What it doesn’t have is anything that even comes close to being called an ending.
Gangsta is set in a world much like ours, but with one major difference: the Twilights. By using a special performance-enhancing drug, soldiers from the recent past were endowed with nearly superhuman strength and speed. The problem is that said drug also comes with some nasty side effects—namely, it drastically shortens your life span. More than that, it is also highly addictive—to the point that once on it, you will need to use it for the rest of your life. This also means that if you ever have children, they will also be addicts from birth.
During the war all this seemed like a price worth paying—of course, once the war was over, the superhuman soldiers found they no longer had a place at home. Thus the city of Ergastulum was created to house them—so they could simply be forgotten about by the rest of the world. And in the years since, it has transformed into a criminal haven run by the mafia with the Twilights, despite their superhuman physical strength, doing their best to even eke out a meager existence.
One of the most interesting aspects of Gansta is the way in which the government has chosen to control the Twilights: namely by a twisting of Isaac Asimov’s Laws of Robotics. If you need a refresher, these laws—meant to make sure that robots never turn on their human creators—are:
First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second law: A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
For the Twilights, their laws look like this:
Article One: Twilights must not intentionally hurt humans. Destroying the overall balance by disregarding this rule is forbidden.
Article Two: Twilights must obey orders directed to them by humans. However, orders that conflict with Article One are exceptions.
Article Three: If the situation does not conflict with Articles One and Two, a Twilight must defend oneself.
These laws not only dehumanize the Twilights but also put them at the mercy of anyone other than another Twilight. So despite being far stronger than a normal human, they are in fact the most vulnerable. Moreover, many of the normal humans hope the Twilights simply end up killing off each other in a series of endless conflicts and turf wars in Ergastulum. To put it another way, in Gangsta, the three laws are being perverted into a slow, casual genocide of society’s undesirables.
On the more personal side, Gangsta is the story of three people living in this nearly lawless city: Nico, Worick, and Alex. Nico (a deaf Twilight) and Worick (a man suffering from hyperthymesia) are known as the Handymen—a pair that will do the violent work even the mob families fear to do. Alex, on the other hand, is a prostitute from the slums—drugged out of her mind by her pimp—who stands in an alley next to the Handymen’s apartment. After murdering her pimp for a job, the two take Alex in as their secretary of sorts.
Alex serves as our viewpoint character for the series. She knows very little about the Twilights and, having been drugged into docility, is able to ask all the stupid questions we in the audience would like to ask. However, as the story goes on, we come to learn more about her past and what led her to become a prostitute—and how that act is tied to a string of Twilight mass murders across the city. She is also suffering from severe drug withdrawal and is plagued by hallucinations—as well as the returning memories of her life long ago.
The Handymen, on the other hand, seem like the best of friends. Yet, through a series of flashbacks, we see not only the beginning of their acquaintance but the dirty secrets of their long and sordid history as well. What seems at first to be a pure and heartfelt friendship soon comes to look like something much more akin to vengeance and torture. But even then, you can’t help but wonder if, despite the low point of their association, the two have pretended at friendship for so long, they have actually become friends.
The city itself is the other real main character of Gangsta. It looks and feels like a real, lived-in world full of crime, drugs, crooked cops, and mafia gangs. The series is great at introducing us to characters from across Ergastulum’s social classes: from a teenage girl forced into the role of a Don with the death of her father to a back-alley doctor and his young apprentice. Bodyguards, shop owners, cops and more than a few Twilights populate the streets as well, adding to the setting’s complexity.
However, despite the intriguing world and complex characterizations, there is a problem looming over Gangsta: It lacks an ending. Now, don’t get me wrong, many anime end without the story’s overall conflict reaching its conclusion. However, while those may not reach the ending, they do reach an ending. Sometimes, an anime will finish off by ending only the current story arc. Other times, the story will end on a moment of character-changing development. Also popular is the cliffhanger ending—baiting us all for a sequel anime that may never come.
Gangsta doesn’t use any of these tactics. It simply ends somewhere in the middle of the story’s rising action—long before the climax is anywhere in sight. There are no story or character resolutions to be found. It honestly feels like any other episode in the series—giving us more “setting up” for a climax that never comes to pass.
Gangsta has the beginnings of an excellent crime drama, filled with memorable characters and a vivid setting. By drawing on Asimov’s Laws of Robotics and using them upon a group of people instead of machines, we are drawn into a story that is more than just gritty crime action. However, its lack of any attempt at an ending harms the anime greatly, leaving it feeling abandoned rather than finished. And with the closure of Manglobe, the studio behind Gangsta, it is unlikely that this will change any time soon.
Gangsta aired on Tokyo MX in Japan. It can be viewed for free in the US with English subtitles on Funimation and Hulu.
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