Uninstall your life you n00blord.

rui ninomiya, gatchaman, gatchaman crowds, rui rui, rui ninomiya holding a cell phone, rui

I’d like to introduce you to someone. His name is James Ramsay, and he’s six years old. All he wants, in this immediate moment, is to go on a sailing trip to a nearby lighthouse. He thinks happily of the possibility of going the next day as he cuts out pictures from magazines, while his mother reassures him that they will be able to go. Then his father cuts in, saying that the weather will most likely not permit the trip. James immediately feels flashes of murderous rage towards his father, and imagines stabbing him with the scissors that he holds in his hands.

A natural, logical reaction, right?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I see people stopping in a rotary when they have the right of way, it makes me want to throw things. When my neighbors neglected to fully shovel out their parking spots following a snowstorm, allowing large piles of ice to build up in their now un-parkable spaces while they took my fully-shoveled spot, I wanted to shovel ice onto their cars, or throw snow at them. But did I actually do these things? No. Just as James Ramsay does not stab his father with scissors, and just as I did not throw things at my neighbors, we all make choices like this each and every day, allowing the first visceral reaction to crash over us like a wave before proceeding forward and, hopefully, leaving most of it behind.

However, interesting things occur when one removes that logical filter that keeps us from raging at, throwing things at, or generally being horrid to others. It is here, where Gatchaman Crowds‘ Berg Katze makes his home, in our “black hearts.”

It is also here where communication on the internet takes place.

It has often been argued that anonymity is the cornerstone of irrational behavior on the internet. Suddenly, as people become numbers, avatars, or handles, they become bolder in their aggression. The internet becomes a place where they can blow off steam by raging at others. However, as a growing number of people are now communicating with Facebook or other social media where their actual given name and personal information are on display, this puts this claim in doubt.

Last year, I began playing an online video game called League of Legends. Some of the more interesting things that I have found while playing this game – aside from various strategies and team compositions – have been the scientific studies done by Dr. Jeffrey “Lyte” Lin and the Riot Games player behavior team regarding so-called “toxic players.” One of the first things to catch my attention was the idea that it’s not anonymity that removes the filter between the visceral and the rational reaction, but instead a lack of accountability. It’s one thing to tell me to uninstall my life for overextending in game without vision coverage, but something completely different if you’re saying it to my face and watching my reaction. In Leage of Legends I’m just another random name, and another random, faceless player that you happen to have queued up with. If you rage at me, what happens? The actual consequences don’t directly involve you getting your comeuppance for telling me that my mother should die of cancer in all chat, and you may not even associate the in-game consequence – of me and possibly others playing worse than we had been previously – with our eventual loss.

“If we remove all toxic players from the game, do we solve the player behavior problem?”

-Dr. Jeffrey “Lyte” Lin, of Riot Games

The answer to the question posed above is a resounding, “No.” with the problem rooted in how we instantly react to things emotionally, and how our own personal contexts play a key role in how we conduct ourselves online. One cannot remove all toxic players from League of Legends, just as Rui Ninomiya cannot remove all toxic people from Galax, or the internet at large cannot be purged of all trolls. Others have pointed at Hajime Ichinose’s instructing Rui to simply turn his phone off as an inefficient band-aid that masks the larger injury underneath. I disagree with this, as Gatchaman Crowds also makes it a point to show Hajime later on admitting that there are some things that you can’t turn off; that there’s a difference between calling her a “fat, ugly, bitch” on social media networks, and the painfully human emotions behind the actions of CROWDS. Hajime’s strength is her boundless optimism, but it’s not a blind optimism. Her love of others involves her acceptance of their own personal contexts, as she had previously told Sugune Tachibana.

“Either way, he shouldn’t have driven so fast on the road!”

“But he may have been driving a sick person. Or maybe his wife went into sudden labor?

“Why do you bother thinking about things like that?”

“When you think about it that way, don’t you feel like they had a valid reason?”

-A conversation between Sugune Tachibana and Hajime Ichinose, Gatchaman Crowds, episode three.

The internet not only makes it easier for one to assume a different name under an avatar, or disassociate consequences from our actions, but it also makes it even simpler to disregard others’ personal contexts, which makes it the perfect tool for Berg Katze in his mission to turn humanity against itself. Hajime’s counter is equally brilliant: to not only unmask the superhero by revealing the G-Crew, but to unmask those on social media who would have access to GALAX and CROWDS. This begins with Rui’s unmasking and public apology as no one but himself.

"I'm sorry."

“I’m sorry.”

18 comments

  1. “James immediately feels flashes of murderous rage towards his father, and imagines stabbing himself with the scissors that he holds in his hands.”

    Stabbing the father, not himself, right?

    Otherwise good article.

  2. I dunno if you know David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water:” it was given at my college years ago (the only one he ever gave) and it’s pretty much the prototypical affirmation of the importance of liberal arts (for those who love it) as well as the final statement of naivete on behalf of Wallace and those students (for the inevitable cynics.) But one thing that stuck with me from that speech was an example that Wallace gave. Say that you are standing in a very, very long line in a grocery store, completely exhausted. Everyone standing in front of you is being extremely loud and annoying and difficult. But what you have to realize, Wallace says, is that you aren’t the only exhausted person, and everyone else standing in front of you has their own story and their own difficulties, many of which may even eclipse yours.

