What’s it about ?
Adaptation of a crime manga series featuring sex, drugs and ultraviolence.
The show follows the “Handymen”, a two-man team of hit-men/middlemen/whatever-you-pay-them-for-men, operating in the wretched hive of scum and villainy of Ergastulum. They take jobs that the big gangs would rather have a “neutral” party handle, although they also help out the local population on occasion. While they’re violent thugs, the idea seems to be that the city would be even worse off without them “regulating” the doldrums of its criminal underground.
Nick is the muscle of the pair ; an Asian-looking dude who wields a sword and does moves out right this side of wire-fu. He’s impressively lethal, although he can also leave people alive if he doesn’t like them. Also, the big gimmick of the show is that he’s deaf, overcompensating with heightened sight. He communicates mostly through grunts and sign language, although he can talk (in the very slurred way deaf people often do) if he gets angry enough. It’s certainly quite intimidating.
Worick, his partner, understandably handles most of the talking. And boy does he keep babbling. Fortunately, he’s got enough charisma not to be too annoying. He mostly uses guns, and holds his own enough to run a playful kill tally against Nick.
Our plot this episode involves a small gang of upstarts thinking they’re all that and making a move into “forbidden” zones against their superiors’ orders. Clearly they’ve bitten up way more than they can chew, as the mafia lords commission the Handymen (through the intermediary of an unsurprisingly corrupt police officer) to get rid of them. Which they do without breaking a sweat.
Alex is a prostitute often hanging in the back-alley behind the Handymen’s office. Her abusive pimp was part of the upstart gang, so in theory she should have been wiped out with the whole of them ; however, the pair obviously grew sweet on her, and spared her. She’s back in the alley by the end of the episode, but Worick does ask her to mind the phone whenever he’s away (since obviously Nick can’t answer it). Clearly she’s under their protection now, and there are worse positions to be in within this hellhole of a city.
Quite nice indeed. The fight scenes are decently animated, and there’s some good direction to keep the action fluid. It does good work at selling Nick’s deafness. It’s also mercifully way less brown than you’d expect of such a premise, although only the OP & ED sequences really get wild with colour.
Amazingly, it’s way less exploitative than you’d expect, given that one of the three main characters is a prostitute we often see on the job. Those short scenes are rather tastefully done.
Hello, Black Lagoon clone ! And hey, there are worse shows to emulate, especially when it’s actually rather well executed. The characters are fun, the city has lots of atmosphere (I like that the Handymen spend some time helping out random “citizens”), and I’m already getting interested in the struggles of influence between the major gangs. (Which includes the police, presumably.)
The “deaf” gimmick is a bit weird, but at least the show makes enough effort to sell it without feeling too contrived. As a pilot episode, this works very well.