Revenge is a dish best served cold.
First of all, let me say that I’ve actually never seen The Godfather…one, two, or three. I’ve never seen Scarface, or The Untouchables. I haven’t watched many mafia movies, or at least any modern ones (my repertoire is actually a lot more old school, such as gangster classics like White Heat, or comedies like Some Like it Hot). But I’m not hopeless in this situation. I’m from Chicago after all, this stuff is in my blood. 😛 Soo, this is how we’re going to do things, see? *using my best Edward G. Robinson impression (do you people even know who that is?)* We’re going to take this all at a nice pace and see where it takes us. Ya get me?
The stage is set.
First of all, I have to say that for a premiere, Studio Shuka did an extremely good job. While the story is indeed quite simple and one that isn’t striking much new ground. Yet, in this story I don’t see that as as big of a problem as in other places. There are those storylines that are less “cliche” and more “classic”, and a straightforward tale of revenge is one of them. From Le Comte de Monte Cristo, to Ben-Hur, the story of an underdog who was vilely wronged, and who cannot get justice through conventional means, taking vengeance into their own hands, has been a fascinating read no matter the continent or culture. Sometimes they are tales of triumph, sometimes of tragedy, it all depends on who’s telling it. We write books about it, watch movies and plays on it, sing songs about it. It’s a subject matter that we are all familiar with.
Now, the trick is…how well, can you tell, such a familiar story?
I think someone might need to redecorate…or just decorate, that would be good too.
We start off with our protagonist this time around, whose name is Avilio Bruno, only…it’s not. His real name is Angelo Lagusa, the son of a family who had ties to the head mafia crime family in a city in SomeState, USA called “Lawless”. (A rather on the nose name for a town.) When we first see Avilio/Angelo, simply seeing his small bare, leaking hovel, tells you a huge chunk of his story. No spoken exposition is needed to tell us what type of man this is. This a man who lives from day to day, who lives in hiding and is ready to split at a moment’s notice. He has a hardened look about him, yet, somehow there is also no spark of life to his eyes either. He keeps completely to himself and doesn’t bother to talk to anyone unless he needs to. In fact the only look of emotion and life we get from him, is when some mysterious individual sends him a letter using his real name, sending him a picture of a young boy in early 20s garb. But the look that we do get from him, actually seems worse than the lifeless one…
The face that launched a series
And thus we are thrown into flashback. We see a story unfold that we both knew instantly and yet were still horrified to see. If there is one thing that this series does right, is that it sets a tone and an atmosphere. Not only through the art, but the dialogue, coloring, and especially the music, which does indeed have “Godfather” tones throughout. I was swept away by those few moments of seeing Angelo’s childhood and watching the tragedy unfold that you know is coming and yet still feeling the pain when it does. You briefly meet the Lagusa family: Angelo–a much happier, daring young kid than the Avilio that we met just prior. His little brother, Luce–an innocent child who was barely even aware of the dangerous lifestyle his family led in order to provide the comfortable living he was used to, and whose light was snuffed out way too soon. His mother and father, Elena and Testa–both of them seemed model parents…or at least as much as one can be and still be members of the mafia.
Last night of innocence…
When a coup d’etat occurs within the Family, it spells doom for all the old guard, and unfortunately that includes Angelo’s father and through him, the rest of his family. In only a few moments, Angelo loses everyone his loves, and on his birthday of all days. It’s a heartbreaking scene that you know has to be there in order for the plot to begin, but it still hurts just the same. I really liked how they didn’t play the opening credits until after this, complete with interspersed snippets of animation from the show’s setting. I honestly thought these were the closing credits at first, and had to recheck that we were actually only at the midpoint. The opening half was engaging enough to think that the entire episode had already passed without me knowing it.
Tragedy unfolds in an instant.
The second half of the episode wasn’t as great as the first part, but still very good as we meet the Avilio (the man that Angelo became after than night) as he returns back to his hometown after having been on the run as the only living witness to his family’s murder. The first thing his does is meet up with his brother-by-another-mother, Corteo, who has become an aspiring chemist turned bootlegger in order to make ends meet and save for school. I can already tell that while Corteo’s name literally means “following” or “procession”, he could possible serve as Avilio’s moral compass as the series continues. He’s the only one left who knew the Angelo before the Avilio. He’s the only one who knows the good person who was there before the events of that night closed him off. I know that in that scene of them meeting again after so long, it felt that Avilio coerced Corteo to join him using their relationship to his advantage, but I have a feeling that the mild-mannered kid knew–at least a little–of what he was getting himself into.
Remember these eyes, you’ll see them again.
The scene at the speakeasy was an interesting and fun way of introducing the town from this new perspective without having too much spoken explanation, and to reiterate what type of characters we will be seeing here. It serves to let us know of the Families involved and their relationship with each other. We learn more of the Vanetti family who were responsible for the Lagusa family deaths. And even more importantly, we get a full introduction to Nero Vanetti, who we barely met at the beginning during the murder scene and was the one who let Angelo get away. Whether it was on purpose or because he was a lousy shot, we don’t fully know yet.
Nero is our other secondary main character and one of the targets for Avilio’s revenge. We know very little about him and haven’t spent that much time with him, but I’m interested in seeing what he brings to the table and how the tragic friendship between him and Avilio plays out. Will Avilio strike at those around him first and take out the whole family, or is he centering on the Vanetti main family specifically. I also find it funny that he’s one of only three people in the entire series who was given an actual Italian name. Yes, other than “Angelo”, “Elena”, ‘Vincente” and “Nero”, almost every other character so far, has Italian words as names: Corteo- “following”, Luce- “light”, Testa- “head”, Fango – “mud”, Serpente- “snake”, etc. I wonder if this is on purpose by the writers, showing us which characters are actually important enough to have real names, while the others simply have names that tell us of their purpose to the plot? Or…I could be reading too much into it and they really just were flipping through a Italian-Japanese dictionary. Either or…
In fact, it’s interesting that despite this taking place in the USA during 1920s Prohibition Era, how “European” a lot of it actually is. From the names to the settings to the atmosphere, it really feels as if we should be in classic Italy, rather than the swingin’ 20s America. I mean everyone is Italian! I can understand ethnic communities and such, but I’d expect to at least meet someone who didn’t carry an old school Italian name from the old country.
Indeed, this series has a very Western feel about it, and I think that that is probably who Shuka is catering to mostly here. From the music to the characters, everything about it hold a Western tone, similar to Baccano that came some years before it.
We got a lot of setup for this story as Avilio implements his first day in his path to revenge. I highly doubt that we’re going to have a day an episode, or else this is going to be a much longer series than I had anticipated. But while I’ve never really been into serious gangster stories, I was impressed with this one and am interested in how this is going to play out between our main characters. There’s usually only two ways that this can end–and in both of those cases, at least one of our main two end up dead. I’m pretty sure that that is what will happen here as well, but we’ll see. A line that Fango said to Angelo really interested me. While the kid had a knife to his throat, he seemed to look into his eyes and implied that whatever he saw there, showed that Angelo didn’t have it in him to kill. And honestly, I think that’s true. He’s been through Hell and had to grow up really fast and learned how to fight and threaten, but I’m highly doubt that he’s ever actually killed anyone before…or at least purposely. We’ll have to see how long that bit of innocence lasts.
PS. Also, you might have noticed that I keep switching between Avilio and Angelo. Don’t worry, I am doing it on purpose. I’m not trying to confuse you, there is a method to my madness.
See, I told you you’d be seeing those eyes again.