Last time I reviewed this series, I declared Gangsta. the best manga of 2014. It basically had everything I or anyone could ever want in a series: great story, great characters, strong writing, impressive action, and great looking artwork. Heck, the last volume I gave a perfect 10 because it was so good. With the latest volume now coming out, can it continue to deliver?
Gangsta. Vol. 5 (Viz Media)
Written & Drawn By: Kohske
Translated By: Katherine Schilling
As our heroes rest and try to recover after the brutal massacre that happened at the Cristianos’ base, the Hunters and Destroyers are on the move yet again. This time, their target is the Paulkee Guild and by attacking and wrecking them, they can destroy the last remaining group that houses Twilights and their power & control in the area. By the time the dust and debris clears, not everyone is walking away from this in one piece.
Last volume, I declared that it was where the s--t hit the fan and everything that was built up came crashing down on top of everything and everyone. This fifth book… continues that trend. We’re only given one single chapter to relax before chaos breaks out yet again into another brutal and bloody battle. New things come to light, the body count raises higher, and an all-out war continues to loom on the horizon. Hell, even during moments where we can breathe between all of the brutality and fighting, the tension and nervousness is still there eating away at us as we wonder what will happen next. As such, just like last volume, this is another incredible, thrilling, and intense ride from beginning to end that should keep you fully invested in what is happening.
We start with a chapter that allows us to take a moment to breathe and fully take in everything that happened last time. It dishes out some great characterization and development with the cast as they reflect on everything that has happened, what they learned, and what they have lost. However, the moment quickly changes in the next couple of chapters when the Destroyers enter the fray and start wreaking havoc on the Paulkee Guild in a vicious and nasty manner. The story is interlaced with scenes of that and with the other characters and their stories to keep things progressing and not just being one long fight scene. The writer really does a great job with balancing all of these scenes together and knowing just the right moments to cut between them without the manga feeling jumpy.
There’s more to the manga after the attack, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. The story there is still handled just as well, balancing all of the character arcs and storylines throughout expertly. There’s never a moment where the comic grinds to a halt, since every new surprise or new element introduced makes you curious about how it’ll play into everything. There were only two moments that stood out that I found were a bit questionable, like how Nina somehow knows Worrick got hurt (probably for dramatic story reasons). Then there is the scene where Loretta Cristiano has a great character moment where she decides to become more proactive in the fighting, just like her father did. However, it is juxtaposed with a joke of her changing her clothing in front of one of her subordinates, which is awkward since she is 14. The moment is great, but the joke was really not needed.
Moving onto the characters, there was actually a lot of development, large or small, that went on in this issue. So much so that I couldn’t really cover it all, so I’ll just stick to the main cast and the new villains. Just know that it was all very good and well-written stuff (I loved that we got new development for a majority of the cast), and that I like what I’m seeing so far with the side characters. You can really start growing attached to these individuals as well. The Handymen actually felt like they didn’t really get to do much this time around. The two leads really didn’t interact with the story for most of the volume, which is a bit disappointing since I wanted to see more follow-up with Nick after last time. Worrick did get some time to shine in the final chapters of the book though, which did open up some interesting possibilities for him going from here. Either way, I hope to see more focus on the two in the next volume.
As for the other lead in the book, Alex, she had minor moments of development as she starts gaining more and more memories of her past. It’s good stuff and I absolutely love the direction about where this may be going given some interesting revelations. However, the big stuff with the characters is the introduction of the new villains, the Destroyers. We don’t get to learn a lot about them all, but the ones we do learn about or get some minor hints towards do really get me interested in wanting to learn more about them, like Beretta and Striker (especially this guy since he has a history with a lot of the characters). I will also say that I do like the designs for the characters, since they all look varied in faces, body types, outfits, and hairstyles. They all feel unique and easily identifiable (though they don’t show much personality beyond psycho killing machine), which I do appreciate. But in the end, the character work on this book was great and I just hope more of the villains get some more development or depth to them.
Gangsta.‘s writing still remains extremely high quality and impressive. The pacing and story structure are great, with the book always knowing how long a scene should last. Excitement, intrigue, and development are always happening in the book, so there’s never a time when you feel bored or uninterested in what is happening. The dialogue is excellent, with a lot of great scenes and moments being exchanged between the cast, like in the opening chapter for instance. It really helps make you feel attached to the cast and allows you to get into their state of mind. Finally, there’s a nice bonus page addition at the end of the book that talks about the details behind Cerebret, the drug that the Twilights take; it’s great additional content that isn’t necessary to understand the manga, but is nice to have anyways.
And finally, there is the artwork and like with all of the previous volumes that have come before, it looks amazing and well done overall. The characters are great, featuring very expressive unique designs and are easy to tell apart from one another. You can really feel the emotion and feelings they are going through just by looking at them. The layouts are well put together and easy to follow, even during some of the more hectic action scenes that go on in the book. Speaking of which, the action looks amazing—very intense and brutal. You really feel the impact of the blows being dealt and can even cringe at how nasty some of scenes are at points. The only weird and weak moments is the rare moment of fanservice during the brutality, like when the Destroyer Sig is slicing people up with her ax and we get an odd ass shot. Feels out of place honestly and could have been done without given the situation.
Killed by a reject from Lollipop Chainsaw. What a way to go.
Gangsta. Vol. 5 was ultimately another total success for this series. The story and characters still impress with all of the new directions and developments the writer keeps on taking us through. You really come to care about what is going on and who will be making it out in the very end. While there are a few minor nitpicks throughout, the writing and artwork easily overcome any issue the book has. Gangsta. continues to be a nasty marvel to behold and is completely worth your time jumping aboard now if you haven’t already. This book is preparing for what appears to be another strong year ahead of it.
Gangsta. is available from Viz Media. The sixth volume is scheduled to be release on May 19, 2015, which feels a long way off. 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. An anime adaption is in the works and is scheduled to be released this summer, sometime during July, so get ready folks!