Gatchaman Crowds – 12 (Fin)

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O.D. taunts Berg-Katze into coming to the Spiritual Precipice. There, O.D. finally reveals his Gatchaman form and pummels Katze into the ground, retrieving Rui’s note in the process. O.D. returns teh note to Rui. With the increasing chaos, he knows he can’t do anything alone, so he appeals to the world, offering the Crowds ability to anyone who joins the “Tachikawa Crowds Game”, in which good deeds are incentivized. Millions join and have fun helping out in Tachikawa, and the Neo Hundred’s mischief is soon at an end. The Prime Minister decides that everyone should be allowed to keep their Crowds ability.

Rui’s plans to update the world were based on the assumption that mankind is intrinsically good, and that in this age of evolved society, mutual altruism ensures rather than hampers individual survival. But only under certain conditions. In the blaze of fear and distrust Berg-Katze whipped up, a limited number of people with Crowds act for their own interests; they only care about changing the world insofar as they can control it. Berg gave people Crowds believing that if these stupid humans were given too much power, they’d destroy themselves. Rui successfully douses the flames by leveling the playing field in a risky move.

By giving everyone the power of heroes, he risked augmenting the chaos and accelerating the world’s self-destruction as Katze was hoping for. He does so by diffusing the fear and replacing it with hope and fun. Once he gives the initial friendly invitation, mankind essentially sorts everything out, with the now larger mass of balanced, moderate Crowds neutralizing the extremists. Throughout the episode Hajime asked in her singsong way, “what makes a hero?” The positive outcome answered that: once properly motivated and encouraged, heroes make themselves.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Having rallied everyone who needed to be rallied in order to win the day for the good guys, Hajime does very little besides mill around singing; not the usual role of the heroine, but we kinda like it that way.
  • Of course, JJ-sama does even less, and doesn’t even seem fazed when Katze crashes in and swipes his scissors.
  • It was great seeing Rui cheer up (and return to dressing in drag!) and come out of his shell, charming and entertaining everyone went a long way towards convincing them there was nothing to fear and to participate. 
  • Hajime apparently has Katze in her duck backpack and takes him along on a lovely day. He doesn’t seem enthused.

Gatchaman Crowds – 11

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In the first half, one by one, the Gatchamen look back on their experiences with Hajime thus far, and comment on how much their opinions of her changed with time (except for O.D., who always thought highly of her). All of them are grateful to her for bringing our their better selves. In the second half, they put those selves to use protecting the city. Rui gets X back, and with control over GALAX returned, they can better coordinate the city’s evacuation. Hajime gives the Prime Minister online screen time to rally his citizens and implore them to join GALAX as free smartphones are distributed. In the middle of his speech he’s replaced on the screen by Katze disguised as him. He offers Crowds to all of the new GALAX users, most of whom take it, adding to the chaos.

O.D. may have been perceptive enough to see something in Hajime when she first joined the ranks of the Gatchamen, but the others don’t have the luxury of three centuries of sizing people up, so they first saw her as a ditzy, pushy, flippant, useless newbie. Of course, it was Hajime who got them out of their “caged bird” rut, forcing them out of HQ and onto the streets and on camera. Everyone had personal problems that were holding them back, but Hajime accepted them for what they were and gave them the chance to prove to themselves and others that they could still be great. This isn’t limited to the Gatchamen; her efforts also rouse Rui from his funk, and even gets the Prime Minister to believe in himself and step up. Hajime is fine with Rui’s dream of everyone being a hero, but sometimes even heroes need heroes; enter the Gatchamen.

