Weekly Digest 8/11/13 – Gatchaman Crowds, Uchuu Kyoudai

Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -1 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -18 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -7 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -14

That was certainly a Space Brothers episode unlike any other.

Gatchaman Crowds – 05

Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -2 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -3 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -4
Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -5 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -6 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -7
Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -8 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -9 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -10
Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -11 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -12 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -13
Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -14 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -15 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -16
Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -17 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -19 Gatchaman Crowds - 05 -20

I suppose it’s official that I’m blogging Gatchaman at this point, as it’s almost half-over already.  And it’s still about where it’s been for the last month: pretty good, full of imagination, cheaply made, occasionally brilliant but never quite capturing my imagination as a cohesive whole.

Rui’s speech to rebellious CROWDS-ster Umeda (Yuusa Kouji) this week is a good example.  There’s nothing wrong with the sentiment behind it and there’s never been any denying Oono-sensei’s idealistic bent, but for me it felt a little flat.  I’ve been trying to find a way to put the difference in effectiveness between Tsuritama and Crowds into words, and in the end I think it comes down to sincerity.  It was so obvious that Tsuritama was personal for Toshiya that for me at least the sincerity behind the emotions was never in doubt.  Here, things seem more contrived, and as such Oono’s shameless positivity comes off as a little corny and manufactured.

There are still individual moments here I really love, like the intro sequence with Paiman eating watermelon while riding a Roomba and pulling hit NOTE from the front of his… pants?  And pretty much every moment where Namikawa Daisuke or Mamoru Miyano are allowed to talk takes Gatchaman to another level.  But too much of it still feels pedestrian and rote for it to really have any deep resonance with me.  It’s interesting, but interesting isn’t enough to make me really care about it.

Uchuu Kyoudai – 69

Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -1 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -2 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -3
Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -4 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -5 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -6
Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -8 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -9 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -10
Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -11 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -12 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -13
Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -15 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -16 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -17
Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -18 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -19 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -20
Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -21 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -22 Uchuu Kyoudai - 69 -23

I’m not at all sure of the implications of this week’s Uchuu Kyoudai.  Things absolutely kicked into overdrive – hell, warp speed – as over a year’s worth of time was covered,  There were major developments on many fronts, and much of what’s been building over the current arc was covered in flashback.  Is this an indication that the anime wants to make sure they get Mutta into space during its run – whose length has still not been officially announced, as far as I know?  Apparently there’s a similar timeskip in the manga, so perhaps there’s no deeper import to it, but it presents quite a jolt.

Make no mistake, this was story fast-forward.  Murasaki is on the moon, playing pranks on his crewmates.  A “Mister Hibbit” anime (more in a minute, unfortunately) has premiered in Japan, to stellar ratings.  Sharon is still writing letters.  Deneil Young has retired, having let Mutta take the stick start to finish (against regulations) for his last flight.  And most importantly – shockingly quickly, for an event of such titanic meaning – Mutta has passed from ASCAN to astronaut.

There’s some interesting stuff here, especially in Jason Butler’s assessment that Mutta seems like a weak candidate – but has unprecedented amounts of positive recommendations on his behalf.  “I’ve never seen a candidate who didn’t impress me with so many recommendations” Butler says – and that seems to sum up Mutta pretty well.  There’s also the tantalizing offer of a spot on the backup crew for a mission in 18 months, though it appears there’s going to be a problem with that.  And Mutta finally gets his photo on the wall at JAXA, which should have been a huge moment, especially when Hoshika insists he be placed next to Hibito.  But the speed with which it all happens saps some power from the moment, as does the ghastly photo itself.

The part of the ep that really leaves a bad taste in my mouth, though, is the final “Mister Hibbit” clip, which features a shockingly racist caricature of Buddy as a gorilla. Uchuu Kyoudai is a little too fond of stereotypes to begin with and Buddy was always a bit over-the-top, but this really stunned me.  Perhaps because of cultural differences the mangaka and director might not be aware of just how offensive this is, but I don’t think ignorance can be a real excuse when common sense is so clearly saying “For the love of God, stop!” – especially with a history of less egregious missteps like this already.  I’ll give the benefit of the doubt that no harm was meant, but it sure as hell wasn’t funny – and I fervently hope this is the last we see of this ghastly spectacle.

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11 comments

  1. R

    Yeah, I didn't like the last part either. I mean, what's the purpose of adding that to wonderful show? It's so not cute and absolutely not funny.

    Other than that, this episode feels like a crowning moment for Mutta although the pacing feels like it's from a different show. After more than a year that we have been following his journey — from feeling unsure, to finding the resolve, to tackling all the challenges, to proving himself, and to winning the hearts of many — Mutta is now an official astronaut. It's nice to see how it brings back some of the people that Mutta met. This episode also has the right balance and mix of comedic and emotional moments. I like it. I wonder what lies ahead that will challenge Mutta's journey to the moon.

  2. K

    Re. Gatchaman Crowds: Perhaps the reason why you sense a certain lack of sincerity behind the presentation of Rui’s speech to 26 is because the writer is implying that there is a problem with Rui’s thinking behind it. Rui is full of contradictions. He wants an ideal state-of-affairs where people help each other out of altruism and there’s no need for leaders or heroes. Yet his Galax system is a hierarchical structure that’s dependant on him alone to decide how to deploy CROWDS. It has him acting as a benevolent dictator who disbands SDWORC for being too critical. So Rui’s speech is an indication that he is confused.

