Everyone’s seems to be enjoying Gangsta. right now, and for good reason! It’s finally an anime not set in high school, about adult mercenaries, with awesome action and atmosphere…and much more. It’s a show everyone who’s age appropriate should be watching right now. Today I’m digging a little deeper into why I love Gangsta. and the different elements I think it excels at.
Gangsta. follows three characters in a grungy, dirty European underworld full of scum, mafia, and dirty cops. We meet Worick and Nicholas, two “Handymen” who hire themselves out to do the dirty work no one else will do, and Alex, a former prostitute who they take under their wing as their secretary. So far, a world of drugs, mystery, blood, and surprising depth is slowly being explored.
(There will be some spoiler discussion. I have not read the manga.)
Show vs Tell. Gangsta’s first episode was so different and brilliant because it executed itself on a completely “show” storytelling basis. We as an audience were only “told” things when it made sense for the characters to discuss it. I think a story is extra powerful when it can show more instead of tell, so I was floored by how well Gangsta. used this form of storytelling.
For example, Nicholas is deaf. However the first episode was halfway over before his disability was fully revealed, when he at last used sign language to communicate a question. That was an amazing reveal, especially on top of the little hints the episode had managed to leave us beforehand! I felt the show treated me like an adult and not someone who needed everything explained beforehand.
The Disability Does Not Define The Character. I enjoy diversity in my fiction, but I prefer it when it’s realistic or well-written. I appreciate Nicolas’s character in that being deaf does not define his person hood. It is simply something he lives with–Nico can read lips, sign, and sometimes he speaks, but it’s not what his character is built on. It’s simply how he communicates.
Nico, if anything, is more defined by him being a Dog Tag, with his super-powered, aggressive fighting skills with his samurai sword, matched with his crazy grin. He’s a fighter whose backstory is not yet fully revealed. He’s a promising, dimensional character and I have a feeling we’ve only seen the first couple layers! (This goes to Worick as well, who has only one eye, but is much more than his eye patch.)
Alex Is Depicted As A Human Being. I love how real Alex is, and her reactions to life with Worick and Nico’s bloody day-to-day lives are realistic and relatable as a human. I especially love how well the show handled her escape from prostitution.
I don’t have an issue with stylized violence, but I do have an issue when forced sex is glamorized: thankfully, Gangsta. has not glamorized this element or how it affects women like Alex. When we meet Alex, we are moved to feel for her as a fellow human horribly stuck in a world of abuse, with no escape route, numb to the bone. So, I especially felt for her when she finally gained her freedom and some of the life came back to her eyes.
I really like it when female characters are treated as people, and I think Gangsta. is handling that element well!
On the note of sex: I won’t spell it out since it is episode 3 related, but Worick’s sexual life is also exposed and its also not glamorized. Though Worick self employs, I was still left with a aching heart for him, just as I first felt for Alex, and I know that was the emotion the show wanted me to feel. Overall, I’m incredibly grateful for how Gangsta. has handled sex; how it just leaves a nasty stain when wielded outside of real affection.
Heroic Mercenaries… In this underworld, where everyone is shady or cast in darkness, it’s really neat that our “heroes” of the story are for-hire mercenaries–killers–who are actually very likable! Worick and Nico are dimensional characters who have enough of a moral center that we can cheer for them. They’re even loved by different members of their community and actually seem like decent guys…scary as hell and unpredictable, but surprisingly decent!
For example, at the beginning of the story, Nico shows compassion on Alex as she walks away beaten after a job, dropping her a handkerchief twice. They refuse to hurt Alex when their job is to take out her boss’s gang, including her. While the cops could care less, they don’t touch her; they end up offering her decent work instead.
Worick and Nico even enjoy killing off abusers like her boss, which left me with a strong sense of satisfaction and justification–this is where I personally feel so connected to this story.
I’ve never been sexually abused or take advantage of in that way, but I was emotionally, verbally, and spiritually abused for most of my teen years. Any type of abuse is horrific, crippling, and disgusting, to say the very least. So I felt a special vindication seeing an abuser inadvertently served justice by the Handymen, and witnessing Alex’s freedom.
Just, thank you, Gangsta., for not glamorizing abuse, even in the grim underworld.
It’s Just Plain Awesome. Yep. This is an easy reason. With a combination of promising, dimensional characters and atmospheric world of mercs and mafia, the first three episodes of Gangsta. are incredibly entertaining while also delivering surprising character depth. The show has a surprisingly relaxed feel to it, even when Nicolas is tearing it up on the job with his sword. Nicolas, Worick, and Alex all have amazing command when on-screen; they not only make you cheer and grin, but also make you feel and sympathize because, while they’re awesome survivors, they’re also suffering because they’re human too.
I can tell that Gangsta. has only scratched the surface of what its story and characters can offer but I’m completely satisfied after only a few episodes. Even in a season with so many excellent shows, far and away Gangsta. is my favorite. (And Nicolas Brown is warring with Takeo Gouda for favorite male character of the year. 😀 )
Are you watching Gangsta.?