And in a way, she’s the Gatchamen’s hero(ine), but can she save Tachikawa and the world from Katze? Rui, Umeda, and some of the Neo Hundred may have learned the hard way that accepting Crowds from Katze is a raw deal, but his Faustian tactics are ruinously effective on anyone scared or angry amongst the new Galax members, which is probably most of them. With all that stuff about becoming their own heroes, who wouldn’t press the red button and gain a superpower to use however one pleased? Katze is able to do a lot of damage with minimal effort, but if the world is destroyed, it won’t be by his hands directly; it will be by mankind, proving him right. Here’s hoping Hajime, Rui, O.D., and the gang can turn things around.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Gatchaman Crowds – 10

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After destroying Kasumigaseki, the Neo Hundred are mostly dormant until Katze gives them the location of Prime Minister Sugayama in Tachikawa, and offers a bounty of an improved “Crowds 2.0” to whoever captures him. The Gatchamen work with the local government to evacutate the city’s 180,000 people, while disabling the swarming Crowds with nonlethal blows. Jou snaps out of his funk, and Paiman protects the Kindergarten. When Umeda pleads with Katze to disable the Crowds to spare his city, Katze exposes Umeda and his family online.

Umeda didn’t think things through properly. After gaining the power of Crowds, he cast away his former leader, accusing him of lacking the “backbone” to do “what was necessary” to update the world. When Katze gave Umeda back his power, he quickly used it for his little coup, without so much as a query about the price. Well, now he knows the price: even if thousands of people have Crowds, trying to organize them is like herding cats. Worse still, his rash actions have gotten him, his wife, and his daughter into mortal peril as the Crowds, eager for a reward from Katze, ransack Tachikawa. Fortunately for him there are people who don’t only care about themselves willing to protect the city and even him, despite what he’s done.

With Hajime and Sugane leading the way, the Gatchamen act selflessly and work together effectively to keep the Crowds at bay. They secure the prime minister and convince him to put resources into battling the crisis. It’s an episode in which he’s not the only one who crawls out of his safe little cave of self-doubt and rises to the occasion. Like him, Paiman fears losing everything, but doing nothing could well lead to just that; seeing the little ones in danger is the last straw, and he springs into action. Sugane, who was saved by Jou years ago, returns the favor by inspiring him to rejoin the fray rather than continue wallowing in self-pity. Katze has made a huge mess, but for the moment, it’s under control.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Gatchaman Crowds – 09

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The Gatchamen take Rui in, clean him up and heal him. As hate and doubt pervades GALAX, Katze bestows the power of Crowds on 29,533 users. Umeda quickly uses his new power to stage a coup d’état against the Japanese government. Hajime stages another PR campaign for both Rui and the Gatchamen, in which Rui apologizes vows to make things right, and Hajime urges everyone not to use Crowds. X begins to doubt Katze’s disguise. Sugane tells off JJ.

In his own chaotic, insidious way, Katze is carefully building a fire in which to burn the entire world, using its own human inhabitants are the kindling. Meanwhile Hajime, with the help of her friends (both close and digital), is filling a bucket of water big enough to douse that fire before it becomes unmanageable. She plucked Rui from the abyss and restored his confidence and determination to right the wrongs he is partially responsible for. But neither he nor Hajime and the Gatchamen are enough to keep Katze’s fire at bay, and the god-like JJ isn’t in the direct intervention business.

As Hajime says, it’s everyone’s fault that they’re in this mess, so everyone has a responsibility to fix it, and Crowds aren’t the answer. Umeda would use them as a weapon, but that’s precisely what Katze wants and what will doom mankind, as sure as a brace of nukes in the wrong hands. There’s also the last-resort of OD “spreading his wings”, but that would apparently end “everything.” No, mankind’s salvation hinges on their ability to fight the temptation to use the Crowds for any reason. If the flames don’t catch, maybe Katze will get bored, and even angry, and make a mistake.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We’ve enjoyed Hajime’s intricate strategy of avoiding directly confronting or provoking Katze, choosing instead to “play” with him both through PR and GALAX.
  • Sugane’s decision to confront JJ and essentially tell him to piss off was no doubt inspired by Hajime’s independent spirit.
  • It’s interesting that he and the Gatchamen are choosing not to rely on a “higher power”, while Umeda and the “Neo Hundred” are totally dependent (on and thus beholden to) Katze.

Gatchaman Crowds – 08

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Berg-Katze kisses Rui and transforms into his doppelganger, depriving him of access to X. Hajime implements a PR campaign to out the Gatchamen, starting at a preschool where she and Sugane transform for both the kids and the press. While on camera she invites Rui join them. Berg-Katze-Rui tracks down Umeda, one of the recently exiled hundred, and invites him to join the “Neo-hundred”, while the real Rui comes across a child making a grave for her father, who collapsed while using GALAX.

