No more playing around with MESSY-chan and GALAX; the prelude to Gatchaman Crowds is over, and with the steady escalation of Berg Katze’s activities, the plot seems to be kicking into its high. But if that’s really the case, then there’s cause for me to start getting worried about the long-term prospects for Gatchaman Crowds.
If anything, the anime deserve some credit solely for what it’s trying to do in tackling a fittingly modern themes for its modern audience. I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, that the broad themes of the show really are the show’s best aspects; alongside the core study on how social networking technology has impacted the traditional facets of society, there’s that generational theme of how the concept of heroism has changed. Unlike most other shows airing this season (or indeed in many of the previous seasons) this story was made with our times in mind, and I always liked it when the story can be made this relevant.
This episode prods at these themes all over; we see GALAX being credited for the successful cable car rescue, not the civil workers and rescuers who actually did the work. Later on in the episode, the narrative repeatedly (albeit rather simplistically) tries addressing the generational theme, centering on an argument that galaxters could response to a situation faster than any traditional civil institution. The second half was when it gets really interesting; a hit-and-run perpetuated by Berg Katze show the very limitations of GALAX when a SOS by Rui fails to achieve anything. And then there’s Joe; portrayed at the start to be cynical and uncaring, likely due to the fading relevance of the Gatchamans. (the show makes a point on how the Gatchamans are but a myth in the city as well.) With Berg ramping up his disastrous activities, we’re starting to see a renewed and determined Joe wanting to take up the mantle of beating Berg, a foe that only the “old world” heroes might defeat. I don’t believe the mirroring of Joe’s change in attitude is a coincidence, but I wonder what Nakamura intends to say with it, especially with the forboding notion of JJ’s red paper bird (symbolizing Joe) going up flames.
The immediate storyline is also being taken in some really interesting directions; Berg Katze seems to be a former Gatchaman (likely the mad bird J.J. talks about) who made a 180 and now destroys worlds for the heck of it. It’s strongly implied that this forms his history with Paimon and O.D, who lost a former comrade to him.
It is unfortunate that what is bogging Gatchaman Crowds down the most is its execution, something I didn’t expect given the brilliant pedigree of its production team. That’s not to say the show doesn’t its moment of brilliance of course; any moment with Miyano pushing his flamboyance as Berg is a brilliant one, and you can tell that he is completely in the zone with this role. But the narrative is full of odd juxtapositions; I get the sense that Nakamura had too many ideas for this series to cover within some 13 episodes, and not all seem to go entirely well together. Character arcs transit oddly between world-setting scenes, among others, and these make watching Gatchaman Crowds is like staring at a jigsaw puzzle; you know what it’s supposed to look like, but the pieces don’t quite line up, hence an indescribably messy feeling one gets from the show.
Where does that leave us? Well, for one, if they show were to slow down its hyperactive and twitchy storytelling, that would certainly help a ton in letting Gatchaman Crowds themes come across better. I’ve yet to seen these ideas form enough of the connection with the characters of the show as well; outside of Hajime, the Gatchamans really have had little chance to stand out in this over-stuffed show. It’s a shame, because what little the show’s doing with the characters have been really interesting; Joe’s especially, in the way it mirrors the themes of the show.
Let the characters carry the themes instead of just letting the world do so, and we might just end up with a show that’s more deliberate, but all the better for it. The silver lining so far is that a lot of the groundwork for the show seemed have already been covered in these first four episodes, and it’s entirely possible for the show to make a narrative shift in some manner, away from this current, overtly dense nature of the story.
Oh Gatchaman Crowds, even if you have your problems, I can’t help but love what you keep trying to do. Where else am I going to get that show this season that opens with a 3 minutes grilling of the very fundamentals of its super hero genre? Which also then proceeds with social commentary in an overly dramatic and theatric monologue for nearly half the episode? Okay fine, I guess there’s always Monogatari for that.
I have to admit though, this episode was more than a little hard to swallow. It’s easy to get lost in the dense, overextending dialogue of Gatchaman Crowds. Up till now, the scattered storytelling has been making it even harder to try and work the many ideas thrown at you into a coherent picture. That we’re already at episode five and I’m still saying these same things should clue you in to some degree of the problem here, and I’m not feeling the same singular storytelling vision that Toshiya and Nakamura previously showed in Tsuritama. In fact, this is starting to feel like a familiar case of [C], a Nakamura story that got too wrapped up in its many themes and ideas to deliver a consistent story by its end.
But even so, I still can’t help but love it when a show tackles a topic this close to heart, and does so with the breadth of scope this topic rightfully deserves. (Even if this scope is not entirely warranted. I can already see the overstuffed show tearing at the seams.) Every episode seems to bring something new to the table, and Rui’s half-episode long monologue was an intriguing look at the fundamentals of social networks. We finally get to see the full picture of Rui’s vision, and suffice to say, the show doesn’t quite hide from the idealism of it. No, in fact, the theatrics seem to make it as though they were reveling in it; he illustrates an ideal world where the singular notions of the individual are absent, and where the world cooperates and improves itself through a single, connected network. It also explains his refusal to use the CROWDS power given to him by Berg; his ideal solution is through the cooperation brought about by GALAX.
The key here is that core idea of CROWDS shown here isn’t one that is particularly new. Not all people share that same altruistic and exceedingly idealistic vision that Rui has. To some like Umeda, they see CROWDS as the force needed to enact the improvements to the world, as opposed to Rui’s maneuverings to extend the influence of GALAX. These are broad ponderings that are so often seen in storylines, but it’s in the modern themes this is being painted in that feels refreshingly imaginative. Rui monologue centered around the fundamental aspect of the connectivity in the social network, of bringing people together with similar purposes, reflecting his altruistic perspective on human nature as a result. What’s notable is that the show also gives strong aspect to its counterpoint, and the second fundamental draw of social network; a space to be heard and an avenue for recognition. As much as I believe the Galaxters and were helping out of the good of their heart, it’s also about being involved, about recognition (as Umeda went on a rant about) and for the Hundred, it’s about playing the hero Rui is so dismissive about. Hajime’s grilling at the start of the episode makes some bit of sense in retrospect; such as questioning why they were playing the hero in secret.
One wonders what Rui will make of Hajime when the concept of heroism he always disregarded finally appears before him; suffice to say, I’m looking forward to the exchange between the two characters in the next episode.
-Sorry about the erratic Gatchaman postings these past few weeks, many things to deal with recently since coming back to my home country. Posting schedule will return to normal this week on.