Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 07

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Gelsadra gave everyone the choice of “yes” or “no” for smartphone votes, but he is increasingly frustrated he’s unable to “unite all hearts as one”, as there’s almost always an opposing minority of around 20%, and no matter how hard the other 80% work, that ~20% won’t be convinced. Meanwhile, Gel-san is growing paler, and JJ prophesies that the “scarlet angel” will soon “transform”, and “gentle beasts” will appear “whose names are many.”

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Things have also taken a turn for the dark with regards to Tsubasa, who grows ever more militant and unyielding in her belief Gel-san is humanity’s savior, and anyone who questions her is both wrong and “thinking about too much difficult stuff.” Most outwardly guilty of that is, of course, Rui, but a part of Sugane also thinks things aren’t quite right, as does Hajime. Tsubasa forceably changing Hajime’s scissor sign to a Gel-sign is part-in-parcel of the troubling “with us or against us” atmosphere.

Berg-Katze, who has insight few others do, tells Hajime that Gel is a “piece of shit” who can “go die in a fire.” His usual manic hyperbole aside, it’s a pretty clear warning to watch out; humanity has yet to see Gelsadra’s other form(s) yet, and when Berg first met him, he didn’t fight him, he ran.

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Tsubasa’s fanaticism reaches its peak when Rui begs Gel-san to reconsider the implementation of a third choice for the phone voting: “leave it to Gel-san,” warning it will cause people to stop thinking for themselves, or at all. When faced with the choice of standing by an increasingly fat and unwell-looking Gelsadra and sticking with the Gatchamen, Tsubasa resigns, tossing her book away.

Finally, when Rui is visits Suzuki for advice, Suzuki says it’s too late, he’s just another ape, and very soon—in a flash—everyone will turn into apes for real. Gel-san vomits out all of the thoughts he’d devoured, and they all infect everyone’s present moods, changing color and ejecting the strange, oddly-shaped and colored “gentle beasts” JJ spoke of. Gel seems scared and unaware such a thing could happen, so perhaps he isn’t doing anything with malaice of forethought.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the prime minister of Japan just unleashed a potential storm of pestilence that will devolve humanity rather than save it. How will Gel’s right-hand-woman Tsubasa spin this new development, I wonder?

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 06

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As soon as Prime Minister Sadra AKA Gel-san is sworn into office, things move very quickly, and this week’s episode breathlessly follows him from place to place, interacting with all kinds of people either one-on-one or reported on social media and television. And everything seems to indicate that despite his bizarre appearance and inexperience in politics, Gel and his radical populist policies are a big hit with the populace.

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With each new piece of legislation his fans seem to grow in number, while those who aren’t so enthused with what’s going on are limited to Rui, Hajime, and Tsubasa’s grandpa, who basically bursts Tsubasa’s bubble by telling her she has no idea what “peace”, “united”, and “fight” really mean, all while casting knowing glances at the photo of his deceased relation; a soldier in the army. I don’t think he’s arguing for the sake of argument. I think he, in his many years, has seen and heard everything Gel and Tsubasa are peddling, in a different but no less attractive guise.

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One rather large hole in Gel-san’s little love-in is that he’s acting on the opinion of the majority of the masses, and in doing so, devaluing the rights of the minority. Pure individuals like gramps or Hajime have a problem with this, but they’re largely lost in the rising tide of overwhelming public acceptance of this New Order.

The majority even votes to prohibit Crowds; another nail in the coffin of Rui’s dream to update the world. We see a lot of good ideas and policies get implemented this week, but with plenty of foreboding signs that another shoe is about to drop soon.

At the end of the day, Gel-san is an alien from another world, and Tsubasa is almost painfully idealistic. So it’s understandable both would be missing an important piece of the equation. I suspect that piece will rear its head soon.

Oh, and omedetou, Sugane. That’s quite an impressive harem you’re amassing!

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 05

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“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

I’m reminded of that line by Kay from Men In Black because it’s true. The larger a group of people gets, the more they’re able to do, but at the same time, the dumber they get as a collective. It’s a concept that’s demonstrated in this very action-light, politics-heavy episode of Gatchaman, in which Gelsadra challenges the incumbent Sugayama in the smartphone election for the next Japanese PM.

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I put Sugane’s harem up top not because they had any significant role to play this week, but because they’re an example of what Kay was talking about. First the three girls are united in their support of Sugiyama, reflecting the opinion of the general public. Then, after a few gaffes from Sugayama and some good PR from Gel-san and Tsubasa, all of a sudden they’re for Gel-san. They go with the flow, where everyone else seems to be going. And in the meantime, they burn Sugane’s meat.

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It’s six months until the first primaries here in the states, but there have already been some notable gaffes that candidates continue to pay for due to the echo chamber of the media, from O’Malley’s “#WhiteLivesMatter” to Trump’s “Mexican Rapists” tirade. Similarly, in the world of Gatchaman, if you screw up on camera, those words will haunt you the rest of your days.

Sugayama calls his naysayers “dumb” on live television (believing the camera was no longer rolling), and it proves his undoing, as the media proceeds to pick apart every other thing he says and does, creating a pattern of missteps that erodes the public trust he once enjoyed.

