There’s something missing for me with this series so far, and it’s hard to put my finger on just what. The individual components are certainly interesting, and I see elements of what makes both Nakamura Kenji and Oono Toshiya favorites of mine. But the whole is less than the sum of the parts somehow – I’m enjoying individual moments but the show isn’t leaving much of an impression when it’s over.
I think it’s fair to say that GALAX is the most interesting element of Gatchaman Crowds so far, and its apparent creator Rui the most interesting character. GALAX is interesting as a plot point – it’s surrounded by mysteries, like the Mamoru Miyano character whose voice Rui hears when there’s no one there and who pops up randomly around the city, kisses people and causes havoc. And it’s an interesting look at a not so far-fetched idea of what the internet might become. The implications of its development are subtle and seemingly a double-edged sword, and that seems to be the approach the series is taking in developing the thread.
If you make two piles, one of what we know and the other what we don’t, the latter is going to be a lot bigger right now. Just what are MESS, for starters? It’s Joe who foreshadows the likely answer here when he theorizes that they might be some sort of alien hive mind, and OD who theorizes that they’ve only injured humans in the same way a human might step on an ant without even thinking about it. I don’t know if it can be so simple as Hajime’s “what’s so funny about peace, love and understanding” mantra having completely invalidated the entire raison d’être of the Gatchaman this quickly, but that’s what it looks like at the moment. If so the MESS may be one of the shortest-lived enemies in recent anime history.
GALAX is much the same – we know far less than we don’t. Who are “The 100”, the ones that Rui has drafted as some sort of chosen individuals to be the standard-bearers for his “update the world” crusade? Where did he get this “power” that Miyano’s character talks about, and what sort of power is it? Is it connected to the “Crowds” Rui unleashes in a moment of crisis? Why does he only go out in public as a girl? At least one thing has become clear this week – if Rui is a supevillan it’s an unwitting one. His crusade seems to be genuinely idealistic – to update the world and expose the hypocrisy of those who will only help others for their own gain. We see still more examples of the positive possibilities of GALAX in this ep: it immediately puts a lawyer in touch with a woman who needs help and happens to be in the same cafe. If matches job candidates with their perfect employers. It manages to stop a catastrophe when a greedy dairy manager refused to dispose of a shipment of spoiled milk. All of this is handled through the facilitation of X, Rui’s (seemingly) A.I. assistant.
But there’s another side of GALAX, too, and I suspect it’s where Gatchaman Crowds is taking the story in the long haul. When even Sugane is impressed by the power of GALAX after the milk fiasco, Hajime (she is perfect, let’s not forget) scolds him that you can’t rely on the internet for everything – once you lose the signal or run out of juice, you’re on your own. GALAX in the wrong hands could be quite a terrifying weapon, for a multitude of reasons. Rui’s faults, if anything, seem to push towards the naive side of the ledger, and he may be unaware of the power he’s unleashed on the world – which leads to speculation that both he and the creation of GALAX may be a front. Rui might be an unwitting dupe and part of a plan for world domination (Miyano likely being involved). If in fact that’s where the story is headed it holds considerable potential to get more compelling, but for right now my curiosity is still somewhat detached. It’s unusual for me to get three episodes into a series without being really engaged and have that change, but not unheard of – and Nakamura and Oono are unusual talents. I’m hoping for the best.