Ikebukuro West Gate Park

Ikebukuro West Gate Park

Ikebukuro West Gate Park anime series cover art
Ikebukuro West Gate Park

Series Overview

Ikebukuro West Gate Park (IWGP / 池袋ウエストゲートパーク) is allegedly a romantic drama mystery if you’re to believe what MyAnimeList says. I would just call it a drama. It has some slight mystery aspects, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a mystery series. And I have no idea where the romance comes in.

The series is about a kid(?) who works as a troubleshooter for gangs in Ikebukuro’s West Gate Park area. While he’s more affiliated with one gang (the G-Boys) than the other (the Red Angels), he’s still respected and accepted by both sides for helping to keep the peace between them.

If the G-Boys and Red Angels were the only groups with their sights set on Ikebukuro, there wouldn’t be much of an issue. However, there are outside forces that wish to destabilize the relationship between these two street gangs so that they can make a move on their turf.

This is where the mystery aspect of the story comes into play. The G-Boys and Red Angels both believe it’s the other gang that’s causing trouble on their turf. And it’s up to Makoto to figure out who’s really behind the violence in Ikebukuro before the G-Boys and Red Angels go to war.

Again, I don’t really feel like the mystery aspect of this series is enough to designate it as a “mystery anime.” It has as much mystery as any series with a plot. Just because something needs to be figured out in order to solve the issues of the series doesn’t make it a mystery series.

I had some high expectations for this series going into the season because it’s based on a novel. Yes, a real novel that’s supposedly popular in Japan. Unfortunately, as I’ll go into later on, it didn’t live up to those expectations.

G-Boys and Red Angels

The two primary gangs in Ikebukuro are the G-Boys and Red Angels. The G-Boys’ color is blue, and the Red Angels’ color is obviously red. Something I did like about this color-coding is that Makoto, the troubleshooter who works with both sides, often wears a purple jacket. I just enjoy little details like that.

While the G-Boys and Red Angels are definitely gangs that are very capable of violence, it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t Yakuza. Yakuza are the organized crime groups that are involved in drug, weapon, and human trafficking, prostitution, witness intimidation, and every other illegal activity they can make money off of.

The G-Boys and Red Angels are local street gangs that are effectively glorified groups of kids (and young adults) who band together for a sense of unity and protection. I don’t believe either group is involved in trafficking of any kind or other major crimes. The only time they’ll get violent is when someone hurts one of their own.

Kyouichi Ozaki from the anime series Ikebukuro West Gate Park
Kyouichi Ozaki

Of the two groups, the G-Boys were in Ikebukuro first. They’ve been established in the West Gate Park area for a long time and everyone who lives in Ikebukuro knows who they are. Not only does everyone know not to mess with the G-Boys, but they also know that they can rely on them for help.

For example, if a shop owner is suddenly being charged an exorbitant price for rent, they can ask Takashi “King” Andou, the leader of the G-Boys, for help with their landlord.

The Red Angels are different from the G-Boys in a few ways. First, they’re the relative new kids on the block who set up shop on the border of the G-Boys turf. But what really sets them apart is that they don’t seem to engage in the same community outreach that the G-Boys do.

From what we’re shown in the series, the Red Angels are more interested in helping the community through things like street performance. Kyouichi Ozaki, the leader of the Red Angels, provides entertainment to the masses with his dancing. They’re more invested in the cultural side of Ikebukuro than the business side.

Not What I Expected

As seems to frequently be the case recently, I was betrayed by MyAnimeList in terms of my expectations. First, the synopsis used for the Rail Romanesque short-form anime series was actually the synopsis for the visual novel that had nothing to do with the anime. And now, the synopsis for IWGP seems to be for much later in the story.

What I thought I was going to be watching was a series about a war between two rival gangs and a kid (I still don’t know how old Makoto is supposed to be) who get caught up in the middle of it. The synopsis even states that “violence results in Makoto losing a loved one” — something that simply doesn’t happen.

I think that line is also from an edited version of the synopsis. Originally, it said that Makoto loses his girlfriend to the violence. I guess that’s where the romance tag came from. But after watching the series, I can safely say that Makoto never has a girlfriend at any point in it. And as I already mentioned, there’s no romance.

Makoto Majima from the anime series Ikebukuro West Gate Park
Makoto Majima

So what’s the anime really like then? Without having read the novel this anime is based on, I’m going to assume that the anime only adapts the prologue. My reasoning for this is that not much really happens, and what does happen appears to be setting up what’s described in the synopsis for the series on MyAnimeList.

The vast majority of IWGP is fairly episodic. In each episode, some problem will arise and then Makoto will get involved to fix it. It’s only in the final two or three episodes that things start to come together into what you could call the main plot.

When you go into a series expecting a deep story and gang war action, but instead get an episodic series about a kid solving random people’s life problems, it’s extremely underwhelming. IWGP was the biggest disappointment of the season for me.

Conclusion

Before the season began, I thought that Ikebukuro West Gate Park could be in contention for best anime of the season. However, in the end, I think it’s a 5/10. And while the story may get better later on (if it actually does continue), I don’t see the anime getting another season.

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