Gatchaman Crowds insight
by Nick Creamer,
How would you rate episode 9 of
Gatchaman Crowds insight ?
“Is Kuu-sama the iron hammer of justice?” wonders Millione at this episode's opening. This seems like it'd be an easy question to get wrong, but fortunately, Millione helpfully includes the correct opinion within the initial question. Yes the Kuu-sama are justice - sure they may be swallowing people, but those people were disrupting the peace and preventing everyone from becoming one. Those who can't read the atmosphere must be purged, for the good of everyone. This action may seem extreme, but it's really just an extension of existing behavior, both in the show and in real life. In a world where one stupid tweet can already destroy someone's career, the fear of stepping out of line doesn't need big smiling Kuu-samas to be very real.
Gatchaman Crowds' first season tackled the danger of online society's hatemongers and anarchists, saying the behavior of trolls was reflective of some fundamental human instincts. In Insight, the lens is spun around, demonstrating the danger of too much emphasis on submission to social harmony. Jou frames this as a specifically Japanese problem (“you should never have come to this country, where everyone is so easily swayed!”), and it's certainly true that Japan values social harmony to a very pronounced degree, particularly in comparison to fundamentally individualist western nations. But in Gatchaman Crowds, the internet's angers and anxieties are made real, and these trends are universal.
Gelsadra applauds the actions of the Kuu-sama, but Tsubasa is horrified. She wanted peace and for everyone to become one, but she certainly didn't want anyone to be swallowed by monsters in the process. Unfortunately for Tsubasa, this is where her ideals end. She's always been a hypocrite, espousing ideas of justice that were incompatible with her inability to accept conflict between individuals. The endpoint of what she's been saying she believes is right here, and its arrival is forcing her to reckon with what she actually feels. We need conflict in order to grow, and some of that conflict must come from within ourselves.
The other Gatchaman are less internally conflicted. Paiman, always the man of immediate action, thinks they should detain Gelsadra, and Jou agrees. Jou has always been a person focused on tackling the immediate problem in front of him, and beyond that, he sees this whole situation as his fault. He wants to repent for that and be the hero again, but none of these choices actually change his fundamental nature - his solution to Gelsadra becoming a tyrant is conceived in the same way as the plan that earned Gelsadra his tyranny. Jou wants to “punish evil,” but this situation requires a lighter touch.
Hajime, as usual, is more reserved and empathetic in her thinking. She urges caution, and argues that the Kuu-sama aren't necessarily Gel's responsibility (in fact, she eventually comes to the conclusion that the Kuu-sama are simply an extension of the existing atmosphere). Hajime thinks not in terms of blame and immediate solutions, but in terms of emotional truths, all while acting according to ideals that could be applied universally. Her actions demonstrate how the dangers of vindictive thinking aren't constrained to any one group of “bad guys” - her allies are just as quick to fall into too-broad patterns of justice, punishing a symptom as soon as they disagree with it. Sugane, fortunately, demonstrates some growth in this area, with his realization that he'd been going with the flow all this time mirroring Tsubasa's personal revelation. People need conflict in order to grow - we are quick to fall into easy patterns, and it's often only when our existing assumptions and comfort are challenged that we reassess and move forward. “Even if people are momentarily happy, society will fail to grow” shouts Jou to Gelsadra, articulating a societal critique that's illustrated on the individual level through both Tsubasa and Sugane.
Meanwhile, Japan is becoming a terrifying thoughtcrime-happy dystopia. From absorbing ne'er-do-wells like train creepers and other criminals, the Kuu-sama swiftly move past “people who play music too loud should be absorbed” to “anyone who disagrees with any larger group on any opinion should be absorbed.” When Paiman and Jou attempt to stop Gelsadra, the Gatchaman become untouchables - Sugane's friends abandon him, Paiman's daycare loses customers (“who knows what people will say if they hear we're associated with the Gatchaman?”), and people even begin to rumble about attacking their base. People like the old member of Rui's Hundred become societal exiles, while everyone else who disagrees simply smiles and nods with the rest. At times like this, it'd be nice to have a traditional hero to go punch evil in the face. But evil lies in our fundamental instincts taken to extremes, and we don't have a hero, we have Rizumu Suzuki. Here come the fireworks.
This was another strong episode of Gatchaman, one that smartly illustrated its core point about the ways we achieve personal growth through both larger societal points and individual character arcs. That's the power of fiction, essentially - Gatchaman can at times feel more like a series of contrasting political essays than a narrative, but this season has very successfully grounded its ideas in the human journeys of its various characters. On top of that, we also got one of the series' most compelling fight scenes yet in the battle between Gelsadra and Jou. This episode was once again a little more rambling in its structure than I'd have liked, but in every other respect Gatchaman Crowds insight continues to impress.
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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