This is review number two hundred and forty two. This anime is part of the Summer 2013 lineup. I think I can actually finish this lineup before the Fall 2013 lineup ends. I’m glad I was able to cover so much despite my slow pace. All I need to do is to sneak in the 24 plus episode anime and I’m golden. One problem at a time though. Anyways, the anime I’ll be reviewing is Gatchaman Crowds. It’s a twelve episode anime about a popular 70s anime getting a brand new installment to its series. It’s about superheroes battling alien scum and doing it in style. Oh, wait. It’s not. No, it is. Huh? Let’s read on.
The story is about this girl named Hajime Ichinose. She has recently become the new member of a superhero team called the Gatchaman. She is super excited to be one and now she gets to join the fight in beating up alien creatures called MESS that eats innocent people. Thanks from this powerful being named JJ, she was given the special Note to transform into a hero. However, she is a bit unpredictable and she thinks fighting against creatures she hasn’t even met yet is not her style. So she decided to befriend the human eating aliens?
Taking the Pants Off
I remember the Gatchaman Series. My roommate loved that show and he would buy DVDs of them so he can watch it in our room. He would light up with nostalgia over the show because he used to watch it as a kid. It’s basically like a sentai-like anime where a bunch of costumed teenagers fight evil dudes and foil their plan for world domination or something like that. It’s super old. It’s one of those shows that truly cater to kids and it’s the ideal afternoon show you’d watch after school. The animation is badly dated and the stories are as lame as sock puppets. I’m sure if you grew up watching the show then you might have a special bond with it. I understand the appeal. It’s along the lines of Voltes Five or Daimos or even Sailormoon. They’re just cool kid shows meant to appeal to impressionable kids so maybe one day they will fight crimes in their spandex because crime can only be stopped dressed in spandex. Anyways, when I heard of Gatchaman Crowds, I was a bit hesitant. If you saw the original then you’d have some reservations about watching it as well. One of the reason I don’t watch on going anime is so I don’t get swayed by hype. It preserves my impartial opinion of a series. If I had known this show was one of the most talked about series of the Summer lineup, then I would’ve tried it immediately. The show does give some nod to the original Gatchaman series but it’s been completely overhauled where the only thing it had in common to the original is that we have teenagers spoiling bad guys of their plan. Everything else is reworked or updated. The once straight forward kids show from the 1970s now introduced a new installment that is not only exciting, it’s also insightful and a wonderful antithesis of its origin. Gone are the spandex and it’s replaced with crisp CG costumes. Gone are the highly predictable stories of its era and it’s been replaced by a story that suits the modern era. The internet, information shared online and societal effect it has produced now replaces the stale superhero gimmick the Gatchaman series is known for. Gatchaman Crowds actually poses a wonderful question: do we really need superheroes in this day and age where change can be achieved with the help of the internet and the world banding together for a common goal. Think about it, where do super heroes fit in our modern society?
The anime started out pretty straight forwardly. A girl named Hajime Ichinose was given the power of a Gatchaman. Despite the odd reaction the girl would give towards certain situations, the show still progresses like the typical superhero show you’d expect it to be. The girl joined a bunch of superheroes called Gatchaman and their goal is to eradicate these monsters called “MESS”. These are aliens that wander into earth and eat people up. They are an absolute menace that needs to be eradicated. The Gatchaman follows their rules closely because what they do is very dangerous and a slip up can cost them their lives. With a prophecy from an enigmatic being named JJ, the Gatchaman chases after the MESS before they hurt ordinary people. It’s a simple premise and there is enough intrigue here to keep the show busy. In Hajime’s first time fighting the MESS though, she extended her arms to them, played with them then proved that these creatures are actually harmless beings that didn’t really mean to eat people up. They’re friendly and Hajime might be the only person to ever think like that. This comes as a shock to the rest of the Gatchaman and to the audience as well. The anime has seemingly created a bait and switch in the most whimsical way. The anime started out as a show about super heroes beating up alien scum then suddenly decided to throw all of that out the window then start anew. Three episodes in and you’re wondering, what is this anime about? I absolutely love this part of the anime. I bet nostalgic folks that enjoyed Gatchaman when they were kids suddenly got confused and the new audience that is just introduced to the Gatchaman concept is even more muddled up. If this isn’t a show about super heroes and aliens then what is it about? Well, that’s the beauty of the anime. You’re left to figure it out yourselves.
