaves the person affected with some kind of disability or “compensation” as they refer to it. In Nic’s case, his compensation is that he is deaf. For others, it could be stunted growth or some other form. In order to keep from falling ill, these taggers need steady doses of Celebrer and this town is the only place that they can get it. And the people that organise that for them and give them work are the 4 families. Taggers can be hired as bodyguards or can be paid a pretty price to do some work and this is how Nic and Worick first came into contact – Worick being the one that holds the contract with Nic, who was/is Worick’s bodyguard. But one look at the relationship between the two and you would swear that they were more like brothers. Brothers in arms.
Brothers in Arms
For me, this show was everything I had hoped it would be. It’s been a while since a show of this nature has come out, focussing on organised crime, the mafia, corruption, gun/sword violence, prostitution, drugs and all the trappings of the criminal underworld. It doesn’t hide and try to gloss it over too much because that’s the reality of their world: walking the backstreets and taking care of business, even if it means killing a few people here and there. This honest approach to the violence (where people don’t end up falling into water or just getting wounded by gunfire) is refreshing and has a much greater impact on the viewer. I know I sat there going “ooooh… dude got capped!” which was far more enjoyable than the “safe” alternative. That said, this show is obviously not meant for kids because they’re also pretty upfront about the prostitution angle as well – for both the guys and the ladies…
Violence, drugs & prostitution – part and parcel of life in Ergastulum:
If we really want to get technical about the show and look at production itself, this show pays attention to the details, which something I always appreciate. The artwork suits the style and feel of the show where it may seem a bit rough around the edges. There is also the use of colour which I noticed – it’s subtle but it’s there – where a contrast between the “main roads” (light) and the “back alleys” (dark) highlights the difference between the 2 worlds. The music should also get special mention because the OST was provided by Tsutchie. If you’re not clued up on your Japanese music, Tsutchie is a DJ that usually sticks to chillout/lounge/house vibes but the beats are top class. If you’ve ever watched “Samurai Champloo” and loved those tight hip-hop/chillout vibes – that was courtesy of Tsutchie teaming up with Fat Jon and Nujabes. The OP theme is another personal favourite of mine that I tend to hit repeat on when I hear it (“Renegade” by Stereo Dive Foundation) and suits the style of the opening credits well. The opening itself reminds me of the 2nd opening for “Psycho-Pass” actually, with its use of vibrant colour – something I’m rather partial to. And lastly, the seiyuus – the ones that bring it all to life – are people that we know well and have heard in countless other roles before and so they lend their talents to really bring the story together.
This show has heart and soul, kicks ass, takes names, makes no excuses and is a great example of seinen done right…