Gatchaman Crowds: What Superheroes Should Be
Minor Gatchaman Crowds spoilers, MAJOR MAN OF STEEL SPOILERS TOWARDS THE END
I seriously cannot get over how good Gatchaman Crowds is. This isn't just the best anime of the Summer season by a mile (which says a lot due to Eccentric Family existing), it may very well be one of the best anime made in decades. This is instantly going somewhere in my personal top five list. It's amazing, but in ways that aren't really apparent at first. See, Gatchaman Crowds is smarter than most other smart shows; it says everything it wants to without constantly shoving it in your face.
But just what is this show about? I don't want to be one of those obnoxious pricks who constantly praises something without making it clear why it's so damn amazing, so let me break it down for ya, why Gatchaman Crowds is better than your favorite anime because your favorite anime is shit. Or, more importantly, why this is one of the single best superhero stories in a very long time.
...o-oh, you ...don't care... ...o-okay.... ;-;
"But Darkseid, Japanese people don't have superheroes! They hate America and don't believe in the magical forces of capitalism and regeanomics!"
First, how the fuck did you reach me in the middle of writing this, get your witchcraft out of my house. B, Japan loves them some capitalism, just look at all the useless anime crap you can buy for way too much fucking money. And lastly, Japan does have superheroes. It's called the sentai genre, which gave us the Power Rangers. Basically, a bunch of grown men and women dressing up in the most insane costumes imaginable and beating up rubber monster suits for the kiddies. You can also find older, more traditional superhero type characters in Japanese media, like 8 Man and ...Devilman, for some insane reason. They marketed that guy to kids, which is strange as the source material involves still living faces of dead people eaten by a turtle, humanity brutally genociding everyone and lots of naked demon boobies. But I digress. What can be considered the forefathers of the entire genre and the characters connected to it are the original Gatchaman.
You may have noticed a lack of demon boobies.
Hang with me here, some background information is necessary or else I'll just sound like a colossal pretentious asshole. The original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (and that is a badass name) was a series that was as stupidly idealistic as all superhero related things from the era. They were guys wearing goofy spandex, had super special martial arts because science, drove around in mechs sometimes, but mainly punched dudes in the face who were being all evil. To be fair, the show had some more themes to it. The series was really about a technological arms race between an evil organization lead by an alien force and a science guy who found some people and put them in spandex because science and used science to make them awesome I guess. It was a race for world resources and trying to beat the other guy, with one of them being super evil and militaristic.
And yes, this was made in the cold war.
Gatchaman Crowds could have easily returned and just taken up the themes of the old show. Lord knows that whole environmentalism thing has only become more important over the years, and any show that uses science to make people punch other people harder is a good show in my book. But at the same time, Tatsunoko (the people producing this stuff) realized that would just be lazy and exactly the shit soulless Hollywood does. The original show was an idealistic cheer to the good guys during one of the most tense times in history, Japan mostly sided with the states for various reasons, like sort of being dependent on us after the war after we COUGH COUGH *ahem* Sorry, had a cough.
Point I'm trying to make is that Gatchaman wasn't that relevant anymore to the modern world. Sure, the environmentalism angle could work, but I think we've all got down how important taking care of the planet is at this point and the only people who disagree are insane capitalists that literally wrap money around their private parts and rub away. You're welcome for that mental image now in your head.The technology angle was all but dead at this point. Technology advances every five seconds nowadays, we're all plenty amazed with how awesome science is now. The themes of the old show just don't apply anymore, the series needed an update. Good thing this is Tatsunoko, because they know how to update a series.
Hell, they took that brain dead Casshern series and made one of the most depressing and soul crushing wasteland tales about death being necessary ever. And that's all wasteland tales are about. No really, you die and that's a good thing. Every wasteland tale.
The feel good family comedy of the Summer!
So that leads to a question; how do you update Gatchaman? Well, you first start with what the base is. The environmentalism and hard on for science being fucking awesome is just the extra stuff, the focus was on the superhero thing. Gatchaman helped make the sentai thing a huge deal, with costume themes and powers based around the themes of the series (super science martial arts, the bird designs for nature, ect). So, Gatchaman Crowds did that as well. But what themes would you use for today? How best would you idealistically capture the modern day? How do we-GENERIC JAPANESE NAME, STOP PLAYING ON THE INTER-oh hey.