Damn I wish I could end the review here so you’ll just get to watch the show already. The anime had three plot points closely related to each other. These plot points are loosely introduced at the beginning then stuck together into one cohesive story as the show progresses. It’s a brilliant kind of storytelling I honestly don’t see a lot these days. Anyways, after the initial bait and switch by the anime, you are now introduced to the first plot point. It’s about the app called GALAX where people get to interact with each other. It’s a simple chat room kind of program but it also helps people with whatever kind of information they need and even provide help for those in dire situations. This first plot point is about the usefulness of GALAX and how it is changing the world. The show has adapted the setting of society today where technology plays an important part in people’s lives and created something really interesting about it. Imagine an app where people can gather and help each other. When someone needs a lawyer, GALAX’s overseer named “X” would contact a lawyer in the users vicinity and encourage him to help the user in need. If there is an accident, “X” would ask a nurse through GALAX that there was an accident and she should use her nurse skills to help the wounded. It’s one hell of a program that is slowly changing the way society is working. Because of how efficient and wonderful the program is, new registered users are climbing up the numbers every day. It’s all thanks to the efforts of one person that decided to make the program.
The whole focus of the first plot point is how technology has truly changed the landscape of the world. With how efficient GALAX works, it is pretty clear that the world does not need superheroes. The anime has nicely created a picture where ordinary humans can be urged to become heroes themselves so there is no need for anyone to be special and to have super powers. This is completely against the grain of what the Gatchaman series is actually about and the superheroes are now being considered as nothing more than rumors in some forum no one can verify. As the amazing capabilities of the internet are being demonstrated, the Gatchaman that used to fight alien scum is now left wandering what they should do. An ideal society is being created thanks to GALAX and it seems that superheroes really are outdated ideas. If there’s one thing you can rely on the internet though is that it is unpredictable and it’s the one thing mankind created that it doesn’t understand. What if this very thing that bonds people together is also the same thing that would create one giant wave of misfortune throughout the world? Well, thankfully that won’t happen. The person that created the program will make sure that it won’t happen. The creator is determined to reach an ideal world where people can help each other without expecting anything in return. With the way GALAX is attracting new users, it won’t be long till the creator’s wish will be fulfilled. It’s sad though because the creator is just a human being and we f*ck up sometimes. The anime proves that the power of the internet is something that can change the world but it’s also a tool that propagates anarchy. It really just needs one convincing anarchist to get the ball rolling.
The second plot point is about the actual villain of the show. Remember that the MESS is actually harmless creatures that don’t mean pose as any danger to the humans. We are introduced to one hell of a bad guy afterwards though. I don’t want to spoil much because he is an interesting character that his presence alone can turn the whole story upside down. Anyways, a string on incidents involving a person going berserk has been going rampant in the city. A person would just throw other people off a flight of stairs or an angry mother would just hi-jack a car then starts mowing people down for no reason. The person who commits the crime would claim that they are innocent though and that they didn’t do such an awful thing. There are witnesses though and they’re often caught red handed. If only the cops knew that an alien being actually shape shifted into the accused individuals and did the horrible act then blamed the person for the crime. This is what the second plot point is mostly about. It’s about the villain that loves to create chaos and anarchy wherever he goes. Here’s the kicker, this villain is so powerful that the Gatchaman heroes can’t beat the guy. He is so strong that most of the Gatchaman would issue orders not to face the dude. They’d be scared and they would cower in fear. We have a villain so amazing that our heroes cannot touch him. The interesting part is that this guy just might be a Gatchaman as well. He is actually so feared that he has successfully destroyed a lot of worlds before he came to Earth. He is a person that would create trouble but would never lift a finger doing it. He now wants to see Earth destroyed much like the other planets he saw went up in flames.
The third plot point is about the unpredictability of our main character, Hajime. I’m considering this a plot point because it was a strong component of the show that made the whole thing come together. With the rise of GALAX’s influence on people and the villain slowly making noise, the Gatchaman people are stuck wondering how they should go on. They always believed in their enigmatic being named JJ but he doesn’t send any help for them. They are also keeping distance from the villain fearing how strong he is and how it can easily take their lives. While most of the superheroes are unsure of what to do, Hajime would just smile then go hyperactive. She is one interesting character because she comes off as an annoying person but she is deceptively the most insightful character in the show. Most of the things she’ll do are something she would come up with randomly and the rest of the cast would be dumbfounded that she actually thinks it’s a good idea. She’d break rules and do things in the most unconventional way that you often wait for the next crazy thing she’ll do that affects the story heavily. This is what the third plot point is mostly about. It is focused on the overly positive disposition of our main character and her unusual methods that create some unexpectedly good results. How would you react when a car drives pass by you so fast that you were almost hit by it? Most would blow their tops off. Hajime would think that the driver was driving fast because he/she needed to. It might be an emergency where speeding is unavoidable. It’s something you can’t verify but things like that can help you calm down, right? This is how Hajime thinks. She sees the eternal good in people, she would extend her hand to get to know them and she wouldn’t think twice about helping others. In a society where people want money and fame, Hajime stands out as a diamond that seemingly wants to change the world one step at a time. Imagine such an unpredictable yet surprisingly pure character affecting the flow of the story. It’s a story where the internet brings out the good and the bad in people. It’s a story where an anarchist wants to see the world burn. It’s a story where an overly positive girl would dare take on these two overwhelming entities and try her best to come out on top. It makes for one hell of an entertaining anime.
