Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 1st Episode Review
Synopsis: Crime-ridden Ikebukuro is a haven for violent gangs, the Yakuza, and home to Makoto Majima. To protect his friends, this charismatic troubleshooter mediates disputes among the warring factions—even fixing problems the police can’t. But when a rising tide of violence results in Makoto losing a loved one, can he ride out the storm, or will he drown in all the spilled blood that floods his streets? (Official Funimation Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: At a more general glance, Ikebukuro West Gate Park seems poised to be one of those shows where a specific gang of hooligans are presented as the local guardians who tackle and take down the ‘actual’ criminals when the police’s hands are tied or not fast enough to handle the problem. And that entails the usual tropes associated with that premise; gang members and leads who actually have a heart of gold and can’t ignore a child’s tears, or leaders who always look extra suave as they take down the ‘baddies’ without ever breaking a sweat. Every other gang in the show is nothing but scum, but our boys here, the G-Boys, salt of the earth!
Tom: Ikebukuro’s first episode primarily follows one Makoto Majima, a young man who has ties not only to the G-Boys, but more official channels, like the police, as well. To introduce audiences to the series’ concept we’re offered an in via a twelve-year old girl seeking justice against the drug dealer that supplied illicit materials to a driver that struct her mom with his truck. Makoto looks after the girl as he teaches her just what the G-boys are capable of, and brings the drug dealer to justice. While this concept isn’t all that unique, a series can still be quite fun if executed well. Unfortunately, Ikebukuro West Gate Park’s first outing isn’t terribly impressive. The detective work feels a little flimsy, and of particular note the way in which they bring the drug dealer to justice by planting evidence in his shop makes me question whether the charges would ever actually stick. If this is the best the first episode has to offer I’m not convinced that West Gate Park is going to be able to provide well developed mystery/detective content.
Linny: Ikebukuro West Gate Park could possibly appeal to some viewers through its seemingly all male, adult aged main cast and leads. The show quickly introduces us to Makoto, who isn’t an actual member of the G-Boys but works with them alongside Takashi, the ‘King’ of the G-Boys. Makoto is clearly meant to be the more approachable of the two with his more down to earth, average guy next door vibe. He’s just a tad goofy, loves odd food and listens to his mama. He’s there to appeal to those who love their guy next door leads. On the other hand, Takashi is the cool, mysterious and confident leader who’s designed to attract those who prefer their anime leads to be more sophisticated and confident. Neither break the mold but for fans of their archetypes, they probably still offer enough to make Ikebukuro West Gate Park seem more appealing if only for the sake of its leads.
Tom: I think though Makoto’s casual attitude and Takashi cool leader personas might be another issue here. Both characters are generally so subdued that Mion, our twelve-year old girl and introductory lead for the story, sticks out far more. Her defiance against the adults around her, and her quick to make a scene attitude is instantly more memorable than either Makoto or Takashi. Takashi’s character remains distant enough that his likability is carried entirely by his handsome, suave design. Makoto, despite getting the majority of the screen time, remains a fairly bland and unmemorable lead, with the most striking aspect to his character being the one or two times he gets flustered as his various connections reveal embarrassing moments from his childhood to the girl he’s protecting. Not all anime characters need be bombastic, but for a first episode already suffering from a ho-hum, middle of the road mystery, it would help if the characters had a bit more spark to them.
Linny: By episode’s end, Ikebukuro West Gate Park seems to heavily hint at a much bigger plot and conspiracy looming in the shadows as opposed to the more minor story introduced in this episode where all the attention is focused on taking down a single person/store selling harmful drugs. It’s hard to say just what tone the show will maintain as it carries on. Maybe things will get a lot more intense and pick up. To be fair, if the idea of gangsters with a heart of gold saving the day is your weak spot, it’s likely Ikebukuro West Gate Park might still impress. While it never soars to majestic heights, it never dips down too far either.
Tom: While Makoto and Takashi may not be the most gripping of leads, and the show’s chops for mystery have yet to manifest, I don’t think Ikebukuro is actually all that bad a watch. It’s flawed, but still generally succeeds otherwise. The episode’s writing remains tight enough that it never actually drags, and generally keeps you engaged the whole way through. You’re dolled out enough answers and developments during Makoto’s investigation that it always feels like you’re making progress, and that helps to keep your attention even when the characters maybe aren’t all that interesting. As Linny said, the show teases bigger conspiracies, and maybe that’s where Ikebukuro will start showing a bit more promise. Right now it might not be one of the Fall’s top offerings, but it’s certainly not the worst. Not even close.
Ikebukuro West Gate Park is available for streaming via Funimation.com