So Gatchaman Crowds decided to focus on the internetz, what with all the cats and lel memes and endless racism and misogyny and fedoras and friendzones. The internet! Unlike terrible Hollywood screenwriters, however, the people making this show seemed to actually have thoughts in their head and don't just see the internet as a collection of cute cat videos and rampant pornography. Granted, it is that, but nobody needs to be reminded. So, how did they focus on the internet? Well, you could look at the title like a smart person and then slap your forehead with a hammer.
Yeah, I went there. Deal.
Gatchaman has a lot of themes, but the most important (and the one the plot revolves around) is the internet as a tool for good and evil. It's where people gather in mass and let out their best and worst qualities with almost no holding back. So, what does that shit got to do with colorful costumes and punching people in the face? Well, a lot. Superheroes exist as an idealized version of us, at least originally. They were smart, powerful, used that power properly and generally just really cool. No gender or race ended up excluded as time went on, and everyone threw in their own idea of a superhero. Of course, things started to get morally murky as time went on. Politics and values changed, and the superhero changed to a deconstructed form in many cases to try and make them work in this new world, usually being idealized still, but that may be a bad thing.
But to keep it short for now, the internet works in an interesting way because it's our ultimate communication device. Countless cultures can now connect to each other, and the result has been a truly global community. The lines are started to disappear, and that directly affects the superhero. Ideals are changing, and Gatchaman Crowds decided to try making superheroes for the modern age the age of endless communication and open expression. How it ggoes about this is kind of brilliant, especially compared to the old series, which made a major villain out of it's one transgendered character. Granted, that Berg had a tragic backstory ...but he/she comitted suicide, unable to handle being what he/she was. So yeah. That's ...questionable.
The internet thing is made quickly apparent. The show just adores moving, colorful lines, the types of symbols occasionally related to what some visualize the internet as, or even taking some design choices that have been made popular by the world wide web. The Gatchaman suits are all based on technology, not being fancy dress while having improved natural abilities because science. They all also have really trippy powers, feeding back into the theme. Sugane's teleporting sword slash and ability to cling his feet to any surface, along with just being insanely fast, comes from that instantaneous travel of the web, with his samurai fixation as the base. Paiman's weird bear ball suit does something similar, with a hammerspace inside it with near limitless space, and the ability to go, you guessed it, insanely fast. He can even use his powers to teleport his guys to the base, as can their leader JJ. Utsutsu can drain some life energy from others, but also give it to others as well, sort of mirroring how connecting with others over the web can both drain your positive emotions or help you find that little spark you never noticed. Rui and Berg's Crowds is obvious, taking anonymous people and giving them solid form in the world. Hajime's suit represents the internet as a creative force, able to create weird scissors weapons she usually uses in real life as tools in paper craft. OD? I am betting he is some sort of hacker, time will tell.
Also, here's what represents the internet's tentacle porn. jokes and jokes and jokes
Also, Jou can burn things because fire is hot. He's the one exception in all this, but with reason. He's much closer to the original Gatchaman in many ways, from how he carries himself to the stock fire ability and focus on offensive powers, along with his hot head and willingness to take on the bad guy himself. And that ends up being a bad thing. We'll get to that later, keep your britches on, I don't want to see that you pervert. On top of that, the Gatchaman can instantly communicate with their NOTEs, sort of like a magical PDA. The internet is the thing nearly everyone represents in some way (and I'd go so far to call Berg Katze the world's biggest troll).
Along with all of this, you have people using anonymous status as a tool and making Anonymous style threat videos, the GALAX social media being the backbone of all the major events, the MESS aliens functioning like a programming error, and comment sections. Yes, really. The show has Hajime and Rui reading some comments people are making about them at one point, and then they realize that they can just stop looking at the comments. That was amazing to me. But yeah, the internet is the major running theme, like Power Rangers having a dinosaur season but not dumb. But what does it mean?
Well, the internet might as well be the most important part of our current culture, especially because it will only get bigger as time goes on. This is our modern world's new scientific revolution, showing possibilities we could have never imagined. But this time, it's not about our species's advancement in power and responsibly using that power, we've reached that milestone (and it's debatable if we've learned the "responsibility" thing). This time, it's about the advancement of culture, our growth as a species from the point of view of values, how we see the world around us and how that affects how we act around others.
Also, cats because internet. Needs a fedora.
Each and every episode title is a reference to some sort of art movement or advancement in thought or just a new way of looking at things. Sometimes, it's just a term that deals with the subject matter. So far, there's been Futurism, Gameification, Asymmetry, Avant-garde, Abjection and so on. This isn't just to seem all fancy, these episode titles usually refer to something going on in the given episode. Go ask an art major about this stuff if you want more details, or look up some of these terms on Wikipedia. I'm just pointing out the themes at work, and the episode titles are a huge clue.
