Hey man, I’m what you might call a gangsta. Yeah, I don’t shy away from a bit of violence. I’m not one of those bad gangstas though, like the ones who sell drugs or run rackets. Nah, I’m a nice guy. I only brutally murder people for money if they had it coming.
I’m not entirely sure what to make of Gangsta. (the period is part of the title. Real gangstas are sticklers for punctuation). It sure does come across as a vigilante power fantasy, though. The two protagonists might look like mean dudes, but they help out an old grandma, lament the rise of violent crime, and save a prostitute not only from the pimp who beat her, but also from corrupt cops who wanted to see the whole gang dead, her included (Why? Uhh… they’re bad cops, okay). One of them even gave her his handkerchief. What a gentleman!
Maybe I’m being a little unfair here, but there’s just not a whole lot going on beneath the surface. The opening animation is suspiciously reminiscent of Black Lagoon, but what made that show work was its sense of style and spectacle. Black Lagoon was ridiculously over the top –Gangsta, so far, is not. The closest it got was a scene where the katana-wielding lead takes on a dozen armed thugs by himself. But watching terrified gang members being effortlessly cut down is not exactly entertaining. You’re meant to cheer on him not because there’s real tension or because you’re invested in the situation, but just because the other guys are dicks. In a way, the violence is too sincere to be like Black Lagoon’s, and too shallow to take seriously.
For sure the show has room to grow. The protagonists aren’t flat cutouts, they’re just a little too nice and a little too powerful. Nicholas, the guy with the katana, is deaf and communicates mostly in sign language, and this was nicely done. But then he also had to have superhuman lipreading capabilities (and there’s hints that they are very special badasses. There’s a special term for them and everything). It just needs to develop some depth, and stay away from being a teenager’s idea of grit.
At the very least, one thing Gangsta has going for it is that there aren’t many shows like it. If you want to watch gangster anime, it’s worth giving it a chance, because what else are you going to watch?
First episode rating: 7/10
What it would take for me to watch another episode: A dull Thursday evening, and little faith.