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
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.