There are many cases where bringing about something new means doing away with something old. With their new foe Berg-Katze, Hajime is convinced that the Gatchamen have to do things in a new way, out in the open, gaining the trust of the people. Shrewdly, she starts with innocent little kids; “if the Gatchamen are okay with them,” people will think to themselves, “they can’t be all bad!” And not only does it effectively promote the Gatchamen as the good guys, playing with the kids also cheers up Paiman, Sugane, Utsutsu and OD (Jou, still disgusted with himself, is a no-show).

Even though it’s Rui Hajime invites, it turns out to be a challenge to Berg-Katze to “come and play”, only he’s already busy continuing to torture Rui, who has lost his security blanket in X. His CROWDs are gone, his power is gone, and his control is gone; all he has is the last outfit he left his place in and his wits. Berg has stripped it all away, destroying everything Rui was, because Berg has fun doing it and screwing with the world. Rui will have to find a way to come back without those things he’s lost, because someone having that much fun won’t stop all on his own.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Gatchaman Crowds – 07

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Rui summons the Hundred as Crowds in order to eliminate Katze by the waterfront as Jou and Sugane watch. Katze resists by using his note to transform, destroying the Crowds and beating Rui bloody. Jou transforms and intervenes while Sugane gets Rui to safety, but he too is defeated. Hajime and Utsutsu are hell-bent on going to their aid, and OD offers to go with them, but Paiman goes instead, transforming into a vehicle to transport them there quickly. As Utsutsu heals Jou and Sugane, Hajime talks with an invisible Katze, who gives her a parting riddle before letting them leave.

Berg-Katze is one sick, powerful alien, and while he is whimsical and impulsive, he’s not dumb enough to have given Rui powers he himself could not defeat. Thus, Rui’s offensive against him is almost a desperate play; the Crowds are the only trump card he has in the struggle to fix everything on his own, without “heroes.” But even though he’s not a girl, Rui becomes the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks, with Berg looming over him from on high, twirling his mustache. In the end, the two knights in shining armor who rescue him need rescuing.

Jou’s futile brute force gives way to Utsutsu’s healing and Hajime’s powers of socialization. He has a placid chitchat with Katze that simultaneously helps her understand him a bit more while buying time for her allies. It’s here where we realized more than ever how similarly bubbly Hajime and Katze are, even though one is an unquestionably good person and the other a vicious, murderous villain. Hajime’s charms disarm him enough to enable her, the other Gatchamen and Rui to live another day. Now bereft of his Hundred, Rui will probably have to reluctantly lean on his heroes more than ever.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Speaking of trump cards, the Gatchamen may have one in OD, though it seems his powers are either a one-time deal, or too powerful for the earth to survive. We can’t imagine he won’t at some point show them off before all’s said and done.
  • One power OD has for certain: the power to nudge his roomie Utsutsu into spending more time with Hajime to make origami.
  • When Utsutsu put the blue bow Hajime made her last week, it dawned on us: there was only ever one, she used her power to replicate it across her hair!
  • Pai-Pai’s bitchin’ transformer vehicle was as awesome as his retreat was pathetic.
  • Katze pulls no punches delving into Jou’s psyche and using his own self-doubt as a weapon.

Gatchaman Crowds – 06

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Hajime reveals her face to Rui in the tunnel, and she’s caught on camera, outing her as a Gatchaman. Paiman is furious, but JJ has no response, so Paiman orders all Gatchaman to cease operations until further notice. When Hajime goes out in public she is hounded by the press. Monitoring Hajime, Rui sends GALAXters to serve as her bodyguards as General X guides her and Utsutsu safely to a restaurant where he’s waiting to meet with her. Sugane also shows up, and Rui asks them if they’d be willing to give up being Gatchamen; they decline.

