The Abject Art of Utsutsu

utsutsu, gatchaman, gatchaman crowds, "I'm dreamy," "I'm gloomy"

“Utsutsu, you’ve become a wonderful person.”

-O.D., Gatchaman Crowds, episode seven

There are a myriad of ways that one could apply Gatchaman Crowds‘ episode seven title, “Abjection,” to the series as a whole. I am going to focus specifically on Utsutsu, because of both her inherent power and emotional transformation.

Utsutsu is introduced to the viewer as a waifish, child-like girl in a bikini who only says, “I’m gloomy.” Due to her appearance and dreamy, child-like nature, Utsutsu could have certainly come off as a one note character (literally, thanks to the fact that she only speaks one phrase). However, she instead becomes the first side character, other than Rui, to receive emotional development thanks to the series’ treatment of her.

Her introduction is further worth noting specifically because of protagonist Hajime Ichinose’s first sentence to her. Instead of relying on the typical exclamation of “You’re so cute!” relegating Utsutsu, and her specific character design, to be judged by her physical appearance alone, Hajime first asks of her swimsuit and where she received it from. Although this is followed up with the previously mentioned “You’re so cute” line, the fact that Hajime doesn’t immediately place Utsutsu’s physical appearance as the primary focus is not only intrinsic to Hajime’s nature to look beyond whatever she is first presented with, but also informs the audience as to how we are supposed to view Utsutsu. It’s subtle but, like Hajime, we’re meant to see her beyond what we are initially presented with.

utsutsu, gatchaman crowds, gatchaman, jou hibiki

“So even if I’m happy, I soon want to cry, disappear, or…”

“…Or hurt someone?”

“Aren’t I scary?”

-A conversation between Utsutsu and Hajime Ichinose, Gatchaman Crowds, episode four

Most interesting is Utsutsu’s power. She is able to drain life from others with her right hand and give life to others with her left. This ability makes her wary of touching people, although she can additionally create copies of herself to avoid physically being present with others. Similarly to Hajime, she is very poor at communicating, although unlike Hajime, Utsutsu has seemingly given up on sharing herself with others. Her inner thoughts, momentarily laid bare in the conversation above thanks to Hajime’s insightful nature, are ones of great self-loathing and revulsion. As a result of her inherent powers, Utsutsu sees herself as monstrous, unworthy and unwilling to touch other people.

Abjection, specifically in art, involves the horror that occurs when one is forced to examine the abject: taboo or socially-rejected pieces of one’s self and/or others. This confrontation often leads to a fascination with physical means of casting off, including waste, blood, saliva, or corpses, among other things. Simply put: Utsutsu’s power doesn’t have a correct place within any social or cultural order. She can create corpses with one hand and resurrect them with her other – additionally, she can create what appear to be flesh and blood copies of herself – which are acts that most societies and cultures cannot reconcile themselves with, especially bringing the dead back to life.

So, what should become of Utsutsu, a being with no understandable place in the social order?

According to Hajime, nothing. Utsutsu is Utsutsu just as she herself is Hajime and even Berg Kattse is Berg Kattse. By ignoring what society would assign to Utsutsu, Hajime finally begins to break through her emotional barrier, inspiring Utsutsu to show genuine affection towards both humanity and her close friends. The new phrases of “I want to save them!” and “I want to help!” join her previously gloomy vocabulary. Hajime’s method of confronting the abject is to instead confront the social order that casts it off in the first place, similar to how she shuts off her cell phone in the elevator, choosing to turn to Utsutsu in their present space.

"More importantly, we had a lot of fun today, Utsutsu!"

“More importantly, we had a lot of fun today, Utsutsu!”

12 comments

  1. Keeping with the ‘abjection’ theme, I also noted how Joe was unwillingly confronted with the abject facets of his personality(his self-doubt and loathing) as verbalised by Berg Katze, courtesy of it’s psyche reading abilities.
    It makes one(the viewer) wonder what sequence of events led to the accumulation of such self-hate within Joe that he would harbour (occasional) suicidal thoughts (if Berg’s dialogue with him was any indication.). Perhaps he saw too much during his Gatchaman tenure?
    (Show info says Joe was 10 yrs with the Gatchaman team.)
    I wonder what will happen to Joe now that his NOTE is lost…

    Another thing I also noticed was Berg’s penchant for mimicking other people’s speech/sentences, especially during its conversation with Hajime. At first I assumed it was taunting them, but I found it particularly odd that Berg was mimicking Hajime’s speech patterns(right down to her ‘-ssu’) throughout their chat. I wonder if this will have any future significance…

    Also, what programs do you use to make and colour your drawings? Or do you do them all by hand? I’ve been trying to use Firealpaca for drawing but I keep slipping when I draw something!

    1. I think it’s more that Jou has the same self-doubts as anyone else, which is especially telling because of how he presents himself (always the older brother type, easygoing, one to rely on, etc.). It’s no more or less than any one of us, but when laid bare for Jou to confront his innermost fears, he cannot. He may have been using his role as a Gatchaman to avoid addressing such doubts within himself, focusing instead on helping others.

      I think it’s part of Berg’s power, he mimics others down to their mannerisms and speech patterns.

      I have only been using an old version of photoshop, but I’ve heard from friends that SAI is quite good.

      Thanks for the comment! ^ ^

  2. Great post. I love what the series is doing with Utsutsu. Her relationship with Hajime is adorable and pretty much the emotional heart the series right now.

    BTW, I noticed Utsutsu stopped wearing her black bikini after Hajime started befriending her. I wonder if there’s some symbolism there that I’m not getting. Any ideas?

    1. I absolutely love their friendship, and how it brings out the best in both of them.

      I think that the black bikini was part of Utsutsu’s one-note initial characterization. As she begins to open up thanks to Hajime’s influence, she doesn’t need it anymore. Additionally, she was only able to wear it in the Gatchaman Cage. Again, thanks to Hajime, Utsutsu has been getting out a lot more in public, and therefore wearing different clothing.

      Thanks for commenting. ^ ^

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s