Gatchaman Crowds insight Episode 8
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Gatchaman Crowds insight ?
I wish Gatchaman Crowds wasn't right.
I wish I didn't believe that people could reject the Crowds because they're afraid, but embrace the Kuu-sama because that fear is not a critical instinct, but an animal one. I wish the idea of Gelsadra as benevolent decision-maker promoting harmony sounded as terrifying as it's framed for us in the audience, but leaders and ideas like that have gained great power too many times. I wish “if only we could all just get along” wasn't a step on the road to “we should isolate anyone who threatens disharmony,” but I see that happen every single day. I wish great and passionate people were able to stay great and passionate forever, and not get worn down by the slings and arrows of everyday injustice.
But basically nothing in this episode surprised me, and though that certainly is to Gatchaman's credit as a critique of both individual people and how we interact with systems, it's not a happy lesson to accept.
This week fully introduced us to the Kuu-sama, the “gentle beasts” birthed from Gelsadra's feelings-indigestion. Though they look strange, they seem very friendly, and apparently know all about the people around them. Gelsadra and Tsubasa accept them unquestioningly, as they do everything, and the Kuu-sama essentially become the enforcement arm of Gelsadra's harmonious “paradise.” Being hugged by a Kuu-sama apparently relieves your stress and misgivings, and the Kuu-sama are very insistent on hugging everyone.
This is all kind of terrifying, of course, but Gelsadra has already pacified the general population, and so the Kuu-sama end up being accepted without much question. The nation is at its lowest point now, and the imagery Gatchaman evokes for this is chilling. We see Gelsadra sitting in the throne of his tree of knowledge, having returned the crowds below him to an uncritical, unreflective Garden of Eden. We see Tsubasa smile and say “everyone! we're counting on you” on camera, looking for all the world like the war propaganda mascot of some new dictatorship. We see Tsubasa's grandfather standing alone outside, the visual framing making him seem dwarfed by a massive night sky. The narrative of Gatchaman Crowds has basically been a long, slow process of proposing theoretically just or harmonious social systems and then watching them fall apart, but even at the height of Katze's anarchy or Rizumu's Crowds terrorism, the situation never got as ominous as this. Things are looking Very Bad.
Not everyone is okay with this social order, fortunately. There are still dissenters out in the general population, who now get hounded by both Kuu-sama and their human peers for the crime of not being happy about what's happening. And the Gatchaman are divided on the Kuu-sama as well. Paiman moves quickly to accept them, because as he says, “the most important thing in the world is speed!” This statement is a bit more wise than he knows in a very depressing way - he's definitely right that speed is critical to maintaining popular support, but it's the speed of Tsubasa's uncritical methods that got them into this mess. The slow thinkers Rui and Hajime are less popular, but it's that independent, considered thinking that the country really needs, and has now essentially voted to invalidate by leaving everything up to immediate, gut-level popular vote.
Hajime's investigations continued this week, as she smilingly interrogated the Kuu-sama on who they were and what they wanted. This was one of the best scenes of the episode, as Hajime was able to turn their various non-answers into critical information (“If you want people to relax, that means everyone's worried. If you don't have names, that means you don't know what you really are”). But when Hajime confronted Tsubasa with her misgivings, Tsubasa simply shut her out, implying that Katze's presence was the reason Hajime “liked conflict.” Tsubasa is utterly sure she's right, and thus not actually looking to engage with Hajime - she simply wants a tangible reason to invalidate Hajime's perspective. A classic trick of both political discourse and online argumentation, one Tsubasa has arrived at naturally through her absolute dedication to her cause. As Hajime says, “you can't really see things about yourself sometimes.”
This episode's most harrowing moment was saved for the final scenes, as we learned that Rui had actually submitted to the Kuu-sama. This was sad to see, but it didn't surprise me - Rui has basically suffered defeat after defeat all season, with philosophical failure being followed by the abandonment of Crowds, essentially the living representation of Rui's optimism about the human race. Rui has learned and grown throughout this season, but the lessons have come hard, and as society has gotten worse, Tsubasa has only gotten more belligerent in her refusal to listen to Rui's pleas. People get tired, and everyone has their limit - Rui can no longer stay strong in the hopes of realizing a future that might not even be possible. Rui's turn here came abruptly, but the show hinted at one final meeting with Rizumu prior to that fall, so we'll hopefully get more context soon.
The episode ended with one of the Kuu-sama abruptly consuming a dissenting voice, signalling we're arriving at the endgame of Gelsadra's unification project. But personally, I find these laughing monsters a lot less frightening than what the actions of those around them imply about our human nature. This wasn't Gatchaman's most propulsive episode, but it was still plenty engaging, and the framing of sequences like Tsubasa's grandfather's exercises or Rui's fall were nice reminders that Kenji Nakamura isn't just an idea-focused director, but also one with a great eye for visual composition. Gatchaman Crowds stays strong even as its story bums the hell out of me.
Gatchaman Crowds insight is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Nick writes about anime, storytelling, and the meaning of life at Wrong Every Time.
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