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.