Wild Speculation of a Bird in Space: Rui Ninomiya

gatchaman crowds OP, gatchaman crowds opening, gatchaman, berg kattse, berg katze, rui ninomiya

Previously, the series had not only introduced us to Rui, the prodigious youth who oversees the social network GALAX, but also established his love/hate relationship with superheroes. The main idea of his revolution, a world where humans automatically help each other without prodding, negates a need for superheroes to protect it because the people would be protecting themselves. Underlying this wish is a somewhat childish turning up of Rui’s nose at the idea of a superhero. At some point in Rui’s past, perhaps in the earthquake, he came to the realization that superheroes did not exist. After all, if they did, then why would they continuously let bad things happen to people? Rui expands upon this idea in his conversation with Hajime, Utsutsu, and Sugune in episode six, saying that if people rely on superheroes it makes them complacent, and presumably less likely to help each other, opting to wait for help to arrive instead of finding a solution themselves.

As Rui further ingratiated himself to us, he seemed the perfect ancillary character to Hajime Ichinose. Hajime, with her blinding optimism, and Rui, with his cynicism, both want similar things: for people to help each other and for the world to improve. However, the more the series chose to showcase Rui, the more I began to suspect his actions, as they did not support his eloquent, impassioned monologues on the whole of humanity helping each other.

“Having special powers is something to be glad about, but sad about as well.”

-O.D., Gatchaman Crowds, episode four

Upon first viewing the series’ opening, I couldn’t help but immediately realize the visual similarity between the supposed villain, Berg Kattse, and O.D. of the G-Crew. It is a very easy visual line to draw from point A to point B. Episode four was quick to de-bunk this similarity – although I haven’t let O.D. off of the hook quite yet – by allowing the audience to be privy to a conversation between O.D. and Paiman that revealed O.D.’s previous history of fighting a “demon.” O.D.’s powers are hinted at being highly volatile, to the point of destroying an entire world, which makes the words he speaks to Utsutsu above especially poignant.

“You have gained the power to materialize a person’s soul. Yes, as long as you have this, all of your wishes can come true.”

– Berg Kattse, Gatchaman Crowds, episode four.

Immediately on the heels of O.D.’s sage advice is a flashback of how Rui received the power of CROWDS. Given how the series has been presenting so much information visually and, like its protagonist Hajime, cutting and purposefully pasting pieces together to make a specific image, I cannot ignore this placement. CROWDS could be a power bestowed upon Rui by the alien, Berg Kattse, or it could be Rui’s own, with the purple-haired being who appears before Jou a Tyler Durden-like projection of Rui’s inherent supernatural, or gatchaman, power. Having long discarded the idea of super powers, possessing one would certainly cause doubt in Rui’s mind. Specifically, if said power involved materializing one’s soul, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Rui to have fractured his own: one piece the cynical idealist that runs GALAX, and the other the roaming “alien” who only sees the negative in others.

rui ninomiya, gatchaman, gatchaman crowds, gatchaman crowds episode 6, berg kattse, berg katze

There is visual evidence tying Rui to Berg as well. These tidbits could be chalked up to similarities in appearance due to the fact that Berg is presumably the initial supplier of Rui’s power; however, they are still interesting to note. Both characters sport a similar tattoo in the same location. They additionally have similar hands, down to the red nail polish.

The obvious counter to this theory has already been mentioned previously in this post: O.D. and Paiman have both presumably met this alien on other worlds and it has managed to destroy countless numbers of them by turning the hearts of each world’s respective inhabitants against each other. However, what matters, above all, is not necessarily that Rui may physically be Berg – or similarly, be projecting him as a manifestation of his own powers – but whether Rui resonates with Berg on an emotional level which I do, following episode six, believe. Following his loss of faith in the superhero, Rui struggles in a world where people would turn to this false idol while wasting their greatest resource: each other. It may not come to pass that Rui believes in idealism at all. Instead, in his cynicism, he believes that people should help each other out because they are all that they have. His social media network, GALAX, harnesses this power and organizes it, allowing for easier communication.

