We have been blessed with many great anime series this Fall 2020 season. With new thrillers such as Talentless Nana, fresh Shounen series like Studio Mappa’s beautifully animated Jujutsu Kaisen and returning classics such as Haikyu!!, Yashahime (the follow up to Inuyasha), and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Gou, there’s something for everyone right now. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in the anime community that there are plenty of buzz throughout message boards, social media pages, and streaming services over these 30+ new shows airing currently in addition to shows still running from the Summer 2020 season.
However, one show that I don’t see being often talked about is studio Doga Kobo’s urban street crime mystery series Ikebukuro West Gate Park (or IWGP for short, which I will refer to the series as such throughout the rest of this article). Based off famous Japanese author Ira Ishida’s 1997 urban mystery novel and 2000 TV series of the same name, IWGP follows street mediator Makoto Majima’s adventures throughout the crime-ridden, gang infested Ikebukuro district of Tokyo as he seeks to bring peace in its streets and relief tension between rival street gangs.
I cannot fault anyone who may had overlooked IWGP this season; especially as it is in competition with heavy hitters such as Akudama Drive, Yashahime, Tonikawa: Over the Moon For You and Higurashi Gou to name a few. Additionally, with real life issues in the foreground of the world’s stage right now, it’s easy to understand why some people may not want to watch an anime like IWGP; as the anime deals with heavy themes such as poverty, drug trafficking, gang violence, murder and so forth.
However, don’t let those real world issues and season’s best and brightest anime shows prevent you from watching IWGP. In fact, if you’re tired of the fantasy driven and laid back anime airing this Fall, and you want something more real and brutal, I have three reasons why you should watch IWGP.
- It’s grounded in realism
Unlike most of its animated peers this season, IWGP is grounded and based in reality. You won’t find our hero in an outlandish Shouen-styled battle with senseless asspulls and plot amour. There isn’t anyone here with magical powers that can wipe out a horde of enemies in mere seconds. If you’re hoping that story arcs end with an Eleventh hour deus ex machina stunt, my friend, you’re out of luck (and you should really stop watching anime that does that cliché nonsense due to bad writing).
Instead, IWGP offers normalcy through simple human vs. human interactions and interpersonal growth by the means of daily life in a major city. Street life, normal people having normal interactions, gang warfare and underworld business control the reality of IWGP. Due to that, you’ll find the stories of episodes to be realistic and easy to follow/understand – especially if you are a street person or been involved in street business.
The characters and events that shape the world of IWGP can easily found in the real world. When watching this anime, you may pause and say “I know someone as gentleman-like yet brutal like King” (the secondary hero of IWGP). It’s possible that you could find yourself reflecting on your own street days and starting trouble like the kids in this show.
In fact, I must say that the one thing that IWGP has an huge advantage over the rest of the show this season is that you can easily relate to the cast and the world, which brings me to my next point on why you should watch IWGP.
- 2. It’s Relatable
Even if you’re not a street person, you can relate to the tales of IWGP with its down-to-earth setting. Each episode of IWGP deals with a person or a story that you can easily find yourself connecting to in the real world. Do you hate drugs and the negative impact it brings to a community? Episode one of IWGP has something for you as Makoto and King bust up an illegal growth house. Mion, the female lead of that episode, had her life nearly ruined by a junkie after they ran her beloved mother over while he was under the influence of a new drug. Mion seeks vengeance to the degree that she’s willing to burn down the building that is a front for the drug operation – even if people are killed in the fire. Her rage towards junkies and drug abuse can echo through the thoughts of those who saw the destructive nature of drugs first hand.
Episode four (which is consider so far at the time of this writing as the most depressing episode of the series) explores what it means to seek justice for the death of a love one as Makoto helps cab driver Ando find the people involved with his son’s Toshi’s death as well as Ando coming to terms with the fact that his son caused his own death with his gangbanging life and short, violent temper.
Now, don’t get me wrong, IWGP isn’t completely dark as an anime, and you don’t need anything dark and gritty to find the characters and their adventures relatable. There’s a rather goofy and childish guy who is building his YouTube career up by performing incredibly childish and wild stunts throughout Ikebukuro; a reflection on how so many young children and adults will do anything to get that YouTube shine. In episode 6, Makoto is rope into playing a major role in an indie film by his film loving friend. It’s like the anime is telling us that is okay to take it easy and have fun.
With that said, it’s time to get into my final point of this article.
- 3. It’s Different
If you haven’t gotten the point by now, IWGP is different than most other shows currently airing. Not to say there’s anything wrong with wild fantasy shows to help you escape your crappy life, moe blob trash to help you feel better about yourself, or entry-level shounen action shows because you can’t branch out to other anime genre, but it’s okay to have something fresh and different to watch. Not every anime needs a girl to do fanservice shots. Not all shows need someone to fight with martial arts training. Sometimes, you need that grounded reality to balance yourself out and IWGP goes a great job in that right.
So please, do yourself a huge favor and check out IWGP. Its grounded nature in terms of its storytelling allows IWGP to be accessible to most anime fans who may not be into the more outlandish anime that is out there today. The people who make the world of IWGP are highly relatable to the point it can be scary; especially if you find connections between yourself and a certain character.
If that sounds great then please check out IWGP every Tuesdays on Crunchyroll.
[IKEBUKURO WEST GATE PARK PRODUCTION STAFF NOTES]
STUDIO: Doga Kobo (Himouto! Umaru-chan, Yuru Yuri, How Heavy Are The Dumbbells You Lift?)
ORIGINS: Crime novel and live action TV series
CREATOR: Ira Ishida (4TEEN, Akihabara@Deep, Hapi Navi)
DIRECTOR: Tomoaki Koshida (Zoku Touken Ranbu: Hanamaru, Sewayaki Kitsune no Senko-san)
CHARACTER DESIGNER: Junichirou Taniguchi (Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-Kun, Your Name, Puella Magi Madoka Magica). He’s also the chief animator director for IWGP.
SERIES COMPOSTION:Fumihiko Shimo (Air, Amagi Brilliant Park, Clannad, Higurashi Kai)
MUSIC COMPOSER: Ryuichi Takada (Soul Calibur, Tekken, Katamari Damacy)