Gatchaman Crowds and the Death of Gods

Dramatic title, eh? But for this show it’s surprisingly appropriate. Gatchaman Crowds is the most ambitious show of the summer, and quite possibly the most ambitious show of the year. But does it succeed in its ambitions? Well, if I tell you that right now, why would you read the rest of this?

I’m just kidding it succeeds this show is sweet let’s talk about it anyway.

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Summer 2013 – Week 13 in Review

And so the summer ends. I really couldn’t be more burnt out on talking about anime, considering I just finished three 8+ page essays on TWGOK, Uchouten Kazoku, and Gatchaman Crowds, but I’ll at least wave my hand in the direction of final impressions.

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Gatchaman Crowds – Episode 12

And here we are. No idea how they’re gonna tie up all these loose ends – obviously there are a number of ways they could resolve the overt plot, but that was never really the point with this one. Can the show even take a coherent stance on all the issues it’s raised? Hajime’s philosophy of transparency and “if the internet’s being a jerk, just turn it off” sort of works… until you actually need the internet, in which case you hand out smartphones to everyone, and then Berg Katze gives everybody Crowds and you’re screwed all over again. Fortunately, the actual character journeys are pretty much done at this point – last episode cleared out any doubts of that. At this point, it’s pretty purely ideology versus ideology, so I guess we’ll just have to see what stands when the dust clears.

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Summer 2013 – Week 12 in Review

Would it be hyperbole to call this the best week of the season? Don’t really see how it could be – sure, Gatchaman was hamstrung by its budget issues, but everything else… well…

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Gatchaman Crowds – Episode 11

I don’t want to ramble, I want to see this show’s final thoughts! Loved that scene with 26 and Katze last episode – this stuff was alluded to earlier with the childhood pictures of Rui and Hajime, but the internet’s dark heart is aterrifying place, and Katze is stabbing right at the core of of it. But that’s a deflection, of course – as Katze continuously reminds us, he (and the internet itself) are not some malicious outsider, imprinting dark instincts on us – they are merely a reflection of our own maliciousness, of the way anonymity and freedom from consequences allow us to demonize and destroy each other. Hajime wields transparency as a force for good, as the prerequisite to honest communication that allows us to respect each other and accomplish great things as a community. Katze and the Neo-Hundred have chosen anonymity as their weapon, but as 26 demonstrates, when you’re relying on misdirection and anonymity to be your weapon, anonymity also has to be your shield. For him, when the screen is unplugged, he is left naked, defenseless.

Not sure where I’m going with all this. This show is stewing a whole pile of awesome ideas, and I’m basically just having great fun seeing how all the pieces fit. Let’s get a little bit more of the jigsaw.

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Gatchaman Crowds – Episode 10

So yeah, last episode the Gatchamen abandoned their creator in favor of starting up a sweet Youtube channel. Don’t bother asking me what they’re gonna do this week.

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Summer 2013 – Week 10 in Review

Another fantastic week in anime, but when the current season has a bewildering buffet on the scale of three good shows, that tends to happen. All three of my favorites were in top form this week, so let’s run down the list.

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Summer 2013 – Week 9 in Review

Fell behind on some shows this week, and haven’t had the time to catch up. I’ll update this with C3-bu and Monogatari whenever I get around to them. And hell, maybe I’ll even catch up on the handful of Titan episodes I’ve been too apathetic to watch.

Uchouten Kazoku 9: Best show yada yada beautiful art yada yada resonant themes yada yada incredibly naturalistic storytelling etc. As always, the grace of this show’s composition and dialogue fall well beyond my ability to articulate, so I guess I’ll just say that this week’s episode finally brought the scale of the show’s final conflicts into focus. The election of the Nise-emon and the Friday Fellows’ New Year’s bash are clearly going to be tied together in this final arc, most likely through whatever secret plan the Ebisugawas are plotting. Once again, Yasaburou proved himself the begrudging but undeniably best-qualified leader of the family, his easy nature making him the perfect diplomat when it came to the Fellows, the professor, and even Kaisei. I’m eager to see how Benten will figure into this conflict, but at this point I mainly just want this show to be finished so I can buy it and force everyone else I know to watch it. Why do I watch anime? Because every year we get a handful of shows worth talking about and maybe one or two of these.

