The Anime ‘Gangsta’ Is Far More Character Driven Than You May Expect

The Anime 'Gangsta' Is Far More Character Driven Than You May Expect | gangsta

Anime: Gangsta (Complete Series – Limited Edition)

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: May 16, 2017

Retail Price: $84.98

When an anime series titles itself Gangsta, you may have an inclination that violence will be a recurring theme (especially when you view the teaser trailer from funimation) but what you might not guess is that it’s primarily a character-centric tale with two characters that are spectacular protagonists. The series focuses in on Nicholas Brown and Worick Arcangelo, two men known as “Handymen” or mercenaries who take the jobs that are passed on by even the deadliest of individuals. These Handymen are enlisted by the most dangerous mob bosses or law enforcement to accomplish whatever dirty deed needs to get done – usually involving death in one way or another.

Nicolas and Worick live in the city of Ergastalum, a bustling location that was at one point a supposed “safe haven” for Twilights (essentially a super-human born from the product of a unique drug.) When you determine that someone important to the series is a Twilight and is now being hunted down by an elite underground faction, it seems like being a Handyman might not be enough to survive what’s coming. As the series promises, a struggle for power commences that can be felt through various parties with many different motivations, but more than anything it is the overwhelming sense of concern you feel resonate for Nicolas and Worick in the midst of a chaotic city erupting with trouble.

When evaluating Nicholas as a character, he has a majority of the interest in his corner – instantly becoming a different take on a character that could have been crafted generically. Nicholas is deaf (I think that may be a first for any anime series or anime film I’ve seen) that adds some authenticity to how it affects his life in intense scenarios – all while filling the role of lead protagonist. Once scratching the surface, fragments of his life growing up begin to come to light and you see the compassion, power and examples of a complex character find a balance in Nicholas (arguably the best attribute of Gangsta the series.) During the exploration of who Nicholas is, his childhood ties are prevalent to the series ongoing narrative making the series one that evolves wonderfully through each episode.

Though Nicholas may sound as if he holds the entire weight of the series on his shoulders, there is some especially surprising depth that comes from his counterpart Worick. Worick would be written off as the aid to the series lead in other animes, but Gangsta gives Worick the chance to recall both who Nicholas is/was but how he contributed to things that helped Nicholas. Worick definitely has unsung hero qualities, but for the most part he’s celebrated by fans through the expression of his role that viewers solely witness. It’s rare for a series to have two central characters that work so well together but it’s those opposite traits and through thick and thin partnership that the pair proves to have complete chemistry. If anything, the bond between Nick and Worick is electric and will 100% be the reason you are enticed to continue with Gangsta. The twists of childhood traumas, abuse and much more may add turns to the series but the grounded stance it takes with these two men and their partnership is a dazzling attribute to watch.

One person I seemed to have left out (who is in the series often) is Alex, the ex-prostitute with a bounty on her head and a blooming crush for Handymen. It’s not to say she wasn’t enjoyable in some capacity, but she felt underused and more one-dimensional than the men of the series which is more of a semi-fault in the creation of her role. (Jessica Chastain needs to give her ‘do better’ speech to anime creators from time to time.) The animation of Gangsta feels lively despite evoking those darker or neutral tones – creating a unique approach given today’s anime standards and a strong final product from the animation company. The english voice cast of the series feels like a straightforward delivery which is how the world of Gangsta would feel, often avoiding getting too over the top. There are a few little hiccups in Gangsta, but when everything is taken into account – Gangsta is a series that introduces two instantly memorable characters in a gritty world, and I loved my experience throughout it.

Overall Score: 7.5/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– Nick and Worick for president / vice president

– The bond of friendship (maybe more) between Nick and Worick was the ace up Gangsta’s sleeve.

– I would say I want season two but Manglobe Studios filed for bankruptcy and things seem much bleaker for any follow up.

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Grimgar, Ashes And Illusions Series Review

Anime: Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions

Released By: Funimation

Release Date: May 2, 2017

Retail Price: $84.98

When it comes to anime series that fall under the fantasy genre, they can be either a major hit or massive miss depending on the direction of the genre title, but one series strays some the simplicity of your traditional fantasy series by the name of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions. The initial premise of Grimgar is set following a young Haruhiro, a young man who (along with the rest of the population) doesn’t remember anything about where he came from or who he was in the past. Our hero next is thrown into the fantasy driven world by being drafted into the “Volunteer Soldiers” that pits him against a slew of creatures and problems that nobody could truly be prepared to enter blindly.

On a positive note for Haruhiro, he finds out he won’t be alone on this crusade against creatures, joining a team of misfits that all play their own role in an ensemble setting. The positions on the volunteer soldiers squad try to add a diverse skill-set to even out the strengths ranging from squadron leader who deals with the tactical strategies to the healer who aids the other warriors before during and after battle with their enhanced abilities. The team dynamic alone makes it feel like nearly every character serves a purpose in the world of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions even if you have to invest the time to discover it. In the anime series, just as you think you begin to understand the dynamics and relationships amongst the crew, the series throws a few twists and turns to keep viewers on their toes.

One of the most absolute thrilling and impressive traits Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions has to offer is the incredible growth that its characters go through from the first moments of the series all the way to the final few scenes of the first season (seriously hoping there will be another follow up.) You essentially stumble across these outcasts who aren’t valued for much, but form a tight knit bond that seems improbable at first – in essence becoming a genuine connection that blossoms over the duration of Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions. One episode in particular (episode 7, “They Were Called Goblin Slayers”) best summarized that progression of the group, offering not only one of their best episodes, but a superb standout episode of anime series in general that is a powerful contribution to the medium by solely focusing on those changes.