Gatchaman Crowds is especially interesting because it's a deconstruction, but not the normal "EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS THING YOU LIKE IS FUCKING TERRIBLE" way, more in an idealistic way, crossing into reconstruction area constantly. What those words mean, to those unaware, is that the series focuses on deconstructing the tropes and cliches of the genre it's focused on, while reconstruction is more about finding a reason to make these tired tropes relevant again. It's like a well read critic, aware of all the problems present, but not dismissive of what it presented.
The deconstructive and reconstructive element are both the exact same element; Hajime. Everything but her mostly stays within the usual tropes of the superhero and sentai genres. Sugane and Jou are the normal hero archtypes, Pai Pai makes the team mascot who acts differently than you'd expect, OD is comedic relief, Utsutsu is the emo character, JJ just sort of exists and says vague things, Berg is evil, and Rui is the misunderstood anti-hero slash anti-villain. Hajime, however, doesn't really fit neatly into any cliche of the genre. At first, she seems to be a throw back to more simple heroes, ones that were totally in when the call to being a superhero came to them. She positive, excited and friendly, and obviously kind of crazy, making her the amusing female sidekick character, right? I'd put in that Lex Luthor wrong picture, but then I would have to commit seppuku out of principle.
Don't worry, that's just some random hiker's blood.
Hajime is all those things I said, except the crazy part. Eccentric really is the best word for her, and I mean the actual meaning and not just another word for crazy. By the second episode, Hajime outright ignores the usual flow of these stories and realizes that the alien she was fighting, the MESS, doesn't really mean to harm anyone. Hajime figures out that the MESS can't communicate with humans normally and are just accidentally harming them by simply existing as they normally do next to them. While the other characters used sound logic in seeing them as threats, Hajime threw in an extra brain cell, noticed that the MESS always seem to run from the two times she's seen them, and realized that communication may be possible. After all, the creatures haven't been actively fighting the Gatchaman, they've been running from them. They're scared, and violence is just making the situation worse. Simply by trying to communicate with it, all the damage was undone and the MESS became a friendly little bugger at the Gatchaman HQ (which Hajime constantly hugs).
Hajime is intelligent and thinks situations through. She never does something without a reason first. She will act if a situation is dire, but she's quick to assess a situation and then make the best course of action just as fast. This is shown again when she meets with Rui for the first time and unmasks herself in order to communicate better and gain her trust. Since a secret identity never really mattered to her, there was no reason to keep her face and name secret. She also has a ton of nuggets of wisdom for her friends, teaching them things they didn't realize about themselves by letting them arrive to the conclusion on their own most of the time. She simply understands how the world functions, she understands that people are both good and bad, but she doesn't focus on the negative entirely. She looks for ways to make a situation turn positive, and she's helped a ton of people this way. In fact, she's the character who realizes that the public needs to be made aware of the dire situation occurring so they can avoid as many causalities as possible.
She also has great taste in women.
This is where the show starts to come together. The one theme that Gatchaman Crowds completely shares with the Gatchaman before it is a powerful one; hope for the future. It's all about people coming together to do good for each other, no matter who they may be. The revolutionaries trying to change the world, like Rui's bloodless revolution and a certain idiot dad's violent one, are ultimately in the wrong, while Hajime is right in her method. Why? Because those two tried pushing their world view on the world around them and were eaten up by their ego. Hajime doesn't really function like that. She lets people figure out the good about them themselves and only offers the occasional advice and push in the right direction, like a teacher.
For example, she points out to Sugane that he has a limited view of the world and shares some of her own from time to time, gradually leading to him becoming more aware of the world around him and thinking a bit differently for the better. Paiman gets a lot of his broken confidence built back up with Hajime's help, helping him overcome his crippling fears. OD starts to connect with the rest of the team on a more personal level, Utsutsu becomes more social and decides to use her powers to help others, and even Rui eventually learns some things from Hajime and realizes the problems that her ego brought. The only member of the team Hajime doesn't help is Jou, and there's a reason for that.
When you look that fine, you never need help.