Hajime didn’t take off her mask to get attention (she thought it important to talk to Rui face-to-face), but that’s what she gets, and handles it precisely as we expected: with no drama whatsoever. She just goes with it, and were it not for Sugane and later Rui and GALAX intervening, she’d have probably earnestly answered every question the press asked her without batting an eye, regardless of how many of Paiman’s rules she was breaking. This isn’t how an ordinary girl acts, but we all know that Hajime is special.

Sugane, Rui, and GALAX do intervene in her day, and when Rui sends out an APB for “knights” to protect the “princess”, a lovely cat-and-mouse ballet ensues, which not only gets Hajime and Utsutsu to Rui without any further trouble, but simultaneously acts as a little preview or taste of the updated world Rui is building towards. It’s some nifty double duty, and when the un-ordinary Hajime and un-ordinary Rui meet and talk once more, they both come away impressed. Sugane and Hajime like the idea of everyone in the world being heroes, but they’re not quite ready to stop being Gatchamen.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Meanwhile, Hibiki Jou is off to find Katze, the one entity that could undermine all of Rui’s plans.
  • Utsutsu is able to heal many injured people under the tunnel, but at the cost of her own life force. 
  • Jou, being awesome, offers her some of his own, and she splits herself into clones.
  • Hajime really loves a new pair of scissors, and her hobbies tie her to the paper-folding JJ.
  • Hajime cuts fabric off her blue skirt to make a bow for Utsutsu, but she clearly gets carried away, because in the next scene Utsutsu has many bows and Hajime has a different skirt.

Gatchaman Crowds – 05

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JJ sends the Gatchamen a strange prophecy. Rui’s ideals are questioned by Umeda, one of his chosen “Hundred” Galaxters who wish to use the CROWDS. Katze also assures Rui that one day he’ll have no choice to use them. Hajime’s GALAX Collage group has an offline bus trip to Fukushima, and the other Gatchamen accompany her. When the bus enters a tunnel it collapses. GALAX is used to coordinate emergency procedures, but they aren’t enough, so Rui summons the CROWDS again. This time, Hajime transforms to do her part…

When a large box has vanished into darkness, the broken child will finally reveal itself to us. The white bird shall bear witness.

One of the things we liked about Valvrave was watching how exactly L-elf’s prophecies came to be in the course of an episode. We’re treated to a similar situation here, where cryptic words by JJ come to pass. The large box is the bus, the darkness is the collapsed tunnel, the broken child is Rui, and the white bird is Hajime. But before that prophecy comes true, we learn more about just how difficult and unenviable a position Rui is in.

Sure, he’s smart, rich, powerful, possesses above average fashion sense, and can run in heels. But his dream for a world in which everyone looks after each other; a world that doesn’t need heroes or leaders, is under constant threat, not just from the evil alien Katze, but from his own handpicked followers who have grown disillusioned (if they were ever illusioned to begin with) and impatient with Rui’s progress in updating the world. They’d just as well conquer it using the power at his command, and don’t know why he won’t pull the trigger. With Katze in his shadow and malcontents poisoning his beloved GALAX, Rui’s enemies are everywhere – but we suspect Hajime isn’t one of them.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Gatchaman Crowds – 04

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Rui summons the CROWDS to asist Galaxters, and the ropeway incident is resolved with zero casualties. Meanwhile Jou encounters a strange alien who he isn’t able to immediately defeat. Returning to base, Paiman orders everyone to do nothing, but he and O.D. are hiding the fact that the alien, one Berg Katze, is capable of destroying the world. Berg is also in direct contact with Rui. One day, Berg possesses a woman who hijacks a car and injures numerous people, all while Rui is watching helplessly.

Gatchaman’s big bad finally gets a name and considerable screen time, and proves to be a most unpleasant and devious individual. Of those who see and hear of him, everyone reacts to him in different ways. Jou simply wants to beat him down after letting him go earlier; Sugane and Hajime want to help people; O.D. and Paiman cower in HQ, one afraid of unleashing apocalyptic power, and the other afraid of losing more friends. Hajime also focuses on Berg’s claim humanity’s undoing will be their own fault, and if nothing else, she wants to find out what he(she?) meant.

