Gatchaman Crowds Insight
by Paul Jensen, James Beckett,
I can always tell if a video game has me hooked by how often I catch myself talking to the characters. I bought a car racing version of all those sports manager games recently, and I've already fallen into the habit of berating my imaginary drivers every time they get passed on track. It feels perfectly natural in the moment, but I'm sure anyone who walked by would assume I'd gone insane. If it helps my little underdog team scratch out a win or two though, I'll keep on doing it. Welcome to Shelf Life.
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Gatchaman Crowds Insight
On Shelves This Week
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Shelf Life Reviews
James takes a look at Gatchaman Crowds insight for this week's review. How does it stack up compared to its predecessor?
Gatchaman Crowds insight offers a remedy of sorts. Taking place roughly a year or so after the first season, Insight follows Hajime and the rest of the Gatchaman as they revel in their newfound stardom while protecting Japan from a new and dangerous organization of cyberterrorists known as VAPE (short for Violent Ape, their summation of humankind). While VAPE runs amok across the country, an alien named Gelsadra shows up offering a potential cure for humanity's woes: the ability to project peoples' emotions into a literal sort of “thought-bubble” above their heads, to stymie any woes that misunderstandings and conflicts might produce. To top it all off, there's a new member of the team, an enthusiastic young girl named Tsubasa that Hajime takes on as her apprentice.
It's this final part that shakes things up just enough to differentiate this series from its predecessor. Tsubasa is our new protagonist for the season, and she gets just as much time in the spotlight as her gung-ho mentor, Hajime. While Hajime is still an acquired taste, she's balanced out by Tsubasa's level-headedness and likability, and thus the pair work well together both on and off the battlefield. I enjoyed seeing Tsubasa's trials and tribulations as the newest Gatchaman member, and her leveling out Hajime's shenanigans made the season overall much more even-keeled and consistently enjoyable.
What truly set Gatchaman Crowds apart carries over into Gatchaman Crowds insight: its deft blending of candy-colored CGI action and surprisingly thoughtful social commentary. These Gatchaman exist in a hyper-connected version of Tokyo where cultural integration into the internet is only a hair's breadth removed from our own society. Where the first season dealt with the perils and possibilities of such an overly connected society, Insight hones in specifically on the tensions produced when so many people have the power to transform their society with the push of a button, and the repercussions of not properly addressing such a system's pitfalls. One of the early episodes makes a sharp and deceptively lighthearted jab at this future, as a gaggle of naïve teenagers all use their cell-phones to vote for the next Prime Minister of Japan. “The whole thing makes it feel like a game!” one of the girls excitedly remarks, and maybe it's just the flavor of our own political climate right now in the US, but the inspection of this generation's tech-fueled political frivolity felt uncanny and unexpectedly intelligent.
Even if fairly gentle political satire isn't your bag, the rest of Gatchaman's story holds up well too. The mystery of who Gelsadra is and how it will tie into the VAPE threat is handled well, and aside from a few rushed plot points near the end, I'd say this season sticks the landing better than the first did. Some of the characters get sidelined more this season, but that makes sense, since we already got to spend so much time with them the first time around. None of the stories being told here are exceptionally groundbreaking, but they are smart and handled with care, and the Gatchaman are as good a crew of heroes as any to root for. I enjoyed the time I got to spend with them as they saved their world, and as overly neon-bright and hyperkinetic as things occasionally got, the core of the story remained grounded enough so as to never fully lose its way.
Sentai's Blu-Ray package delivers all 13 episodes of the season, which includes the half-length recap “Episode 00”. If there's any great drawback to Gatchaman Crowds insight, it's that even with its recap episode, a newcomer is apt to feel quite lost jumping into the series cold. It had been long enough since I watched season one that I still had to go back and catch myself up on some details, as the first few episodes assume a basic level of knowledge of both Gatchaman conventions in general and the main plot points of season one. While everything settled itself in eventually, just know that it takes a handful of episodes to do so, and a bit of patience might be required to feel fully caught up.
Specs-wise, this Sentai set delivers the usual materials: textless opening and closing sequences for extras, and an English dub for those so inclined. As far as the dub goes, it's fine, and I used it to watch most of the season. The one sticking point, as always, will probably be Hajime. Jessica Calvello adopts a valley-girl-esque affectation with her performance that feels true to the character, though it doesn't help at all if you find Hajime too much to handle to begin with. Like everything else with her character, the performance grew on me enough to tolerate through the whole season, but anyone that has Hajime-based reservations would do well to stick to the Japanese track, since her character quirks play out more naturally in the original language. For her part, Chelsea McCurdy does a fine job as Tsubasa, playing up the tomboyish nature of her character to balance out Hajime's own personality. If you absolutely require a dub track for your purchases, this one works just fine, so long as you know what you're getting into up front.
Gatchaman Crowds insight is a surprisingly thoughtful and consistently entertaining bit of work, and I'd heartily recommend it to anybody who enjoyed the first season, like I did. You'll probably want to check out season one first, to make sure the series' particular aesthetic is your thing before fully committing to a purchase, which is why I'm giving this a Rental. Either way, hopefully you'll come back to this improved second season. Its mix of action, comedy, and social commentary is deftly handled and feels more relevant than it ever has before.
That's it for this week's review section. Thanks for reading!
This week's shelves are from Stephen:
"Long time reader first time caller.
Sorry in advance but my collection is more gaming then anime, but I assure you, I watch a lot in my free time. My collection is a little disorganised since I like to bring things back and forth from school. Lately I've been collecting cels, my current prize being from Irresponsible Captain Tylor, but I'm looking to get a Dragon Ball Z, Outlaw Star, Cowboy Bebop and infinitely more from my favourite show Giant Robo (love the classic stuff). I also like to get signatures from voice actors and artist (I'm that kind of guy), among which I prize my Stan Lee autograph, and Steve Blum on the Bandai release of Cowboy Bebop (and Legend of Korra), other than that my favourite Games are Mass Effect and Persona 4, which you can see in there, I just love collecting game stuff, Gotta get them all."
Wow, now that's an impressive set of gaming hardware. I see a lot of games that I've sunk countless hours into on those shelves, and the cels are awesome. Thanks for sharing!
I always need more shelves to share in this segment! If you've got a collection of your own that you'd like to show off, send me your photos at [email protected]!
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