Jou's role in the show is a criticism. He's the old hero type character, the real cool manly man with basic but badass powers that are used to punch evil in the face with fire because fire is cool. He's also the most broken character, which is saying a lot with how messed up Berg left Paiman. He's both the old school badass and the cynical hero, tropes of the old and new, and these qualities lead him to a horrific beat down. Berg manages to figure out exactly how Jou thinks and shatters his fragile ego like glass, after physically beating him into a scrap pile with no effort. He's there to point out just how messed up the cynical hero archtype is. He's not more mature for being aware of how flawed the world is. If anything, he's made worse for going too far in one direction. The only thing that gets him back into the fray is a message from Sugane, who adores the guy. The little touch of idealism reminded him of another reason to fight besides making himself feel like a bigger person, that being helping those in trouble. You know, that thing superheroes are supposed to do.
Gatchaman Crowds doesn't simply ignore cynicism, it realizes that being aware of faults is necessary to fix them, but it also realizes idealism is a necessary ingredient to actually find a solution. Really, that's what the show chooses to preach, to not be so hung up on the negative, but to also not live in a fantasy world. See the world in front of you and do what you can to help someone, in any small way you can. Ultimately, it starts to add up. It doesn't matter if you're a superhero or just a random person, you can make a difference. We have tools of incredible communication and our own creativity at hand, and that should be more than enough to do something.
And that's not all! The show seems to be showing that nearly any personality type can function in some way to 'level up' the world. Throughout the whole series, none of the characters go through major changes in personality. They improve as people and do get over some major personality flaws, but they don't change who they are as people. Jou is still the show-off cool guy, Utsutsu is still a generally quiet person, Paiman is still an arrogant fraidy cat, and so on. But they improve around those personality types, they don't discard them for the sake of a 'better' personality.
Paiman is an alcoholic space panda, her personality was always perfect.
Hajime and Rui best bring this across. Rui is a crossdresser, but almost nobody really brings it up as something odd or different, not even school children (who'd you totally expect to say something offensive they heard from their parents). Only Sugane is surprised by it, which makes sense since he's an old fashion stick in the mud, but he never insults or uses that as how he sees Rui as a person. Hajime, on the other hand, seems to get all her strength from feminine traits. Where as something like Sailor Moon is more about weaponizing feminine past-times, Hajime manages to do the most good through personality traits usually associated with the female gender. Understanding, creativity and a friendly attitude describe her perfectly. There's nothing traditionally masculine about her, unlike most strong female characters. At the same time, she doesn't embrace feminity entirely. She just does what she does as Hajime. She is herself and the best version of herself. Oh, and OD is totally gay on levels not known to science (if he's straight, I'll eat a fedora).
The characters of Gatchaman Crowds are absolutely fantastic role models, something that superheroes have begun to forget about. DC Comics made comics abouut people you wanted to be, while Marvel made more flawed characters you believed you could be, but still looked up to. While we still have the absolutely fantastic Marvel movies, everyone else seems to have forgotten what it used to mean to be a superhero, including Marvel themselves in their comics. Especially Marvel.
When I look at something like The Dark Knight, I see an amazing movie, but I don't see a superhero. Nolan's Batman is a brilliant character, but he's not an idealistic one. The entire movie series is ultimately presenting the thesis that a caped hero is a bad thing and we're all better off without them. Same for the fantastic Watchmen series from Alan Moore (fuck the movie, long story and no, it's not just because of no squid). These are not meant to be traditional superhero tales, yet they've become the most influential to the genre due to being so popular and being so good. And that's not good.
Tell em, Berg! With no murder, please.
I have yet to see Man of Steel at this time, but I do know about the ending and what occurs in the film. I really wanted to see the film, until I heard more and more about it, and one incredibly stupid comment from the film's writer has killed any good will I may have had for it. Basically, Superman kills Zod for the most contrived, easy to get out of reason possible, and Metropolis is nearly completely destroyed, with Superman landing in a pile of skulls and bones at one point.
That is fucking horrible and who in their right mind would ever want such a thing from Superman. What broken, vile person wants a Superman who kills? What empty person wants to see a movie where the hero fails on such a disastrous level? I mean, failure is going to happen, but that is excessive and wiped away by the ending as everything is back to normal. That's horrible. Superman didn't do a fucking thing Superman is supposed to do.
Have these people never read a comic in their life? Even in the darkest Superman tales, he's still Superman. He's the man of tomorrow, he can do what we can't and does it well for our sake. He's someone to look up to, someone with all that power who uses it to help others. He was born from distant parts but grew up among us and learned from good people. He's inspiring, and he's one of my favorite superheores. And he fucking murders Zod in a movie bloated with dark filters and a pile of dead civilians.
On a lighter note, here's Rui to make you question your sexuality.
