“It’s not heroes who will update the world, it’s us.”
-advertisement for GALAX, Gatchaman Crowds, episode 2.
From the moment Sugune Tachibana steps into our view, he represents tradition. He keeps his Gatchaman NOTE in a position of reverence, his apartment his decorated in traditional Japanese style, and as he walks out the door he hears Paiman say the words that he so loves to hear: “Sugune, we’re counting on you.” He is not only a good person but a hero, fighting for justice. He is special, and has been given a super power in order to right the wrongs of the world.
Hajime’s intrusion into Sugune’s life has been disorganized and chaotic, as he desperately tries to cling to his traditions and espoused values, while enlisted into teaching her the group’s superhero ways. Episode three of Gatchaman Crowds throws this proud self-image succinctly back at Sugune, forcing himself to examine why he does things and what, exactly, he is fighting for, through the character of Hajime.
Hajime’s genuine desire to see others communicate with one another, and help people understand each other is an aura that radiates out from her every action. In her attempt to understand the MESS, she inadvertently makes the previous actions taken by the G-Crew appear silly. In her pleas to Sugune above, she forces him to think about why he would fight to help others, shattering the gravitas that he had assigned to being a hero. She may not be someone whom we would immediately identify as a hero; however, she is one whom the series has chosen with specific care.
“Running GALAX has made my enemies clearer than ever to me. They’re the ones who refuse to see people as individuals. The ones who cannot see the joy in helping others if there is no reward or reputation to be gained.”
-Rui Ninomiya, Gatchaman Crowds, episode three.
Similarly chosen with care is Rui Ninomiya, the boy genius behind the social network, GALAX. He offers a homegrown alternative to the G-Crew, exemplified by the slogan, “It’s not heroes who will update the world, it’s us.” Coincidentally, the construction of GALAX, described elsewhere as part social media chat, part Zynga game, runs contrary to his actual thoughts, expressed above. GALAX runs on a point reward system, where users are given kudos for updating the world, which they can then presumably use to purchase other perks within the GALAX universe. Through GALAX, Rui is exploiting the need to be praised and rewarded for doing good things in order to convince strangers to help each other, all the while despising them for needing that figurative pat on the back. Sugune is a fantastic example of this, loving the rush he receives from being a hero, relied on by his superior. This is not to say that he doesn’t like to help others; however, it is not until Hajime challenges him that he is forced to think about why.
Hajime is a compliment to Rui. The two are shown in the opening sequence as two who are traveling simultaneously together on the same plane, but going in opposite directions. This is primarily due to their respective sources of power. Rui has been giving the powers of the CROWDS, and subsequently bestowed it upon one hundred specific GALAX users. These users, the hundred, are denoted by the masks they wear, which resemble masks worn by enemies in the original Gatchaman. Additionally, it is heavily implied that Rui receives these powers from Berg Kattse – similar to the masks, this is also the name of the main villain from the original series – the mysterious purple-haired figure shown causing random havoc by shape-shifting. The key takeaway from Rui’s possession of CROWDS is his reluctance to use the power of it. He refuses to grant the hundred access to CROWDS until the situation cannot be solved by human interaction through GALAX. Running parallel to Rui is Hajime, who has been given the powers of a Gatchaman, but refuses to use them to fight, choosing her own path of attempting to communicate with MESS instead.
It is crucial to Gatchaman Crowds that you know that Hajime Ichinose is a Gatchaman. You can disagree with the choice, in fact, one could argue that the series wants you to. Perhaps sticking one like her in the role of protagonist annoys you, much like it annoys fellow Gatchaman, Sugune Tachibana. If this is the case, then I would additionally suggest that Gatchaman Crowds is working as intended.