Earlier this season, in a feverish spurt of writing, I quoted what I knew of the lyrics to the opening song of Gatchaman Crowds, “Crowds,” by White Ash. They were in tune with the themes that Gatchaman Crowds had addressed thus far, and I presumed that the official lyrics would be very similar, albeit with a few changes. Those lyrics are quoted below:
The words you wove is, “We are not alone.”
Instead of retreating in fear, go! Together like birds,
I have to fight them and go to the distance.
Towards the grinding sound
You go there, we fly there,
The words you wove is, “We are not alone.”
Weak yet strong, we are all ourselves in this world.
I have to fight them and go to the distance.
These feelings free me,
You go there, where they call,
go! The crowds are calling my name.
I later found out, upon the official release, that these lyrics were utterly wrong. In fact, not only were they completely wrong, but the entirety of the official song lyrics listed sounded more like the made-up words of “Jabberwocky” than anything intelligible . My tongue firmly in cheek, I suggested that the lyrics were a clever addition to the series’ thematic focus on communication, or lack thereof.
The more I continued on this specific train of thought, the more entertaining the idea of lyrics as purposeful nonsense became. Were this idea to be true, the lyrics to “Crowds” would be the most clever communication joke this side of Kawaiikochan!! Gaming no Korner. Admittedly, I don’t believe that White Ash chose their seemingly random English word arrangements to deliberately prod us into further considering the ways in which we communicate with each other. However, within the thematic context of the series, examining the choice of these specific lyrics – and our interpretations of them – becomes a fascinating pastime. With this in mind, I developed this survey and begged for volunteers. Those who took the survey only had to fit one criterion: they could have no knowledge of what the official lyrics of “Crowds” were. The questions asked were as follows:
Hello! Thank you for indulging me and donating some of your time to this experiment in communication. ^ ^ You can take as large or as little amount of time as you want. Please be sure to answer the questions in order. Thanks again!
1. Are you a native English speaker? (If not, list primary language.)
2. What types of music do you listen to?
3. Being an anime fan, do you also listen to anime music? (If previously listed as a preference a simple “Y” will do here.)
4. Are you watching Gatchaman Crowds? (If no, skip questions 5 and 6.)
5. If yes, are you current with the series (episode seven)?
6. If yes, do you enjoy watching the series?
7. Do you typically skip the openings of anime songs? Explain why or why not.
8. Please listen to the video clip provided:
9. Did you enjoy the song? Explain why or why not.
10. Please listen again, and list the lyrics up until 0:33 of the clip. As a hint, the lyrics are NOT in Japanese, they are in English.
11. Approximate the amount of time that it took for you to come up with these lyrics.
12. Do lyrics typically affect your enjoyment of a song?
Thank you all so much for your time. I eagerly await your answers!
I had 15 respondents, including a four coworkers that I coerced to taking it (only one of which watches anime on a regular basis). Every respondent was a native English speaker. Of all of the participants who do watch anime regularly – all participants aside from my coworkers for a total of 11 – only one was not watching Gatchaman Crowds. All 10 participants who were watching Gatchaman Crowds were both caught up with the series and professed to liking it. I make this distinction because I think that, consciously or not, knowledge of the series and its themes directly influences what one would presume the lyrics to be. Additionally, the prior knowledge that the official lyrics are, in fact, nonsense, would also affect one’s own translation, as they would go into the exercise already knowing that the lyrics were not supposed to make sense.
Five participants gave up on providing a translation – this does not include the one participant who unfortunately took the questionnaire following the provided video link being taken down followed by my inability to find a suitable alternative – submitting a half-completed work or nothing at all. These five were made up of one of my four coworkers, three anime fans current on Gatchaman Crowds, and the one anime fan who was not. The latter, who was the most removed from the series, aside from my coworkers, admitted that the song “sounds mostly like scat to me.” correctly identifying the lyrics as nonsense without the knowledge that they were.
Interestingly enough, of all participants, only two said that lyrics do affect whether they enjoy a song, although a third confessed that highly offensive lyrics would color their enjoyment. I had expected this number to be higher, as so much attention is often put on the lyrics to a song when thinking about why one likes it, although it’s important to note that the majority of respondents are also used to watching animated television series in another language. Of the anime fans that responded only five said that they also listen to J-pop or anime music in addition to the other genres that they listed. In spite of my very small sample size, I was pleasantly surprised at how many respondents put less emphasis on lyrics and presumably more focus on the music itself and what it may be trying to communicate.
Now we come to the two reasons – other than the fact that I gained perverse enjoyment of watching friends, coworkers, and acquaintances scratching their heads, trying to come up with nonsensical lyrics – that I decided to run this survey. The first was to see if “Crowds” could communicate a feeling or sense of enjoyment regardless of what the official or perceived lyrics are actually saying. Gatchaman Crowds, for me, is all about our ability to communicate through other means than words, especially through various artistic means. Not one respondent disliked the song when they listened to it (although admittedly, the 10 participants who were current on Gatchaman Crowds would have listened to it at least once before). When describing why they liked it, the lyrics were always set aside in favor of other, more musical, factors:
” Drums are nice, high energy. The music is very melodic and catchy rather than dissonant. It’s not a style that I’d listen to regularly, but it is enjoyable.”
– Participant A
Another anime fan identified the song as, “The type of song that would be the theme of a show Gatchaman Crowds is riffing on.” while one of my coworkers with no knowledge of the series said that it sounded, “Like a ‘Power Rangers’ theme song.”
“‘It seems very pretty,’ she said when she had finished it, ‘but it’s rather hard to understand!’ (You see she didn’t like to confess, even to herself, that she couldn’t make it out at all.) ‘Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t exactly know what they are! However, somebody killed something: that’s clear, at any rate'”
-Alice, from “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There,” by Lewis Carroll
The second reason was to see how our brains naturally try to wrap our heads around something that we hear as nonsense, as we are somewhat programmed to translate things we experience into terms that we understand. Those participants who did offer lyrical submissions were obviously trying their best to ensure that they made some amount of sense. Here are a few of my favorite submissions:
“I fly, amaze the crowd, baby, rising up and up, feeling around and lonely. A shrine for me on the gravity on the Star-News. We ride them on the strawberry routes go up and up, feelings around the loathings. Surprising me on the zeppelin on the chronic.”
-Participant B, who later admitted, “I spent exactly 76 minutes on this, approximately 25 of which were spent on the words “rising” and “around,” neither of which I’m certain is accurate. After that I got tired of aiming for accuracy and decided to listen for what I thought would sound funniest but still somewhat justifiable. (I wanted to translate “zeppelin” as “zamboni” more than you’ll ever know.”
Theirs was the longest submission, with Participant C only spending five minutes (and one take) to translate what was said. Their response is as follows:
“Fly. Amaze. Crawl baby, up and up and I’m feeling lonely, this sound for me on the ground with me honest on it. Ride the maze, like straw, baby up and up no feeling into the lonely me, surprising me under home with me on the planet.”
And now for the actual reveal of the true lyrics, which still remind me more of “Jabberwocky” than anything that supposedly makes sense. However, with this in mind I still absolutely love listening to “Crowds,” and furthermore, through this survey, love how it somewhat shows our ability to appreciate and communicate with each other in media other than words.
Special thanks to everyone who took this survey, especially for their patience. Additionally, thanks to those who supported me and helped broadcast this endeavor publicly. If there is any want for it, I’ll publish the unedited survey response document, if others want to see all of the lyrics submitted and