What Berg probably meant was that he’s only able to enter the bodies of humans and wreak havoc because those humans let him. Everyone has a dark side within their hearts, and it would appear he uses that as an access hatch, and then it’s off to the races. Even toying around, he causes quite a bit of damage, while simultaneously pointing out the limitations of GALAX right in front of its fragile developer Rui, who is already dissatisfied with his progress with “updating the world” via a “bloodless revolution” fueled by altruism. It also seems like Rui’s unaware of other Gatchamen like him, but that’s sure to change.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Gatchaman Crowds – 03

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After Hajime “tames” the MESS, all other MESSes worldwide cease all activity and all the absorbed humans are safely returned. O.D. believes Hajime communicated with the MESS through gesture (in her case, scissors). Meanwhile, Ninomiya Rui, creator of GALAX, moves among the masses observing how and why they use his system. He returns hope for updates from the controlling AI, X, and his 100 chosen GALAXters who coordinate missions to “update the world.”

Hajime and Sugane participate in one such mission, stopping a shipment of spoiled milk to their school. The operation is moderately successful, but proves to Rui that there are many who still don’t trust GALAX. When a helicopter collides with a cable car, GALAXters are mobilzed once again, but X cannot work out a fix with present resources, so Rui is forced to summon the “Crowds” to aid them.

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As he glided through groups of his fellow citizens using and enjoying GALAX totally unaware of it’s creator’s proximity to them, the cross-dressing Ninomiya Rui reminded us of the MESS: no one can see it, but it’s constantly changing its shape. Last week Hajime showed that they’re not necessarily an existential threat to humanity, even uprooting Paiman’s understanding of their mission. As Gatchaman operates as a force for good, so too does Rui’s immensely more visible and popular GALAX network.

The elusive, reclusive Rui is also the reigning monarch of a digital hive. Just one GALAX user is required to be present to notify all the rest, now numbering in the hundreds of millions. But that’s still a small number in a world of 7 billion, and if there are no bars or battery life left, those users are on their own again. So the system, while incredibly useful in building a better world, is neither perfect nor without skeptics. We’re eager to see what’s up with those elite-looking “Crowds”, and see if and how Rui and Hajime ever cross paths or join forces. They both want the same thing, after all.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Rui derides those who “can’t see the joy in helping others without reward.” While we’re sure Hajime didn’t save her school from sour milk for points, GALAX did, in fact, award her and her classmates for saving the day.
  • We’re operating under the assumption that Rui is indeed a boy, and happens to cross-dress while in public (and also often enough in private). Nothing wrong with that, especially when you’re as rich as he apparently is!
  • That super-stylized baddie morphs into another evil doppelganger and wreaks havoc just as that helicopter accident happens. We’re also pretty sure he said something to Rui via telepathy. All this shows pieces continue to tentatively circle one another, yet to fully settle.
  • The GALAX OS startup sound is pretty badass. We’re going to try to get that for our computer
  • Notice the little bat on Rui’s sweater? That’s right: Rui is Batman.

Gatchaman Crowds – 02

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Hajime interferes in Sugane’s mission, and is able to coax the MESS into taking a scissors-like form. She moves into new digs with Sugane and Paiman, and after moving all her stuff in she brings Sugane along on a collage community get-together on a monorail, arranged by the social media network GALAX. Shortly after returning to HQ, they are summoned by JJ, whom Hajime approaches directly. He sends her and Sugane to the site of the next MESS, which Hajime is able to tame. Meanwhile, some unsavory shape-shifting fellow injures several bystanders, but thanks to GALAX they are tended to quickly.

This episode was very encouraging not only for looking just as good if not better than the first, but continuing to throw a whole lot of ideas and themes around at once, piquing our interest and entertaining without explicitly nailing anything down. The straight-as-an-arrow Sugane is immediately swept up in Hajime’s vibrant life, along with many other Gatchamen (Gatchamans?). We’re relieved that while Hajime is incredibly peppy and gregarious, she never descents into annoying-ness, and this week proves quite perceptive. Unlike the others, she’s not just going to kill MESSes just because she’s told to. It may look random to Sugane and others like him, but she does live by a code, that won’t let her take action against a party without knowing that party.

