MESSy Thoughts at Gatchaman Crowds’ End

MESS, MESSy, Gatchaman Crowds, Gatchaman, Hajime, Hajime Ichinose

“They all love other people having a tough time! I mean, who can listen to people going on and on about how happy they are? You can listen to them sobbing for hours though!”

-Berg Katze, Gatchaman Crowds, episode 12

People certainly are disgusting aren’t they? They go on and on about their children, marriages, university grades on social media constantly. It’s as if they’re rubbing how good they have it in our faces, taunting us.

Or at least, that’s what Berg Katze would say.

Hajime Ichinose, on the other hand, would find complete and utter joy in what others would have to share. Where Berg would declare such updates to be meaningless and self-centered, Hajime would delight in the fact that people had allowed her, and others, to be privy to their happiness.

Which would you choose? Are you a Hajime, or a Berg?

Chances are that you’re actually both, to varying degrees, at different points in time.  The weight that tips the scales in either direction is personal context, which directly affects your eventual choice. Had a rough day at work? You’re more likely to be a Berg. Score higher than expected on that test? Look out, world, you’re going to be a Hajime all day. Rui Ninomiya had it wrong when he thought that he could cherry-pick those with the correct motivations to lead his bloodless revolution. As Umeda shows us, such motivations can easily change over time, and are highly dependent on one’s personal life and everyday present. Just as we all are capable of doing wonderful things, we also have the potential to be highly toxic people and Rui’s CROWDS ability, along with the internet at large, provide us with an easy opportunity to be both.

Umeda, Gatchaman Crowds, Umeda of the Neo-Hundred, CROWDS No.26

“Violence will never change the word!”

Keeping this in mind, the few answers that Gatchaman Crowds provides are not entirely optimistic as they rely on your own personal views on the human heart. The Tachikawa CROWDS game eschews the selective nature of Rui’s original plan – giving CROWDS to a specific hundred people – and instead bestows CROWDS to everyone, putting the whole of GALAX users back on a level playing field. When Berg returns to once again to wreak havoc, everyone is too caught up in their various mini-games to pay any sort of attention to the trollish machinations of Berg. Regardless of whether they are buoyed by the thought of helping others, or simply preoccupied with becoming the best in their respective game rankings, CROWDS ends up channeling the energy that otherwise would have caused the world to go up “in a big, red blaze” as Berg had predicted. Rui’s eventual application of CROWDS puts Hajime Ichinose’s character into further context, and her choices are all the more interesting in retrospect. Specifically, her choice to absorb the entity of Berg runs parallel to Rui offering the choice of CROWDS to GALAX members worldwide.

It would be incredibly hard to be someone like Hajime, always taking the personal context of others into account before reaching any sort of conclusion on a situation or passing judgement. Berg Katze’s eventual symbiotic relationship benefits Hajime more than it burdens, her. Through one simple line to Utsutsu in episode four of the series, Hajime reveals herself as one who understands lashing out at others and hurting them. She recognizes this in Utsutsu and immediately resonates with it, pushing further to try to cheer Utsutsu up. Through every obstacle, Hajime always pushed further, grasping to see every ounce of good in all that she possibly could, presumably resisting her own, incredibly human, urges to cause others pain. Berg’s presence gives her a way out of these urges simply by being his vile self, seeping into the darkest corners of self-loathing in others and turning it slowly outward into aggression. Existing in one body, Hajime and Berg cancel each other out.

“X, I was not wrong. Everyone was my partner. That was the truth.”

-Rui Ninomiya, Gatchaman Crowds, episode 12

With Hajime and Berg effectively neutralizing each other, Gatchaman Crowds leaves us with Rui, GALAX, and whatever thoughts the users of GALAX express at any given moment. They may be wonderful and helpful, or perhaps they’ll be horrid and trollish, and it all depends on the personal context of the user in question.

