The first two volumes of this series impressed me quite a bit. For a series from a brand new author and for a manga that I picked off the shelves randomly, Gangsta has done plenty right and left me wanting more.
Book 3 in the Gangsta series has arrived. Is it good?
Gangsta. Vol. 3 (Viz Media)
Written and Drawn By: Kohske
Translated By: Katherine Schilling
Let’s turn back the clock by several decades. It’s an unknown year and we see a young Worick Arcangelo (going by the name of Wallace) living in his family’s estate inside of the West Gate, which is one of the four gates that surround the city of Ergastulum.
Worick’s life is pretty terrible, being the bastard offspring of an affair that the head of the Arcangelo Family had; as a result he’s treated like garbage, the staff pretty much hates him and talk about him behind his back, and he’s constantly being abused by his father. His life is awful, but things are about to change when the new mercenary group brought in to protect the family gives him a bodyguard: a young kid with problems of his own called Nic.
While we learn all of that, we also cut back to the present, where we catch up with the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Daniel Monroe, one of the leaders of the Families in the Ergastulum, and what is going on with the case of all the dead bodies that were chopped up and left in warehouse. Tension all over is rising and crap will soon be hitting the fan for everyone unless they figure out who has been causing all of the killing.
Man, Nic used to be so adorable before he became scary.
This volume pretty much dives into the origin of our two leads and what their lives were like in the past. However, even if that’s what all of the volume had been about and we didn’t get our glimpse back into the present time, I would have been completely fine since it was another fantastic and engaging part of the series.
Kohske does a great job at laying out of the mythology, history and setting of the series. This volume gets into heavy detail about what the Twilights are, how the public and world perceives them, some of their biology, and even gets into why the city of Ergastulum exists and how it came to be. This is really engaging and interesting stuff to me and it’s presented in a way that doesn’t feel shoehorned in or feels awkward in the setting.
The backstories for the main characters are bittersweet: they’re both interesting and depressing. To be fair, the depressing angle is something we expected given the brief glimpses we’ve been given and what little we did know about people who are Twilights. You really get an understanding of why these characters became who they are and why they trust each other so much. The only part of the backstory that doesn’t make too much sense to me is the relationship between Worick and his abusive father; it’s very clear the guy doesn’t like him remotely and continues to beat him up whenever he gets the chance. It’s also not like he is normally abusive and mean-spirited towards his family, since he treats his wife and other son perfectly fine. Considering how much he resents Worick and hurts him, why does he even keep him around? (Besides treating him like a human stress ball?)
Although the flashback scenes are very well done and essential, the scenes that takes us back to the present weren’t quite as enjoyable. There wasn’t as much focus to them as they are constantly hopping between different characters, side and subplots, and actually jumping forward and backwards in time too frequently. This leads to some confusion and some parts of the story really not getting enough attention or getting glossed over. Sure, there are definitely some solid parts (introducing more characters and having some rather good scenes to it) that help it out, but the story structure here really suffers sadly.
Oh hey, he’s kidnapping a girl… whatever.
As for the other characters in the book, they are still reasonably well characterized. Not a whole lot of development and further character growth happening here, but still good stuff. Everyone exhibits memorable personalities, behavior, and some great interactions. We even get a glimpse of the villains for this arc, who already are starting to making an impression with the tiny bit of personality we have seen from them. The only problem here is with Doug, the Twilight that Nic fought in the last volume — since his behavior and attitude now seems a bit unnatural considering what we saw of him last time. Other than that, the character stuff is decent and I hope we get some glimpses into their pasts as well.
The rest of the writing is pretty solid and well handled, mostly during the flashback scenes. The pacing is still very strong and well-balanced, keeping the energy and action going when need be but also allowing the story to take its time to let crucial moments unfold. The tone is far more serious this time (makes sense given the focus of the volume) and really cuts down on the humor and laid back nature, so that may disappoint you after the last two volumes. The dialogue remains really darn good, pulling you into the characters and getting you wrapped up in what they are saying. Of course, it’s also good at knowing when to use minimum dialogue or just letting art tell the tale. Again, these parts of the writing are more often in the present portion of the book, but nothing that’ll ruin experience.
Finally, there is the artwork and it still remains very well done. The characters are still nicely designed, easy to identify and show a great range of emotions. The layouts are well put together and easy to follow and the bits of action look interesting and really intense. Speaking of which, the violence and graphic nature of the book are really strong in certain areas and while being well drawn, may not sit too well with you.
Also, why did the perspective change all of a sudden with us standing sideways?
Is it Good?
Gangsta. Vol. 3 is great volume of the series, diving into the backstory of our leads and finally showing what helped shape them into who they are. The story is powerful and depressing, but leaves you wanting more. The main characters are really well fleshed out and the rest of the cast remains memorable in their own ways. The writing is still strong most of the time and the artwork really shines through. Easily recommended, especially if you are looking for a new manga to try out.
Gangsta. is available from Viz Media. The fourth volume of the series is set to come out on November 18th of this year, hinting of more growing violence and chaos that’ll plague the city. A spin-off series called Gangsta.:Cursed. EP_Marco Adriano has also been released, alongside a tarot card for the regular series as well. I’m guessing that the spin-off will be eventually licensed as well, so stay tuned in for the future.