WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Ikebukuro West Gate Park, "North Gate Smoke Tower" now streaming on Funimation.
On the outside, there doesn't seem to be anything special about Ikebukuro, the town around which Ikebukuro West Gate Park centers around. But while it seems like an ordinary place in downtown Tokyo, what lurks underneath are gangs that rule the underground world. The first episode introduces Makoto Majima who works at a fruit shop with his mother, and his friend, Takashi Andou, the enigmatic leader of a gang called G-Boys who get caught up with helping a little girl but find themselves embroiled in something much more dangerous.
Ikebukuro West Gate Park was adapted from a novel series by Ira Ishida and has since been adapted into a TV drama and manga series. The anime was originally supposed to air in July but, due to the pandemic, was delayed to October. This first episode along, with its flashy opening, sets the series up to have moments of light-heartedness interspersed with rising tensions between the gangs.
The King & Troubleshooter's Grand Entrances
Screeching through the roads, a man high on drugs drives his car, trying to outrun the car following closely behind him. Makoto, the one behind the wheel, along with the G-Boys, forces the man into a corner where he's confronted by Takashi "The King" Andou. The man charges after Takashi with a knife but with a single punch, knocks him out.
Makoto isn't officially part of the G-Boys or any other gangs but because of his friendship with Takashi, he's usually called on to act as some sort of mediator or troubleshooter when things get rough between the gangs -- which is exactly what happens soon after when Takashi brings an ash-streaked 12-year-old Mion Kurashina to Makoto.
While the three of them eat -- Mion with miso ramen, Makoto with his deluxe fruit ramen and Takashi with his fancy beef filet and foie gras -- Takashi tells Makoto that Mion was trying to set the North Gate Smoke Tower ablaze after her mother was hospitalized from getting hit by a drug addict's car. The Smoke Tower is notorious for shops that deal with drugs and lately, the people there are causing trouble. Takashi tells Makoto to do everything he can to drive the Smoke Tower out of Ikebukuro, no matter what: drugs are the enemy of the G-Boys, he declares.
The Police Presence Amid The Turf Wars
Makoto introduces Mion to Reiichirou "Big Rei" Yokoyama, a police officer who knew Makoto since he was young and often calls on him to help out with some cases. Big Rei tells them that there's a dangerous drug being developed that can bring lasting damage. It's impossible to criminalize the drug since dealers mix in other chemicals before shipping it, and analyzing the drug would take too long. In other words, these drug dealers are untouchable.
Makoto is determined to help Mion and Big Rei warns him to be careful. Mion and Makoto sneak up to the Smoke Tower and enter a herb shop. When the owner tells Mion that children shouldn't be here, she panics and flings one of the bottles at them. The owner and clerk chase after them but the two evade them by jumping from building to building.
As they catch their breath, they meet another police officer named Yoshioka who has known Makoto since he was young. Yoshioka confesses that he occasionally drops by the Tower to see if there are any clues and Makoto asks him if he knows anything that might help -- while the police can't do anything, he might be able to. Yoshioka tells him that the owner of the Smoke Tower is Ohkoshi. Thanks to the help of Zero-One, a master hacker, the G-Boys tail Ohkoshi and find out that he always heads to an apartment after rising his shops.
Okoshi Is Busted
Makoto and Takashi break into the apartment and find that Ohkoshi has been growing weed. Unfortunately, the clerk makes an early appearance, heading up to the apartment but Mion chucks a rock, angering him enough to chase after her. Just as he grabs her, Makoto comes flying in, sending a powerful kick to the face.
Later, the G-Boys hide the drugs that Makoto and Takashi stole on the shelves of the shop while Zero-One leaves an anonymous tip to the police department, leading the police to finally arrest Ohkoshi and wiping the existence of the Smoke Tower from Ikebukuro. Mion and her mother visit Makoto and thank him for his help.
In the end, Makoto can't help but remember what Big Rei told him: drug shops like these have dangerous organizations backing them up. Takashi tells him not to worry since nobody knows the G-Boys and Makoto were the ones behind all this but Makoto is still uneasy, noting that the clerk had a Kansai accent. As they talk, someone watches them with binoculars...
Though the first episode is exposition-heavy, it still provides a fairly good set-up to the anime's key characters and relationships, while still leaving the audience wanting more gang war action.