The MESS, just an abstract foe to be destroyed, becomes something else entirely under Hajime’s tutelage. We have a feeling this was part of JJ’s reasoning for bringing Hajime into the fold. Add to that her use of GALAX (kind a Facebook/LinkedIn with miis) to bring together people to make collages to comfort victims of a recent unnamed disaster, and she’s a busy girl. Her and Sugane’s exploits could easily fill the episode, but we also got a sneak peek at the series’ potential villain, who seems to take pleasure in making humans suffer, and a new character who wears a disguise outdoors and may be the mastermind behind the very popular and useful GALAX. One thing’s for sure: Gatchaman offers ample bang for the buck.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • A Collage Community Chartered Monorail Ride? THAT SOUNDS AWESOME.
  • Hajime’s Collage friends include both the fire chief and mayor of Tachikana, plus many other people of all ages and walks, lending instant credibility to her skill as a networker.
  • We like how Hajime can so utterly dominate a conversation with the well-spoken Sugane. We also like how often her hand gestures resemble scissors.
  • Hajime bedazzled the physical manifestation of her soul. Sounds about right!
  • Walking across that steep drop and sitting down next to JJ, that was pretty cheeky!
  • This was the second straght episode that was so immersive we were surprised when it suddenly ended.

Gatchaman Crowds – 01

Hibiki Joe, Ichinose Hajime, Paiman, Tachibana Sugane, O.D., Utsusu

High schooler Ichinose Hajime has her “NOTE”, the manifestation of her soul, extracted by the godlike JJ and becomes a Gatchaman. After watching her classmate and fellow G-man Tachibana Sugane dispatch the enemy, known as a “MESS”, Sugane takes her to the underground Gatchaman base, where she meets her peers: Hibiki Joe, O.D., Utsusu, and Paiman, their miniscule alien leader. Their mission is to eradicate alien criminals and and other anomalies that have infiltrated Earth. Hajime joins Sugane for her first official mission, in which the MESS has taken the form of a bus.

The cool, slick, quick, fun, and fashionable Gatchaman Crowds arrives fashionably late this Summer, but it was worth the wait: this was the coolest-looking first episode of anything that preceded it. It introduces its characters and scenario with blinding speed, and Hajime is our avatar as the newbie who is also seeing everything for the first time, getting swept up in it all, and going with the flow. She can be a bit bubbly and grating at times, but we liked her spunk, positive attitude, and just how game she was about joining the Gatchaman crowd. And a colorful crowd it is, hanging in colorful, abstract digs and fighting colorful abstract enemies.

We really dug the character design (by the same guy who did the excellent Macross Frontier), and C’s director also brought along Iwasaki Taku, one of our favorite current anime composers, who adds great atmosphere to the proceedings. The CGI Gatchaman suits remind us a bit of Tiger & Bunny, though possibly better integrated with the traditional animation; things moved so fast it was hard to gauge, but that’s not a bad thing. This was a super-caffeinated start to an addictively series that so far is complex in visuals but mercifully simple in concept (transform; beat the bad guys; don’t get noticed by ordinary people), and we can’t wait for the next dose.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Speaking of caffeine  Uchida Maaya, whom we’ve come to know for far quieter roles like Rea and Rikka, must’ve downed a couple of Red Bulls for her super-perky performance.
  • We’d have KILLED to wear school uniforms like the ones Sugane and Hajime sport. So classy.
  • Tachibana Sugane reminded us a lot of Tsubaki from Sket Dance; the uptight hall monitor who speaks and acts formally; the perfect foil for Hajime.
  • The “MESS” baddies resemble very colorful Silver Pictures logos, though that’s probably a coincidence.
  • The OP was awesome, and does what all great OPs should do: get you fired up for what’s to come!
  • We like how when a character is in his Gatchaman suit, his/her voice is muffled. Nice touch.
  • Paiman is voiced by none other than Hirano Aya…who wouldn’t have been a bad choice for Hajime. In fact, Uchida seems to be channeling a little of Haruhi’s carefree spiritedness.
  • Isn’t Utsusu cold in that skimpy get-up?

Car Cameos: