Gangsta – 12 (End?!) and Series Review

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See Manglobe, this is why people get pissed off at you right here.

I hardly know where to begin talking about that episode, to be honest.  The first 20 minutes were great, but that’s like saying the 20’s were a great decade except for the whole Great Depression thing at the end.  That “ending” kind of makes any talk about the rest of the episode moot.  When the ED sequence started rolling I did a spit-take and checked the time, thinking this had to be one of those 10-minute epilogue kind of deals.  Nope.

So – I’m baffled. Kekkai Sensen warned us in advance that the finale would be delayed, and Working!!! told us at the end of the last episode that we’d be getting another.  Gangsta gave us absolutely nothing.  There’s no indication whatsoever that there’s any more anime planned, and no effort whatsoever was made to give the episode or indeed the series any sort of finality.  Even by the standards of one-cour adaptations of ongoing manga, that may just have been the most abject abdication of the responsibility for ending a series that I’ve ever seen – and that’s really saying something.

I guess I have to talk a little about how we got there.  And it was really good, too – Gangsta has almost always been really good, sometimes great.  Now we know why Marco’s story has gotten so much play in the last arc, because it’s highly relevant to what’s happening here.  Marco is a “normal” human, but a rare one with “twilight-like abilities”.  Not only did we find out that most humans with these abilities are trained as Hunters, but that Marco was one himself – before he turned his coat and joined up with the Cristiano family.

That explains a lot, both about Marco and about what’s happening in Ergastulum.  It explains why Connie was targeted, and why Joel is so furious at Marco for everything that’s been taken from her because of him (directly or indirectly).  And boy, humans with twilight abilities but no compensation or dependence on Celebrer?  That’s a fucking scary proposition – and it leads to scary bastards like Striker and Sig wreaking havoc with the fragile peace in Ergastulum.  What we don’t know is why these humans came to exist, though Marco’s “since the war” offers some tantilizing suggestions.

When Striker comes calling on Monroe headquarters, the body count keeps piling up.  His showdown with Worick and Miles, making a last stand, is one of the better fights scenes of the series, but they have no answers for him.  Striker says something very interesting to the wounded Worick here – “I have no interest in Normals.  The one I want to see is Old Man Monroe”.  The implication seems to be that Monroe is a twilight himself, which would probably explain and muddle things in equal measure.  Also fascinating is what Worick says to Striker – he called him a “Mix”.  Let the mind wander with that one, and it goes to more interesting places.

But that’s where it all goes terribly, terribly wrong.  What all of that meant?  Why Nina shows esper powers?  What happens with Nic and Alex?  Keep walking, because there are no answers here.  The way the narrative just stops, with so many pieces on the move and Worick lying gravely injured, musing on how he’s not trying to be like Twilights, is stunning.  It feels like a slap in the face to the audience, though it’s surely not meant that way.  But the lack of any effort whatsoever to even make this feel like an episode finale, never mind a series one, is utterly baffling.

I wonder if at some point Manglobe and Murase-sensei assumed this series was getting 13 episodes, and their budget was cut late in the game.  Might that explain the recap “Episode 9.5” and the utter lack of finality in this one – could 9.5 have been a desperation budget-saving move, and #12 originally the penultimate episode and not the finale?  I suppose it’s possible, but with no communication coming from official channels it’s just one more theory to explain the inexplicable.

It’s such a shame, because it taints what’s otherwise been an outstanding run for Gangsta.  I was prepared for a non-ending given the circumstances and the studio, but not for what we got.  Apart from those final moments Gangsta has been a very fine series indeed, arguably the best of the Summer.  It handled its exposition with more finesse and elegance than just about any anime I can remember, and told an unsparing and bleak story with a persistent humanity and compassion that no amount of human cruelty could ever quite snuff out.

This is a family affair, no doubt about it.  There’s a lot of historical awareness here, a great deal of symbolism that comments on our checkered past as a civilization, but ultimately none of that would have mattered if Gangsta weren’t the compelling human story it is.  These characters matter – their lives matter, and that’s the whole point.  Everyone’s lives matter, and the human impulse to brand those different from us as sub-human can’t change that fact.  It’s a beautiful message communicated in a brutal and ugly way, which is the essence and magic of Gangsta.  That its legacy as an anime is now likely to be the way it ended is a shame, because this is a series that deserves to be remembered for all it’s glorious successes.

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  1. ~

    I have a feeling their going to make a 2nd season. Since their following the manga, they really should make a 2nd season continuing where this ended. I love Gangsta! I was super excited when I found out the manga was getting anime! It was all on point and just down right freaking awesome :)

  2. P

    Gangsta. Episode 12 Title: Manga on Sale now!

