Gangsta. has been one of favorite manga titles in recent years, with some pretty strong writing and artwork to boot. It suffers from some problems recently due to having too many villains at once, but it’s still been a good read. The creator had not too long ago launched a spin-off in the form of Gangsta: Cursed. EP_Marco Adriano, with a newcomer, Syuhei Kamo, on art duties.
Gangsta: Cursed. EP_Marco Adriano Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Drawn by: Syuhei Kamo
Translated by: Christine Schilling
Lettering by: Eric Erbes
A good decade or so ago, in the town of Ergastulum, there was a terrible incident. After being away for a good amount of time, the Destroyers had rolled back into town with the goal of murdering every Twilight that they can find. Twilights are considered to be sub-humans, killing machines that slaughter normal people. At least, that’s what Spas, a younger Destroyer, thinks. Unfortunately, his first time in the field is going to shake that belief to the core.
The Initial Reaction
Being a fan of Gangsta. going into this, I was expecting to come away liking this and getting some interesting details out of it. After all, it’s a series about one of the side characters when they were a villain and their tale of redemption, while also providing context to the threat and existence of the Destroyers. Who were they? How do they operate? How do they come together? The first volume overall laid down a good groundwork from where the series can go. It’s a very tough and brutal read, especially these days and how the series doesn’t shy away from many things either. There are definite problems for sure, but I came away initially liking the book more than having problems with it.
Starting with the story, the first volume sets up a lot, but is rather light on plot when all is said and done. The first chapter, which is #0, essentially acts as a small summary of the events that we’re going to see (though no details are given) in some brief tidbits. Then the remaining chapters focus on Marco/Spas as he and the other young Destroyers slaughter Twilights left and right. We get others reacting off of them, preparing to counteract them, and Spas starting to realize how f----d up what he’s doing actually is. We also get glimpses of where other characters were at the time, like Connie (Marco’s fiancé) and the Handymen. It’s intriguing to see these elements so many years earlier and wondering how they’ll all come together, but you are left a bit disappointed that there isn’t enough to fully chew on.
Besides setup, the other main points goals seemed to be character establishment and action. A problem I had with the main series were that villains all tended to blur together, since they were all united in their hatred and disgust for Twilights, wanting to wipe them off the face of the Earth, and were a bunch of sadists. While we’re not given much right now, the volume does provide the impression that the Destroyers do each have their own personal motivation for wanting to kill Twilights. For instance, Spas is out for revenge, Minimi is just in it for the money and has no actual prejudice against Twilights, and Marie seems almost has a religious fervor in what she is doing. It’s just enough to give these people some personality. Not to like them on any level, but enough to see them as individuals.
Then there’s the action, which also ties into the writing element of the book. The pacing is extremely quick–the book is just a breeze to get through. The reason for that roughly sixty to eighty percent of the book is just pure action with some brief character exchanges. There’s no downtime, moment to breathe, or time for reflection. Any time there are elements like that, they’re usually mixed with the action and seeing insight into how Spas is viewing the situation around him. It can be rather relenting and despite it going by quick, it’s an exhausting experience. The story is very cruel and hard to sit through at times, seeing so many innocents getting butchered left and right by the Destroyers. You ultimately know they’ll be pushed back and Spas will become Marco, seeing the light of day, but the volume would benefit from some downtime so you could take a break from the viciousness and let the characters and story breathe some more. That’s the biggest problem: the pacing and the lack of time away from the horror, because otherwise the writing is solid.
One of the biggest praises I have for the series thus far is the artwork by Syuhei Kamo. I don’t know if they worked with Kohske as an art assistant, or they’re friends, or she’s just a good artist in general, but she did a great job taking the reins here. Her artwork captured the look and feel of Kohske’s, to the point where I had to at a previous volume of Gangsta. just to look for differences in the quality and style. If, god forbid, Kohske can no longer draw the main series due to her illness, I would love Kamo to help her finish it once this series is done.
Characters are drawn fairly well. Beretta is probably the weakest design-wise, since it looks more like the artist shrunk her down instead of making her look actually younger like Spas or Striker (not helped by the dress). The layouts are strung together well, backgrounds are usually drawn in, and Kamo does a good job depicting character body language. The action is the highlight and it looks great, which is good since most of the book is just action and fight sequences. The movements and characters flow very well from panel to panel, giving the scenes a good sense of motion and energy to them. The action’s look and feel was appropriately brutal and rather thrilling to watch overall.
Gangsta: Cursed. EP_Marco Adriano Vol. 1 is a solid book. While I would not recommend it to anyone who has not read the main series, I would very much recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the series. It’s a decent start with a lot of room for improvement, with some good writing and brutal action from start to finish. If you need to scratch that Gangsta. itch, this is definitely the book for you.
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