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GATCHAMAN Crowds – 09

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「Forgery」

I want to love gatchaman unreservedly. I really want to do so, but it’s episodes like this that just get in the way of all that.

It was interesting at first, the way the show seemed to brim with ideas at every turn. But Gatchaman’s scattershot storytelling is starting to get grating, especially when the story that needs to be told is as straight as it gets here. The Neo Crowds’ rise to power. The gatchamans fighting back with PR. And yet, as hard as it is to describe, there’s that definite patchwork quality to the way the episode strings the scenes together here; one moment we’re watching the attack of the Crowds and the gatchamans deliberating their next move; next, without any lead-in, we’re seeing Rui in self-loathing for escalating the Crowds situation. I liked it when the show largely pulled its focus together in the last two episodes on the titular gatchamans, but that focus seems largely absent in this episode. There are too many odd juxtapositions in transitions, stretching all over in an attempt to convey the full ramifications of the Neo Crowds, and the Gatchamans, going public.

But I liked seeing Rui’s changing perspective, and his mingling with team gatcha. Having been rescued by the kind of heroes he has so denied, it interesting to see his naïve world-view open up in such a manner. At one point in the episode, Katze notes how unlike it was of Rui to come out with a public apology during the Gatcha-channel webcast; more than an apology for Crowds, it was also an admittance of the failure of his ideal, where mankind would have been able to work together it perfect harmony.

To its credit, Gatchaman is sticking very, very well to its core philosophies of new-age communication and connection in the age-old superhero genre, and it keeps adding more to it than I had expected; Neo Crowds has essentially become some odd terrorist counterpart of Anonymous and Wikileaks, incorporating major elements of both groups (The anonymity and the people’s power) then dialing up the dangers of their unchecked power and elusive nature. Hajime’s proposed solution to this? A continuation of the PR campaign with their very own Nico-Nico-esque channel, by answering public questions and bringing in Rui as a guest to deconstruct the Crowds situation. The Gatchamans have gone viral, with over two million views on their channel, and it’s a really unique way (in an anime, at least) to strongly get the word out on Crowds, and the dangers of the power to those that are using it. Word of mouth is key through the “ups”, GALAX’s equivalent of the Facebook’s likes, and it’s one heck of a way to direct public opinion. It ends up with the Neo Crowds getting significant public disapproval, and the civil administrations promoting the Gatchaman channels. Really, it’s not typical for a superhero versus supervillian fight to be this much of a public spectacle.

There’s a good deal of consideration put into this depiction, such as backlash from cynics and trolls are shown in the episode. True to internet form, the words online don’t hold back any bite; Remarks include “Cross-dressing freak”, “Psycho” and “Who even talks like that” in response to Rui and Hajime. The remarks are so familiar I swear the creators are watching the discussions on the show closely. Fact is, I scarcely remember any other show that has been this considerate about modern media and communications as a plot device like this.

The other problem of the scattershot storytelling remains though; the show is great at wielding social media and the internet as narrative tools (not that there’s anything wrong with it) but stops a shy short from delving into the truly provocative questions about it, even when they want to emphasis strongly on the topic. We’re back to the lack of focus; when a show skims from every idea of the social media pie, you don’t exactly get a boatload of depth into any one aspect. Take the deal with the trolls: Hajime’s “just turn it off” answer was appropriate but awfully simple, as if it was another tick off the checklist of social media thingamies that needed to be shown.

And least of all, we’ve arrived at some disconnect of the characters’ actions; it was interesting, but also somewhat confusing that the gatchamans have decided on taking matters into their own hands, and there would be no more taking orders from JJ-sama. Instead, as they asserted to Rui, they would be taking their own actions and acting on what they believed they could do, such as with Hajime romping about on GALAX in a bid to draw out Katze. I get the faintest of hints that it’s some bid on the tangibility of connections, and JJ, who’s been this mystical and divine being giving prophesies at random, isn’t quite as warming as the chumminess between members of team gatcha. But it is woefully faint, and that speaks plenty on the character dynamics in the show.

September 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm
11 comments »
  • September 13, 2013 at 3:49 pmHelvetica Standard

    @asobi, overanalyzing much? gee, you’re reviewing an anime..
    I still fail to see where the problem is, perhaps your bias and your dislike for this series is what fuels the need to create non existent flaws? :|

    • September 13, 2013 at 4:26 pmFlareKnight

      That seems like a weak way to respond to criticism of a series. “Oh it’s just an anime, don’t respond to it so seriously.” If you don’t like someone’s analysis then debate it.

      Pretending this series is perfect doesn’t seem like the best plan.

      One thing I really didn’t get was the whole rejecting JJ stuff. All he’s doing is giving pretty handy prophecies. It was always up to the Gatchaman to decide what to do with them and how to respond if they did at all. Not to mention he did the small…really tiny thing of giving them their powers. Is it just a question of them needing to control everything? They can shut down Galax so they can use it, but they can’t turn off JJ so they just reject his help outright?

      • September 13, 2013 at 7:33 pmDavid

        JJ may have given them their powers, but at the start it was also like they couldn’t do anything without being directed to by him, as if they were incapable of independent action. He didn’t directly control them, but they had no will of their own.

        On the opposite side, Rui was doing basically the exact same thing as JJ (granting power to the people of CROWDS), except trying to reign in the power of those he’d selected. The Gatchamen refused to act at all without JJ’s permission, while CROWDS wasn’t -allowed- to act without Rui’s permission.