Gatchaman Crowds 8: Quite an episode this week. After the tumultuous showdown of last week, they follow it up by… visiting a preschool. That kind of works, in a thematic way. Which is how most of the stuff in this show works – it often feels like Hajime is having a direct conversation with the audience more than she is with any of the characters around her. Her actions make much more sense given our fuller context, her smaller choices are often reflective of the show’s overarching ideas, and she’s so flawless outside of her communication difficulties that her alignment with the show’s philosophy often verges on (and you could easily argue fully veers into) didactic storytelling.

But anyway, theme stuff. Visiting the preschool and appearing in human form is pretty much perfectly Hajime – she values communication between equals above all else, and uses this opportunity to redefine the Gatchamen as just another group of people trying to help out, like firemen or policemen. She also uses the media presence to take the power of crowdsourcing out of Galax’s hands and publicly announce what’s going on and how people can help out (credit to tundranocaps for pointing this one out). And then Sugane and OD have their whole on-the-nose conversation about the egoless play of children being like the joyful horizontal society Rui’s so goddamn excited about. So we push the story forward while also talking about all the show’s favorite ideas. Good stuff!

Incidentally, people are getting all excited about the first few hours of Gatchaman’s appearance on Amazon or whatnot, but it seems a little premature to be celebrating that. Honestly, I’d be pretty surprised if a show this completely dedicated to such esoteric ideas finds wide success, particularly since its visual aesthetic is so unabashedly anime, which I’m guessing is pretty off-putting to most people interested in discussing crowdsourcing, gamification, and the false prophet of leadership. But then again, Utsutsu of all characters recently came in the top four of a Japanese summer “best female character” poll, so perhaps once again the right show will get big sales for all the wrong reasons.

TWGOK S3 9: TWGOK is not really my kind of show, but at this point I’m extremely happy I’ve watched the rest of it, because the improvements in this season are just insane. Keima’s always been an entertaining protagonist, but this season has forced him to actually take his Lelouch-powers seriously, and this was the episode where it all came to a head. His denial of Chihiro was some legitimately devastating stuff – normally I get uncomfortable whenever anything haremy attempts to take its characters emotions’ seriously (because if if I’m taking them seriously, I also have to take seriously the fact that harems are fundamentally fucked-up, dehumanizing power fantasies with all kinds of demented ideas about relationships and power dynamics), but this episode actually let the hammer fall in a way no other harem would. No funny gags here – Keima’s actions, while ultimately intended to help people, have completely toyed with people’s emotions, and when you do things like this you suffer the consequences. This has been coming for a long time, but I was honestly shocked by how effective it was, and the strength of this moment by itself raised my estimation of the show overall. Congrats, Season 3.

Free! 9:

Yep, still watching Free. This week’s episode was actually one of the best (which admittedly isn’t saying much), with a bunch of great gags and some quite effective dramatic moments. My enthusiasm for this pretty lousy show kind of dwindles the more information we get on the fall show seemingly determined to prove what KyoAni are actually capable of, so for the sake of leaving my children a full set of derpy comedy writeups, I’m hoping it keeps up the pace.

Gatchaman Crowds – Episode 9

Oh man am I excited for this one. The Gatchamen have had their first semi-formal press conference, Hajime has pretty much completely taken over leadership of the group, and Rui has specifically been called out to collaborate with them. Hajime has no time for Rui’s careful backroom machinations, and she’s ready to draw the world kicking and screaming into a flatter future. No more secret heroes – we public now.

Incidentally, I was late on last week’s episode, but I didn’t skip it. That writeup’s here.

Episode 9

0:10 – Take THAT, idealism! 

0:31 – Oh my god these two I can’t take it 

And yes, she does indeed got him now. The Hajime always wins

0:45 – Of course Sugane’s all freaked out 

1:05 – All this Reiservice . Hell, even Uchouten Kazoku had a bathhouse episode that was all dudes. SEXISM IS OVER!

