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.