Gatchaman Crowds – 06

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I think it may be time for me to face facts when it comes to Gatchaman Crowds.

I probably jumped the gun last week, because I’m about ready to drop this series for blogging purposes.  It’s a shame, because I obviously have huge respect for Oono Toshiya and Nakamura Kenji, and – mundane a reason as it is – I have nothing else in the Friday late-night slot that I’m covering this season.  But in truth, if it weren’t a Nakamura/Oono series I probably would have dropped Crowds already.  To be blunt, while it’s got a core of interesting ideas behind it, it isn’t a very good show.

What I want to avoid is a series of posts that increasingly become vehicles for venting about all the things that are wrong with Gatchaman, and I’m not sure I can avoid it.  The things that bother me about the series are hardening into place to the extent that I’m not sure the show as a whole is salvageable as far as I’m concerned (it is half over, after all).  I don’t feel anything for the main characters, and Hajime is especially grating (if I had to listen to one more round of “Su! Su! Su!”  “Dreamy…  Dreamy…” this week I suspect I’d have tossed the laptop out the window).  Jou and Berg Katze are compelling to watch (as much due to their seiyuu as anything) but they’re deep on the fringes of the narrative.  Paiman is very funny – again largely thanks to the voice work – but nothing more than comic relief.  The show is shockingly cheap with some really head-shaking animation and detail lapses, and the narrative focus is non-existent – it’s all over the map.

There are those interesting ideas, which might just be enough to salvage the show for me if I didn’t really dislike the main character and the way she’s used as a plot driver.  But the final nail in the coffin, for me, is the way Gatchaman Crowds rings false.  The whole show has a very manufactured and calculated feel for me – I don’t get any sense that there’s a core purpose driving the enterprise.  It’s as if one or the other of the two show runners said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” and they just ran with it, with no idea of where they wanted to go.  That’s been a problem with Nakamura in the past too, of course, though I’d hoped the Oono partnership might be the magic elixir to channel his powers for good.

I do think the ideas raised in Gatchaman are interesting ones – it was well-formulated by Rui this week when he framed it as a choice between the world needing heroes to rely on vs. the entire world becoming their own heroes.  I like the idea of a world that, as Rui says, has become too complicated for the few with power to effectively manage it (and that’s assuming most of those few would do so with good intentions even if they could).  There’s something subversive in the notion of GALAX as a kind of egalitarian soil-tiller for global society, and in the notion that his idealism is causing him to be played for a sap by Berg and whoever’s pulling his strings.  But the execution is so inconsistent (and often outright mediocre) and the focus so scattershot that those seeds never really get a chance to sprout.  It’s too bad, and I’ll keep watching for at least a couple more episodes in the hope of a turnaround.  But for now, I’m probably folding my hand.

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  1. K

    It's really amazing how different people can react to the same show in such different ways. To my eyes, this episode was the best yet (despite having the sloppiest animation so far.) Its intelligence is razor sharp. The show is performing a high-wire act, keeping all the many elements balanced in a way that I find mesmerizing. Far from being annoying, I see Hajime as an extraordinary character. She’s a rule-breaker both in her world and as a story element. I relished how she saw right through Rui during their conversation in a way that wasn’t overplayed. I'm thoroughly enjoying the show both intellectually and emotionally.

    For me, Gatchaman Crowds is the best of the season, and it’s now pulling away from the others, even in a season that has been graced by several great shows (which feels great after mediocre offerings in Fall, Winter and Spring.)

  2. M

    I'd agree that Gatchaman Crowds is probably the most polarizing show of this season. And with the director, that really isn't too surprising. Me? I'm sort of in some middle ground limbo, where I feel differently about to material at any moment. Which also sounds about right for a polarizing show. Now whether that's a good thing or not, I don't really know.

    But clearly the antagonists are the best part of the show at the moment, which isn't surprising for a superhero show either.

  3. I consider myself in the middle ground too – which is generally a place that's below the cutoff for where I blog a show. And with this director and writer, a disappointing place to be.