14 comments

  1. When you say “Hajime and Berg cancel each other out”, you make it sound like Hajime won’t be able to go around spreading her love anymore. I’m not sure that’s what you meant, but it’s definitely not what I got from the finale. I could say that Berg is neutralized, since Hajime’s the only one who has to deal with him now. But Hajime herself doesn’t seem to have changed much at the end. Will she have to fight harder to resist her “urges” now? Probably. But you said it yourself, the stronger the wall before her, the harder she pushes, and she never gives up. So, does Berg “neutralizes” her? I think it’s the opposite. It enhances her. It makes her stronger.

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who saw a parallelism between Hajime taking Berg into herself and Rui allowing everyone to use the Crowds. In the case of Hajime, her choice is merely the materialization of her own philosophy, but for Rui is a big change that shows how far he has come after meeting Hajime. Hajime saved the world in more ways that one.

    It’s strange though. “Everyone’s a hero,” they say, but at the end of the day I can only think of Hajime as the true hero. Is that an inherent flaw in the series, or just my individuality acting up?

    1. Neither are negated, and the pieces of human nature that they each represent continue to be present in every person. Hajime will not be able to spread her love around as much because the majority of her efforts are focused solely on Berg. (As shown in the ending. She doesn’t change, but her attitude is focused on Berg as she cavorts down the street.) Likewise, Berg, as a sealed entity inside has to focus all of his efforts on corrupting Hajime. It enhances both of them, but as their efforts are focused on each other, they don’t have as much of a presence in the world at large anymore.

      The Berg in all of us, in all people, will continue to exist just as much as the Hajime in all of us will. Varying situations will find us to be more Berg than Hajime, and vice versa. Rui finally understands this, and it’s this acceptance that is behind his bestowing CROWDS on everyone. He has to trust in the Hajime in everyone, and use various methods of organization and competition to channel the energy that could become the Berg in everyone. I thought that the idea that “everyone is a hero” was very apropos to this ending, as the spark to ignite people into action lies dormant in every person. Sometimes it needs a catalyst – either Hajime or Berg – for that action to take place, but the ability to be a hero is fairly subjective with its potential present in everyone.

      That’s what I saw anyway. I look forward to your response, and thank you for the comment. ^ ^

      1. “It enhances both of them, but as their efforts are focused on each other, they don’t have as much of a presence in the world at large anymore.”

        That’s an interesting thought. I still can’t see it though. Not because it doesn’t sound reasonable, but rather because the show doesn’t make any effort to present the idea. Yes, Hajime’s focusing her attention on Katze during that scene, but Katze is the only one around, so… Besides, it kinda feels more like Hajime’s just monologuing with Katze trying to cut in rather than Hajime really focusing on him anyway.

        “I thought that the idea that “everyone is a hero” was very apropos to this ending, as the spark to ignite people into action lies dormant in every person.”

        That sounds nice but all I see is that most of these people are being “manipulated” into action. They’re being lured with “virtual points” and stuff like that. I’ve no problem with that. The world isn’t perfect and that’s okay. We all can help out from our little corner, and if we feel the need to receive something in return, so be it. But from accepting that reality, to claiming that everyone’s a hero…. well, there’s a big gap imo. I know Hajime herself wouldn’t care about that. She wouldn’t make any distinction between those who help out because they want to, and those who do it because they want something in return. She wouldn’t care and that’s okay. But I’m not Hajime, and I can’t overlook the difference, even if Nakamura tries to render it irrelevant in the context of the show to further hammer his social commentary. It actually backfires on him, because the fact that Hajime doesn’t care only makes me see her even more as the sole true hero.

        It’s like his choices regarding what happened between Hajime and Katze when they met for their “date.” We only get to see the result of that meeting, but more importantly, the other characters most likely don’t even know that she made that sacrifice at all. Personally, I can help to think her actions shouldn’t go unnoticed. I mean, even Madoka had at least one person to remember her sacrifice, right? But Hajime herself wouldn’t care that no one knows what she did.

        So, what is a hero?

        1. Hnnn…I think the disconnect, or crux of the different things that each of us saw in the series, comes from our varying definitions of “hero.”