These three plot points all support each other and as the show progresses, they soon create one giant story that covers everything. It’s a fun thing to watch because the seemingly normal progression gradually intensifies into something more. With the villain, the app and the superheroes all sharing one stage, you can expect good things to happen in this show. Despite the great story the anime presents though, this is also a very character driven story. There are a lot of characters in this show and they were all given decent time in the spotlight. Most of them aren’t really that important in the story but the show manages to fit them in and share their perspective towards the progressing story. There are clear main characters but there are side characters introduced and their insight on the situation improves the story a lot. This is admittedly a tough thing to do. You must introduce new characters at seemingly random moments then make sure they don’t distract the focus away from the story or slow the pace down. The story does get a little bit more interesting though when you are treated to the various emotions that the characters feel towards the events of the anime. The story might start with the perspective of the person that created GALAX but it’ll slowly shift to a character that uses GALAX and wants a more drastic change than the creator envisions. The story might start from the view of the Gatchaman superheroes but then it’ll shift towards the view of the villain that contrasts the one you’re following in the beginning of the story. It’s a well-rounded method that makes the story a lot more engaging and fun to watch. The show was also smart to introduce various subplots regarding the large cast. It’s separate from the main story but the involvement of the characters and their subplots adds more depth to the show later on. It’s also a great way to flesh out the characters while making sure the story isn’t affected. It’s surprisingly complex and I am a bit shocked considering it sprung from a 70s show about heroes in spandex.
The story does have some flaws though. There is a large story that the show must cover and it does skip over some of the important explanations. The show would introduce new things, like the appearances of weird alien beings that save people, without so much as an explanation or a reaction from the other characters so the audience is often left scratching their heads then just asked to pick up the information as they keep watching. It’s a bit distracting but it doesn’t really ruin the story. It’s a bit annoying though. It’s something very relevant to the story yet the show doesn’t explain it properly. I think this was meant on purpose though. The surprise is contained till the end and I do understand that. It’s still a bit distracting because the show is overwhelming enough by itself with all of the events that unfolds. Thinking about how pieces fit the puzzle is too much of a hassle if you just want to see the story unfold. The show also glosses over certain things about some characters. It appears that some of the characters are actually aliens but the show doesn’t mention that. At first, I thought it was something that is related to the original Gatchaman series but I’m not really sure. Anyways, the show would mention that one of the heroes is actually related to the villain yet it never explores how it happened. It just did and now it’s part of the story. The anime kept skipping certain details that it seems a bit unfair to viewers. Why does the dude named JJ not help the characters? Is the green haired girl an alien to? She has powers in default or does she gain abilities because of the Gatchaman notebook? Why don’t the rest of the characters show their abilities as well? How did the other aliens escape their destroyed planet? How did they end up on Earth? Why does it seem that there is unlimited bandwidth in Japan? How did the creator created the program GALAX and the highly intelligent X? Did he use his powers? How come he never showed them in other ways? Why is Hajime so overly positive? The show often just asks the audience to fill in the blanks because it can’t bother to do that itself. It’s not really a bad thing to gloss over certain parts of the story but it’s like a snowball effect for this anime. They just keep on piling up into one giant ball that you can’t help but ponder over. It’s a good thing the story is very engaging because I often forget the show skipped over certain important aspects of the story.
The characters are all pretty amazing. Each one of them is well rounded and they all had a decent chance to transform as the show progresses. The main character is Hajime. She is the overly positive girl. She started out as an annoying character you just want to strangle but she transform into one of the most must-see character in the show. Whenever she appears, prepare to see something completely insane yet amazingly insightful. She would often blurt out random things but it’s often deceptively deep lines that you can’t believe she picked up on it right away. I was always mesmerized on how she managed to catch a character off guard just by saying the person would look a lot more beautiful if they don’t put make up on. From the flow of the conversation, it seemed random but it’s actually an indirect response to the character that is pretty deep it made the other person speechless. This is what she does best. You can always expect her to shake the anime up in the most unexpected way. As you keep watching, this annoying girl slowly becomes the best element of the show.
