For a manga that doesn’t even seem to have a Wikipedia entry (in English) yet, TV Tropes has already skewered this one within an inch of its life: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/Gangsta
…which, I guess, makes it awkward to say how much I enjoyed this.
Gangsta by Kosuke is the story of two “Handymen” (Benriya,) Nic an Worick, who, as such, are hired out as ‘fix it’ gangsters in the science fictional version of the “ubiquitous fantasy land,” a tough-as-nails, down-and-out, urban slum called Ergastuium. The two also have a nebulous relationship with the local police, and seem to work as informants. During an early scene where they meet up with Chad, their police contact, we discover that Nic is more than just the strong, silent type, he’s deaf. He gets by reading lips and has learned (presumably) Japanese Sign Language. He will talk, when pushed to extremes, and the mangaka does a cool thing with the lettering to imply the deaf way of speaking.
I have to admit I’m ridiculously attracted to Nic. Look at this tragic face:
Did I mention he fights with a katana?
Nic, we also discover, is a genetically-modified, short-lived human, a race of superhuman slaves called Twilights. They’re required by law to carry ID, so they’re sometimes called “Tags,” because of the military style ‘dog tags.’ They are controlled by their human overlords with a drug called Celebre (that comes in uppers and downers). Nic gets his through a black-market doctor named Dr. Theo (and Dr. Theo’s nurse, Nina, who has befriended Nic).
Early in the chapters, we meet up with Alex, a prostitute, who Nic and Worick take in after killing her pimp. She becomes the secretary, which is helpful since only Worick can answer the phones (what, with Nic being deaf), and Worick is often busy with his side-job, being a gigolo.
Yeah, did I forget to mention? This is an adult manga (seinen).
It’s not terribly explicit, but there’s a lot IMPLIED. For instance, it’s stated that Alex and Worick sleep in the same bed. We never see them doing anything, but there it is. Also, there are a lot of drug references. Not only does Nic need his to survive, but Alex was drugged into compliance by her former pimp and has withdrawal symptoms that include hallucinations.
The main story of this manga revolves loosely around the jobs the ‘handy men’ take and a mysterious group of Twilight hunters who move into town and start executing the Twilights. We get backstory for the two main characters and a lot of world-building.
What can I say? TV Tropes is dead on, but, apparently, these are all my favorite tropes bundled into one big package. I’ve confessed before that I have a weakness for characters who have been created by/used by society and then rejected. Any time there’s an underclass of any kind, you’ll find me there, rooting for them. Similarly, I have a weird thing for both drugs and prostitutes (as characters and world-building themes) that probably stems from my love of the science fiction sub genre, cyberpunk. Maybe it’s another underclass thing, I’m really not sure, but I found lots and lots to love in this manga.
I also really liked the stark art of Gangsta. There are times when all we see of a character is their footwear, and yet they’re instantly identifiable. (I love that crap.) Here’s an example of one of the color spreads: