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February 16, 2015

Bento Bako Weekly: Gangsta. vols 2-3

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Written by: Kristin
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gangsta2 Title: Gangsta.
Author: Kohske
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volumes 2 and 3, $12.99
Vintage: 2011 (+) by Shinchosha Publishing, 2014 by Viz Media
Genre: Action

[Volume 1 review]

A group of several brutally murdered and dismembered bodies has occurred in a factory in District 6. As a show of protocol, the cop Chad hauls in Nic and Worick. Of course, the real reason is so Worick can help identify the unidentifiable victims with his incredible memory. Worick easily provides leads for most of the victims, some of whom are Twilights (humans with enhanced strength and abilities). While they’re at police headquarters, Danny Monroe calls in for backup in a shootout with members from the Corsica gang. Worick and Nic are dispatched to help, and arrive just in time to save Monroe from a high-class Twilight. Worick hunts for a lead, and Nic takes the fight straight to the pint-sized Twilight who’s been sent to take out Monroe. It’s quite the fight between two A-rank Twilights, but it’s put to an immediate stop by the Pauklee Guild’s leader, Gina Pauklee. The rogue Twilight, Doug, is one of her mercenaries, and he’s disobeying the Three Laws placed on all Twilights – don’t harm humans or allow humans to come to harm, obey any order from a human unless it contradicts the first law, and protect themselves unless it contradicts the other laws (so basically the three laws of robotics). Doug is in violation of those laws by taking a contract (without Gina’s knowledge) to kill Monroe. The request came from Corsica, which means someone’s trying to upset the balance of power in Ergastulum. Meanwhile, poor Ally has been having hallucinations as a result of withdrawal symptoms from the drug that was used to control her by her pimp. Dr. Theo has medicine that will ease the symptoms until the drug is out of her system, but it’s Worick who brings her back down to Earth.

gangsta3Volume 3 is largely told in flashbacks depicting Worick and Nic as teens while Worick still lived with his father, and Nic was assigned as his bodyguard. Through Worick’s tutoring sessions, the history of Twilights is also explained. During a war decades ago, a drug called Cerebret was used to enhance the physical abilities of soldiers. This drug came with long lasting psychological damage, as well as dependence, and the symptoms carried down into offspring, creating more people reliant on Cerebret to function and survive. All Cerebret users were quarantined in Ergastulum. Over the years, people afraid of Twilights have organized protests, and even mass killing have occurred. Worick remains unaware of Nic’s status as a Twilight, and develops a friendship with the deaf boy, teaching him how to read, and even learning sign language alongside him so they can communicate efficiently. Both boys are abused – Worick by his alcoholic father, and Nic by the other soldiers and guards employed on the estate. Their (somewhat) happy days unravel as violence against Twilights escalates. Back in the present, the mysterious killings are getting worse, and every victim has been a Twilight. The hunt for the person (or organization) with the power to kill so many Twilights begins.

I was complaining on Twitter recently that there just aren’t enough mature manga titles aimed at older readers. The majority of titles in print are aimed at teens, and typically focus on high school aged characters. Gangsta. is one of the exceptions, along with titles by creators like Moyoco Anno and Satoshi Kon. But unlike Anno’s titles, which can be pretty heavy in subject matter, or Kon’s titles, which tend toward the philosophical, Gangsta. is just plain fun. Sexy fun. With two hunky male leads who are at least in their late twenties, if not in their thirties. Lots of action, lots of suits, guns, blood, even a little heart. So, yes, it’s got all the elements to bridge the gender divide. Men, gang wars fill these pages; women, those gangs are filled with good looking men. Smartly written and cleanly drawn, the series is easy to read, the story is easy to follow, and the art is pleasant to look at. So are Nic and Worick. And Doctor Theo. And Monroe. And Delico, and Marco, and Yang, and Miles, and Galahad, and…. It’s a gangster story even the ladies will enjoy. But don’t worry, boys, there’s some good looking girls in here, too. This is sounding a lot like my review of the first volume, but my opinion hasn’t changed. The darker, seedier elements are still nicely balanced with some comedy and lighter emotions, which is especially needed during volume 3’s lengthy flashback. Kohske continues to flesh out the world and everyone’s back stories, with glimpses into some grim futures. Some characters are on a path to redemption, while others are headed quickly toward destruction. There’s a lot more revealed about Twilights in both books, including their origin and history, knowledge of their limited lifespans, and the fact that there’s a whole lot more of them than I’d originally assumed. In volume 1, I had the impression they were sort of rare, but the town of Ergastulum is practically full of them. Though, of course, they’re rapidly dying off now. The series continues to be an enjoyable read, so please check it out. Support this title and maybe we’ll get more like it! One can hope.


Review copies provided by Viz Media.



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