I think this is the fastest I’ve seen the actions of a superteam get called out on. If the first episode was meant to be a homage to the campy, frenetic energy of classic superhero shows, it’s one heck of a false start. From the way they were breaking tradition at every moment, the two episodes that followed felt like the antithesis to those classic ways. With Nakamura-san at the helm, you’d always figure something different like this was in the cards, except the card in question got played far more quickly than the average anime would have me think.
For a 30 year old series that was only revived as one part of a larger marketing push (and mainly for the movie) I think it’s definitely intended on Nakamura’s part that Gatchaman Crowds feels perfectly analogous to how the storytelling in the medium has evolved since those times. The core of the narrative has grown complex, painted with the shades of grey and the brand of social cynicism that has held a tight grasp on modern literature. There’s the highly relevant theme of the ambiguous but influential effect social networks been having on the societal structure in the world. Rui isn’t the one of those Sunday morning cartoon villains that used to serve as the conflict in the original series, and neither are his methods decidedly antagonistic. The MESS aren’t quite the clear-cut evil as the classic enemy organizations used to be, and within these first few episodes have already been shown to be misdirection, albeit their purpose still unclear. The goal of the Gatchamans and J.J. are murky and possibly not entirely good, a far cry from the unquestionable ideal of justice that these superhero teams used to represent. Joe even makes a snarky comment about how the “old” Gatchamans used to have it better. “Who is the true enemy” is no longer a question that the heroes or even the “antagonist” can truly define.
Like I previously said, it’s not the first time we’re seeing a storyline attempting to address this meta-theme of how these old ideals and concepts have radically evolved. The recent 009 movie was did the same to a degree, putting to question the relevance of old ideals in a world grown complicated by a breadth of fundamentalist and existential interests. The world’s not so much black-and-white as it is painted in greys, and it’s grown to be something in our world that the average person can no longer stay ignorant about as before. As Rui succinctly sums up, the world’s grown so complicated that excellent leaders are no longer enough to turn things around. Gatchaman Crowds looks to be addressing a similar point with the current digitalization trend and the societal order introduced by the connected online network.
Maybe it’s not anything new, and it’s not like these stories are a new breed in literature, but there’s a certain poignancy in how Nakamura chooses to address it in the context of GALAX- and by extension Rui. This is definitely one of the most interesting interpretations of digital advancement I’ve seen; In fact many of its elements: The trending, hub world, contextual-linking, and a Siri-esque A.I. in X, are scattered about in current tech. It’s something that could possibly be a reality in our not so far-fetched future, and that believability is a strong thing Gatchaman Crowds has going for it. On one hand, we’ve greatly seen the benefits of the system; bringing together a community in Hajime’s offline meetup, pairing job seekers with their appropriate employment, and revealing the scandals of cabinet ministers in the government. As we see from the diary milk incident, fairness through the transparency of society is no longer just an ideal with the network, but these trends in Crowds are incredibly reminiscent of the headlines made by Wikileaks and Anonymous. Crowds is noticeably aware of the double-edged effect GALAX has and the real dangers it poses; Hajime points out problems of overreliance if GALAX ever stops working, and many implicit hints are made about the dangers of the network, its lack of tangible accountability and the cascading consequences that could result. And if we’re talking about ill omens, Galaxters repeatedly trivialize things into games (no thanks to the “update” points) and Rui even activates the Crowds (most probably his specially selected Galaxters) with the keywords “Play the game”.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Rui at this point (and not just about his whole cross-dressing deal) except to say that pinning the antagonist badge on him would be premature. There’s a certain idealism to the actions he has taken, and I don’t think he is ignorant of the dangers GALAX presents. He certainly seems to understand the causes for the resentment of the network, citing trust issues that hit very close to home, but think the risks are a necessary evil to “update the world”. It’s also hard to say if he’s being puppeteered by Berg Katze at this point and just part of some larger scheme; there appears to be some distrust between the two, going by the way Rui seems reluctant to put to use the power of the note and the Crowds. (Which I’m assuming was granted to him by the flamboyant alien.)
But then, I haven’t quite talked about the story yet, have I? And to be honest, I’m not quite sure what to talk about. It’s still a mixed bag on this front, and it doesn’t help that so many of the anime’s more intriguing aspects are mainly of the themes and topics that Gatchaman Crowds want to address. As a study, it’s potentially a fascinating one, but I’m still confused about how the story is supposed to be coming together. We’ve got the MESS, the 100 Galaxters and the Crowds, the Gatchamans, and this colorful, detailed world that the show is setting up. Except I have next to no clue on how they fit together, and still the story continues to go at its frenetic, twitchy and random pace, jumping from one situation in the world to the next.
At the very least, you’ve either gotten used to Hajime at this point, or you’ve stopped watching entirely. I don’t think it was any coincidence that she was made this way, especially now that we’ve gotten a better grasp of what kind of a story Crowds seems intent on telling. While her energy is bordering on mania, she certainly holds a unique, and all-too-broad mentality compared to the rest of the characters. What’s interesting to note is that she’s definitely smarter than she lets on; In the case of the MESS, she amazingly picked up on the fact that it was mimicking her scissors, hence her attempts at communication. I’ve a feeling her purpose in the storyline will reveal itself before long, and maybe that’s when we’ll be able to get a more coherent picture of the overarching story.
Sorry for the multiple delays in getting this out. Been busy dashing out applications, so I’m probably going to get delayed in getting out Gatchaman 04 as well. Expect to see the post sometime on Monday.