It’s great that the Gatchamans –or I should rather say, the characters of the show- finally got something of an episode to themselves. Of course, there’s the thematic angle of what happens now that the Gatchamans have turned from myth to fact. And by doing so, that the contention of the concept of heroism is brought out into the open between Rui idealized world and the symbolic position of the Gatchamans. Yet so much more of the episode was on the reactionary force to Hajime’s game-changing public reveal of the Gatchamans, and their first contact with Rui. I’ve been moaning that the Gatchamans, each a very interesting character in their own right, needed more time in the spotlight. And it was great to see the show acknowledge the distinct, individual reactions to these events, and to flesh out the volatility of the Gatchaman team.
It worked great, especially with every character other than Hajime and Rui getting more time to strut their stuff. (Although they still hold on to a fair share of the focus.) Paimon (always a joy to watch) having stuck to the old ways for so long, believed and trusted in them, is now left a hilariously confused mess, who subsequently takes Joe’s advice of a stopgap for the team to lie low and let the heat die down. Joe then takes the opportunity to seemingly return to his original ideals of heroism, striking out on his own to chase after Katze. Sugane as we’ve seen has been stuck at a crossroads between his ironclad beliefs, but was warming up to the radical nature of Hajime. Here, we see him choose to stay by her side despite his contradictory beliefs, a small hint of him opening up his perspectives, to see where Hajime’s nature could lead. And it wasn’t just Sugune that Hajime’s influencing. Utsutsu was showed here begging for permission to helped the injured people with her powers –apparently, at the cost of her life- and for the first time as well, showed to openly have fun with Hajime as they played along with Rui’s game.
In contrast to this all was Hajime. Thing is, I’ve been in the camp on Hajime’s side all this while; the juxtaposition of her happy-go-lucky attitude and a deep wisdom that she has hidden underneath has become a point of contention in the likability of the character. I find she’s a refreshing change of pace from what been seen out of a character in ages, a twist on a familiar archtype of the genki yet smart, and one that feels appealingly original. The mix of unorthodox humor and intellect she brings to the table makes the anime brighter for it; A familiar stance taken by her supporters, and one that I share in.
Come to this episode though, that characterization was taken awfully for granted. Her astute remarks towards Sugawa and Rui, as well as the radical actions of revealing her identity, tends to speak more of instinctual awareness than a weighty intellect, or at the very least some combination of the two. But the show seems to portray her as conscious of every action, that she “will not do something that irresponsible” as acting on gut feelings. But even with that statement, what we see of her more often than not feel contradictory. Perhaps what I’m jilted by is that this conscious awareness feels far too all-encompassing for a character like Hajime, who’s only but a girl of 15. This especially so when you consider how greatly she is influencing the rest of the cast in characterization, most of all Sugane and Utsutsu. I like her radical attitude, as well as her ability to cut through all the fluff and hypocrisy that the show like to make a point out of. Yet I’m also starting to understand some of what the opposing camp sees; An overbearing narrative dominance. An odd juxtaposition in intentional and unintentional characterization that seemed it was never meant to go together, and makes each part lesser for it. I loathe to use the phrase “too mary sue” for the incredibly general connotations such a phrase brings with it. But at least one of those connotations is close to what I’m starting to feel for the odd combinations in her personality and action., albeit in a small quantity.
This was the first Gatchaman episode i’m feeling mixed about, and not just because the production quality just seemed to taken on hell of a nose dive.(Still a psychedelic fest though) But make no mistake, this shift towards the characters of the show was definitely more of what I wanted to see. Yet it’s not enough when Gatchaman wants to be the ensemble piece colored with sharp and modern themes. Sure, we’ve got the themes nailed down, but I still think we’re not seeing enough, or deeply enough, of the supporting cast compared to Hajime and Rui.