Summer Anime 2015 Review: Should You Watch 'Gangsta'?

Gangsta: the best show of summer anime 2015 by a large margin. A reeeeally large margin.
Gangsta: the best show of summer anime 2015 by a large margin. A reeeeally large margin. (c) Funimation

I can’t lie: the summer anime 2015 line-up doesn’t hold much of interest for me. When it comes to the summer anime 2015 line-up , there’s just not a lot of exciting, unique new shows for me to look forward to. And I can scarcely summon the energy to vent another tired complaint about bottom-of-the-barrel fare like Bikini Warriors or Monster Musume , shows which at least know their audience and cater to it more aggressively than a maître d' doting on the holder of a black AmEx .

Dragon Ball Super , which I am straining my hope muscles on, is having inexplicable, Sailor Moon Crystal levels of animation fuckery.

Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa has the art standard of Gakuen Handsome with none of the irony. When some of the best art of the season is in a wispy whisper of an anime called Pillow Boys , you know the season’s in trouble. At least Ore Monogatari is ongoing?

All that being said, there is one stand-out that makes this entire summer anime 2015 season worth it. The question is not “Should you watch Gangsta ,” but rather, “Give me one compelling reason why you are watching anything that is not Gangsta.” But save your breath, because I won’t accept any reasons. Here’s why you should be watching Gangsta.

1. The art!

I love the art in Gangsta.

I love the stylish, slick opening sequence, and the equally colorful and vibrant opening sequence.

The opening sequence of Gangsta is so good. Thank you, Cowboy Bebop, for everything you have done and continue to do in inspiring the youth.
The opening sequence of Gangsta is so good. Thank you, Cowboy Bebop, for everything you have done and continue to do in inspiring the youth. (c) Funimation

I love the character design on all three of the main characters: Nicholas, Worick, and Alex look distinct, constantly on-model, and of appropriate age. Worick and Nicholas are both pushing thirty, and they look it. Worick’s beauty has a haggard, hard-living quality, but his charm animates his features, from rakish grins to snarls of irritation or anger. He's an adult. He goddamn well looks like an adult.

Worick: A GROWN-ASS MAN. (c) Funimation

Dude, they even draw Worick’s chest hair! The deep lines under Nico’s eyes indicate a man who’s far past his teens now. Beautiful Alex is younger, but she looks like a grown woman, not a little girl.

The environmental art is almost incidental next to the endless interest of the character art, but Ergastulum’s narrow, crooked alleys and streets hold up nicely enough for what they need to do: be cool as hell to fight in.

2. The fight scenes are cool as hell!

Nicholas is a Tag, which comes with a lot of baggage in the story. Most relevant to the purposes of immediate entertainment, though, is the fact that Nicholas is a fighter with almost supernaturally good levels of fighting ability. His rank as a Tag means he is able to handily trounce almost anyone with a lower rank - and take down even others of similar or higher rank, with more of a fight. Watching him flit about with his swords so fast that the dying only have time to look shocked before their faces slide apart is a delight that reminds me of the best of Levi’s sequences in Attack on Titan. Think what you want about Attack on Titan's other merits, but Levi's whirlwind maneuvers with the 3DMG are iconic:

Nico's fights, with their speed and the flash of his deadly blade, are almost equally as enjoyable for being so fluid and fast. (I would embed a video here but all of them are bad quality or terrible AMVs, sorry.)

3. The story and character interactions are rich with interest!

The world of Ergastulum is a world as crooked and narrow as its streets, filled with dirty cops, dirty gangsters, and pimps and prostitutes. The show has focused on its three leads: Nico and Worick, the Handymen, and Alex, an ex-prostitute who finds something of a home with them. Honing in on their story and their relationships with one another, we learn about the history of the city, from Tags to Mafia control over Ergastulum itself.

The thing is, it’s a depressing world. Ergastulum is a very noir city, with organized and disorganized crime fighting with the cops for control of the place. There’s loads of drugs, from drugs to keep the prostitutes quiet and compliant, to uppers and downers for the Twilights, the Tag-wearing descendants of those who used the Celebrer drug. It’s a place that swallows people up, a place most people merely survive. It’s a wildly intriguing set-up.

Then you get to the way the characters interact with one another. First of all, I would be remiss not to mention that Nicholas is deaf. Stone-cold deaf. He uses sign language to communicate, and sometimes speaks, though his spoken speech is difficult to understand. Worick, it’s shown, learned sign language to communicate with him Back In The Day.

As for Alex, she speaks a little sign language simply from watching them communicate, but is obviously keen to learn more. Alex is badly traumatized, and Gangsta does an excellent job of showing that her trauma didn’t simply end with the removal of her pimp from her life. Worick has traumas of his own from a backstory that grows more heartbreaking with every flashback, and Nicholas’ survival and continued happiness seems continually more improbable the more you learn about him and his situation as a Tag.

In short: Should you watch Gangsta?

Yes. You absolutely should, and must, watch Gangsta. It is simulcast every Sunday at 10 am EST on Funimation . Trust me - it’s not like there’s any other new show this season that you should be watching. (I’ll make an exception for the unbeliveably cute and innocent by comparison Snow White With The Red Hair, and I’ll tell you why later, too.)

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