          I think that Gatchaman Crowds is really forcing us to take a good hard look at what being a “hero” is and comes to the somewhat cynical conclusion that a lot of heroism is born of personal context. As you said, and I said in the post itself, there were plenty of people who were more concerned with their CROWDS game scores than they appeared to be in helping people. Umeda is the series’ shining example of how one’s thoughts can change due to personal involvement. He’s all for a bloody revolution when his family is safe, but as soon as they are threatened he claims that violence will never solve anything. We are all heroes when it matters to us. Sometimes, that won’t be borne of personal context or self-preservation. Sometimes, it will be because we genuinely care about other people. Other times, it won’t be, and our actions will be motivated for personal reasons.

          As you said, Hajime can overlook the difference, but you can’t. I wouldn’t always be able to be Hajime either, none of us could. This is why her eventually assimilation with Berg (mirroring both of their expressed desires to “become full”) makes sense, as there is no one who is Berg Katze all of the time either.

          Hajime’s actions seemingly go unnoticed but not unappreciated. More important than “defeating” Berg Katze (as much as one like him can be defeated) is her influence on others: Utsutsu, Paiman, Sugune, Jou, they all change due to her direct involvement in their lives.

          Thanks for these comments. I’m loving the discussion (hope you are as well)!

        2. “That sounds nice but all I see is that most of these people are being “manipulated” into action.” You say, but we’re all manipulated into do everything in our lives, including (by osmosis) speak a particular language. Do you attend to school? Well, you’ve been manipulated into a reproductive system that merely maintains the ones in power on top and keeps the rest domesticated into ‘useful’ tools they should use to keep up the system and buying on ‘acceptable civil codes’ to justify their hegemony.

          Galax is merely replacing school as the new ideological dominant institution of the new world, based on gamification which is slowly working on making the system horizontal. The world has been updated once Rui stopped fearing using what he’s created. He’s a revolutionary.

  2. I partly agree with you. However, the way I see it, Hajime and Katze weren’t human beings, they were more like conceptual embodiments that merged together in the end with Hajime being on top for the victory. Their goal was a common one: target humanity somewhat; most specifically Rui like the angel and the devil on the shoulder.
    Humankind is destroyed or saved depending how much of Rui’s Life, Work and Soul (the Note) is on Katze’s hands or not. With the turning points linked to this specifically. Sort of reminder of Faust influence with the Feminine Principle struggling against Mephistopheles for Faust’s soul with the aid of her angels (the Gatchaman) and a male, distant God figure who doesn’t interferes (J.J.).
    Part of Rui’s cherrypicking was caused by his profound insecurity, fed by Katze’s mind games, stalking and harassing which made him second doubt himself and the nature of Crowds and the Note. The Note is his own soul externalized and the Crowds the personification of his ideal, but he felt as if that creature had control over it and that his association with Katze, who forced himself in his life, sullied him by connection. That’s why is symbolically and literally gone when he gets his Note back and the logo changes. Katze spent months breaking Rui and preying on him, there are subtle ways to show this like his immediate tension and staring on shadows, or the song that plays in his lone moments in the beginning, a “love song” from a predator who watches a prey and wants to see it destroy wholly, mind and soul. Rui was isolated, feeling steadily agitated and ashamed of himself, his continuous break downs were the tip of the iceberg of how he had worn him down. Hajime and the Gatchaman took Rui, who had been damaged but not fallen and broken as Katze expected, not corrupted himself in a version of himself either, and nursed his spirit, that positive thinking led to build up his self-esteem to the point he declared firmly he wasn’t wrong. Everyone can be a hero. He knew it.
    Without trusting himself first, he could not possibly trust others. He could not accept little detours to the ideal humanity (which he encompassed, because Hajime isn’t human, she’s too flawless for that, Rui on the other hand is painfully human. The new humanity that the scriptwriter said Rui meant to herald). He accepts that other people aren’t like him (he states it), he accepts they have other interests (like getting credit) but this doesn’t make them corrupt or hopeless, they can be “updated” too. They can share the joy to help others in community (rather than Katze’s destruction by turning against each others, delighting on people’s misery).
    His own opinion of traditional heroes and leaders was revised too. Rui’s right that those are the signs of primitive societies, but humanity isn’t ready to fully give that leap blindly. Instead of turning away from it, Rui accepts their existence and uses them without falling into them. Despite having a Note, Rui doesn’t spread his wings, he doesn’t position himself as vertical leader either. He accepts their aid, he uses them as bait to motive people (rather than make them passive spectators who apathetically wait until they solve everything), he hears that neither the Prime Minister nor Gatchaman can solve this. Only people can. In the end, the admission that the heroes couldn’t do it and the eventual growing horizontal-administration of the government with the Prime Minister reminding people that he isn’t the only leader leads to the world updates he so desired to seek. It’s slow and it’ll take time for everyone to go to his pacing, but it’s getting there. It was already on its course (with the Mayor, for instance, as one of those horizontal leaders thanks to Galax aid in the previous tragedy) until Berg Katze targeted him and made him lost his way for the time being. A brief wandering in the dark until he saw the light in the end of the tunnel. That was Hajime. Bad and good influences (Katze and Hajime) exist in our lives, we have to choose who to listen.

