“Maybe they think about things a little too seriously. Perhaps there’s some pain they’re carrying around inside. They’re not good at making their feelings known to others and are somewhat troubled. They can’t find suitable means to express themselves, and bounce back and forth between feelings of pride and inadequacy. That might very well be me. It might be you.”
-Haruki Murakami, “Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche”
I begin with this quote from “Underground”, which I have also quoted while speaking of Mawaru Penguindrum in the past, not because I think Gatchaman Crowds is directly referencing this book, but because the quote is pertinent to a running theme of both series.
How do we deal with both the good, and the bad, in other people? More specifically, how can we continue to see the good when there is seemingly so much bad?
Superhero series, like the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, primarily dealt in absolutes. There were the good guys (the G-Crew), and there were the bad guys (Galactor and Berg Kattse). It was the job of the G-Crew to bring the bad guys to justice. As mentioned previously, Gatchaman Crowds deliberately goes about skewering this from the get-go through its choice of a leading lady. First on the list to poke, prod, and ask numerous questions of this initial ideal is Hajime Ichinose.
If Hajime could speak well, I would presume that her words would mirror those of Rui Ninomiya’s impassioned speech on the rooftop to Number 26 of The Hundred. Unfortunately, although eloquently-spoken, Rui’s words do not reach their target and, lest we begin to judge Number 26, Gatchaman Crowds is quick to show us that he too has people that he loves and desires to protect. Meanwhile, Hajime’s earnest requests to allow the G-Crew to visibly help people whenever they feel like it echo Rui’s sentiments and act as a foil to Number 26’s. She thinks that a hero should help people in need whenever able. Number 26 thinks a hero should be seen and praised for what they do, taking public action under the name of justice.
Additionally, the series continues to give us the Tachikawa Four, in charge of city hall, the police department, the fire department, and the self-defense force. All buildings are located near each other in the heart of the city, and all four leaders know each other through GALAX, and yet they have no communication network in place to protect the city. In the process of discussing what the collage group will teach to children, the chief of police and head of the Tachikawa self-defense force get into an argument; however, when their aid is needed in an emergency later on in the episode, they easily come together to help when it matters.
For me, this was the most poignant, and pertinent, tidbit that Gatchaman Crowds offers us in episode five. We may snipe, gripe, and argue with each other in daily life, but we also have the ability to do extraordinary things when we work towards a common goal, or collaborate, if you’ll allow me to drop the title of this episode.
If there were two people who needed to meet in this series, it was Rui and Hajime. Hajime can be a true hero for Rui – who desperately wants to believe in the ideal of the superhero – not because she has the powers of a gatchaman but because of who she is as a person, similar to how Hajime herself believes in the fire chief because she believes in others, not his position. The problem lies in how the two will possibly begin to communicate now that Rui has firmly discarded the notion of a hero and in doing so, accepted his position as the leader of The Hundred (and CROWDS by extension) for the presumed greater good of humanity. Hajime isn’t the best at communicating to begin with, and although their similar wishes will eventually resonate with each other, describing what they feel will surely be difficult. However, her ability to remind others that there is always the possibility of empathy is an important one, and a far more potent tool than any superhero powers she possesses.
Every single one of us operates in shades of grey. It is not “us versus them,” as the standard superhero series would often suggest, it’s just “us.” While Mawaru Penguindrum deals with a different perspective – it’s important to note that a natural disaster is decidedly not the same thing as a terrorist attack from one’s own countrymen and women – I expect Gatchaman Crowds to tread similar waters in terms of how simply getting to know one another does wonders for the human psyche. Penguindrum concerned itself with righting the wrongs of the past through self-sacrifice, where Gatchaman Crowds is looking firmly towards the future through the bright eyes of Hajime Ichinose. The worst, after all, is yet to come, and I can’t wait to see how all of these forces: the G-Crew, Rui, CROWDS, and the every day human, all come together.