 

18 comments

  1. What’s interesting about the superhero genre – and its deconstruction – is looking at it in its social and historical context. The black-and-white, good vs evil portrayal of the early superhero shows mirrors how Americans perceived themselves and the world: us vs them, we are the heroes, etc. But since this viewpoint has been battered by world events – not least the Iraq war – Americans have come to realise being a hero is more complicated than what it seems, and that’s reflected in fiction too. The whole “dark superhero” thing, and the general edginess that comes in Hollywood films along with cynical, tough, badass protagonists really says a lot about how society values have changed.

    Enter Gatchaman, a Japanese take on the same deconstructive elements. I’m not familiar with the original Gatchaman or what its themes were, but I feel like in Crowds, as you’ve mentioned, Rui believes in egalitarianism over egoism, but even the G-Crew believes in the same thing too to an extent. That when it comes to being rescued, the person being saved plays as much as a role as the saviour. That you need to want to be saved. The conflict between idealism versus cynicism isn’t exactly new in stories, but Rui’s cynicism has some nuance, because in embracing his cynicism so wholeheartedly he’s really projecting it in this blindly idealistic way. His character represents how I feel about the “dark superhero” genre in Hollywood in general.

    Just a couple of thoughts that your post brought up. Hope you could make sense of them!

    1. Way before the Iraq war was the Vietnam war, the first major conflict with American involvement after the dawn of television. You can pinpoint that event as the beginning of the disillusionment of American rightness. It somewhat coincides with the emergence of Marvel comics, featuring edgier, more complicated superheroes than the boy scouts of DC. Eventually you get to the Watchmen of the mid-80s, considered the quintessential superhero genre deconstruction.

      I’m not up on the history or values of the Japanese sentai genre so I’m just speculating, but we know Japan has not been as major actors in world politics so there may not be as much anxiety over heroes in Japanese culture. Regardless, it’s pleasing to see a series tap this intellectual vein as much as Crowds is.

    2. I have seen a bit of the original Gatchaman. What I saw of it was very straightforward, both visually and in its plot. I know someone who is watching it currently, and his commentary, although pointing out the more ridiculous aspects of it always, leads me to believe that it is very much a standard, episodic super sentai series through and through.

      Personally, I hate throwing the “d” word around (deconstruction); however, I will say that the thing that interests me the most about CROWDS’ take on super sentai is its insistence that it takes place in current time, and that context plays a significant role in the actions of its characters, both the current context of the in-universe time, and the past context of the original Gatchaman.

      Thanks for the comment. ^ ^

  2. Eh, good point on OD. I actually didn’t link them together but with this post, the possibilities of who Berg could be, is somewhat clearer.

    I hazily remember one part where Rui is talking to X and commenting on the Gatchaman and how he hoped to find them. It kind of shows that even Rui, with his ideals and what not, still has times when he feels weak enough that he hopes that someone strong will come rescue him.

    1. I tend to process things visually first, so the tie between Berg and O.D. struck me from the first time I saw the OP. I still believe that the two are related; however, I don’t think that O.D. is particularly villainous. We shall see. ^ ^

  3. Love your theory of Berg being a projection of Rui. I’m not totally familiar with the original Gatchaman, but from what I know, the original Berg Katze was a hermaphrodite, a shape-shifting master-of-disguise who had a fluctuating identity not only in terms of gender but also in terms of body shape and mental capabilities. This could tie in with Rui’s transvestism and Berg’s ability to take control over the bodies of others. It contrasts well against Hajime’s bull-in-a-china-shop directness, though even she can be a bit manipulative, with that eerie poker face reaction of hers after Rui refused to acknowledge the existence of the glowing sphere creatures.

