Welcome to Ergastulum, the ultimate mafia-run, crime-ridden city. In the midst of this wonderful chaos are two ‘handymen’, Worick and Nico. The two of them take on jobs from any of the mafia families and police, helping to keep the tense peace of Ergastulum. Also in the mix is a young woman named Alex, who the handymen saved from her pimp. Alex becomes immersed in the lives of Worick and Nico, and the intricate complexities of Ergastulum.
‘Gangsta’ as a television series was a bit mismatched. Episodes either went by in the blink of an eye or felt like pulling teeth. The series tried to fit too many aspects into 12 episodes – and ultimately didn’t have the chance to answer important questions. Characters were often underdeveloped, and if I’m going to be honest I barely remembered many of their significance to the story. But, while I wasn’t too impressed by the storyline of ‘Gangsta’,I really enjoyed the diverse representation and undertones of the series.
The Twilights and Discrimination
At the heart of ‘Gangsta’ is a story of two friends – one a ‘normal’ (Worick) and the other a ‘Twilight’ (Nico). Through the series we learn that Twilights are born with extraordinary physical strength but also have to suffer ‘compensation’ for it. Through some form of physical or mental disability, they also do not live long (often only to mid- 30s). Compounded with this is the tense peace with the public. 15 years prior to the series, we are shown anti-twilight protestors attacking and killing innocent twilights. As children, Nico was treated like a weapon by his father. He was constantly beaten and his father barely looked his way when he was hurt. Even Worick was originally horrified to learn that Nico was a Twilight – having been sucked into public bias of them being ‘monsters’.
‘The Three Laws’ that governs Twilight lives are what Ergastulum and the Four Fathers (governing mafia and Twilight guild) aim to protect. The law were created to aid the emancipation of Twilights, but ultimately they are still constrained. The Laws dictate that a Twilight must never hurt a normal, must always follow the orders of their normal master (unless it is to hurt another normal), and must protect themselves (as long as they don’t hurt a normal). The laws keep Twilights in a subservient position to ‘normals’. On top of this Twilights are still generally despised, not being allowed to enter some restaurants, bars, and are not even allowed to walk the main streets – being forced into the alleyways.
Diverse Representation in ‘Gangsta’ – Disability, Race, Gender and Sexuality
My favourite aspect of ‘Gangsta’ was the diverse representation within characters. First off we have Nico – a ‘Twilight’ who is deaf and Japanese. As mentioned before, Nico must face an enormous amount of discrimination from birth because of his ‘Twilight’ status. On top of this he relies on lip reading to communicate. There are often times that characters will make pointed remarks about his ethnicity. Despite the odds staked against him Nico always manages to come out on top. He, quite simply, kicks ass. He overcomes the difficulties before him – learning sign language to communicate easier, and finds a true friend in Worick.
Alex is another fantastic character in the show. She is a woman of colour, but isn’t stereotyped or put into a box. Instead she is probably one of the mentally strongest characters in the show. After being saved from her abusive relationship with her pimp, Alex begins working with the two ‘handymen’. While she is anxious about the next steps in her life, she is constantly working and learning and creating a new and better one. She overcomes the side effects of her previous drug addiction on her own. She is fearless, saving one of the Four Fathers, from an assassination attempt, despite her not knowing how to fight. Alex, with no training, stands her ground and fires the gun. Looking at forums, I’ve seen a number of individuals critique how Alex dresses, and the design of her body – that is being very slim with large boobs.My personal opinion on it, is that her body or how she dresses shouldn’t contribute to how she is perceived as a character. If anything, you should be congratulating the fact that Alex can shoot the shit out of someone, in heels.
The representation doesn’t end with just those two. There are numerous POC characters in the series, as well as a number of characters with disabilities. All these characters are incredibly well developed, and it’s inspiring to see them in an anime series. There’s even a Lesbian couple in the series, as well as a number of male and female characters who work in the sex industry. No judgement is passed on any character (not that there should be) – characters are portrayed as just themselves, the pieces that we see of them make up a much large identity. It’s really inspiring to see an anime integrate so many different parts of the community so seamlessly – there’s honestly no reason why every anime shouldn’t be just like this.
Gangsta is a testament to how anime can accurately depict minority groups.
Epic Fight Scenes
Another fantastic aspect of ‘Gangsta’ was the fight scenes. The animation was fluid and sharp. Audiences were always on the edge of their seat hoping to see who would win. The characters switching between weapons and locations was also incredibly interesting. One of my favourite fights was between Doug and Nico (seen above), the two of them are fighting in the narrow alleyways. The use of space and the buildings around them was fantastic!
Final Thoughts on ‘Gangsta’
Overall ‘Gangsta’ is an incredibly interesting series. There was a lot of potential for the storyline to be developed a lot more than it was.But ultimately the representation of discrimination, race, disability, gender and sexuality was the stand out for this series. While ‘Gangsta’ is a series that is a year old, I hope many other series take note from it. I really would enjoy seeing more series feature a such diverse representation in their characters. Unfortunately the studio that made the anime went bankrupt, so we can’t look forward to a season 2 anytime soon – but I’ll definitely be checking out the manga! 7/10