Editor’s note: sexism is not over

1:29 – Pai is the clear choice for public relations manager.  Also his phone charger is also a panda yes

1:44 – Yep! An excellent way to keep Pai busy 

3:25 – This OP is always so damn good. What style this show has

3:45 – Utsutsu’s certainly changed 

4:19 – Yeah, the internet is goddamn scary . They’re not sugarcoating it, and they’re portraying its ability to destroy the idea of personal space very efficiently

4:32 – Jeez, I can’t imagine anyone thinking that! 

4:45 – This is amazing . “Is Hajime retarded or something lol”

Lol indeed, internet. Lol indeed.

5:13 – Not a fan? Hajime don’t give a fuck .

Well, this is probably the first and last time I’ll see an anime character directly mock their own internet hatedom. Nice work, Hajime

5:24 – Light and dark yada yada.  Hurray for visual motifs

5:30 – Really like this shot.  Discussing the dark heart of human nature while being reflected in the black screen behind which hides the internet. That is a classy little metaphor

5:44 – Behold the glory of Hajime’s interior decorating. 

5:52 – And there’s the light.  Not sure what depth to draw out of the contrast. We’ll see where they go with it

7:01 – Again, limited budget is not a strike against a great visual aesthetic . Love the rough watercolors feel. Again they draw the contrast extremely sharply by portraying the brightly lit school of last episode in grey darkness

7:15 – Not just change, but recognition 

7:55 – Hey, Katze just wants to make everyone a superhero, right?  Equality! Unfortunately, not everyone is Hajime or Rui

8:18 – Heeey, waaait a second 

9:05 – This is clearly the best use of opera-dubstep there has ever been . This soundtrack you guys

10:13 – Ah, I get it.  The light/dark stuff perfectly mirrors the mask/invisibility/transparency stuff. Hajime’sphilosophy centers on equal transparency – she does not want to hide what she does, she communicates directly with people, she values showing her face and meeting in person and speaking frankly. Everything she does is thusly fully “lit” and transparent. Katze and 26 (and Rui, initially) use masks, obscurity, invisibility – they set themselves apart from others, and cloak their intentions, and force change instead of opening dialogue. So the light/dark isn’t about good/evil, it’s about honesty/dishonesty, equal dialogue/forced change, transparency/obscurity.

10:33 – Very smart of Hajime to act quickly.  It’d be much more difficult to pin this as the act of an exterior party after the fact. And in spite of Hajime wanting to have everyone work together, people knowing the Gatchamen exist will definitely reduce panic here

10:48 – They’re really focusing on these candy . Maybe just a visual subtheme of this episode – Katze scatters candy carelessly, Utsutsu is given a single sweet by Hajime, which she carefully sets aside with her Note

11:49 – This is all some very pretty destruction 

12:37 – As if I needed  more reasons to love this show 

But yeah, that’s pretty much the ultimate example of our misplaced faith in higher powers, ain’t it?

12:55 – Vertical bonds are not strong enough 

13:58 – Utsutsu lays down the law . Her voice is too adorable

14:16 – Hey look the sun came out oh well that’s probably a coincidence 

14:30 – Even computer programs are not immune to Hajime’s pro-dialogue optimism 


16:03 – He’s a changed man, Katze . He’s seen… okay, I’m not gonna say it

17:09 – Galax isn’t the enemy.  It’s just one manifestation of an inevitability. Very glad they haven’t simplified this conflict

17:47 – Is she intentionally abusing how incompetent he is to humanize the Gatchamen,  or is she just a huge troll?

18:16 – Can we rely on you? No, you probably shouldn’t . But we’re on the same side

19:07 – Very excited for this.  You guys seen those suit images? Much style

20:05 – Rui’s prior honesty with X may save him now 


And Done

Oh man, what a sweet conclusion. This world doesn’t need mysterious benefactors dictating justice from on high – not anymore. Brilliant.