        And then it was all flipped on its head. Hajime on the Gatchaman’s side acting of her own volition, eventually culminating in their full rejection of JJ’s authority. They finally broke free of the chains they’d willingly bound themselves with.

        On the other side, Rui was displaced by Katz, who removed all the restraints keeping CROWDS under control. The man who thought he was the better choice to lead things is instead caught up in the waves people he egged on in the first place, leaving nothing but pure anarchy.

        So on the Gatchaman’s side, rejecting their god made them free, allowing them to act to make the world better, while on the CROWDS’ side, rejecting their god merely let loose uncontrolled rabble, selfish hordes causing pain and destruction.

        Aside from all the social media aspects of the show, it’s also remarkably relevant in terms of the interaction between the public and the government:

        Gatchaman went from a shadowy organization that hid everything it did to being ridiculously open and transparent about its actions. It’s crazy, and a bit scary for anyone who understands much about internet security, but it’s also absolutely critical for having the trust and support of the people that these heroes are protecting. Is it possible to be a hero without showing your face? Or are you just another agency spook that people live in fear of?

        CROWDS is likewise originally based on anonymity. Rui never told anyone who he really was, while building CROWDS. The leader of the neo-100 wears a mask any time he makes an appearance, and the rest are literally just another face in the crowd. On the one hand, that anonymity allows any average person to be a ‘hero’ by just helping others out, without the weight of being -responsible- for everyone else, as in Rui’s idealized world. On the other hand, it also allows personal selfishness and greed to play havoc with people’s actions, turning it from a crowd into a mob.

        On both sides of the fence, those who want to control the power (whether they plan to use that power for good or ill) will try to keep things hidden. Of course stripping away anonymity can also be a terrible thing, as it allows those with power over you to bring that power to bear, as we see in a few different events in the series. However in general the show seems to be strongly in favor of transparency over anonymity.

        Frankly, I think the show does a great job of balancing the many mirrored aspects of the handful of ideas it’s working on (and I could probably write several more pages about them). There are certainly areas where it stumbles, but the flaws that I see pointed out most often seem to be by those who don’t have a solid grasp of all the issues being dealt with.

      • September 17, 2013 at 12:05 pm✜Croos✜

        This is just theory:
        Why would JJ keep giving prophecies if the actual enemy are human themselves.
        Sure Berg Katze is the enemy but he also has his own way of thinking.
        Like:
        1.) Why do a certain human wants to save people yet get angry at them anyway.
        2.) Why do humans help others if they are doing it for their selfish desire.
        3.) Why would this person want to destroy other people’s city were in fact he doesn’t want his city to be destroyed.
        Berg Katze is like “A Hero who punishes people by using themselves in a nother way”

        >I this made me think that Berg Katze is actualy the EGO of every person in that city.
        >I think Berg Katze just use Rui to build Director X and waited for the right moment . The internet is the easiest way to bring out people’s ego and the fastest way to connect people’s way thinking.

        Just like the MESS, they think that humans a just obstacles but when Hajime found a way to communicate with them.

        To conclude:
        I think Hajime can’t see Berg Katze is because Hajime doesn’t have an EGO inside her.

      • September 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm✜Croos✜

        @David

        I like how you think about “People free from their God”
        Because of you I started to think what this image meaning means?

    • September 13, 2013 at 10:31 pmMagoiichi

      Agreed

      I know someone that doesn’t like Ben Stiller and his excuse was “I just don’t like him”. I get the same feeling from this analysis.

      Different strokes for different folks I guess.

      I learned that Hajime is the perfect Anti-Troll from watching this show.

  • September 13, 2013 at 6:37 pmzztop

    The Kasumigaseki district, as mentioned in this ep, is the location of the HQs of numerous Japanese ministry departments and is thus the hub of Japan’s bureaucracy.

    The Neo Hundreds’destruction of the buildings and the Diet(Parliament) building would effectively cripple the Japanese government and hopefully plunge Japan into chaos, exactly as Berg wants.

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:12 pmThe Truth is in the Axe

    There’s some pro-public service message here, where a lot of people who responded positively with the Gatchannel were policemen and civil servants. It’d be easy to spin a “pro-organized government” thing from this, but I think the focus is more on the people who wanted to organize together to keep order and peace rather than the government institutions.

    It’s like how Neo CROWDS solution is to topple government institutions, but Gatchaman is there to remind the viewer that there are people working there from the lady cops on the beat to the civil servant workers who just want things to run smoothly and people in the military.

    Next episode: do we finally get to see OD transform??

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:31 pmsealouse

    So if OD transforms an entire city disappears? Well that would be a last resort wouldn’t it?

    Sure this episode jumped around a lot, but when it does that it just seems like you get to see a lot more than you would otherwise.

    • September 16, 2013 at 11:40 amFate

      OD seems to be mirroring Katze a lot. maybe it has to do more with symbolism. as in if katze did all the murdering and destruction on his own, it would not be humanity destroying itself with its own feelings. and on the other hand, if OD has to step in and transform it would take away a lot of having humanities chosen heroes actually accomplishing anything. like two gods stepping into an ants conflict.as much as thy want to, its not their place to do anything. i also think that is why Katzes bird mode can’t be seen so far, and why ODs bird mode so damn weird compared to others. i’m sure there will be some development for him before the inevitable though.

  • September 16, 2013 at 12:21 amKF

    What a divided anime – I like it!

    TQ