Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 02

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As Gelsadra is welcomed to Earth (touted by Paiman as a potential facilitator of world peace) and Misudachi initiated into the Gatchamen, X reports to Rui an increase in GALAX de-installations as a result of VAPE’s mischief. Their leader even shows up in Rui’s living room, using a red Crowds as a conduit.

He doesn’t see VAPE as making mischief, only demonstrating the folly of giving the “ape-like” masses such powerful technology. He believes society is sure to abuse it, as VAPE does, while Rui still believes in the inherent goodness of people. In a way, VAPE is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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There’s a ceremony at a Nagaoka mall to celebrate Gel and Tsubasa, but it’s crashed by VAPE, whose red Crowds are soon challenged by the blue Crowds of bystanders looking to help the outnumbered Gatchamen. In fact, it’s just Hajime at the mall; Tsubasa isn’t able to reach the emotional intensity necessary to transform, or is possibly too nervous.

When she does try to intervene without transforming, the Crowds she incapacitates almost falls on a granny. She’s still got a lot to learn about the intricacies of heroism, and with the red Crowds intent on showing that all Crowds are bad news, she’s been thrown into the proverbial frying pan to train.

It’s a defeat for Crowds and Rui, because he had no choice but to forcefully terminate the blue Crowds accounts to stop the chaos.

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Tsubasa regrets indirectly injuring a bystander, but Hajime won’t scold or punish her, except by turning her head to face the gorgeous sunset. I like the dynamic of these two, with Hajime as the more mysterious/opaque personality and Tsubasa much more of an open book, devoid of vocal tics. It’s also clear that Gelsadra, the possible savior of the world based on her race’s track record upon arriving on worlds, must be protected both physically and mentally if she’s going to fulfill that promise.

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Rui manages to get the name of the orange-haired VAPE leader—college student Suzuki Rizumu—so I imagine Rui is eager to be the one to confront him for their next meeting and philosophical debate. Meantime, despite her early hiccup, Tsubasa is headed back to the city with Hajime to hone her Gatchaman skills and join the ranks of the heroes.

Her gramps (a part of whom I’m sure is proud of her, though he’d never show it) warns her she can’t shoulder the weight of peace. I take that to mean it must be shouldered by all. While she may be strong, she mustn’t fear the help and support of others, strong or weak, nor bite off more than she can chew.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 01

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After a half-length, action-packed zeroth episode, GCI’s first full-length episode feels a lot more leisurely and filler-y. In fact, the true-feast-for-the-eyes OP and ED showed more action than the show in between. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without its notable events. First we meet the girl who will by episode’s end become the newest Gatchaman, the energetic firework crafter’s apprentice Misudachi Tsubasa (voiced by Ishihara Kaori of Rinne no Lagrange).

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The Gatchamen have arrived in Tsubasa’s hometown of Nagaoka, Niigata to find their newest member when an alien spacecraft suddenly soft-lands in a rice field, bearing a new, red-skinned, blue-haired alien: Gelsadra (Hanazawa Kana). Gel has the rather interesting ability to place social media-icon like symbols above people’s heads showing their present state of mind.

As those states shift, the shape and color of the symbol shifts too (except, notably, for those Hajime and Tsubasa’s great-grandpa, which remain neutral gray). Did I mention Berg Katze now resides within Hajime’s bust, where I assume he can do no harm? Well…he does.

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Meanwhile, Sugane is at college and extremely popular with the pastel-haired young ladies, Hibiki Jo now works for the PM’s office, and O.D. has his own variety show, in which his cameras just happen to descend on Tsubasa’s hometown to get info on both the alien and new Gatchaman. Oh, and the next national election will be open to everyone 16 or older, and people will be able to vote by smartphone.

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Tsubasa is somewhat frightened by her encounter with JJ, but once she gets her Gatchaman notebook and is able to transform as a result of her frustration with the gaggle of reporters, JJ’s prophecy turns out to have made sense after all: “A delicate ray of light (the UFO) falls upon a land illuminated by fireworks (Nagaoka) near the North Sea (Sea of Japan) where it will meet wings that are still blue (Tsubasa’s notebook is blue). 

Despite the length of time spent in her town and her house, we didn’t learn that much about Tsubasa, except that she seems to have made quick friends with Hajime and Gel, doesn’t like big gray guys with claws or reporters, and should make a nice addition to the Gatchaman corps, just when Red Crowds attacks are on the rise.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 00 (First Impressions)

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What is it: A sequel to the stylish, upbeat Summer 2013 series. Thanks to his gamification of mass altruism through the online app Crowds, cross-dressing tech whiz Ninomiya Rui has brought a measure of harmony and stability to the world.

After a brief recap of the story so far, this half-episode introduces new threat in the red Crowds of an organization called VAPE that wants to prove the defeated alien Berg-Katze right. They go after the Prime Minister’s state jet, but Rui, Hajime, Sugane, Jo neutralize the threat in grand fashion, before preparing to meet a newly-awakened Gatchaman living in Niigata.

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Why should you watch? If you watched and enjoyed the colorful, zany CGI-enhanced hijinx of Gatchaman Crowds, this looks like more of the same. Only now, rather than battling an evil alien, they are battling a faction of society that still believes Crowds can do more harm than good, using the same tech as the Gatchamen to create chaos to prove their point.

The visuals are as slick and lush as the original, the action is fun and inventive but never flies off the rails, and the soundtrack is as bumpin’ as ever (though it will be hard to beat the original OP).

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Why shouldn’t you watch? If you didn’t watch the first show, the three minutes of backstory hardly do it justice, so I don’t see why anyone would start with Insight. Also, while the show looks and sounds good, the messages and motivations of its characters can be a little loosey-goosey. Hajime in particular is a cool, likable heroine who gets the job done with a wink and a song, but rarely lets us into what kind of person she is.

The Verdict: I for one will be watching this “happy cyberpunk” variant of the magical girl/guy—genre. The tech is magical, but it’s driven by good old-fashioned, perpetually dueling human concepts of altruism and egoism; of hope and fear, with all the gray in between. I’m also interested in learning what the new characters bring to the mix, hoping they don’t make the show too, well, crowded.

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