The rest of the Gatchaman heroes are as interesting as our main character. There is Sugane, the sword wielding upperlcass man of Hajime. Contrast her, this guy is straight laced and follows the rules because it’s important to create a stable environment. He is everything Hajime isn’t. He is strict, orderly and he upholds a strong sense of justice that is based on rules and discipline. The way the two plays off each other are really interesting. Another character is Jou. He is a civil servant by day and a laidback dude at other days. He is a guy that wants to protect people and has a dream of achieving world peace. After a series of events though, he suddenly thinks his dream is childish and his superhero role is badly outdated. He got in a slump most people don’t want to get out from. His indecisive personality is really great because it gives us a nice view of a vulnerable hero that you don’t see a lot of. Another character is Utsutsu. She is the small girl that likes to show her skin a lot. She is a bit of a kuudere and often just says “she is gloomy”. After meeting Hajime though, this unresponsive girl suddenly wants more out of life and she would then slowly find a cause to fight for. I love this character because she is weird. She also shows off some skin so that’s a plus point right there. Then there is OD, the overly flamboyant hero from another planet. He doesn’t transform because if he did, the world might be destroyed (according to him). Seeing the villain run rampant though, OD is forced to do more than just watch the helpless situation grow more helpless. Lastly, there is Paiman. He is the panda mascot of the show and the leader of the group. Despite being the designated leader though, Paiman is often a bit undecisive of what to do and often gets overtaken by his comrades. It seems he would prefer shaking in fear in a corner than help and he is over dependent of the prophecies he gets from JJ. He is forced though to break his own rules and fight. These characters really have a nice interaction with each other and the rather whimsical style the show have makes the characters a lot more likeable. Even if they slowly get pushed to the side because of other characters, the show made sure they stay relevant and they are kept in the loop as the show progresses.
There is another important character: the person that created GALAX. I don’t want to spoil much about this character but this person is also a very integral part of the show. The creator created GALAX so the world can achieve an ideal society where money and reputation doesn’t mean anything. Everyone is equal and they all want to help each other without expecting anything in return. He believes that the world can be changed as long as people remain pure and honest. It sounds like a pipedream but the way GALAX runs I think you might be convinced that it can happen. The character’s intentions are good but he is trying to achieve a revolution without any bloodshed and using the internet, of all things, to do that. As the show progresses, you are treated to a nice view from this character’s perspective and you slowly see things unfold with the creator trying to contain the situation. His ideals are really insightful and it adds a lot to the depth of the story but it’s also interesting how his ideals are achieved. People can only dream so big that it’s only a matter of time before it crumbles on top of them. It’s something this character experiences in the most amazing way.
Lastly, there are the side characters. They are really meant to just add some new ideas to the show but they did their role pretty well. From a riot cop trying to control the chaos to a GALAX user trying to change the world in a more drastic way, these characters helps make the show more interesting. With so many perspectives towards the same event, you really get an idea of how society works in the show. Society and its people is really an important element of the show. The various commenters on the internet, the information media relays to the people and the ordinary citizens being affected by it all, they all part a huge role in the show that completes the story. As the show progresses, you often feel like you’re part of the peanut gallery experiencing the same sentiments they are having. It’s thanks to how complex the story is but these side characters did a lot to really heighten the moment.
One more thing I’d like to point out is how ambiguous the show is. I wrote a very long winded review because there are a lot of things to pick up from the show. It had commentaries about the behavior of people in the internet and in the real world. It has insights on how relaying information is a weapon as powerful as any gun. It has thought provoking ideas of how to change the world from being radical, to having a bloodless revolution, to trusting that other people have decency to want to have change, to relying less on the government, and to even as far as not relying on a certain God to do the change for you. It’s pretty damn deep and I think there are a lot more to see if you scratch beneath the surface hard enough. There are a lot of things here for a lot of people. I’m sure you’ll be able to pick up a lot of things from watching this show and that’s really something I can’t help but admire. A superhero show that has deep thought provoking pieces and strong social commentaries about the world is the last thing I’d expect from a show like this.
