Gatchaman Crowds – I Really Am Gloomy

“Why wasn’t I told?”
“I’m the Prime Minister, you know??”

Here lies Gatchaman wallowing in its eccentricity. With its usual blasé self trying to riddle the audience with political and public affairs, one of its most problematic aspects is its inability to foment conflict without making the occasional impaired step in logic. While Gatchaman lends itself as a simple product, this unfortunately does not account for its specious foundation.

Where’s Big Brother, Aniki?

[HorribleSubs] Gatchaman Crowds - 09 [720p].mkv_00:11:49_09-08-13

Here’s one of the most natural questions any viewer should have asked him or herself. Despite the global scale of Gatchaman‘s thickening plot, at what point do we see any semblance of government or congress take action? These newfound “terrorists”—which are basically Nakamura’s hilariously hidden insult towards 2ch—are destroying central political offices and buildings because of their poorly misguided belief that that’s “saving” the world. However, what has the government (or any subset therein) done in Gatchaman? Without knowing their importance in the story, this makes the lowlifes’ targets simply “names”—useless entities readily made on the spot and destroyed just the same, all careless freedom within the creator’s whim.

We don’t even need to see international arbitration. At least throw up some talking figureheads on television screens, or pass long-standing political debates within the backgrounds of Gatchaman‘s dialogue. It’s trivial. Otherwise, applying these forms of “terrorism” as a dramatic effect simply produces more skepticism. More purposely, what’s the point in trying to relate the power of the community—one of the most outstanding motifs in Gatchaman—when it ignores the most influential communal aspect in life?

No complications are put forth, so it isn’t really a surprise then to see elementary notions of organization and individualism. Groups plainly take one side or the other, and there’s a heavy amount of hivemind groupthink involved. Panning over to random faces voicing one-liner comments, or soundbiting the anonymous community, makes for a very forced and rudimentary method of understanding popular opinion.

Let’s “Update” The World!

Anyone remember this guy?

Anyone remember this guy? Yeah, I don’t know what happened to him either.

Tying hand in hand with the existing-but-not-really-existing governments, the biggest conflicts seems to arise as a result of GALAX, an alien technology (no pun intended) whose foundation is never quite transparent. Berg-Katze apparently has the ability to bestow such power to Rui, but instead of using his true strength to watch the world burn, he decides to use whatever limited ones his crossdressing minion has instead. Let’s just say that of all the exciting manipulative powers in Berg-Katze’s arsenal, seeing digital Goombas play wack-a-mole on nameless buildings isn’t the most exciting way to build suspense.

Perhaps what’s more noticeable is how purely heavy-handed the GALAX integration has been. A trending botnet which not only syncs your Facebook with your Twitter, but can get you out of police tickets and inconspicuously monitor your location? Of course everyone should use that! I kid, but Gatchaman really does indicate just how ignorant it is of real-life complications—always conveniently leaning itself back onto buzzwords like “update”. (Using the English term makes it doubly important.) Just this episode, X, the AI head honcho of Crowds, is tricked by Berg-Katze into believing that he’s “Rui”. You really have to wonder why the writers made the AI system one with literal, artifical intelligence in the first place, if it’s so inept at detecting its master.

The Questions… So Many Questions

[HorribleSubs] Gatchaman Crowds - 09 [720p].mkv_00:00:41_09-08-13

Nakamura must be plainly mocking his viewers with all of these unsung personalities. He sets forth so many strange premises without ever explaining them that you can’t help but feel this is done purposefully to raise eyebrows. Rui has a penchant for crossdressing and is surely the most attractive of the bunch (I care not for dairy-swelling Hajime or notSaya). But… why? How on earth does one introduce something like that without at least taking five minutes of his time to explain it? You don’t have to go at Fujoshiken lengths, but at least offer the minimal context.

More importantly, what about the Gatchaman powers themselves, or the often referenced cosmic entities outside Earth? There has been too little exploration of this portion of the story despite it taking half the title’s name (and arguably what most were looking forward to when starting this series; I know I was). This makes it difficult to put the conflicts in perspective without knowing the scope of their powers. Only casually mentioning devices such as signature weapons makes Gatchaman’s uniqueness strike a meager dent into the story. It’s comical to see Hajime hold such a maniacal obsession for stationery, but such small additions into Gatchaman come so infrequently that you often forget they exist. Hajime’s parents? Their school life? Other Gatchaman? Utsutsu’s healing powers? The list goes on and on.