  3. E

    I saw it that way too, actually. Rui wants to believe in what he tells Umeda, but his inner turmoil is tearing him apart. Not to mention that he's also in conflict because of the nature of his power, and of the person who gave it to him.

    Umeda was basically calling him out on his bullcrap; and while he's a bully and a potentially dangerous person, he has a point – the Hundred are in this for the good of the people, but no worker feels good about doing a job for no reward. Katze has Rui between a rock and a hard place – what he's started can go many ways but all the ways are bad (which is what Katze wants). Perhaps Rui's first meeting with Hajime can turn things around?

  4. The issue of sincerity is not Rui's speech, it's the entire show. At least for me.

  5. K

    You wrote, “There's nothing wrong with the sentiment behind it and there's never been any denying Oono-sensei's idealistic bent, but for me it felt a little flat.” There is something definitely wrong with the thought, if not the sentiment, behind Rui’s speech. Thus, it’s intended to feel a little flat.

    Perhaps I’m misreading you. When you wrote, “the sentiment behind it,” does “it” refer to Rui’s speech or to Oono’s script? I assumed the former. If I was mistaken, my apologies.

  6. M

    Dats racist!

  7. G

    I'm glad Space Brothers shows the USA in a positive light. All too often anime series seems to always make Americans out to be villians. The folks in Japan must really hate us. Funny how the animes do that but never mention Chinese, North Koreans, or Russians as villians.

  8. K

    It's all about experiential history I suppose. Now obviously as anime is a Japanese medium, the world view would be seen through Japanese eyes (or some equivalent proxy, such as JIOR in Valverave as just one recent example). Seeing as America was the one that dropped the two nuclear bombs (some who argue an act which was absolutely unnecessary as Japan may or may not have been willing to surrender already), many Japanese have felt that they were the victims—not the aggressors—and that their only mistake was to have lost the war. Then there's also the fact that America still have military bases stationed in Japan, and that post-war they had a large say in how the country was restructured, you can begin to understand why many Japanese view America with disdain, even if it's at a subconscious level.
    Now, this is not to say all Japanese people hate Americans; quite the opposite actually as many Japanese people love Westerners, just as many in the West (and all around the world) love Japan and its culture. But when you view current media through the lens of history, you begin to understand why people say, draw and produce media the way they do.
    Now, why not Chinese, North Koreans or Russians? Well the Chinese and Koreans were the very ones who were oppressed by the Japanese during the war. And for some reason, Chinese and Koreans are still viewed with disdain by many in Japan. And Russians, well (now this is just a guess) perhaps their atrocities were so far removed that it doesn't really matter to the Japanese? Japan has always been quite isolated to the rest of the world. The crimes that Soviet Russia committed happened in a very faraway place to people very different to them. In one (very harsh) sense, why would they care?
    I've use many wide sweeping (and probably politically incorrect) generalisations in this reply, much of which may or may not actually reflect what the vast majority of Japanese people actually believe, but if you keep an eye on Japanese social media (or the English social media that translate/report about it), even if it is not something that is the "official" stance of Japan and the Japanese, the fact that the average Yamada Tarou is posting it in anonymity surely means something; and when you see enough stupid 2ch threads and comments, you can begin to for a view on how many Japanese view the rest of the world, even if it is something they would never say to you in your face, just as there are many stupid, racist, derogatory and discriminatory threads in our own little dark corner of the internet reflecting on the dark side of our own culture.

  9. K

    Wow, that reply really went on a lot longer than I thought it would. But I hope that sheds a little bit of light on why, in anime, America is portrayed the way it is. Every country has its own story and how they've been treated in the past by other countries affects how they are viewed by others.

    One final example I have is a Chinese friend who was born in Australia, but raised in China for a portion of his childhood. He often bemoans how China is portrayed in the West, on corruption and greed as a common example. In the beginning, I felt he was almost indoctrinated, perhaps as a result of being raised partially in China, but as I began to pay more attention, it surely has some truth in it. A simple example is sports. One little Chinese girl does well in swimming, and the world is up in arms exclaiming drugs must be involved, but Lance Armstrong wins seven consecutive Tour de France and no one batted an eyelid (at the time).

    Anyway, I better quit and get off this soap box before this comment explodes in size as well.

  10. Z

    Why not Russia? Japan had victories against them in the Russo-Japan War.

  11. e

    'Ghastly photo'? Aw Enzo, for me it was the opposite. Mutta Moe. I felt like hugging my laptop screen at his adorkableness =*U*= . If wearing an albino chimpanzee plush suit could grant me that photo I'd don the thing in a heartbeat.
    I do hope the Hibit segment is not going to be a regular insert in the show. The only positive effect it had on me was a craving for bananas.
    The Terminator bit and… Porco Rosso? were funny though. Mutta's thing for Serika is still going strong as well. I wonder if this subplot is ever going anywhere and if Mutta can act on it beyond blushing and fantasizing like a middle schooler. I like to think it will happen eventually… if only for us to be presented with another timeskip including a family photo featuring their children :,D.

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