Gangsta. has proven to be one of the best mangas I have read all year long. It started off as something I just bought on a whim and turned into a series that I eagerly await with each volume released.
The fourth volume has just hit stores and I’m all over it. Can the final volume for this year prove to be just as good as the ones before? Is it good?
Gangsta. Vol. 4 (Viz Media)
Written and Drawn By: Kohske
Translated By: Katherine Schilling
While Alex is still recovering from the effects of the street drug T.B. and slowly regaining her lost memories, things have been deteriorating within Ergastulum. More and more Twilights are being brutally murdered and hacked to pieces by unknown forces (most likely Hunters). With the onslaught of these murders, anti-Twilight sentiments are rising as well and only adding to the violence levels. The Cristianos, one of the families that control the city, isn’t liking everything that’s going on and is stepping in to protect some individuals, even hiring the Handymen for help. However, with the increase in bloodshed and more dangerous figures appearing, can even the Cristianos’ interference prove enough?
To describe this volume rather simply: This is where shit hits the fan and hits it hard. All the buildup, the character development, the mysteries, and storylines that been brewing in the background come to the forefront and collide. This is easily the most intense, shocking, and brutal volume of the series so far and it’s an incredible and thrilling read from start to finish. If you still weren’t sure about the series until now or if you have been wondering if the story would have any payoff after all the buildup, this issue will certainly put aside all your concerns and fears.
At first, Gangsta. Vol. 4 starts off with two chapters that are very slow paced and focused on developing Alex. While not as exciting as chapters to come, the character development is utterly fantastic and really helps with fleshing her out a lot after she wasn’t focused on for a while. She might be one of the best written female protagonists I’ve seen this year. Alex still has doubts that plague her, especially as she tries to recover from the side effects of the drug she use to take and is still trying to prove herself. She also has to try and figure out what to do with her life, since she can’t stay with the Handymen forever. Her struggles, doubts, and emotions all feels genuine and really help to develop her as a more fleshed out and human character.
As good as the chapters focusing on Alex’s characterization are, the subsequent ones are where things really heat up. We get to see more of the villains, get more insight into how the Families operate, there are big surprises to things that were alluded to previously, and more. All of these elements really come together well and never overshadow each other, balancing together perfectly and making for a really engaging experience. Probably the only weak thing about the story here is that one of the reveals in the story, the identity of the hooded man, which is painfully obvious despite treated as a big reveal to end the volume on.
Speaking of character, the Cristiano Family really gets a boost in development, probably more so than the other Families and factions we’ve seen. They’ve only made a few small, scattered appearances in the series, but the amount of characterization and focus given here really makes them feel much more three dimensional than most of the supporting cast up until now. Galahad Woehor is the manager at one of the brothel and also a bodyguard for the Family. He’s a rather jovial kind of guy, having fun with a lot of the people and being easy-going. However, he’s also incredibly tough and dangerous, willing protect the Family and any Twilights if threatened. Then there’s Marco Adriano, who is definitely more professional and serious than Galahad, but is still a rather sweet and friendly individual. Of course, he’s just as dangerous and not without secrets of his own. Finally there is the head of the family, 14 year-old Loretta Cristiano, and she is every bit as amazing a character as the rest. Very intelligent, wise, willing to throw herself into the heat of things to protect her own friends and men, but also still prone to acting her own age. She has some of the best moments of the volume and is the most fascinating to read about.
Interestingly enough, despite the great amount of character development and characterization happening within this volume, our Handymen probably get the least amount of it. Well, to a certain extent mind you. Worrick takes a backseat for most of the issues. He has a moment or two (like letting Alex take on a small job for him), but he didn’t do much. With Nick, he’s half and half. He definitely has his moments that help his growth and development as a character, mostly through his interactions with Alex (especially love the surprise in Chapter 18), and there are some interesting revelations about him at the end that caught me off guard and kind of make sense. However, he is still sort of in the background for the most of the middle of the book, off doing a job with Worrick, so there isn’t as much with him as you might think. Regardless, it’s not too much a problem since we’ve gotten so much development and backstory for them recently anyways.
The villains are not all that developed or as deep as some of the characters are in the book, which is a bit disappointing. They don’t say or do much other than being violent killers and we don’t get much insight into what motivates them. However, they do make an incredible impression and really make you want to know more about them. They’re incredibly vicious and strong, but not so strong to the point where they seem impossible to beat. The writer finds the right balance here with their strength, providing an incredible challenge for characters, but not one that’ll find like they’ll need a deus ex machina or plot device to win. Also, the villains in the volume do provide some mysteries concerning their backstories and why they are working with the bigger bads of the series. After all, they are Twilights, so why are they hunting and killing other Twilights at the request of Twilight haters and racists?
Jealousy levels are rising.
The writing on the book still remains incredible. The pacing and storytelling are excellent and the dialogue is very strong; probably the best part of the dialogue is that Kohske knows very well when to let the artwork speak for itself. Sprinkled through the comic are also some bits of humor that are mixed. Some jokes are funny and fit in well in the scene, while one or two feel out of place or don’t work at all. Finally, the tone and mood are very consistent throughout, being fairly serious overall. The humor, whenever it is there, never really clashes with the tone and takes away from the experience. It’s a solid experience overall.
The artwork for the book is excellent from start to finish. It does have the minor problem of having some boring, empty white backgrounds a lot of the time; but that’s pretty much it. The characters all look great, being incredibly expressive and detailed enough to show how each character is different from one another. The panel layouts is strong, with the story flowing very well from panel to panel. Because of this, the action in the book is incredible looking and eye-catching, seeing the utter power and movements in the characters. There’s also some stellar and memorable looking imagery through the comic with the angles and the way the image is set up in the panel. I especially like the ending shot of Chapter 19 with how it’s presented and what it is signaling to happen next. Just a fantastic looking serious overall, just be prepared for a lot of gore and violence this time.
Is it Good?
Gangsta. Vol. 4 is easily the best volume of the series so far and possibly the turning point for the series where things really take off more than ever. It had just the perfect balance between the story, the characters, and the action and all those factors combined make for a truly amazing, thrilling and moving tale. Just about everything worked and clicked with this book and even parts that didn’t did not take away from the experience. Gangsta. is easily one of the best, if not the best mangas of 2014 and is so worth your time and hard earned money. I look forward to seeing where the series goes in 2015.
Gangsta. is available from Viz Media (click the “Buy Now” link at the top of the page to order from Amazon). The fifth volume is scheduled for release on Feburary 17 of next year, where the information about it say that things are going to explode even more so. 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. There’s also an anime adaption that’ll be coming in the future, but when it is set to be released in anyone’s guess at this point.