    In all seriousness, you said everything there needed to be said about this, I really enjoyed the family dynamics playing out in the series.
    But I personally doubt there will be a season 2, seeing as there is barely enough to do so at the moment but my question was why start so many new arcs coming to the finale? The Marco & Connie arc, mixes and the hunt for Erica, I'm not sure what they could have done but they definitely could've tidied it up a bit better.

  3. There's certainly not going to be a S2, but that's not the issue for me – I never expected that. I did expect at least some effort to tie up the story and stop in a place that felt like an actual stop. What we got felt like we were watching a movie old-school and the projector broke.

  4. A

    I got to the end of this episode, and I thought "What, there's a 13th episode? Is this two cour?".
    Maybe there was a scheduling SNAFU which led to episode 9.5 and no more timeslot for episode 13 finale?

    But if that was the case, surely they'd be everywhere explaining to viewers and reassuring them that there was actually another episode with a proper finale. The idea that nobody is aware this is happening kind of suggests that it isn't…

    Kind of a shame, I enjoyed the show, but without any proper finale they've screwed up big-time.

  5. E

    It does feel like another episode was planned, not even a "THE END" endcard was displayed afterwards. A lot could have been cut from the previous two episodes at least, since our main characters weren't featured much. I hope this doesn't mean Manglobe has gone broke or anything, really appreciate them after finally watching some of their older series for the first time.

  6. s

    Supposedly Manglobe has gone or is going bankrup so uhmmmmmmm welp. i thought this ep was good but it's pretty clear something is up at manglobe even if the anime had caught up to manga.

  7. Yup – that's what I'm hearing. It would certainly explain that "ending".

    It would terribly sad news, if true. But really, I think the question is "How did this not happen sooner?" I love the fact that they've made so many noncommercial choices, but I don't understand how most of these series broke even.

  8. s

    ive been saying that for years so upon hearing this i was like "sigh…unfortunately it was only a matter of time"…given if this information is actually legitimate

  9. K

    Gonzo went "bankrupt" a few years back, and they're still around. When you fill for bankruptcy your asking for protection measurements because you can afford to pay your debt (In Manglobe case we're talking of about 2.9 Million U.S. Dollars) This allows the company to being restructured and making its business model more profitable and starting to pay their debts.

    2.9 Million dollars in debt it's not that much of money, at least not for a business of a relative medium size as an animation production company is.Gonzo had way more debt and it's still around. We should wait a bit before start singing requiems for Manglobe.

  10. s

    no one is really saying that manglobe is done for; but bankruptcy of any level is still an issue and it may cause some problems for this production company for some time if said rumors are true

  11. R

    It's like they finished the series in the middle of an arc.

  12. A

    Hello, first time poster here, for once that I finish a serie in a time anywhere close to its actual release date (instead of "years later"), I'm going to participate too !

    The "stop right in the middle" of this episode is certainly baffling. Unless they initially planned to have much more episodes or a second season, the choice doesn't make a lot of sense.

    But as far as reviewing the entire serie go, I'd like to put the matter of the ending aside and say that I find the praises rather exagerated.
    True, the serie started very strong. The narrative has been top-notch, the worldbuilding pretty good and the theme is quite refreshing compared to the countless highschool setup. There is no denying it's a good serie overall on this one.

    Still, it was also plagued with some flaws, which sadly only grew over time. Most obvious one, the production values are VERY poor – animation is extremely lacking, with huge deformations during movements and very stilted, and drawing is often downright crude. That's a pretty big turnoff, especially when the fighting becomes more prevalent.
    More importantly, while the serie started very strong with a unique ambiance, complex characters and a somewhat realistic setup (even if the darkness sometimes fell a bit forced and flat), I felt myself lose more and more interest as the show morphed from "original seinen" to "run-of-the-mill shonen", with the superpower arm-race taking the forefront and the realism becoming eroded with creeping action clich├ęd tropes and characters and the breaking of suspension of disbelief with the superpower take-over.

    Basically, I'd say the first half has been pretty good, maybe even great (despite the production values), but the second has been sinking toward "barely above average". I'm ready to give due credit to the narrative maestria and the subtleties of many characters and their relationships, but samely I'm not going to turn a blind eye to the much less interesting aspects the story and the theme is coming to.

  13. m

    This lack of ending has not really undercut my enjoyment of the series whatsoever, my bigger concern was for the lower quality production towards the end. Yea, time to read the manga.
    In a way, this feels like Akatsuki no Yona, in the sense that we have only scratched the surface of the big story. I love this series through and through, and will rank this above most series of the year along with Parasyte, because of how it has developed the characters so wonderfully.

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