Constantin Brâncuși, Berg Katze, and how I was wrong.

berg kattse, berg katze, infinite column, the endless column, gatchaman, gatchaman crowds

Once upon a time, Berg Katze wanted a revolution as well.

Previously, I had speculated that the androgynous antagonist, Berg Katze, was a projection of Rui Ninomiya’s mind. This was based upon their similar physical appearances, imagery surrounding the two of them, their specific interactions with each other, blocking within the series, and a similar tattoo on each of their necks. However, I have now discarded that theory thanks – or no thanks, depending on whether this bit of speculation comes about in the series – to a particular piece of furniture found within Rui’s apartment.

rui ninomiya's living room, rui ninomiya, the inifinite column, the endless column lamp, gatchaman, gatchaman crowds

For weeks now, I have been bothered by this specific imagery in Gatchaman Crowds surrounding Rui. Stationed beside his sofa, Rui possesses an odd-looking geometric lamp. This lamp, although not exactly the same repeating shape, immediately reminded me of Constantin Brâncuși’s Column of the Infinite, one of three sculptures that make up The Sculptural Ensemble at Târgu Jiu in Romania.

gatchaman cage, gatchaman crowds version of brancusi's table of silence, gatchaman crowds, hajime ichinose, utsutsu

Another piece from Brâncuși’s ensemble had already been introduced from the first episode: The Table of Silence (also called, The Apostle’s Table), pictured above in the Gatchaman Cage. The series’ version, located on the right side of the screenshot, features twelve blue stones organized in a circle around the bird in the center, mimicking the original version at Târgu Jiu which features hourglass-shaped seats around a circular table. The Table of Silence represents the moment of time just before the Romanian soldiers were sent in to battle (the entire sculptural ensemble is dedicated, and commissioned, to honor Romanian soldiers of World War One). This can be easily tied in to the purpose of the Gatchaman Cage, preparing its soldiers before sending them nobly off to defend Earth.

jou hibiki, gatchaman, gatchaman crowds episode 7, gatchaman crowds, jou, berg katze, berg kattse

Returning to the Column of the Infinite, while the ties to Rui are isolated, its imagery surrounds Berg Kattse, reflected in the weapon he fights with (pictured above). The Column is the most recognizable of Brâncuși’s work – additionally, modern sculpture as a whole – and commemorates the infinite sacrifice by Romania’s soldiers in defending their country. Why then, does its imagery loosely follow Rui and envelope Berg?

The answer, similar to Utsutsu, lies in Berg’s power.

Presumably, Berg was once a Gatchaman, fighting for the greater good. However, his power is not only one of mimicry, but also allows him to see the darkest corners of others’ minds. Imagine if, for the greater good and defense of wherever he originally came from, Berg was called upon to use this power over and over, continuously forcing him to see the worst parts of people daily. We all have our low points, mired in self-doubt and self-loathing, just as we have our shining moments, to steal a turn of phrase from the series’ seventh episode. For the most part, we keep these things hidden, or don’t actually act on them. However, if all one sees constantly are these ugly corners of everyone’s minds, I’d presume that desiring to save the very same people would become infinitely more difficult with each passing day. Additionally, as Berg’s primary power is taking on the image of other people, it would be incredibly easy to loose one’s self in the constant noise of others’ minds.

Hey! Hey, are you guys still doing the same old thing? Like ‘Gotta save Earth’ and ‘I’ve got to do it’? Do you really think you can? Hey, are you stupid? See, you’re stupid!

-Berg Kattse, Gatchaman Crowds, episode seven

This gives Berg’s exclamation during his fight with Jou Hibiki quoted above, his mocking repetition of each of Jou’s attacks all the more poignant. In addition to wearing Jou down, Berg is also crying out as if to say, “Really? You guys don’t understand anything. You never bother to communicate with others, you only try to do the same thing over and over again.” The crux of Gatchaman Crowds‘ message lies in our ability, or inability, to communicate with each other. Earth will not be saved if our protagonists cannot discover a way to communicate and understand Berg instead of fighting him straightforwardly. This is where Hajime Ichinose, whom Berg admits is, “good, for a Gatchaman” comes in. One can draw a line from Berg’s utter disgust with others, to Rui’s distrust and desire for a revolution, to Hajime’s unwavering optimism and belief in other people. Hajime’s view of the world is not one that requires the infinite sacrifice of one like Berg, but instead attempts to find a way to understand him.

Like Rui, Berg once wanted a revolution. In fact, I’d like to think a piece of him still does.

12 comments

  1. Awesome post.

    You know, since episode 7 aired, I’ve read countless posts about how Katze is this simple incarnation of evil who destroys worlds just for the fun of it and whatnot. But to me, it’s clear there is more to him than meets the eye. For starters, the way he mocks Rui and Jou, it seems like he feels real contempt for their ideals, that he even hates the way their doing things. And then, when he talks with Hajime he sounds so genuinely pleased that she’s been really thinking about what he said. It was almost like he was silently saying “I want to be heard. I have something to say. I’m not just some psychopath who wants o see everything burn just for the lulz.”

    I don’t know. That’s the impression I got at the very least.