Agh, this episode was so good. It’s all coming together so well. My fears from last week were happily unfounded – social media isn’t good or evil, it just Is. It’s powerful, and it’s here, and it changes the dynamic of human relations. It can be used to obscure truth and cloud human relations, but it can also be used for honesty and genuine connection. And that stuff about gods… yeah, I’m a big fan. This was maybe the best week yet, in fact. This show is absolutely killing it.

Gatchaman Crowds – Episode 8

I’m hearing all sorts of crazy nonsense about this episode. Let’s just get to it.

Episode 8

0:32 – No mincing words today! 

1:32 – This is kinda interesting.  Well, first, I love all the quirky little details of their apartment, and this shot is a great example of that. But more critically, this line sort of points to how OD has consistently been cast as both the one actual hero in the old model (as in, someone the characters could completely rely on and surrender individual agency to if the situation became desperate enough), and also as the central father figure among the cast (though Joe performs this role for Sugane), which may amount to the same thing. OD’s protection is able to shelter them, but Hajime’s meeting of equals allows Utsutsu to become self-reliant

Also yeah that’s a pretty ominous line for him to be saying

2:21 – Is OD attempting to perform Hajime’s role? 

2:35 – Yerp 

3:07 – One blunt line from Sugane is worth three Pai-OD conversations. 

3:22 – Again, we’ve covered this,  but “having fun” is Hajime for something closer to “achieving your purpose,” and is generally tied to the kind of social connection and service Hajime idolizes (though Katze has his own priorities, obviously). Great related post by /u/SohumB from last week

4:01 – She’s never thought much of Pai’s leadership, but now she’s ignoring it completely 

4:34 – Oof.  Double blow for Rui

6:20 – Well, Rui’s problem is obviously that he centralized power in his own way, and now he’s paying the price for that.  But X being a central intelligence is less interesting than X being an automated process used only to facilitate natural social and civic connections. The question of whether Rui’s ultimate goal is flawed or not can’t be engaged merely by abusing his admittedly hypocritical means. Kinda disappointed about that

8:32 – Fortunately Hajime always keeps things interesting 

8:35 – Pai’s pretty much already surrendered leadership 

9:04 – Joe continues to play from a hero’s journey script  decades behind the times

9:12 – But like Utsutsu, Sugane has learned not to rely on mentors/superiors 

10:03 – Hajime finally gets her wish.  Rui’s plan might work out after all, though not with his tools

13:12 – Sugane’s great with the kids 

13:47 – It seems like Berg-Katze wants people to distrust and destroy each other, so I guess Hajime is pre-establishing that this discord is coming from an outsider?  Announcing the Gatchaman also works to reduce their own mistique as untouchable heroes, which somewhat weakens Katze’s body-stealing (since that’s more powerful the more important the stolen body is, as shown with Rei)

14:13 – Oh she’s just getting all kinds of value out of this 

15:34 – Well there’s really no helping that 


19:49 – They’re going a little deep on the fun theory here.  So I guess he’s thinking Hajime’s society taps into a kind of honesty of communal spirit and happiness best exemplified through the even ground of childhood

And Done

Interesting episode. At the moment, the show seems more down on the social networking than I’d figured it would be, and siding largely with Hajime in emphasizing the power of equal, face-to-face connection. I kinda hope not all the pieces are in place at this point – Rui’s ideal world is fascinating, so I’m hoping GALAX won’t just be pure antagonist from now on.

The difference between 26 and either Hajime or Rui is still pretty interesting. Hajime and Rui both use that “fun” argument, talking in terms of the inherent satisfaction and good-feeling of collaborating and building a better future. In contrast, this episode 26 was basically talking about his work in terms of compensation for services rendered. The show’s philosophy seems to lean towards this being the wrong way to frame improving the world, but as with last time, the situation just isn’t that simple for him – he’s not just greedy, he has a kid and a mortgage and is far past the point where he could simply start over. Influencing the next generation through reaching the children is nice and all, but it doesn’t fix his world, and the distance between Hajime or Rui’s ideals and the practical realities of many of the people they’d wish to have adopt them is something I’d love to see the show continue to address.