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Meanwhile, there’s nothing particularly special about what Gel-san and Tsubasa do to rise in the polls, aside form the fact Gel-san can simply yell “GE-RU-RU-RU-RU-RU” from a rooftop and collect everyone’s desires. From there, he uses simple arithmetic to determine the best policy position: that Crowds should be abolished. Tsubasa and Jou are with Gel on this, while Hajime is neutral (of course) and Utsutsu helps Paiman out with his own campaign, which doesn’t go far because let’s face it, even if he dominates the little kid vote, he’s not getting much adult support.

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When Rui and Hajime visit Suzuki Rizumu in his cell, his position on people is similar to MiB’s Kay; with collective intelligence decreasing as the size of the sample increases. He’s harsher, calling them “apes”, who like any other animal in nature, goes with the flow of nature.

Despite Gel’s promise to abolish Crowds, Rizumu still believe Gel is “dangerous” and calls him the “Master Ape,” because all he’s doing is going along with what the majority of people want. Sometimes that’s not what’s best, or even right. But Gel wins in a landslide, so we’re about to find out just how wrong it is.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 04

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Well, that was weird.

After deploying in full force last week (save O.D.) and Tsubasa making her big debut on the battlefield, the Gatchamen find themselves at a crossroads. VAPE’s leader has been caught, and relatively easily, but then again, he doesn’t put up much of a fight. Why should he? He accomplished everything he set out to do. The Red Crowds were a menace. He suspects most people will think no differently about Blue Crowds.

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A great blow has been dealt to Rui’s dream of updating the world. But not all Gatchamen are on board about that being their purpose. “We’re heroes”, Tsubasa says again and again about her and the rest of them; that means when Rui is in trouble, she came to rescue him, even though he didn’t want to be rescued. Joe and Tsubasa remain of similar minds: endorsing Crowds is not their top priority; protecting the people is.

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While the Crowds have never been more feared by the public, opinion on the actual Gatchamen (and on Gelsadra) remains high, to the point Millio wants her and Tsubasa to be regulars on his TV show, perhaps ditching O.D. in the process. In an even stranger development, the Prime Minister resigns after the VAPE attack and calls for smartphone elections…again. This time, he makes it clear a vote for him is a vote for the continued presence of (Blue) Crowds in society.

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While Gel is certainly a popular idol, she believes the best way for her to enact real change on Earth is by winning that election. When she’s told she’s just a little girl, she transforms into an adult man—heck, why not? She’s an alien! I’d say she has a decent shot at winning. Does that mean the Crowds will be put on the back burner, replaced by Gel’s different approach of “uniting minds” and sowing mass happiness? Will the rift between Rui and less pro-Crowds faction of the Gatchamen widen? Times suddenly feel very uncertain.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 03

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Tsubasa and Gelsadra are wrangled into appearing on the Millione Show where they show off their practiced jokes, then visit the drugged-out Gatchaman HQ for the first time, where Paiman is angry they went on TV. Tsubasa doesn’t see the problem; it can’t be a bad thing for heroes to appear on TV to inspire the people they protect. Ultimately Paiman is appeased when Tsubasa calls him “Leader.”

Tsubasa’s goals as Gatchaman couldn’t be simpler: be a hero who protects the people. That’s it. She doesn’t have any interest in “updating the world” or evolution, as Rui does. When a disturbing new prophecy from JJ portends a city “of teeming masses colored crimson”, and Rui informs the other Gatchamen of Suzuki Rizumu’s aims, Tsubasa more or less sides with Hibiki Jou’s objection to keeping something like Crowds around when there’s the potential for danger and even bloodshed.

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Jou likes the newbie’s simpler, more realistic goals, and calls Rui’s determination “idealism.” This is the largest philosophical gap we’ve seen in the Gatchamen thus far, as Jou’s opinion isn’t all that different thatn Rizumu’s It’s also given credence when the prophecy comes true and the city turns red with great coordinated masses of red Crowds.

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No less than six Gatchamen suit up, the largest deployment in insight so far, and while it’s great to see them start to take the fight to the red Crowds, it’s clear they’re woefully outnumbered, as usual. Tsubasa, meanwhile, is stuck on the sidelines since she can’t reliably transform, and before long, Rui meets Rizumu on a rooftop helipad, where Rizumu says today is the day his Crowds will start taking lives.

He sees Rui’s attitude as that of a spoiled child having his toy taken away. He wants Rui’s note, too, and refusing to give up his ideals or belief in eveyrone, including Rizumu, Rui hands it over, only to cough up blood and collapse when Rizumu repeatedly stabs it.

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But JJ’s prophecy also mentioned “a great wind” saving “the flame of life.” That wind comes from Gelsadra, who after activating the moods of everyone in the city (who are mostly frightened), she sucks up all of those thousands mood icons, figures something out, then transforms into a figure of smoke, blasting the prophesied wind towards Tsubasa, who has successfully transformed and is racing to Rui’s aid with Hajime.

Rui is willing do sacrifice his life for his ideals, hoping his very public and televised death will be the catalyst that finally causes that world update he’s so intent on. And he could be right; the people are disgusted by the red Crowds’ actions. But even if the blue Crowds get their shit together, we’re still talking about a war, which won’t be bloodless. Not only that, Tsubasa isn’t going to let Rui die if she can help it.

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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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