    1. I don’t think that anyone is truly one-dimensional in this series, Berg and, more importantly, Hajime, included. In fact, there’s a telling moment between Hajime and Utsutsu where Hajime guesses (correctly) that Utsutsu had sometimes become so frustrated that she had wanted to lash out at others. One wouldn’t understand this if one hasn’t wanted, at some point, to hurt others as well.

      The thing with Hajime is that she seems to acknowledge or accept her down darkness, leading it to help her recognize the good in others above all. More importantly, she continues to try to communicate with others first, before fighting.

      I think Berg was definitely genuinely pleased that someone had bothered to attempt to reach out to him. Of course, it’s going to take more than that to crack the entity that Berg presents himself as. What will be most interesting is how it happens and who finally will get through to him.

      Thank you for the comment! ^ ^

  2. I don’t think it will be easy at all for Hajime to get through to Berg; the communicative struggle between one who sees nothing but good and one who sees nothing but bad may very well have no clear victor, which is essentially both their losses (and by extension from Berg’s loss, humanity’s as well). I see Hajime on equal ground with Berg, and while I’m intrigued with how Berg progresses with his character arc, I put the onus on him to, in kind, put Hajime’s worldview in question as well. Right now, the riddle that he gave Hajime essentially puts the dynamic mostly on her court, which means her worldview won’t be questioned until she provides an answer to Berg’s riddle.

    I just want to see Hajime get taken down a peg already, as interesting as she is. She’s a catalyst in the series, but nothing she’s done as of yet has come to a cost. I want something, anything! Whatever it may be, it’s coming a bit too late into the series for my liking, but that’s just me being too much of a stickler for the overall structure of a story. I’ll withhold my final judgment about story structure until it actually ends. You know me, I’ve not much of a penchant for longer serials.

    1. I don’t think that it will be Hajime who will get through to Berg. In fact, I think it has to be someone else, for whom her actions/outlook have changed their perspective. Specifically, I’m thinking of someone who may have misunderstood or not bothered to communicate with Berg in the past, like O.D. or Paiman. I’m leaning towards the former as their character designs are so similar and there’s definitely more to O.D. than the series has revealed this far.

      Hajime is odd for me, because I’m one of the few people who *doesn’t* want to see her get her comeuppance. I don’t think she necessarily needs her worldview challenged, depending on what they further reveal about her character. Perhaps this is my own bias in the way I perceive Hajime. That conversation with Utsutsu always stands out in my mind when I consider Hajime’s character. Hajime knows what it’s like to be angry, she knows what it’s like to be lonely, and she knows what it’s like to be sad, and she sees the world the way that she does anyway, which I think is remarkable.

      The best way to describe Hajime is that she performs the same kind of allowances in her mind for all that most people would only do for those that they know. We all have our bad moments, just as we all have our good ones. When someone you know does something bad, you are more likely, even if you don’t agree with anything that they did, to make certain concessions in their favor: “They were having a bad day, they were sick, they were tired, etc.” Hajime takes this to another level by applying it to *everyone* and I love her for it.

      1. I suppose this is just a design decision then. I like my stories a little bit more balanced in MICE quotient, but gatcha feels like it’s not tying the CE parts together as I’d like. It’s very heavy on I, which takes away from the other components. I’m not an Idea story kind of person, but it’s still interesting enough for me to keep watching. Shame that I have to refocus my approach to watching this show in that regard. A person like Hajime deserves a character treatment of some sort. This series doesn’t seem to be it, unfortunately.

  3. Lovely and enlightening post! I didn’t know about this sculptor at all and his works in Gatchaman put a whole other meaning on things. It’s the little details that always fascinate me!

    P.S.: Berg Katze doesn’t have a similar sign at the same place with Rui. This rhombus is around zir neck and might not even be a tattoo rather than a necklace of sorts. Rui has a skull tattoo under zir collarbone.

    1. I did misspeak (mistype?) when I mentioned the tattoo. It’s very similar imagery between the two and I was using it to tie them together, as that specific spot is focused on when Berg leans over and grabs Rui in the OP, and additionally when Rui is speaking to Hajime, Utsutsu, and Sugune in episode six, much focus is placed on that tattoo on his neck. Regardless, I’m sorry for the confusion.

      I love this show for all of its art references, and it has many. Perhaps I’ll write more about the later on. Thanks for your support as always! ^ ^

  4. Keep up the great work, ajthefourth!🙂

    Ah, will you also be doing any more character/theme essays for Free! ?
    If you are, this link might interest you:
    http://mangahelpers.com/forum/showthread.php/2992276-High-Speed!-(Free!)-by-K%C5%8Dji-%C5%8Cji

    The link goes to translated chapters of the light novel, High Speed!, which Free! is based on. It makes for some pretty serious, emotive reading, and the content does provide important backstory as to some character’s behaviour and motivations(ie. Makoto’s fear of the sea is elaborated further in chp 2 of the novel.)

    Hope this helps!

    1. Thanks for the link! I’ve been working about 80-90hrs at my job the past two weeks, so I’m a few episodes behind on Free! unfortunately. Perhaps when I catch up, I’ll write something. ^ ^

      Thanks for your support. It means a lot.

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