It’s Hip to Be Square

[HorribleSubs] Gatchaman Crowds - 09 [720p].mkv_00:15:42_09-08-13

While at first intriguing ideas, it’s a bit unfortunate how incomplete the cast is altogether; they’re all simple caricatures of key personality traits. It may not be as monotonous as the colors of the rainbow (their visual designs sort of are), but they get all too easily typecasted as a result of Gatchaman‘s very simplistic storytelling. What more do we learn of them aside from pitiful catchphrases and the same dynamics, played ad nauseam? You can see hints of development with Utsutsu opening up to Hajime for example, but it’s an insignificant occurrence when she simply relapses to her mentally challenged self, only meeking out the next “I’m gloomy” when she has the chance. Hajime displays the occasionally intelligent quip and lets out that she knows more than she seems, but this is too often reprised throughout the story. What else do we know about her?

This lies true for the cast as a whole, and Gatchaman‘s eccentricities even start to repeat themselves. Hajime, Berg-Katze, and O.D. all share too much of the same gay, highly inflective dialogue that distinguishes no one. This is despite a large attempt made by Nakamura to indicate the opposite—that this eccentricity offers individuality. Tachibana also holds a larger presence in the first episodes but has fallen more recently as just the dull, rule-obeying go getter. While characterization doesn’t need to be a primary focus in every good story, it does require attention in moments where our understanding of the characters offer more meaning to their actions. Why O.D. is unable to use his Gatchaman, for example, is certainly one thing which would help us know more about him.

Tasking Insomniacs

"Cell phones\u2014and an autistic boy stiffly lumbering his eyes. " Portrait of the Modern Superhero

“Cell phones—and an autist stiffly lumbering his eyes. ” Portrait of the Modern Superhero As a Young Man

Let’s be honest here. In many of the latest episodes, Gatchaman is simply boring. The story has been taking such a painstakingly slow pace with little action, and has achieved at carving out precisely little. While Gatchaman doesn’t need to have edgy power battles like a certain other social misfit (hi Shingeki), it also doesn’t need to take the other side of the spectrum by producing drolling conflicts all schemed out by the interwebs and “PR” campaigns. These would be inherently more interesting if they offered stronger insights into their worldbuilding, or answered the innumerable questions and plot holes set forth. But they don’t, so there really isn’t much to look forward to every episode.

When Gatchaman does decide to add some “action”, it delivers this in the cheesiest ways. Preventing spoiled milk can’t possibly be this exciting! The main villain is simply too juvenile in his antics and causes very little destruction and mischief, despite him taking on such a pivotal anti-role in the story. Impersonations, “raping” people’s first kisses (I use “rape” here because Japan makes it such a big deal), driving randomly on an empty highway, or curtsying around Rui’s apartment simply isn’t exciting. What’s even more peculiar is that you’re watching all these lunatics fight on a global scale, while with motivations the equivalent to why preschoolers play makeshift wars in a sandbox.

My Impression: “Underwhelming”

This isn’t to say I hate everything about Gatchaman. The bursting visuals, retro and electric pop tracks, and strange character designs start the show off with a very imaginative touch. I do feel its visuals and chilling soundtrack partially make up for these flaws.

However, it’s simply a shame that Gatchaman‘s script is only skin deep, and doesn’t take advantage of these greater strengths as much as it could. When your greatest assets are your audiovisuals, you shouldn’t head for a superficial media battle which relies so heavily on the quality of its content. The Gatchaman fight scenes have excellent rhythm to them, and I only wish they had explored this option more so than the way they’re currently inducing (and solving) their meddlesome problems.

I'm starting to agree.

I almost have to agree.

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4 comments

  1. You bring some interesting points, but to be honest, most of your doubts and questions are actually answered in the show itself. Perhaps a lack of interest has resulted in lack attention? In any case, my advice is to watch all the episodes again.

    Personally, I really like the show. It’s one of my favorite at the moment.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Really, they have? It’s possible that I simply didn’t pay enough attention to certain portions of the show. But it does prompt me to ask what specific questions were and weren’t answered. For example, when I ask what happened to MESS, I’m asking what happened to it after it goes buddy-buddy with Hajime. Did its species all return back to their home planet, or are they still lounging around to appear again in a later episode? Overall, do you think that Gatchaman answers more questions than it asks?

