Gatchaman Crowds‘ eighth episode was my personal favorite offering thus far, as it begins to weave previously solitary threads of the series together.
In one way, it’s easy to identify how the episode title, “Genuine,” ties in to the events that occurred within episode eight. As others had predicted, Berg Katze, having farmed his ideal army thanks to GALAX and Rui Ninomiya’s desire to change the world, kisses Rui to take his form therefore taking over GALAX and begins recruiting those whom Rui had discarded with promises of a new revolution. The genuine article in this forgery is Rui himself, with Berg making up the counterfeit copy; however, GALAX recognizes Berg as authentic over Rui. In the art world, genuineness or authenticity is highly valued, but also highly contested. One has to identify the truly authentic piece before making the comparison which is when the titular question of this post comes in to play, borrowed from Denis Dutton and the Oxford Handbook of Aesthetics: “Genuine as opposed to what?”
Although Berg Katze is in Rui’s physical form, he is indubitably Berg Katze, displayed to us through his Berg-like actions. What he is doing is not the will of Rui, but a genuine path that Berg wants to travel down, towards the destruction of Earth. He is an inauthentic Rui but an authentic Berg, just as a Han van Meegeren forgery of a Vermeer painting is still a genuine van Meegeren painting (but not a genuine Vermeer).
Simply throwing around the idea of authenticity can be treacherous. Like many words – including one that I purposefully avoid – it is highly contested as to what it truly means, with the definition being somewhat fluid based on one’s own biases and context. There are those who believe that a truly authentic experience can never be achieved in present times. One listening to a piece by Mozart now will supposedly never have authenticity of experience due to the piece being played on a different piano in a different setting by a different performer.
Something tells me that Gatchaman Crowds‘ protagonist, Hajime Ichinose, would take issue with this train of thought.
“Here, names and titles don’t mean anything. But that’s how it used to be for everyone. There were many different kinds of people all jostling for space, but things somehow worked out…”
-Sugune Tachibana, Gatchaman Crowds, episode eight.
In more traditional superhero or super sentai series, like the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, the heroes are placed above the general populace. They are tasked with protecting the earth because of a special “something” that they possess or inherent super powers that other humans don’t have. These superheroes become the authentic article, placed on a higher figurative pedestal than the rest of humanity. It’s no coincidence that the episode titled “Genuine” involves the removal, once and for all, of this new G-Crew’s masks at a local preschool. Hajime is closing this gap in the best way possible, by introducing the Gatchaman as superheroes and then de-masking them, showing them as people first and foremost, on a level playing field with children.
“When kids are out of control it might be because they want something.”
“Something? What’s this something?”
“Love! It’s love!”
“What!? I’ve never heard of such a convoluted life form!”
-A conversation between Hajime Ichinose and Paiman, Gatchaman Crowds, episode eight
You know what kids (and Hajime) are really terrible at? Communicating on adult terms. Their emotions are far more reactionary and viscerally expressed, through actions rather than concisely constructed words. As Hajime alludes to Paiman above, the preschoolers aren’t actually trying to hurt him, they’re attempting to express their desire to be loved, or paid attention to. O.D. connects the dots further by planting the seed in Sugune’s head that Berg may possibly be a spoiled child, wanting to be loved. Additionally, Sugune himself shows how much he has grown through his musings at how everything seemed to work out as a child, even with everyone vying for attention at the same time. I’d like to think that it’s not necessarily because children don’t see the same social strata that we do, but that they’re willing to eschew it in favor of reaching out and communicating with each other anyway. Returning to the idea of authenticity and the genuine, although she lacks specific superpowers, Hajime possesses an inherent ability to give others the benefit of the doubt and attempt to communicate with them, dissolving the idea that one person or thing has priority over another, much like a child.
Whether anyone or anything else, including X of GALAX will be able to recognize the genuine Rui Ninomiya, Hajime immediately will, just as she was able to pinpoint J.J.’s location in the first episode, as a prelude to her being chosen as a Gatchaman. By devaluing the superhero’s superiority over others, she wants to get everyone talking to each other, regardless of social station, so they in turn can make an effort to communicate with Berg.