Gatchaman Crowds, Episode 1–8: Dismissing hierarchies and deconstructing the sentai superhero genre

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Put down your spiked baseball bats everyone, for I have scene the light. Gatchaman Crowds is totally not shit.

For the first four episodes of Gatchaman Crowds I was one of the show’s detractors, and it was even one of my least favorite series of the season in general. Not quite as dreadful as Dog & Scissors, but it was down there. So after the fourth episode I ended up procrastinating about watching it for a whole month, until eventually I sat down and watched the latest four episodes back to back in order to catch up. After coming back to the series with an open mind, I can honestly say it’s dealt with a lot of issues that it seemed to have before and I actually like the show now.

Hajime was insufferably annoying in the early episodes, ignoring others and seeming to do the most random things on a whim, as well as generally acting like an autistic person. As of episode 8 that’s still true to some extent, but by now it’s clear that she doesn’t just do things on a whim, and a lot of her actions are deliberate and well thought out. In the beginning of episode 6 she reveals her identity to Rui and to some nearby security cameras (and thus to the whole world.) At first this seems like Hajime making a brash decision out of overt friendliness, but as she explains to Sugane, she revealed her identity since she figured it’d be easier to talk to Rui that way, and she didn’t believe the Gatchamen’s reasons for hiding their identities. In other words, she assessed the situation for herself and concluded that revealing her identity to Rui would be of little consequence.

Within Japanese society, businesses and institutes tend to follow a strict hierarchy based on seniority. the older you are with a company or business, the more respect and prestige you get from your underlings and the people who haven’t been with the same company as long as you. This type of thinking sort of works when it’s a large business or institute where there actually is a ladder for you to climb, even if it still comes with a slew of issues, but when we’re talking about a team of seven people it’s pretty pointless to get hung up on such matters. This is something which Hajime immediately ignores upon joining the Gatchman team, which is why she insists on acting so casual and friendly among everyone. That’s why whenever Sugane calls her Newbie she automatically corrects him with “It’s Hajime!”, and why she even walked up to J.J. and tried to make conversation with him, even though everyone kept screaming at her not to do that.

Dismissing such hierarchies and evening out the playing field for everyone is essentially what Rui is attempting to do with GALAX. For civilization to function, leaders are needed to organize and instruct everyone so they most effectively and cohesively work together. The big problem with this which Crowds addresses is that with that comes a sort of idealization of such leaders, of heroes, which in turn ties into imposing hierarchies which keeps “lesser” people from interacting with those “higher” on the hierarchy. By providing the non-human leader of GALAX to organize things and put humans on equal ground, people are able to function as a society without relying on hierarchical system. Of course, to throw away the government and rely solely on the people would be anarchism so to speak, which would also entail the dismissal of important public services needed for safety and civil issues. In which case Hajime’s middle ground would likely work the best here, in which both the government and GALAX coexist with one another.

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The whole way the Gatchaman team was off-putting at first. Even if this is a reboot to a classic superhero anime, I didn’t really like the idea of a team of magical superheroes lead by a stoic blue alien and an annoying mascot character panda, and who all had to keep their identity a secret for God knows why. “We don’t want Earth to panic” always has been a bit of a hand wavey excuse, which is why it’s nice to see Hajime ignore that in episode 6, and later pressures the other Gatchamen to reveal their identities as well. After coming face to face with Berg-Katze and learning that they are indeed present on planet Earth and about to stir up some massive trouble, there’s not really much point in keeping their identity a secret. If it’s at risk of being destroyed anyways, getting Earth as prepared as possible takes precedence over any potential panic.

The action scenes were difficult to watch in the early episodes. The battle suits of the characters look like a convoluted mess of color and detail, and the CGI just makes the action too slow and clunky to really work. Thankfully, after those first couple episodes Crowds barely even features any other action scenes, and instead focuses on the much more interesting plot surrounding GALAX and Berg-Katze. To be honest I was a bit confused by the revelation of the MESS being a non-issue early on in the series, but in hindsight it’s actually quite clever. The first couple episodes set the story up as some sort of monster of the week series, only for Hajime to actually try talking to the MESS and revealing that there was no need to fight them in the first place. This is an early sign of just what a mess (pun unintended) the Gatchaman team actually is if fighting was the only thing they tried doing in the first place.

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