      I have mixed opinions about it. Despite my complaints, I still feel Gatchaman belongs on the upper echelon of this season’s lineup (honestly that’s not asking much however). I’m also not particularly a fan of writing negative posts, but I did feel a bit irked by this latest episode enough to throw up this post.

      1. The show hasn’t ended yet, so this judgement comes prematurely. I wonder as well if MESS will be utilized again; it’d be a shame to have only been a plot device to pull at the front the main theme of the series, which is communication.

        The government has been mentioned briefly in that talk between Rui and that one of the Hundred. I believe that Nakamura within his limited time of 12 eps decided to let certain things implied and associated with our reality. Btw the ‘terrorists’ remind me of Anonymous; your take on them being a parallel to 2chans is very interesting.

        X is still a program which processes only the data the way it’s been taught to. But as a forgiving sign just the last episode we see it having doubts since fake!Rui’s actions seem bizarre.

        About Rui’s crossdressing: Nakamura probably thought it’s self-explanatory that this is a disguise of sorts. And yet this must be the sole issue that upsets me in the series. I had hopes that in combination with OD queerness we’d have a new representation of transgenderism, which sadly doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.

        Sugane has made progress from the very rigid ‘I obey the rules’ to ‘I take initiative’. Pretty big change don’t you think? Utsutsu probably has more development to go through since we haven’t seen her transform yet. Generally, I like almost all the characters. So, I don’t mind whether they seem to fit stereotypes or not. And as I said there are still episodes left.

      2. If MESS doesn’t appear again, I could still see its purpose as a quaint introduction to Hajime’s philosophies, and to how the show orients itself toward friendship, mutual understanding/benefit, “community”, and whatnot. However, it does strike me as odd that they would take the time to take such a quick-and-fast arc approach particularly for only a 1-cour series (which really doesn’t have much time as is).

        To an extent I agree about the limited interaction with the government and it all implicitly taken under assumption. But this does beg the question—as with many sentai/super hero tales—how unresponsive and inept the government is, as all responsibility to “save the world” is placed onto our alien Gatchaman friends. Why has any semblance of government, even on the municipal level when Hajime was shown previously interacting with the city mayor, not taken action? This is most relevant to Gatchaman especially, because one of its many motifs is the upbringing of social organization and victory through a commonly shared goal. However at what point is national (or global) government, which is one of the most profound and influential aspects of organization, not having so much as an effect on Gatchaman’s story? Soundbiting various people on the streets (even if they be military officers) or the web isn’t as impactful as a unified, consolidated response. It’s also peculiar that despite this motif, the Gatchaman are solving the situation themselves. Where’s that purposed “community” when the people simply move from reliance on one alien technology (GALAX/Crowds) to another (le Gatchas)? Surely faith can’t be conquered so easily in real life, nor should it be.

        But X is AI! (I think.) I’m making a minor nitpick on this point of all things, but it is a general pattern I’ve found in Gatchaman, where it occasionally tries to build tension when it shouldn’t need to. Here, you notice X is “suspicious” (whatever that means if it isn’t AI) of Katz-Berge, and is relatively “unhappy” with the situation. Why is this necessary? I may not find Suisei no Gargantia all too solid a title, but I will say that I’ve found Chamber a much better method of featuring robot-human interaction. Then again, Chamber simply had more air time, so the comparison isn’t too fair.

        This is a plot point I forget, but does (did) the public know the identity of GALAX’s creator? Otherwise, I’m not sure why he couldn’t simply move around as Rui Ninomiya—boy geeky genius. If you mean he crossdresses as his form of “donning a super hero costume” when saving others with the Crowds, this can’t be the answer. After all, he walks around in roughly the same attire/makeup outside in the day as he does when alter ego Spiderman at night.

        The transgenderism is an interesting topic. I too would have liked at least some social implications about this. It’s potential for great discussion, but in the end not realized as a part of Gatchaman.

        Yup, there is always time to “wait and see” what happens next. However, I haven’t found Sugane to be making as much initiative insomuch as him cowing down to Hajime’s blunted peer pressure. There’s intriguing flashbacks with his relation to Joe, but they haven’t done anything (yet). I won’t say I’m disappointed character-wise, as Gatchaman is more about its large plots and social implications rather than its cast; however, I do feel it would have helped if the cast had mingled better, rather than relying mostly on Hajime’s wits.

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