    It’s pretty much what Hajime says in a nutshell–what’s really important about knowledge and learning isn’t so much wisdom or strength as it is the ability to reach out to and empathize with others. This can be really difficult at times, as just because YOU might try to reach out to others doesn’t mean that the people you’re trying to help aren’t trapped in their own bubbles as well. But Hajime keeps trying no matter what, and I think that’s one of the show’s central messages as well as an important one for any person of any age. Empathy is important, and even in an era where the walls of privacy are seemingly coming down we have to work that much harder to understand other people. It’s a hard lesson, but worth aspiring towards I think.

    1. I have actually! I had forgotten about it until you mentioned it though, so thanks! I don’t know if you listened to the talk I linked, given by Dr. Lin, but he does a great job of establishing how people’s personal contexts affect their behavior and those around them. Especially, as you say, in an era where the walls of privacy are slowly eroding while, at the same time, the ability to make an attempt at communicating your thoughts grows ever easier. After all, how hard is it to immediately spew whatever comes to mind from your keyboard/phone onto whatever corner of the internet you inhabit? What interests me even more about how Dr. Lin addresses it, is the focus on how it affects those around the person in question. His job is to address “toxic players” in League of Legends, but the results of his research can be applied to anyone’s every day life.

      As you say, it’s so very difficult to be Hajime, to apply the same benefits of doubt that we usually only give to friends to complete strangers, all day every day, especially if you cannot see their face. However, as Hajime and Gatchaman Crowds would surely say, that doesn’t mean that the effort isn’t appreciated or worth it.

      Thank you so much for the comment. I’ll be looking forward to continuing to hear your thoughts as the series completes.

  3. Loved the comparisons to Woolf’s book here. A little confession as an aside: I didn’t actually like the book when I read it. It wasn’t until by brilliant first-year English prof lectured on it did I realize how beautiful it is.

    Just as James wanted some communication with his father — and just a word of praise, at that, disregarding his father’s own problems — Rui has come to realize the important of looking past anonymity. Sure, turning off a device doesn’t solve the problem, but I think it does offer a moment for us to reflect on the fact that the toxicity expressed online comes from a real person, dealing with their own issues. I guess Woolf could say what I’m getting at here best:

    “But nevertheless, the fact remained, it was almost impossible to dislike anyone if one looked at them.”

    1. “To the Lighthouse” is one of my favorite books of all time. I’m glad you enjoy it as well. ^ ^

      Whenever I attempt to describe the difference between what one immediately, emotionally thinks and what one actually does, I always return to young James for some reason as my go-to example.

      I think that Rui not only realizes the importance of looking past anonymity but more importantly realizes how potent actual human interaction and communication is. In his idealized world, he chose those whom he thought were best suited for the power of CROWDS, thinking that these hundred would not abuse this power. In a way, that they would not be toxic players. The thing is, we’re ALL toxic some days, and it’s only by communicating the reasons why that we can circumvent the consequences that our initial gut reactions may cause.

      Thank you for this comment. I loved it. ^ ^

  4. Framing it as the absence of consequences as opposed to simply anonymity itself is interesting, and I’ve actually found Riot’s attempts to massage the internet’s worst tendencies really fascinating for a while now. But it seems like the show itself specifically hammers on the anonymity/transparency dichotomy, in a variety of ways. On the one hand, you have Hajime’s continuous insistence on being addressed as her specific self, her desire to open dialogue with everyone, her plan to unmask the Gatchaman and interact directly and honestly with everyone (even Katze seems to mock her for her honesty). And on the other, you have the Neo-Hundred hiding behind masks, you have LOAD’s “makeup”, you have Katze’s tendency to literally turn invisible, and you have his power of cloaking his words and actions in the guise of others (though of course Katze is more representative of something already existing in people than a full actor in the first place). And the show even highlights this contrast with ever-present light/dark visual motifs. All this seems to point to anonymity itself being the “antagonist” here – do you think the show itself makes a meaningful distinction between anonymity and the absence of consequence? Or is the distinction less meaningful because of scale – for example, people can generally get away with being hurtful on facebook or whatnot (meaning anonymity is not required for lack of accountability), but members of the Neo-Hundred can choose to either wear masks or be arrested.

    I do love the way the show plays with that idea of context being necessary to inform your view of and relationship with a person. Probably my favorite moment of that was when Rui finished his big, dramatic speech about idealism and the nature of his new world, his subordinate told him off for being a naive fool, and then the shot switches so we see that subordinate for the first time, taking care of his young daughter. One of many great moments in this show.

    1. Speaking as someone who has seen an improvement in the behavior from the players in League around them, the effort is certainly appreciated. (Then again, I cheat a bit and never solo queue, I’m always in a duo at the very least, which does cause a decrease in the statistical probability of encountering a toxic player, presuming that neither I nor my friends are toxic.)

      I think anonymity is far more of a focus in Gatchaman Crowds, but that an interesting line can be drawn from anonymity to lack of immediate consequence to lack of understanding personal contexts. After all, even with a name and a real-life photo avatar, it’s far easier to insult one on the internet or not bother with their personal contexts if that person is not standing directly in front of you, and you are watching them react to what you say. The series makes no meaningful distinction because they’re all related.

      Rather than anonymity being the true antagonist – if there is one in a series such as this – it’s the lack of communication, or unwillingness to communicate, that is found all too often in people. As things progress and are dragged, kicking and screaming, into the modern era, there is an unwillingness found in both parties, the new and the old, to understand each other. Most importantly, this lack of communication often stems from an inability to take a good, hard look at one’s self. In this series, I believe, it’s up to Hajime to bridge this gap along with the MESS. At some point in the future, I’ll be writing a large post on the progression of modern art and how that runs parallel to themes in Gatchaman Crowds. I apologize if I’m not explaining myself very well here.

      Thank you so much for this comment. ^ ^

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