    1. Ah, wonderful comment!

      Yes, I loved Hajime’s entire exchange with Rui, especially when she kept telling him that he was wearing too much makeup, and that he’d be far prettier without it. Her verbal repetition and insistence makes me think that she was not referring to his literal makeup that he would use to appear more feminine, but something else entirely figurative, as if the self he presented to Hajime was not his whole self, or rather a covered-up self.

      Thank you! ^ ^

  4. Loving your detailed analyses of this show!! It’s very informative in raising awareness of more subtle themes us viewers may have missed in this extremely interesting Japanese sentai/superhero deconstruction.

    I also would like to add that one could see Rui’s dream society in terms of a socialist/communist utopia, where all deeds performed by society are all done in common altruistic goodwill, with its acheivements being ascribed to the community as a whole and X as its centre. (Please correct me if anyone finds this comment lacking.)

    Also, ajthefourth, did you get the chance to check out my last comment to you on your previous post from Aug 12th? It would be the 3rd comment out of 4 on that post.

    1. Thank you! It’s all through reading visuals, honestly. From now on, my posts will probably be even more visually-focused.

      Instead of my commentary on this, I think Webster at Ideas Without End already addressed this in his post on Galax, so I’m going to point you in that direction, as it has a lot of similar ideas.

      As for your design, I love the detailing in the vest. It’s definitely the strongest part. ^ ^ Additionally, I like how the fabric/texture of the vest is repeated in the footwear and arm guards. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. While a surprise connection between Rui and Berg would just be that, surprising, I don’t want it to go down that path since Crowds has so many other interesting narrative lines worth exploration going on that I don’t want the show to fray its focus too much. But you never know; the last time a series pulled a twist that surprising was Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, and the pay off was immense.

    1. I’d agree if the reveal ended up having to do with sexuality, what with Katze’s flamboyance and Rui’s cross-dressing. However, it could also end up being a commentary on communication — as much of the show has been so far — which I don’t think would really fray the narrative’s focus.

    2. I still haven’t seen Tokyo Magnitude 8.0; however, it ties into what I was going to say to you above, so I’m going to combine both responses here. ^ ^

      What follows is only speculation; however, more than the war-informed narrative of American superheroes, Japan, in my *very* limited experience, focuses far more on natural disasters and disasters in general (the Sarin Gas Attacks in Penguindrum, and the fictional Careless Monday of Eden of the East). In hero series, not only super hero but series like Eden of the East with it’s various players involved in a game to become the savior of Japan, Japan tends to focus on its own social issues first and foremost (although I suppose one could say this about any country).

      Anyway, thank you for commenting and giving me something additional to think about!

  6. Crowds may be a deconstruction of the superhero genre, but it’s still a superhero series. I don’t think the conflict that Rui is facing while standing between Berg and Hajime is going to be solved by psychology; I think it will be solved by a battle. I also don’t think this battle will be against what Rui is but against what he has created.

    Trying to view Gatchaman Crowds as a battle between good and evil is hard. If Hajime had the power of the CROWDS, do you think she’ll hesitate to use it? That makes Hajime different to Rui, but as you’ve said before, they are similar in that both of them want people to help each other solve their problems. For that means, Rui must get rid of the ideal “good” and show the people that the real heroes are themselves; which is exactly what Hajime just did (quite literally). But then, where is the conflict? Gatchaman Crowds is about wearing masks. This is made clear in episode 6 where Hajime stands before Rui for the first time and takes off her mask as if saying “now take of yours”. But even that conflict won’t be solved with a battle. For a real battle to occur, “evil” must have a physical manifestation, just as “good” has. That is what makes me believe Berg is a separate entity.

    1. I actually now agree that Berg is a separate entity (and am currently working on a post to explain why/how I was wrong in this one). Additionally, I think that yes, there will be a battle and part of it will involve fighting Rui’s creation, GALAX; however, I additionally believe that there’s a lot more to it than that, and some of it involves if not psychology then at least a self-examination by several of the characters within the series. Again, I’m currently working on a post that addresses a lot of my reasoning behind this, so I hope you’ll check it out when the time comes.

      Thank you for the comment! ^ ^

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