Hoo boy. We’ve been pretty focused on the commentary and themes of Gatchaman, but sometimes all the show (and we) really needs is a good’old throwdown between good and evil.
Rui decides he had enough of being toyed around with, and takes the fight to Berg Katze in order to truly be free to advance his ideals. But for such a smart kid, I’ve gotta say, it’s a pretty dumb move from him to pick a fight with your creator. Cue Gatchaman intervention, where Joe and Sugane steps in to confront the rogue alien and rescue Rui from Katze. And wow, what a fight it was.It makes for Gatchaman’s simplest episode yet, but also one of its better ones; the fight which takes up most of the episode is a balm, in light on the incessant philosophizing and social commentary that’s been the bulk of many a Gatchaman episodes previously. The scattershot of themes and ideas on personal connections and on the ideals of heroism really comes into clearer focus when told through the characters arcs of players like Sugane and Joe. Sugane has grown to accept the benefits of tools like GALAX through Hajime opening up his narrow perspective, and seemed to have arrived at his own conclusions on this issue of personal connections. And this conclusion we clumsily see in him reaching a trust with Rui as the two guys have a heart-to-heart about their ideals. Joe has his mind penetrated by Berg-Katze, who digs at his psyche with taunts of playing the hero, taunts that Joe could not fully deny.
Intense definitely wasn’t a word I’d have associated with the Gatchaman Crowds. Sure, it’s seen a fair share of fights, but those were relatively tame affairs, and usually felt limited in action and scope. Almost as if the distinct lack of traditional action was another facet of the show’s subversive attitude towards its source material, and to the superhero shows of yonder. But I’m searching hard inside myself and whether due to my lacking vocabulary and literary skills, I just can’t seem to find another word to better describe this episode, its visceral fight between the Gatchamans and Berg Katze (Sawano’s OST really shines at this point) and what the characters suffered through. It’s really the best we’ve seen Tatsunoko’s production values at in this whole season, in stark contrast to the rather inconsistent (but always artistically captivating) visuals of Gatchaman Crowds.
But of course, while Tatsunoko’s animation really stepped up on their game this time around, it probably wouldn’t have been as great a fight it wasn’t for Berg-Katze. The notion’s been steadily growing on me, but now I’m completely convinced; this really is the best Miyano role I’ve seen all year round, and one of the best, most well-played characters I’ve seen in quite some time. Miyano is really letting it rip with the volatility and batshit insanity of Katze in a way I’ve never quite heard from him before. It’s show-stealing acting that would surely be worthy of a place in the Evil League of Evil. Thing is, it’s never easy to do nutty; go too far and you go full retard, but to his credit Miyano really seems to have hit a sweet spot on the insane-o-meter with Katze.
Hajime ends up being the only person who was really able to communicate with the absolutely bonkers Katze, no doubt thanks to the quirkiness that the two share. While their mutual understanding certainly isn’t unexpected, there’s the sense that Hajime is more plot device than plot character again; At least it also gives that duality of personality in both characters, who seem to think in very similar ways but share very different core philosophies. Katze has been unsubtle about his motives which as Hajime points out is him utterly reveling in the chaos and destruction, unperturbed by any higher ambition or percieved revenge. Hajime…well, she’s all about “the view at 5am in the morning.”, which I’m going on a stretch here to assume she really means the beauty of life. Should I chalk it up as the setup to the classic good vs evil, with a twist? It’s hard to say at this point, since it’s entirely within Gatchaman’s ability to pull another 180 twist on us.
One moment we’re throwing fisticuffs in a good old superhero and super villain showdown. The next it’s a…a PR attack?
It’s certainly doesn’t quite have the excitement, the intensity of character or the appeal of the previous episode, where we saw the gatchaman go toe-to-toe with the indomitably batshit Berg-Katze. The more positive thing is that it’s still retaining its stronger focus on the characters, and to my pleasure giving more of the spotlight over to the woefully underplayed OD and the ever-amusing Paimon. The adults in the Gatchaman next to Joe has been some of more intriguing assets of the show, bringing the baggage of a troubled and complicated history to their actions and tempered personalities. Watching how they’ve been interacting with the young and new generation -of Hajime, Sugune and Utsutsu- has definitely been one of the more entertaining aspects of the show. Having more of O.D more is a lovely prospect for me; the guy is unabashedly flamboyant, in a fun way, but is also shown to be the most aware and “leader-like” of the Gatchamans next to Hajime. The show’s been heavily hinting at the extensive powers he possess, especially with Paimon warning him not to spread his wings every single time the Gatchamans sortie. And now, he seems locked on to take Katze down, forebodingly at the supposed cost of his own life, even when history suggest Katze has more power than O.D at his strongest.
Then there’s indecisive, cowardly Paimon, who’s been repeatedly shown to be more mascot than prime “leadership” material, and was clearly straining under the pretend role he took upon himself. O.D. bluntly comes out saying Paimon’s no leader to his dismay, but it seem more like gentle advice to the panda to drop the pretense; later we see Paimon fully embracing his role as mascot to the pre-school kids, much to Aya Hirano’s tsundere denial when Hajime subsequently remarks on how much he’s enjoying himself. I’d definitely love to see more about this “history” the two keeps talking about where Katze destroyed O.D’s planet and the Gatchaman friend that they lost, since it seemed like a really interesting deal, and mainly because I really just want to see more of these two characters.
When the Gatchamans go public with a PR campaign though, you can bet that there’ll be consequences. It’s a scheme that is entrenched in the media and social connections themes that the show so emphasizes upon. And while manipulating public relation aren’t the newest ideas on the block, I find it a refreshing twist employed in this “superheroes unmasked” context, as with most of its ideas Gatchaman wear on the sleeves of its superhero shenanigans. Hajime has essential given the public tangible hero figures by taking away much of the mystery surrounding the Gatchamans, showing off their transformations to the public in an exclusive exposé, playing around with pre-school kids in front of cameras. It’s an unexpected move, one whereby their public image has been cleverly cemented since Hajime’s impromptu reveal, and the cascade of consequences is a bevy, especially with Hajime’s public warning of Berg-Katze. I really like the way the show continues to play around with its toys of media and networking, especially since the most recent show that featured something similar was Eden of the East, and that was ages ago. It is likely the show hasn’t quite finished its sermon on this topic; With GALAX recent failings in stopping major incidents, the citizen are showing less trust in the internet system, and instead are shown putting their faith in heroes. Undoubtedly, the people will not be able to blindly put their trust in heroes just simply like that, and Berg-Katze’s actions also seem to point towards this notion. For now, Katze seem content on sitting upon his house of cards; he steals Rui identity and Sousei X as a result, and has set about forming his own Neo Hundred, likely pitting these Galaxters against the Gatchamans as per his plan of watching humanity self-destruct. But I suspect it won’t be much longer till we see him get his hands proper dirty in advancing his plans.