Gangsta promises a gritty adventure following a pair of hired assassins who straddle a thin line between crooked cops and powerful crime lords. While the hitmen insist on neutrality and claim to live for cash, they quickly display a propensity for making emotional decisions which might have dire ramifications for the duo.
The plot of Gangsta is still shrouded as one would expect from a single episode. Not only do local businesses hire out the “handymen,” but so do police with questionable ethics and the whitest names of all time (sorry Chad and Cody). In exchange for a fat wad of cash, the assassins take jobs cleansing Ergastulum city of its more troublesome criminals. The Japanese penchant for naming cities after fictional gastrointestinal diseases aside, the storyline is unexpectedly impactful for something that seems to be a played-out tale at first glance.
Worick, the smooth-talking and charismatic negotiator, serves as a great foil for his deaf colleague, Nicolas. Since Nicolas refuses to speak through anything other than sign language, the rare points during which he breaks silence to growl a threat are imposing and demand attention. Nicolas’s speech accurately depicts some of the pronunciation difficulties from which many deaf people truly suffer. This attempt at realism is largely squelched by Nico’s superhuman bullet-dodging ninja skills.
Atmosphere building is what Gangsta has done best so far, but through some outdated methods that are likely to wear thin on viewers due to their overuse. The character animation is simple and uses line strokes which are all of the same thickness and consistency. It’s almost amateur in this regard, but the style grants a haggard look to most of the characters suitable to the rough lives they’re leading. On the other hand, the backgrounds are keenly detailed. The animators even pay attention to places where water runoff would stain the sides of buildings. Unfortunately, the animators also attempt to use perspective to make the city feel cramped and close-quarters. This wouldn’t be an issue if the characters didn’t move through the scenes with slight shifts in perspective that grant them a particular strangeness which is easily noticeable.
The biggest drawbacks to the animation are the use of blurred scenes and unsteady panning shots because Gangsta didn’t get the memo that this Hollywood fad from 2013 was a short-lived trend for a lot of good reasons. Blur effects are used sometimes to put us in the point of view of druggies, which is a smart touch that doesn’t detract from what’s going on. However, it’s applied too liberally to simple things like the backgrounds. There are a plethora of soft lighting effects stacked so heavily that they manage to come across in intrusive, intense ways. This completely hinders the otherwise clever shots in horribly unappealing ways. Despite the visual dampers, the shot angles and subjects tend to be creative and reflective of positive cinematic influence.
Gangsta is also hit and miss with the soundtrack. The opening is a listenable dubstep song (if such a thing exists) and it starts out to intense scenes of what we can assume to be totally legal sex and pharmaceutical trades. The song keeps pounding away as the intro tapers into a bunch of relaxed, lazily drawn scenes. Despite the eye-catching Kill Bill style of artwork, the music doesn’t really fit. The tracks are used well enough to build atmosphere once the episodes are underway, but this is largely due to the simplicity of the sounds. Often the music is barely more than ambiance. The pilot episode even made tactical use of surround sound to bounce noises back and forth in a hypnotic, disorienting way. While the in-episode jams are a good fit for what’s happening on screen, they aren’t anything you’ll want to listen to in your free time.
The end roll suffers from lackluster paint bucket color-themed stills so many animations use to generically highlight their outros. The closing theme is an odd choice in its pop radio love song style. With an “episode preview” that’s nothing more than a title card, it’s difficult to tell where the series will be going. Gangsta generates mixed feelings about the quality of what we’re ingesting. On the one hand, the shot choices are excellent, the characters are interesting, and the CGI is practically flawless (If you’re a BA veteran, you know how much that means coming from us). On the other hand, everything feels a bit rushed, slightly out of place, and a little underwhelming.
The potential for Gangsta to be captivating will be carried by its dynamic characters. It’s worrisome that with only one episode tucked away the core pair is already expanding their circle in seemingly reckless ways, but this could serve to create some worthwhile drama in a series that would otherwise only have one trick.
Recommendation: Has potential!
Original Source: Manga
Source Writer: Kohske
Source Publisher: Shinchosha
Director: Shuko Murase
Writer: Shinichi Inotsume
Run Start: 07/2015
Review Date: 07/2015
Episodes Reviewed: 01