    Hajime is pure cliche to me. She's never wrong. She's always cute. She's always genki. How much more predictable can a character be?

  4. K

    If Hajime is such a cliché, why don't we see more of her type? An outwardly cute, bubbly character who is more intelligent than she seems is a type more often seen in Western media than in Japanese anime. But even then, Hajime's intelligence is not the more commonly-depicted, I-am-attuned-to-the-frequencies-of-the-Universe-and-people's-feelings, flower-child type. She's actually more realist than idealist. During her conversation with Rui, she even uses manipulation and a poker face. She's not your typical flower child.

  5. K

    A couple more points: Another way in which Hajime defies clichés is how she respects authority. To her, the police, the military, the fire department, even the government are all potential agents of good. Yet she also believes in the power of human interaction through arts and crafts. That's a more subtle worldview than the simplified opposition that's usually depicted. I also find it interesting that Rui is positioned as the gloomy idealist in contrast to Hajime as the cheerful realist and skeptic. That's another example of this show going against normally-depicted tropes.

    Hajime doesn't deal with absolutes. She's always thinking situationally. She sees Galax's social networking as both potential positive force and an object of suspicion. If anything, she's like a more honest Poirot or a Columbo, someone with the mind approaching Sherlock Holmes, but with surface mannerisms that happen to be honestly bubbly. I don't think her persona is an act of deceit. It is who she is.

    Also, if such a smart character is off-putting, than what about other brilliant characters in literature? Does Sherlock Holmes' brilliant mind make him a poor literary device? Even in terms of realism, not everyone in the world is average. There are the occasional extraordinary people, even in real life.

  6. K

    Sorry for the extended rant, but one more thing: Hajime does have flaws. Her verbal communication skills could be better. While someone like Columbo cultivates his shambling appearance in order to make others underestimate him, Hajime's cheerful demeanor makes those around her underestimate her, to her detriment. She doesn't explain herself very well. Unless I'm wrong, and she really is Machiavellian and she was putting on an act after all (as is hinted at in the conversation with Rui,) in which case that could still be considered a different kind of flaw, or at the very least an unusual quirk.

  7. k

    @K Robert M

    I agree with your view on Hajime. To me she turned 180 from the genki girl Enzo writes about to razor sharp opponent. It's not like she is always right, it's just that she asks questions that have many repercussions. She rarely states that something is wrong – she either states that she doesn't understand it or that she doesn't agree with it and does what she believes in. I found it brilliant when she transformed in the tunnel to meet face-to-face with Rui saying it had to be right here, right now. When looking in broader context and translating story to counterparts from reality, we see a situation similiar to idealism of social networking, like Facebook, contrasting to real life encounters. Imagine Hajime having 100 friends on facebook, every one of whom she meets face-to-face and knows and then imagine Rui having 500 on his anonymous profile. It's obvious who has more influence. Hajime never stops pursuing meetings and makes the best of Galax to achieve that goal. Rui just collects masses of followers that he wants to adopt his idealism which is bound to end in both chaos and disappointment. This is only one example of shitload brilliant social commentaries that I noticed and god knows how many are there.

    The second thing that many people dislike is the way the story unfolds. Many describe as chaotic, jumping from place to place, sometimes unclear. That is directors deliberate decision to stray from typical linear storytelling to non-linear or rather half-linear, based on what emerged during last two decades: dynamic content exploration that is a direct product of Internet, webbrowsing and social networking. Some psychologists or sociologists describe it as harmful or nonconstructive, but it becomes something normal to younger generations. We come to conclusions not vertically – from the beginning of some action to the end, but horizontally – when we accumulate enough different informations about occurence at one point in time to come to a conclusion valid in that time only. When we receive new information, we either update our previous conclusion or start the whole process from the beginning, coming to the same or a different conclusion. There is too many factors changing at once to stick to only one conclusion. Such dynamic view is something strange to older generations.