Though the character development offers many strengths to the series, the characters themselves could spark a variety of reaction to viewers. The group consists of men and women (a nice change given the male driven anime casts) that partake in an equal opportunity for battle. Some of the female characters are prone to the overt fanservice and inappropriate portrayal which is my only true frustration from Grimgar, Ashes and Illusion. With that being said, the female characters actually provide a necessary role to the group aside from the generalizations of anime – often proving to be rather useful. Our lead hero Haruhiro becomes one remarkable young man who gives his all to be the best leader, comrade and friend to his companions, enjoyably exploring his inner self from beginning to end. A character by the name of Manato, the healer, leader and morale boost for the group who plays a major role in the anime despite a lack of physical presence that leaves a heavy impact on others (myself included). Others like Mary (a girl with a dark past and grim outlook) or Moguzo (the heavier set tank of the group with a heart of gold) flesh out Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions the way a properly structured anime series should aspire to achieve. If you have found that you enjoy an assortment of people who make the story worth watching, Grimgar is a series that is wholeheartedly worth the effort and time.

The animation quality for Grimgar, Ashes and Illusions brings watercolors to life in this vibrant series with dazzling artistic creations to be in awe over. The night sky is recurring throughout the anime and provides pure beauty in those moments that never grow old. The design of the characters and backdrops are unique enough to feel like it avoids the usual anime tendencies, with the only flaw being the art that depicts the creatures they fight – however that surprisingly isn’t a major concern granted all of the series exceptional traits alongside the production. The English voice cast fits each role with ease and precision to create the proper atmosphere their characters embody, showing us that all signs point to Funimation taking time and caution with what is undoubtedly one of their best new series to have under their renowned name.

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– I can’t believe how attached I became to these characters with such surprising depth.
– Loss is felt during this anime, but it’s the way they deal with this loss that left me impressed and grieving simultaneously.
– As much as I want to view a second season, I am worried that it will get darker for the lovely group of warriors.

Love Stage!! The Complete Series Review

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Anime: Love Stage!! (Complete Series)

Released By: Sentai Filmworks

Release Date: June 14, 2016

Retail Price: $59.98

Once in awhile, much like a prophecy – an LGBTQ themed anime comes along and is met with overwhelming love, which was directed at the anime and manga series Love Stage, licensed for a home release by the selective anime distribution company Sentai Filmworks. Love Stage was created as a yaoi series (boys love) that attracts endless fangirls to root for a romantic relationship between two men, but Love Stage tries to add an different element to this one, being fame and a gender mix-up that is also the biggest introductory plot points that kicks off the comedic romantic drama. Enter Izumi Sena and Ryoma Ichijo, the two central characters in Love Stage that play love interests with a childhood connection.

Izumi Sena comes from a coveted family with deep roots into the entertainment industry (his older brother is a singer/songwriter who also benefitted from the parents fame) however after Izumi’s stint with child acting, he no longer sought out to be involved in the business directly. The incident that made him shy away from the limelight was an embarrassing moment while filming a commercial (the gender mix up mentioned earlier.) Now as an adult, Izumi places his passions into manga where Izumi hopes he can find his niche as an author/artist of his own manga. Izumi lacks the motivation to maintain steady grades in college and isn’t sure if his hopes will pan out, but things change as Izumi is approached to reprise his role in partnership with a mega-star to Japan. That very commerical happens to be the experience Izumi hated, having been mixed up with a girl – and the man who played the young boy in the original still is under the impression that Izumi is indeed a female.

Opposite Izumi is Ryoma, who took a slightly different path after the commerical many years ago. Ryoma pursued a career in entertainment which eventually paid off and solidified Ryoma as one of the biggest stars around, but he always maintained that soft spot in his heart for the “girl” he encountered all those years ago in a small commercial. When Ryoma strikes at the opportunity to cross paths again, he can’t help but eventually find out the girl of his dreams is none other than a guy – hence the yaoi genre of Love Stage. The initial reaction is realistically confusing for a seemingly heterosexual man, but Ryoma has to start questioning his feelings and the possibility that he may have just fallen for Izumi the person, regardless of the gender.

Now that you know the bigger aspects of who they are individually along with the decision to see what is possible for the pair – you might think it’s a touch of romance already, but many times it is suggested to be a more physical attraction on behalf of Ryoma. It’s a new sensation for both, but it does tend to gravitate towards less of a bond and more of a manifestation of physical intimacy. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say they didn’t bond or have deep moments, because there was certainly growth between the two – such as the support for one another’s passions and persistence of considering the other’s feelings, so it does tend to balance out when they add something more than the traditional yaoi storylines. Realistically I couldn’t necessarily see this playing out as a genuine relationship, but taking it for an unconventional romance and some comedic threads in its makeup makes it a journey that will have something genre fans will enjoy or induce nose-bleeds.

Love Stage is an anime series that from strictly a visual aid – one could assume plays into stereotypes (which it sometimes can) but it is also a ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ situation that has more to offer. When talking about LGBTQ themed anime series, there are more negative representations than positive, but Love Stage finds some genuine fun and bond building in the midst of the female catered fanservice. The animation of the series has plenty of colors to make it feel like a lively production, with character designs rising above the average series for it’s entirety of 10 episodes. Though there is no english voice cast, the Japanese produced series has a cohesive relationship to solidify it as a careful series with plenty of fun to be had visually, comically, and sometimes even romantically.

Overall Score 7/10
Aedan’s Final Thoughts:

– The comedy behind the manga creator storyline was by far my favorite recurring joke throughout the series.

– Ryoma made a few choices that concurrently made it difficult to see him succeed, but the pairing did make more sense by the end of the series.