Gangsta Volumes 1 and 2 by Kohske
I was pretty intrigued by Gangsta when I first heard that Viz was going to be translating this title. I always am interested in series that get the deluxe treatment of the Viz Signature line. The art looked very stylish, and I generally enjoy the few examples of seinen written by women authors that we get translated over here, so I was already intrigued for a few months before finally getting my hands on a couple volumes.
First of all, to totally judge a manga by its cover, I was immediately captivated by the cover designs! The front and back covers of both volumes show the same scene from different perspectives, showcasing the personalities of the main characters Nic and Worick. The first volume shows Nic glaring out at the reader, with Worick turned away. On the back Worick has his finger raised over his lips to prevent someone from telling a secret. Worick and Nic are handymen, mercenaries, couriers, and assassins taking on jobs no one else will. Their day opens in a way that conveys the gritty and corrupt nature of the city of Ergastulum, as a hooker gets beat up and the police chief asks the handymen to deal with recent gang activity, promising them “all their goods” as payment.
As the day unfolds, more gets revealed about Nic and Worick. Nic is a “Tag” or “Twilight,” who appears to be an ex-soldier who was the subject of some sort of enhancement experiments that have turned him into a deadly warrior. Nic is deaf, and Kohske has come up with some clever ways of portraying this, by representing his sign language with a different style of word balloons and carefully drawing them as emanating from his hands as he gestures. Nic is incredibly deadly, but he is viewed as subhuman by almost everybody but Worick. The duo quickly becomes a platonic (so far) threesome, as the handymen decide to liberate Ally, the hooker who was being beat up by her john before. When the police chief objects, Nic yells that the handymen will take whatever they want.
What follows is a mix between slice of life communal living issues, drug deals, and over the top action scenes as Ally putters around the handymen’s apartment, reading sign language dictionaries and answering their phone. She gradually learns a little more about Worick and Nic, including the fact that Worick occasionally hires himself out as a gigalo and that his past might be very far from the circles where he runs in now.
There are a few elements of Gangsta that reminded me of other series, but not in a bad way. The intense friendship of Nic and Worick set against a gritty background with mysterious drugs enhancing human abilities gave me some slight Wild Adapter flashbacks, although Gangsta isn’t very shonen-ai (yet). I’m sure there’s some Gangsta doujinshi out there that is though! Worick’s mysterious and privileged past made me remember Antique Bakery a bit. And the 3 rules for Twilight behavior are basically Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics. But Kohske hints at so many different plots to be explored in future volumes, I’m wanting to see the shared past of the handymen explored, wondering if Ally is better off with them than without them, and curious to see how Nic manages to deal with the latest in a procession of super human enemies.
Kohske’s art is gritty and stylish, showcasing the dynamic nature of the fights the handymen find themselves embroiled in as well as the run down area of the city where they live. The illustrations in this book are for sure not style over substance, as there are nuanced and varying character designs for all the members of the expanding cast. Nic’s growling antagonism and Worick’s intelligently constructed careless facade are both nimbly portrayed, as are the wordless exchanges and day to day moments that say volumes about the friendship they share. After enjoying the first two volumes, I’m certainly going to see about reading the rest of this series.