Impending Gang War?:
Although each episode of GANGSTA. has been impressive, there hasn’t been much sign of an overarching story. Since it’s an adaptation of an ongoing manga, that in itself isn’t a worrying thing – it makes sense that the source material would take its time; but for a one-cour adaptation that’s bound to never get a second season, it was making me slightly worried. But just like that, we’ve got hints that there’s a chance of a full-blown war breaking out. It may go hand-in-hand with what went down during Nicolas and Worick’s teenage years, or it may be something even worse. Either way, I expect we’ll see the beginnings of various gang conflicts in the next few episodes.
“I Fell Down” – Abuse in the Past:
Even if there wasn’t a chance of the ‘main plot’ kicking into gear, what we’ve been getting up until now has been nothing short of superb. This episode in particular was my favourite so far. However, it could have gone the opposite way, since it focused so heavily on the physical and mental abuse of our main trio, that it could have just ended up a gory and mindless, without any real purpose or delicacy. But of course, GANGSTA. has proved that it knows what kind of story it is, and despite the cruelties it showcases, it never comes across purposely offensive or insensitive. Nic, Worick, and Alex are all incredibly sympathetic, well-written characters that stand out when compared to the plethora of cardboard cutouts you see in many anime. Seeing their tragic lows only makes for a more rewarding experience when you see they haven’t lost their love for life in the present day. All three of them are survivors, whether it be from events in the past or present.
By no means do Nic and Worick have an easy life in the current timeline, but they’re confident in what they do, despite the daily threats against their lives. They’re hardened to Ergastulum and its horrible ways, thanks to their horrible upbringings. I originally penned Worick as a privileged boy who seemed the exact opposite of Nic in every way (and he still does) but I was wrong in assuming he had it easy growing up. The “I fell down” excuse for their abuse by the hands of their fathers is a poignant line, especially when its repeated at the end of the episode. They don’t speak directly about their abuse, but they clearly understand what each other is going through. Painful stuff to watch, yet expertly handled. Add in the snippets of Nic
“TBs” – Abuse in the Present:
Back in the present, it’s Alex whose suffering the worst. I knew it would just be Theo approaching Alex at the end of last episode, in order to help her in some way. What I couldn’t predict was the nature of Alex’s condition. Like Worick, I thought she was gradually improving from the traumatic first episode. And she has, but this episode saw her reach breaking point, and the explanation for it was nothing short of genius.
I noticed that she was always watching Nic taking his pills, but I took that as foreshadowing to the reveal of what those particular Twilight pills were. I didn’t think that she was suffering side effects from substance abuse. Dr. Theo explains the “TB” drug as one used by pimps to keep their women obedient, and if they ween themselves off it they start to hallucinate and usually end up committing suicide to rid of the torture. Theo also brings up the blank piece of paper that she was given a few episodes back, explaining that its common for those affected by the drug to grow attached to something meaningless, or see things when there’s nothing there at all. That reveal was probably my favourite moment of the episode, along with the emotional back-and-froth between Worick and Alex shortly after.
I have to say this: they may have kissed, but it there wasn’t a hint of romance to it. I don’t know where their relationship will go from here, and I’m not too bothered either way. I just hope Alex grows from this, moves on from the shadow that’s been following her every step, and becomes stronger. She’ll be a survivor, just like Nic and Worick are after the upbringing they had.
Overview – What’s Next?:
GANGSTA. really is a masterclass in seamless storytelling and exposition. Everyone else, take note. This episode was pretty much faultless. If I had to pick at something, I may say that some of the flashback transitions were a bit too sudden for my taste. Still, it’s a single complaint against waves of praise. I can now safely say that GANGSTA. is one of the best anime of the year, just like I initially anticipated. Yet, I’m still surprised by just how good it is, especially with the careful exposition over the past five episodes, and how it all come together so seamlessly in this latest one. GANGSTA. can do very little wrong from what I’ve seen thus far, and I have every hope that will continue in the next six episodes.
Full-length images: 33.