「THORN」


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 and his mother Veronica, and you’ve got my heart wrung out to dry. Maybe we’ll we won’t see any more of what came of her, but in typical GANGSTA. fashion, I believe these carefully placed hints will all come together in the near future.

“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.

17 Comments

  1. I have to say this was probably my favorite single episode of the summer anime season.

    I was originally skeptical of the decision to break up their upbringing story (the manga originally kept them all together), but the way they interspersed flashbacks into the present was terrific. The way Nic came back to Warrick after battle (in the past) mirrored how Alec came back to Warrick after her own pretty traumatic day. They really sought to make the viewers FEEL as if they were coming back home after a really long day. And Warrick’s family-like “tuckered out” banter at the end of the episode clinched it.

    And even with all the reveals, they still managed to advance the plot. bravo.

    cookiethief
  2. I think that’s not Nic’s mother. From what I garner, Nic never met his mother (she was killed before they worked for Worrick’s family) and Nic learned sign language from Worrick. I think this woman is the Veronica that was mentioned last episode.

    kanohi
  3. I can only gush on how beautiful this episode is. For me, this is the best single episode of any anime airing this season (I am currently following six animes) aside from Shirayuki-hime’s fourth episode. I never thought exposition could be a good plot device for an anime until Gangsta. showed it like a boss (I am a fanboy of Fate Zero but it’s drowsy at times).

    Also, I am afraid that what Nic has said is very heartbreaking at least. They’re (The Tags) still humans after all. I shivered during Theo sensei’s explanation on what’s happening with Alex. I really thought she was just an afterthought for the last three episodes until this showed up. What a moving scene with Worick indeed.

    ARRRRG. Okay, calm down. I am done fanboying this episode.

    samui
  4. “I knew it would just be Theo approaching Alex at the end of last episode, in order to help her in some way.”

    Well, that answered my question from last episode… The fact that Dr. Theo wasn’t in his clinic should have clued me in.

    So Alex wasn’t taken away, she ran away because she thought that Dr. Theo is Barry (thanks to the hallucinogenic side effect of going cold turkey on “TB”).

    On a different note, I can’t help but wonder if this woman’s resemblance to Alex was intentional or coincidental. Because if it was intentional, that would explain why Nic is rather sweet (and one might say protective) towards Alex.

    Incognito
  5. It seems Corsica is intending to blaze up the twilight hunts again – more out of hatred towards them than to gain power. Bad news is he has nic in his sight now, and to add problems he seems to have a mole in the police…
    I am happy to see Alex didnt get kidnapped – was suspecing it was good doc outside their office, but was not sure if someone else did not appear at same time. The drug effects also explain the hallucinations, but hopefully with little help from the Handymen Alex can get off their influence cince the doc explained they are not that addicitve and eventually wear out.
    Last but not least bt is it me or little miss nurse has fallwen for Worick? “I instantly recognized YOUR voic…”

    ewok40k
  6. I’ve read lot of post said that they really love this episode.
    Well, as manga reader, I find it funny. I like it but… the episode just feels sloppy.
    The pace was messed up. As if it was made in hurry. Some parts was cut from the manga (I really love that part tho-) and the bgm didn’t really suit at all.

    yukishina
    1. I don’t want to start a manga vs. television adaption debate thing but as from someone who knows Gangsta. by just watching it, I can honestly say that this episode is executed properly. Even if those parts were skipped (as you mention), the episode itself still feels complete from a perspective of an anime-only fan. Reading the manga to know some further details is a bonus if you ask me. Anime is mostly giving visual and auditory experience after all.

      One thing, Mushi-shi aside, I believe that many anime adaptations do not animate every single scene of its source because there is a constraint on how much it can show given the budget the studio has. Unless it becomes Yamada-kun in terms of pacing (that is waaay too fast even for someone who does not follow the manga), I am fine with this show’s plot progression.

      samui
      1. Sorry about that, didn’t mean to start those kind of debate 🙂

        Yes, it’s correct. Many manga adaptation do that. What really bugged me is that pace & the unmatched bgm. IMO, I don’t get the feels.

        And what they cut is…
        Show Spoiler ▼

        Actually, I don’t think its a spoiler. Just to be safe XD

        yukishina
    2. Thanks about that. It’s actually kinda sad that an anime studio will never be able to capture everything in the manga given the constraints. I see your point with what you said and maybe your point is one of the reasons why I watch the anime adaptation first then read the manga later.

      samui
  7. Did anyone understand the conversation in sign language between Nic and Veronica in that flashback? Kinda’ curious what they were saying to each other. Also, are we supposed to assume that Nic was responsible for Veronica’s arm?

    hikarub
    1. visit maihor’s tumblr account. and look for the JSL tag. The conversation is as follows:
      Nick: Are you happy right now?
      Veronica: I’m glad to have left… but I can’t stand having nothing to do.

      kanohi

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