    Kinza Datteri

  8. B

    Have to agree on Hajime in that she is quite extraordinary. Her introduction in the first ep had small hints that she wasn't really the common character type of an overly active but not very smart girl and that was still the projected manner of her character at the end of ep 1.

    That was changed slowly over the series when she asks questions that would be considered "dumb" at first listen but actually hit a basic problem that no one had identified.

    This episode, the series basically stated that she is no airhead in as close as the show has come out to say anything in a straightforward manner when she mentioned she did not unmask herself on impulse.

    I thought it was kind of rude that she played with her gatchaman notebook while Rui was talking but when she asked the question on the Crowds ability that Rui was using in the tunnel, it because clear what she was actually doing.

  9. B

    Eh, was a reply to K Robert M but ended up as a new comment. Anyway the drop in animation quality is the main problem of the series that i hope they can solve.

  10. See, I don't get this whole thing about Hajime seeming dumb. To me, she's a pure Mary Sue – she dispenses her homespun, unerring wisdom in any situation and never misses the mark. I don't see any deception or contrast here – I just see a perfect character who happens to be genki to the point of playing the fool at times. But her perfection has never been in doubt, and I never got the sense that we were supposed to think anything else.

  11. B

    That's because all of the problems presented (except for the lastest one of unmasking herself) up until now have not been complex ones with multiple points of failure.

    The only way she could fail to come up with the best immediate solution (not the long term one) given her level of displayed intellect, would be that she did not have sufficient information which she bypasses by poking and prodding, similar to how she helped the Mess escape at the end of ep 1.

    For example, with Utsu in this ep, she's solving the symptoms but not the root of the problem and i'm not exactly sure if she had actually understood the problem yet since its not like she has received much information and background on her but she is getting closer.

    As for her image of being an airhead, it her entire reaction to JJ when they were at the school rooftop seemed to me to be pretty moronic. Followed with her "wtf" obsessions with scissors and notebooks and constant nonchalance in ep 1, lets just say that her image wasn't exactly much better than Hirasawa Yui's.

  12. I disagree in that I think there've been plenty of problems presented that any normal character would have been stymied by. Hajime powers through them with her inhuman ability to know things there's no way she could reasonably know. I don't see an airhead image here at all, just a carefree way of carrying herself. Frankly, I think it's pretty lazy writing, but with as much of a mess of threads as these scripts are, it's going to lend itself to that kind of short-cutting.

  13. B

    The problem is that the type of intellect level Hajime's character is showing is not at all normal. These types of people can make mental leaps that can seem nonsensical but actually has a logic to it. Added to her empathy level, that would make her seem omniscient but she's really not.

    If you can list one or more of the problems, i can try to decipher how she came up with the conclusion

  14. N

    People sure have been spoiled by conventional stories and characters, to the point that certain storytellings have more value than others.

    Yes, Hajimete is a Mary Sue: it was obvious from first few minutes of ep1 and both the OP and ED make it clear she is perfect and will most certainly never ever make a mistake. However, being a Mary Sue is only a negative when a character who shouldn't be one becomes one (that is, a character who is supposed to have flaws and have char. development)… as Robert mentioned Mary Sue characters have always been a legit archetype (that is, many charcaters are intentionally made perfect because it was required for the story). Hajimete's entire role in the story is to be the perfect character. Her value is not in her character, but in how she affects the story. She is a plot element, not a conventional character we are supposed to relate to and she shouldn't be judged as one. We already have Rui and Senpai for char. development, as well as Gatchaman organization as a whole.
    Also, it is ironic to call her cliche when her radical Mary Sueness is what makes her unconventional.

    I think the biggest mistake one can do with this show is to expect it to follow conventions and thus build your expectations and judgments on that. It is an unconventional show following unconventional goals and using its characters and plot unconventionally. And I'd say all those were clear already in ep1.

  15. Z

    That's cool and all, but at the end of the day it does nothing for me personally. Even if there is some sort of payoff at the end I don't think the effort in getting there would be worth it.

