I’ve see a lot of “what the hell” remarks about how confusing this ending was, but to me, it wasn’t so much that the episode was utterly incomprehensible. In fact, the only real moment where the show completely lost me was at the very end, with how Hajime incorporated Katze into her heart, soul, or whatever it was that I saw. I’m still scratching my head about it, but the popular theory floating around seems reasonable: In a very early pre-air excerpt, her Gatcha powers were explained to have the ability to alter reality according to her will, but you wouldn’t have known that since the show never actually talked about their Gatcha powers much. With that in mind coupled with that last phone call Hajime made about how she’ll remain herself regardless, and it becomes very likely that she had forcibly bonded herself with Katze to contain him, in a very Hajime-esque act to resolve things as peacefully as she could.
But no, as abrupt as those last moments were, that wasn’t what I didn’t like about the ending. I had already expected (and somewhat dreaded) the climax to be involved in turning over the power of the Crowds to the masses, allowing them the freedom to do what they can do, and the belief that people are inherently good-natured and “just want to have fun”. That the anarchy and chaos Katze saw in humans wasn’t the entire truth. I’d even allow that this was probably the ending they had always intended. But it’s clear that script composer Toshiya Ono was struggling with how exactly he was going to arrive at such an ending, given that the series never rose beyond its mess of ideas about the internet and notions of heroism, and never built them into the encompassing narrative thread in more than just superficial manners. This is the core of why I was so discontent with this unsatisfying ending; I didn’t like that they ended it without giving it the credence it necessitated; no real implication shown of opening the Crowds powers publicly beyond a remark about crime rates, no afterword on the remainder of team gatcha, and the cheap political angle at populist democracy. Without reasonable build-up and consequences, it makes this conclusion a simple, routine answer about trusting the human nature (about the closest Rui will ever get to his ideal) all which ends up being nothing if not more diametrical to Gatchaman‘s central themes of bridging the traditional with modernism. (Most clear in how the show frequently tackled the notion of heroism.) And it’s a shame, because what Gatchaman broached upon was truly inspiring in places; and the answer we got to end it all wasn’t quite an answer to it at all.
Let’s not get started on how the titular Gatchamans got shafted in the very final episode for the Crowds. Only O.D. gets to really strut around after being out of the picture for much of the series, and he takes down Katze to retrieve Rui’s NOTE to start the Crowds revolution. It’s an epic showdown with action on a level I had wished to see more of from the show, but alas, that’s the remainder that we’re ever going to get. There are a couple of other things I want to nitpick about the ending – the generally rushed pacing, along with my typical complain about the scattershot direction – but I guess it really boils down to the point that this still remained a very Gatchaman Crowds ending; ambitious, but too vague about what it needed to do to reach that potential.
It probably isn’t much of an exaggeration to call Gatchaman Crowds the most “modern” TV anime ever; the concept of what it set out to do was sound, make no mistake about that. Throughout the series, it tried to address and challenge themes of interpersonal communication, and how it has changed with the advent of the internet, social media, and anonymity. In these ways, Gatchaman Crowds made for a much more grounded series than its fantastical nature belies, and it consistently talked with a deep reverence for our modern-day lifestyles –for its possibilities, the conveniences, and the new age problems- more so than any other anime show I can ever remember. Its ambitious storyline tried to fit in all that, and then broadly used this context to frame a story of two generations: of society, of heroes both super and normal, and of their stories; all this with the message that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
So it’s really a shame that Gatchaman Crowds remained from what it started out as to it’s very end; an inspiring mess of potential. Perhaps my greatest dismay was that the many explorations into modern day social interactions, of the internet and of the adaptation of generations, never did touch the story in much more than superficial manners, and never did provoke the kind of strong intellectual challenges naturally in its storytelling.
The characters whom you’d expect to carry these themes turn out a mixed bag; they all have their unique baggages to their histories, but these are often marginalized (prominently with O.D.) to great extents, with the show more keen to boast its themes than develop its characters. And Hajime, good lord, Hajime; I can now finally understand what kind of a role she was meant to play in the series, but it was risky decision on the writer’s part to have this unadulterated force of nature push the key developments in the story. It’s a toss-up on how much of a plot device she was by the end, but we can all agree that she was one of the key aspects that made or broke this show for many viewers. Thankfully, she never did get grating on me, but I can appreciate how this was another of the show’s major flaws for a large camp out there.
But I remember at the start of all this how much I loved this explosion of ideas, and while not as unreservedly now I still do hold that same adoration. There was so much ambition and unadulterated creativity in what we were seeing. So much color to the show, and life to its quirky, sympathetic and unique cast of characters, as per the usual Nakamura flair. Gatchaman might be a mess, but its an inspiring one; posing a lot of interesting questions into the very topical issues of the online interaction, keeping its unique outlook consistent, and above all showing us narrative and thematic avenues that really hasn’t been explored in any other anime I can remember. Like another of Nakamura’s anime, [C], it’s brilliant on its premise and explorations alone even if fundamentally flawed in other aspects. For that alone, I’d definitely say that this series is well worth your 6 or so hours.
To the people who’ve been following the Gatchaman posts faithfully, I can’t apologize enough for the erratic updates for the series, and my lack of feedback. It’s really been a busy few weeks for me starting up postgrad studies, and I really want to thank you for sticking with my inconsistency throughout.