OP: 「Renegade」by STEREO DIVE FOUNDATION
Grimy Setting, Smooth Pacing:
As with any good first episode, this one was all about introductions: the city, the characters, and their lives in this twisted setting. Ergastulum is an interesting place, which to me feels very Southern-European. I don’t know if there’s a confirmed location for this fictional city, but it stands out when compared to all the current anime set in Japanese high schools. If you’re looking for something that’s different, then look no further than GANGSTA. – from the architecture to the character designs, this as a unique offering when compared to most of what’s coming out this season.
Before I dive into the characters and events that unfolded in this first episode, I’d like to point out how easy-going the pacing was. For something that promised to be dirty and brutal, I was expecting an episode jam-packed with action sequences and characters screaming at each other in a flurry of rage. But instead, GANGSTA. was distinctively quiet and smooth in its approach. Most of the episode was simple conversations, whilst managing to highlight the disturbing aspects of this harsh world. However, when the action did come, it delivered. But I did appreciate that this episode took it’s time and didn’t feel the need to lure us in with guts and gore from the get-go. Sometimes, just getting to know the characters is enough for a successful introduction.
Nicholas & Worick:
Our main duo were at the forefront for most of the episode, giving us glimpses of their personalities as we follow just another day in Ergastulum. Nicolas Brown (Tsuda Kenjirou) and Worick Arcangelo (Suwabe Junichi) make up ‘Benriya’, a business where they take on the dangerous jobs that no one else is willing to tackle. It’s a solid premise, especially with two characters that seem like complete opposites of one another. Nicolas is the most interesting of the two (for me at least), because he’s actually deaf. There’s not many main characters with disabilities in anime, and deafness is rarely touched upon. Obviously, in this case, Nicolas isn’t hindered much by his loss of hearing – apart from being not knowing when the phone is ringing, or know when someone is firing a gun behind him. He relies on his keen eyesight and can lipread to some degree, so as long as he’s got his eyes on someone, he’s not left out of the loop.
Worick is much more extroverted and outgoing, who comes across much less serious than his partner. Of course, when things get dirty, he’s quick to respond with brutal means. I’m sure we’ll get some backstory as to how he lost his left eye, but it’s certainly not dampened his cheery mannerism or flirtatious nature. Alone, he’s not the most original character, but when paired with Nicolas, their contrasts make their interactions much more interesting. We also see a young Nicolas in the ED (which I really enjoyed, more than the OP), so I wouldn’t be surprised if these two have some deep-rooted history that explains their closeness. That would be something worth seeing.
I covered the synopsis in the season preview, but with this first episode we’re already seeing hints of the different factions that make up Ergastulum. On one side there’s the police officers, namely the high-ranking official, Chad Adkins (Kanao Tetsuo), and his younger subordinate, Cody Balfour (Ishikawa Kaito), who request Nicolas and Worick to take on the jobs that they can’t. On the other end we have the four gangs that effectively control the city. Daniel Monroe (Houki Hatsuhisa) is the only confirmed leader so far, but I suspect the meeting he was having was with the other higher ups. Clearly, these top-dogs are going to play a big part in the story to come, so I’ll be waiting to see their proper introductions.
But for now, everything comes down to a lone prostitute. Alex Benedetto (Noto Mamiko) isn’t in a position of power, like many of the characters this episode. She’s used and abused by the members of Barry Abbott’s gang, who are making a bad name for themselves. The scenes with Alex were hard to watch, even though I knew they were coming. I’ve heard a lot about her character and how sympathetic and likeable she is; And I can see that from this first episode. Still, sexual violence is something that is often inserted into stories just for shock value, and because the creators don’t think much of its implications.
I’m not saying GANGSTA. is necessarily one of those series, but I’ll be keeping an eye on Alex’s character from here on out to see how the story treats her. She deserves to be more than a prop for the violent men of the series, and hopefully that comes to an end after this episode. At least Nicolas and Worick got the job done without second thoughts; these two much be so used to killing by this point that it doesn’t even make them flinch. But still, it’s Alex’s final gunshots that stood out to me. She’s finally free from captivity, and I’m happy for her. As much as Nicolas and Worick intrigue me, it’s Alex who I feel sorry for, and want to grow because of this. It seems I have an early favourite already.
Overview – What’s Next?:
Overall, this first episode met expectations. The pacing was easy-going despite the more brutal acts that we witnessed, and we got a solid introduction to our main trio. Nicolas, Worick, and Alex are an interesting combo, and I’m interested to see what dangerous jobs Benriya are involved in from here on out. I didn’t appreciate the repeated sexual violence against Alex, but she should be better off now. And hopefully she gets to do more than just answer their phone. I want to see her deal more finishing blows on those who deserve it – those who put other women like her in those horrible, unbreakable situations. That would be incredibly satisfying.
Full-length images: 38.
ED: 「Yoru no Kuni」 (夜の国) by Annabel