  16. K

    Wow, people here are quite involved with this show. The producers must have got something right, right? Frankly, this show while polarizing is one I really enjoy.


  17. The funny thing is, this show generated almost no post traffic here until I said I was dropping it.

  18. i

    I guess maybe a lot of people had it at the bottom of their watch list and since I suppose the show is so crazy they couldn't post too many intellectual thoughts on it until their opinion opposed yours. I for one just didn't like it from the get go. Not just Hajime but everything from the OP to story seemed ridiculous.

  19. B

    For me, it was more of a coincidence. By the time i had just finished watching and see if someone had posted either thoughts that had not occurred to me, confirmed some of my suspicions or noticed new stuff, your post was right on top in animenano when searching under gatchaman

    Not to say i have never read your previous gatchaman posts since i try to read most posts in animenano under the series i like, but i probably didn't comment on it.

  20. C

    This is how I processed Rui and Hajime's conversation.

    Rui: "Pls stop being a gatchaman?"

    Hajime: "Nope"

    Rui: "I want to turn eveyone in humanity to turn into heroes. So Gatchaman aren't needed."

    Hajime let out her Gatchaman Note.

    Rui noticed that Gatchaman note Hajime is holding. He also realize that he to has one as well.

    Hajime: "LOAD(Rui) are those sparkling things in the tunnel your friends."

    Rui: "What are you talking about?"

    Hajime stares at Rui.

    Hajime: "LOAD, you're prettier without makeup " (Translation: You also use and hide your powers.)
    : "You're so pretty. It's such a shame." (Translation: You have awesome powers. Are you also going to abadon it? What a shame)
    : "I think you can become prettier." (Translation: I think you can do more than just that.)

    Rui realize that even with humans becoming heroes, humans have limitation in saving people.
    That humans aren't able to save people in a larger scale.

    Rui gets 100 hit damage from Hajime.

    Thus Rui said "No makeup, huh…… What an amazing girl."


  21. R

    I'm officially dropping this, I chose to follow eleven series for the Summer and this one is by far the worst.

  22. A

    I'm finding this one of the best shows of the season, and find nothing to dislike about it.
    What it's doing with the genre I find particularly interesting, and far more interesting than a straight Gatchaman spinoff would have been.
    I also really enjoy Hajime as a character, although few people seem to have noted that Utsutsu called her out as a liar a few episodes back. I think she's possibly putting up a front, and is nowhere near as vacuous as she first appeared.

    Finally, this episode's very subtle Jimi Hendrix reference seems to have been overlooked.
    "Hey Jou, where you going with that gun in your hand?"

  23. J

    Hendrix may be the definitive version, but he didn't write it.

  24. C

    I'm just annoyed that – as you said – the show is halfway through, and there is no impetus or reasoning behind :>'s actions! I thought that she would have a back story OR SOMETHING interesting going on in her head, but her "romance" with katana dude isn't really clear and her effects on Gatchaman are nothing but positive. Why is she so genki? Why is her weirdo outlook on life always correct? Why does gray face san let her continue with her crazy antics? It's just hard to connect with :> because she's just so weird. On the other hand, the most interesting person in the show for me is the alien Gatchaman with the purple crew top, but he wasn't even in this episode, and his interesting history is only hinted at. It's really disappointing that all we have to show for 6 episodes of Crowds are a bunch of half-baked hints at a larger story. It's frustrating. I realize that maybe they're holding all their explanations for the climax or something, but that only makes for a rushed and unsatisfying ending and, honestly, some incredibly boring "buildup" episodes.

  25. J

    I figure gray face selected her for her crazy antics. Remember that sidelong glance he gave her when she said that she thought she "saw something."

  26. l

    You people sure are patient.
    I dropped this after realizing that the spandex bird suits weren't making a comeback.

  27. Z

    No birdsuits was disappointing, and I could accept that if what we were given in exchange made up for that. Alas.

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