I remember Kenji Nakamura. He directed Tsuritama and I love that series. That show was particularly complex as well and I think Kenji is the only person that can conjure up something this amazing. You can tell he is also growing as a director. Gatchaman Crowds is convoluted as hell but he was able to make sure the show doesn’t overwhelm. The little bait and switch at the beginning was also a nice touch. The thing I love most about this director though is that he was able to finally convey his message that was badly botched from his previous work: C the power of money and possibility control. Gatchaman Crowds is everything C was supposed to be and I love how he managed to combine the whimsy of Tsuritama and the heavy implications of C in another original series. This is also a wonderful addition to the Gatchaman series but I think Tatsunoko Productions (the studio) should focus more on a remake of the original show. A nostalgia bomb like Gatchaman can definitely work. I mean, look at how successful the new Saint Seiya anime has gone. I hope they don’t do something stupid like TMS Entertainment and Monkey Punch did. They release an awesome show one moment (A Woman named Fujiko) then release a crappy one the next (Bakumatsu Gijinden Roman). The idea of another season of this anime though (already in the works) seems like something I will thoroughly enjoy. I can’t wait.
Sight and Sound
Character design is pretty insane. The style is a bit unusual. I think it’s because of the odd color palette of the anime. The characters are all decent. Hajime looks good. She has the cute shoulder length hair and the big expressive eyes. I think the single base color for the hair and the big light brown eyes makes her a bit whimsical yet weird in a sense. I guess I’m just used to the moe kind of character design, forgive me. The male characters are pretty great though. They all have great range and there is enough bishie details to make them stand out. I love the hair design because of how wild it looks that nicely compliments the rest of the anime. Their outfits are also pretty great. It adds a lot to their personality and gives you a wonderful sense of what the character is like. The flamboyant gay character wears a tight leather pants and an open V neck shirt. The laidback guy has unkempt hair and overalls as if he doesn’t care what he looks like. The upperclassman would have a clean cut hair and clean white clothes that demonstrate how uptight he is. Kinoko’s design really made the characters stand out beautifully.
The costume designs are pretty bad ass. At first, I thought it was made by the guy that did the one sin Tiger Bunny. I honestly think that’s the first thing you’ll notice about them. They are heavily CG and the detail work is pretty complex. It just needs a logo from a company and you wouldn’t know the difference. Yeah, that and the high quality productions from Production IG. Anyways, Koji Nanankita did a wonderful job on the outfits of the characters. From the conventional heavily suited warrior kind of hero to a wheeled outfit, there was a nice range of design in the costumes and the various weapons it had. Every character had different weapons that suit their personality. It’s pretty cute. It’s a sad thing that the outfits are rarely seen though. The show wanted to stray away from the superhero angle that made the series popular without completely abandoning it so the costumes are downplayed a bit. I often have to pause a video though just to see the crazy details in one costume and I am bummed about that.
The animation is pretty decent. Most of the characters don’t blink but they do make up for it with some wide ranges of emotions. I think the non eye blinking approach was intentional to give the anime the added whimsy. It was careful enough to make sure every unconventional movement was nicely animated and I like that about the show. From the crazy antics of Hajime to the whimsical things the villain does, the animation was able to convey the personalities of the characters pretty well. The fight scenes are also pretty amazing and every other part of the story that demand high animation was able to do so. If you can get over the color palette than I’m sure you’ll appreciate the animation of the show as well.
The anime’s OP is “Crowds” by WHITE ASH. I wanted to like this song but I honestly do not understand it and the fansubber group didn’t even bother to translate the song. I like the rhythm of the song. It was like had a low bass tone that compliments the rather rough voice of White Ash. It’s all the more better when you reach the chorus. The problem is that I do not f*cking understand her words. It’s a mix of English and Japanese so it was tough to appreciate. She often eats her lines and I often just go “nananana” while she sings so I can at least understand the lines. The OP is really cool. It was a mix of real world scenes and the characters placed in it in 2D. All the characters are presented and a few of the awesome costumes are shown in their flashy glory. It’s pretty awesome.
The anime’s ED is “INNOCENT NOTE” by Hajime Ichinose (CV: Maaya Uchida). I love this song. This had a decent pace and Maaya’s voice sounds really awesome contrast her annoying Hajime voice. The song has a decent pace and a really cool chorus that makes the song pretty great to listen to. The ED sequence is the same as the OP. It features all the characters in a live action setting. They all had gloomy faces though and it ends with Hajime and Sugane back to back each other.
8/10 “It’s a fun and engaging spin on a popular superhero series. The secret is that the show questioned the presence of the superheroes themselves in a world that doesn’t need one then convince that world that it does need them.”
This is an amazing show. It was complex without being overwhelming. The characters are well rounded and the story was so well paced that you can’t believe how it was able to satisfy such a large amount of events in such a short amount of time. If you loved the Gatchaman series because of nostalgia then prepared to be shocked a bit but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the way this show does things unconventionally. If you love thought provoking shows with engaging characters then you’ll love this show. If you prefer a character driven story full of whimsy and depth then this show will surprise you. I highly recommend it.