Gangsta, Vol. 1

By Kohske. Released in Japan by Shinchosha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic @ Bunch. Released in North America by Viz Media.

One of the things that most manga fans who follow publishing closely have found is that manga readers tend to be loyal to genres rather than authors. Sure, Natsuki Takaya may have written Fruits Basket, one of the best-selling shoujo manga of the last ten years, but other similar titles have proven less stellar, and there’s no rush on anyone’s side to license Hoshi wa Utau or Liselotte to Majo no Mori, her post-Furuba work. On the other hand, when you see a title with vampires that sells, manga publishers go and find other vampire titles. (Oddly, this doesn’t work with other non-Naruto ninja titles, which tend to bomb. I wonder why.) In any case, Dogs and Black Lagoon have done quite well for Viz, but both have ‘caught up’ to Japan. Dogs is now a yearly title, and Black Lagoon is at the mercy of its author’s ‘whenever’ schedule. Clearly another similar title is needed. And so we have Gangsta.


Gangsta apparently takes place in “Ergastulum”, which judging by the decor seems to be somewhere in Southern Europe – my guess is “fantasy-world Italy”. Our heroes are mercenaries for hire, who do bad things but have good hearts deep down. Which does not stop them, however, from doing bad things. Each has a tragic past – Worick seems to have been from a rich family at one point, till he was kidnapped and lost one eye. Nick, meanwhile, has it worse – he’s a Twilight, which gives him superior strength and agility, but at the cost of lifespan and getting close to anyone – he’s a pariah. Oh, and he’s also deaf, which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with his Twilightness. The manga starts when they’re hired to wipe out a gang in town, and end up sparing one of the prostitutes in it – Alex, who becomes their new secretary. She’s the naive newcomer in this manga, needing Worick to explain things to her. Indeed, her lack of knowledge about ANYTHING in the town is suspicious in itself.

Gangsta has a very solid first volume. Its art is decent, its plot is better than its art, its characters are better than its plot, and its aesthetic is best of all. The series tends to hit all the right beats. As I noted before, its weakness may be Alex’s need to have the plot exposited to her, which can come across as blunt exposition at times, but it’s so odd I’m prepared to reserve judgment till I see more volumes. Of the two mercenaries, I’m possibly more sympathetic to Nick, but that could just be because he doesn’t speak much – while Worick’s constant chatter always seems to hide darker undertones, as we see towards the end when he brutalizes another prostitute with his harsh words. I also liked Nina, the teenage nurse at a local clinic, who shows that this isn’t just an ‘everything is awful’ world, but is allowed to have happy, innocent kids – even if they are under constant danger of being threatened and kidnapped.

This seems to be the first major work of its author, Kohske, who is female, by the way. I always like to note female creators, especially on titles like this and Dorohedoro where it may not be immediately obvious. In any case, Gangsta is definitely an M-rated title, but if you enjoy titles of this ilk, it’s definitely worth a try, and I will happily get the second volume.

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  1. Ash Lynx says

    I don’t get the whole “genre, not authors” thing. It’s definitely true, but I personally will pick up anything by Fumi Yoshinaga or Osamu Tezuka and they both do a lot of different things. And if I liked something by an author, I’m always eager to check out another one of their series. If only someone would get more Akimi Yoshida, I’d be all over that! Conversely, if I disliked something by an author, I’m likely to avoid them in the future (but not always, I always think it’s possible for authors to have one good hit and the rest duds).

  2. I want to check this out. It looks very stylish :)


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