Honestly, things are just as bad in the comics. Marvel alone has their characters spend more time beating up each other than actually fighting any evil. I'm not against flawed heroes and I'm not completely against heroes that kill, depending on the context, but things have become too cynical. There's self-awareness, but no sigh of anyone having any idea of what it means to be a superhero anymore. Yet Gatchaman Crowds exists.
Gatchaman Crowds is something special. To me, it's important as a superhero show, but it is far more than that. Gatchaman Crowds transcends the confines of the superhero fanbase and the sentai fanbase. It wants to be universal in a simple message that rings so true and right, something superheroes are meant to stand for. This is the superhero story we need nowadays. We need a touch of idealism to remind us that hey, you can make things better. It won't be easy, but it's possible.
Origami is a start, people like colorful paper animals. And porn.
AND NOW I LEAVE YOU ALL TO GO BACK TO OVERHYPING ATTACK ON TITAN AND LEAVE YOU WITH THIS TERRIBLE ART FROM MANGA
I say indeed.
A lot of great observations with CROWDS that I wholeheartedly agree with (and some opinions about Man Of Steel that I completely disagree with, but that's for another time and another place entirely, because we're talking about Gatchaman), but I'm actually curious to get your thoughts on the show now that Episode 12 has been released, and see if anything has affected your assesment of the show since this article.
Like I mentioned, I agree with many of the observations you made about the show, and I was completely enthralled with each episode -- right up until around the 10-minute mark in Episode 12. I actually had to go back and watch it for a second time to see if I was missing something, but myself and everyone else who enjoyed the series I've spoken with about the finale has come to the same conclusion: WTF just happened?
What do you mean by that?
Shh, there is no being wrong now, only being right,
Same here. I did not like it that much.
I love the concept of superheroes. When i heard Gatchaman was being rebooted, i was giddy with excitement. That is.....until i actually watched it. It did not impress me the way the novel Watchmen, Kamen Rider, Power Rangers/Super Sentai, Batman Year One, and Superman vs. The Elite did. This show is not exactly the superhero show i was looking forward to. I commend you for bringing out its good points, but it didn't do it for me.
I'll be honest with you, I gave this show a try, and I wanted to like it but it just didn't spike my interest the same way things like Watchmen, Spawn, Hellboy or Atomic Robo did.
First off let me say that it's nice this show is getting some recognition instead of being buried under all the other anime that came out and continuing into this season. Second I agree wholeheartedly with your argument. I mean I love comic books but my major complaint about modern comics is the fact that super heroes don't seem super anymore. I mean that Avengers vs X-men, that sounds interesting on paper but it really doesn't make sense because they've been fighting alongside each other for years (and we'll save the complicated argument about the passage of time in comic books), and don't get me started on the DC reboot. I really hope we can end this cycle of yearly event comics sometime soon because their just getting exhausting.
I didn't even know Gatchaman was a thing before this show.
I was going to write an article very similar to this, but I couldn't find the time, so I'm really happy yours reached the spotlight. Gatchaman C.R.O.W.D.S is an amazing anime that easily reaches my top anime of all time list. It's smart, but it's also pretty subtle most of the time. It's also a lot of fun, energetic and the series has a great soundtrack. I got totally sucked in.
I'm going to be honest, I really did like what I was watching of it but I got distracted by Kamen Rider
At first I was like, "Awesome, Gatchaman, I haven't watched those in a long time." Then none of the pictures were anything like what I expected. Fuck, he actually wants me to read this... damn it.
As much as anime is not my cup of tea, the only ones I've seen more than 3 episodes of are Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, Card Captor Sakura, and Gatchaman (all of which were watched before I even knew what anime was), this actually sounds like a good show. I don't know if I'll watch it, but at least I'll have it in my back pocket for a rainy day. Very well written, like usual.
Why would you pass on good things.
Did the good things do terrible things to your parents.
Did ...did the good things kill your parents?
Thank you for not actually reading why this is still faithful to Gatchaman.
I think i'll pass on this one....
Crossdressing makes everything better, obviously.
None of these screenshots are anything I expected when clicking on a link called "Gatchaman". Kinda disappointing, I'd love to see a reboot of it.
In this era of cynicism, it's hard to find true optimism anymore. Perhaps we could all learn a thing or two here.
Yeah, I figured it out after I commented quite the derp on my part but oh well. Thats nice I give it a look whenever I'm bored.
It's an anime. All but the last episode are up for free over at Crunchyroll right now.