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The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide
Gatchaman Crowds Insight

How would you rate episode 1 of
Gatchaman Crowds insight ?
Community score: 3.8



Bamboo Dong

Rating:

Gatchaman Crowds was one of my favorite shows of its season, and it goes without saying that prior knowledge of it will help immensely in tackling this season. Newcomers may otherwise wonder what CROWDS are, or why Hajime is talking to someone living inside her. The former is especially important, as there's quite a bit of nuance regarding these entities that are planted and nourished in the first season.

Regardless of if you're watching the original season or tackling the follow-up cold, it's a complex show, and one that allows for several interpretations. If there's a thread that runs between them, though, it's that Gatchaman Crowds has always been inexorably fascinated by, well, crowds. Whether it's the dangers of large groups of people, or the benefits that they can provide, or the herd mentality of internet users, this show has always taken immense satisfaction in examining humanity in frenzied chunks and the implications of groupthink.

With Gatchaman Crowds insight, we see something similar already in the first episode. Violent Red CROWDS aside, there's a fantastic scene in the first episode that shows another side of people in groups—the way that emotions can be influenced by those around you, and the way they can spread like wildfire when a match is lit. We're introduced to an alien named Gelsadra, whose unique ability allows people's emotions to be broadcast above their heads in emoticon-esque bubbles. At one point, new character Tsubasa becomes upset over a comment, and her emotion-bubble turns tense. This quickly ripples through the group, until a supportive comment from Gelsadra turns everyone's moods happy again. Whether that's part of her "power" or just an indicator of how readily people's emotions can be swayed by their peers is unknown as of now, but it's an effective way to show this episode's focus on emotions.

Already, it seems as though Gatchaman Crowds insight could be different thematically from the first series. While the first Crowds seemed to focus more on human action, insight might focus more on human emotion. Neither necessarily rely on rationale or logic—both are driven by instant reactions and passions (at least in the context of the show)—but with the introduction of Gelsadra, we can see a manifestation of emotion that isn't first filtered through a human thought process. This focus on pure emotion is seen not only in the Gelsadra scene, but also the many references that the characters make about "atmosphere" and "how nice the air is". They could just be talking about the weather, but it's also likely they're referring to the overall mood and ambience. How this will come into play later on in the series will be interesting to see.

Gatchaman Crowds is certainly not for everyone, especially since it can get pretty convoluted and dense, and it seems as though insight will be following in its footsteps. It's nice that a new Gatchaman has already been introduced—this definitely makes the show feel more like a second series rather than just a continuation (although chronologically, it is just that). And headstrong firecracker Tsubasa is a good counterpoint to Hajime, whose super-genki persona could use some tempering. Throw in the novelty of Gelsadra, and this is definitely a show that I'll be tuning into next week.

Gatchaman Crowds insight is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


Hope Chapman

Rating:

So, I kind of hated the first season of Gatchaman Crowds. Okay, let's not mince words. More than "kind of." I hated the first season of Gatchaman Crowds.

I didn't hate it as a piece of entertainment, though. As anime goes, there was still more good at its core than bad. Sure, its narrative and characterization were sloppy, but I thought its enthusiasm and unique production design compensated for those hiccups enough to make the experience really memorable. What I hated about Crowds was the agenda at its core; I pretty violently disagreed with what it was selling me about society and human nature, and by season's end, it became impossible for me to reconcile the show's many nifty ideas with its subliminally scummy beliefs. But with this second season, Gatchaman Crowds insight had the opportunity to revisit its complicated worldview through entirely new conflicts, so I was eager to see what it would say.

Well, season 2 told me to go screw myself, point blank, right from the beginning of the episode. The introduction of its Evil Strawmen (the VAPE or "Violent Apes") made that very, very, very clear.

Hey, I'm totally okay with that! The series has told me where it stands hard and fast up front, and while I may not agree with its politics, this introduction to season 2 was still more well-written, paced, and directed than pretty much anything in season 1. All of the clarity and pacing problems that dominated its first iteration seem to have been ironed out this time. Story-wise, this is a strong start. So with all threads wrapped up from season one, what's the story this time? The short version is that Rui has joined the Gatchaman, who now work as equal parts Galax ambassadors, extraterrestrial liaisons, and Crowds control (hurr) forces. Dissenters to the dissemination of Crowds powers have risen up as "Red Crowds" that the show is so quick to dismiss as Super Bad Terrorists that it's almost laughable. Maybe that's a good thing. Maybe this early dismissal of the opposition means that the show is planning to subvert itself later and play around in more shades of gray.

