• Titles: Ikebukuro West Gate Park
  • Genre: Action, crime, urban, mystery
  • Episodes: 12
  • Studio: Doga Kobo

Ikebukuro is such a great place. Rent is relatively cheap, people help each other and although it may not be the easiest place to make a living, as long as you work hard there is always a way to make things better. But that’s only because the G-Boys have been keeping the more violent riff-raff away from the streets. Their leader, the King of Ikebukuro has always loved the town and will make sure it stays a nice place. And by his side is his childhood friend Makoto. A humble fruit merchant who has a knack for solving all types of problems. But how long will they be able to hold out against unscrupulous business owners, organized crime families and rival gangs trying to move in on their turf?

I really like criminal-based series. Or rather, I really want to like them. I loved Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens for instance, and I thought 91 days was brilliant. I guess you could also put Durarara!! in this category. But in the grand scheme of things, I find that these series often turn out unpleasant and messy with half thought out storylines. So although I was looking forward to Ikebukuro West Gate Park, I was also pretty sure I wasn’t going to enjoy it…

I’m sorry…

Production

There’s nothing wrong with the production of Ikebukuro West Gate Park. The character designs are fairly standard but not unattractive. I can see a part of the audience enjoying these specific designs. The backgrounds were a little sparse and just very generic-looking for my tastes but it’s not likely to destroy your watching experience. Heck, it’s not even that noticeable.

All in all, Ikebukuro West Gate Park is a serviceable anime. It looks fine. It moves fine, although it gets choppy from time to time and as long as you watch it in the original Japanese, it sounds fine. I don,t think there’s anything striking or particularly revolutionary about how the show was made but there’s nothing wrong with it either.

IWGP has some tasty-looking ramen, that’s always a visual I enjoy! But is that butter???

Story & Characters

When I said I was expecting not to enjoy the story, it’s mainly because I find that when backed into a corner, a lot of crime dramas will resort to unpleasant or even gruesome situations and imagery in order to get a reaction out of their audience. And they also really lay it on thick when it comes to how painful or tragic the characters’ situation is. Even 91 days is guilty of the latter up to a certain point but I thought it had earned my feelings through solid characterization and just wonderful unmerciful pacing. For the most part, I simply don’t like most melodramas and I’m quick to find what most people call regular drama, melodramatic!

And I figured that’s what Ikebukuro West Gate Park would be. Loosely held together, violent for the sake of violence and heavily dramatic. I still wanted to see it on the off chance that I was wrong and would find another gem but I didn’t really believe that.

I think it’s important that you know what my state of mind was going in because it really affected what my experience with this anime ended up being.

See, I was all wrong about what Ikebukuro West Gate Park is but it’s also not a fun crime comedy I can wholeheartedly recommend. The best way I can describe it is that Ikebukuro West Gate Park is a very naive show. And that clumsy naiveté probably saved it for me but it’s also going to really limit it for a lot of people.

I wanted an image for “a lot of people”

Instead of one ongoing plot or at least a main central plot, Ikebukuro West Gate Park is very much structured as a bad guy of the week. There are some two-part episodes but that’s really as far as it goes for ongoing storylines. And that was my first surprise. It helps a lot with keeping the narrative focused and clear because it really only needs to concern itself with a short 25 minute or so story. Of course, it also means that pretty much all the stories stay shallow but I think that in this case, it was a good tradeoff. I’m not sure the show had the writing resources to take advantage of an expansive storyline and the risk of just turning everything into a barely held together mess was high.

Another thing I didn’t expect is that King isn’t a main character. The head of the notorious G-Boys gang is certainly an important character but he only makes sporadic appearances in a few of the storylines, the show actually follows Makoto who is a generally unaffiliated independent. As such, it’s not so much a nitty-gritty crime drama, as a McGuyver style mystery action series. And I think that also helped keep the pacing brisk and the drama minimal.

I’m pretty sure that’s not blood

Finally, it’s kind of childish. I mean there are crimes, heck there are even murders in this show but I couldn’t escape the feeling that it was written for children with both the good and the bad that entails. Even though Ikebukuro West Gate Park tackles some pretty complex themes. For instance, I was surprised to see such an insistence on the plight and struggles of immigrants… It handles its storylines in a very surface-level way. The moralities in this show are all very facile and black and white. The stakes and spelled out for us right from the start and any variables or intricacies are brushed to the side in favour of clean-cut easy-to-follow narratives.

And you have to understand, that’s not a good thing. It makes for a pretty forgettable show for one. But it also kept the show from ever becoming maudlin or depressing. Most of the stories even have impossibly sweet happily ever after endings.

Asa such, even though I could clearly see the shortcomings of the series, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, I did find myself enjoying the show. It was a great sort of anime to put on when you don’t want anything too deep or thought-provoking.

At the end of the day, Ikebukuro West Gate Park is a show with a lot of faults that prevent it from being a good show. However, I think they also help it avoid being a bad show… Does that make any sense?

You might like this anime if:

You are looking for a nice background anime. You like some of the character models!

My favourite character:

Tomomi Isogai – what can I say, I liked the ending!

Suggested drink:

a West Side

  • Every time anyone says G-Boys – take a sip
  • Every time Makoto and King share a meal – get some snacks
  • Every time someone says “Ikebukuro” – raise your glass
  • Every time Makoto mentions being a journalist – take a sip
  • Every time anyone gets ramen – drool
  • Every time Makoto’s mom chimes in – take a sip
  • Every time Ozaki dances – clap politely
  • Every time anyone ends up in the hospital – take a sip
  • Every time Makoto talks to his police friend – take a sip
  • Every time the Red Angels show up as a gang – scawwy
  • Every time Makoto gets mad – actually scary!
I got one image of the main character in!

I save all my screencaps on my Pinterest and you can find more there if you are interested. But I still like to show you a few in the post. If you’re like me, screencaps are something that really helps you decide to watch an anime or not.

6 thoughts

  1. For my money, “Gangsta”, “Black Lagoon”, and “Jormungand” rank among the best crime-based shows. This series sounds a bit like “Scar on the Praeter”.

  2. Apparently I purchased the fourth volume of the English translation of the manga WAY back in Jun 2006. I barely remember anything more than some female nudity, the protagonist sleeping with a random girl who goes missing, fails to find her before she is killed, goes on a rampage, and is only spared retaliation from by interference from his mob related friend who wants to recruit him. And then life goes on and he looks for new girls to sleep with. Meh.

    1. Huh no nudity in the anime. Not even anything close to fanservice. One guy goes shirtless a lot…

  3. I actually had to think for a second or two what show that was; it didn’t leave much of an impression. I do remember liking the show more than most of the people I heard talk about it at the time. I think in a seasonal ranking it would have been near the top of the bottom quartile? I think you described it pretty well, but I don’t remember it enough for that to be more than a hunch. Decently entertaining, but ultimately forgettable. I think it had some stuff that bothered me, too, but I’m not actually sure if I’m not thinking of some other show… Could I be any vaguer?

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