Or maybe not. There's another new element at play in season 2, an alien life form named Gelsadora. Once the Gatchaman welcome her to earth, she communicates with humans by creating bubbles over their heads that show their true emotions. Curiously, she seems to have the power to influence these emotions, and the show makes a major point of approving uniformity of emotion in any given community. So if Gel's powers are used in conjunction with the Red Crowds, this could create a calming homogeny that eradicates dissent and--wait, that's terrifying. That's really creepy. If Crowds' first season was about establishing a dictatorial commune of false positivity through social media, its second season might be about enforcing it. Smiles, everyone. Smiiiiiiiiiiles.

Oh, and there's a new member on the Gatchaman team named Tsubasa, because Hajime wasn't blatant enough symbolism in a protagonist's name. On that "Note," she's already being portrayed as the Yang to Hajime's Yin (not polar opposites but spiritual complements that may clash or Gel depending on the situation), so I'm genuinely interested to see how that develops.

I do not see the world or humanity the same way that Gatchaman Crowds does at all, and this is largely bolstered by how unrealistic the human element is in a show that is ostensibly about human nature. This is back full-force in season 2. People react with "daw shucks" inconvenience and slight unease to everything from crop destruction to terrorism. Hajime is still the absolute Mary-est of Sues. If you took any issue with the character writing in season one, all those characterization problems are still there and will almost certainly not go away. Ignoring that though, I still think Gatchaman Crowds is worth watching as a conversation piece and as a series with unique ideas and a strong Point of View. This second season is already diving headlong into new heavy ideas, so whether you're fully onboard with its dogma or shaking your head and flipping the bird at the screen, Insight is definitely worth keeping an eye on this season.


Nick Creamer

Rating: 4.5

Gatchaman Crowds is back, and just as dense as ever! The ostensible plot of this first episode is fairly simple - Hajime and the other Gatchaman welcome an alien and new comrade as the show reintroduces all of its main characters. We meet the alien Gelsadra, who can make people physically manifest their moods as a kind of real-world thought bubble, and new Gatchaman Tsubasa, who's hotheaded and full of big dreams. But as always, with Gatchaman Crowds, it's the stuff going on beneath the surface that tells the full story.

The first season of Crowds dove deep into the nature of modern society, combining ideas of gamification and a more-horizontal society to question the very existence and necessity of heroes. In the end, it came to an uneasy peace with the combined violence and positive potential of the internet, positing that communal good-feelings, when facilitated through the channeling power of gamification and scoring, would win out over trolling and negativity. This was combined with a firm nod towards the clear necessity of public leaders and community organizers, whose expertise and dedication would help drive the more scattered efforts of game-focused civilians. Whether you agreed with this thesis or found it too optimistic, Crowds laid out its argument consistently and passionately, painting characters like Hajime and Berg Katze in terms of more archetypal human instincts than individual people in order to create a clash not of single individuals, but of grand ideals.

Insight continues in that vein, with the now socially-established CROWDS offering new conflicts in the horizontal age. Red CROWDS have appeared, with the stated intent of demonstrating that “CROWDS is dangerous, and may actually destroy our society.” Between that outright declaration and Joe's lines this episode about bad actors preventing a civilized society, it seems clear this season is going to dive into the theorized downfall of utopian ideals posited by stuff like Notes from Underground. Can a civil, idealized society be reached even accepting the presence of people determined to rally against it? Katze was only tamed by being literally swallowed by Hajime, a force of basically infinite charity and good-feeling, but that solution won't work for other people. We can't just make rebellious people “go away,” and given the democratizing effect of CROWDS, how can society survive the outsized damage any given troll might inflict?

The nature of the alien Gelsadra might point to where Insight will be looking for a solution. Gelsadra has the power to make people visually manifest their emotional state, a trick that seems to imply the show will be specifically interrogating the idea of social, emotional harmony. This plays naturally into Crowds' general belief in the importance of nonverbal communication, as consistently demonstrated by Hajime's emotive talents, but it also might point to the importance of either “net social feelings” or the way emotions ripple through social groups. But that's just speculation at this point - all I know is Insight seems just as philosophically driven as its predecessor, and that I'm very eager to see where it takes these ideas.

Lofty theme stuff aside, it was also just very fun to see all of these characters again. The pacing of this first episode felt kind of stilted (it seems intended to be watched along with episode 0, the real “hook”), but there were lots of cute exchanges between the main cast, and it was satisfying to see everyone had grown in their own ways since the events of the first season. Gatchaman's visual aesthetic remains very appealing (I love this show's almost watercolor-styled backgrounds and character designs), and the returning songs are as catchy as ever. The awkward pacing kept this from being a perfect premier, but Gatchaman remains one of the most compelling and thematically rich shows in recent memory.


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