    Woah, I rambled a lot. I loved the resolution, needless to say.

    1. Whoa. Thanks for the ramble. ^ ^ I love hearing people’s thoughts on a series that I loved so much.

      Faust is an interesting frame of reference to view Gatchaman Crowds through, although I don’t believe the series to be directly referencing it in any way. The primary difference, for me, between that narrative and the one of Rui is that we do not know the exact conditions under which Rui received his NOTE. Seemingly, he was approached by Berg Katze, without invitation, and chosen. It’s easy to see why Berg would choose someone like Rui – a naive, innocent, somewhat self-loathing, and confused boy who possesses a great deal of power in GALAX – as a starting point for his operation to destroy Earth. However, there are no signs that Rui intially entered into this contract willingly, which I think is a major part of the Faust narrative. Faust chooses to enter his deal with Mephistopheles through his own, arguably selfish, pursuit of knowledge. Rui certainly uses Berg’s gift of CROWDS to further his vision of an ideal world, but there’s no hint that Rui sought out or invited Berg in any way. Additionally, it doesn’t appear as if he was “tempted” in the traditional sense; Berg simply ambushed him and forcibly removed his NOTE.

      That being said, I agree that Rui’s narrative, additionally representing the whole of humanity, is the most important one when discussing the series.

      Thanks so much for the comment. ^ ^

      1. Absolutely. Rui clarified this encounter and “contract” wasn’t willing in the least. Nonetheless, Katze made him feel responsible, tried to corrupt him (you do remember Rui’s nightmare he becomes Katze and how Katze kept telling him he’s just like he is). I meant in general, it was a deal with the devil (not one consensual, naturally), but the key figures are too alike. Faust’s goals and motives depend on many versions, it’s not as if Gatchaman had to follow one (in some he’s pursing knowledge, frustrated with the human limitations and bored with them).

        The thing about Berg’s “gift” is that Berg made him feel as if he owed him when the Crowds was always his own soul and power. JJ never made the Gatchaman feel he owns them for retrieving the Note. So as long Rui felt this shame and his life bounded to Katze, he could not be freed and humanity was left at mercy of the naughty troll.

        No problem. ^^

  3. Berg-Katze is kind of like a mad scientists character – a character evil for the sake of evil. We’re not really led to understand all that much about why the destruction is necessary, but that is the end goal. With Hajime, her overwhelming positiveness can be kind of off-putting at first, but it’s also exactly the opposite. Creations and good just because creation and good. Norms and mores are kind of arbitrary, but it’s easier to accept Hajime’s good over B-K’s bad – but I think also easier to accept B-K as a character than Hajime. The narrative of Hajime is less common than the narrative of B-K.

    In any case, at the end I was thinking the pairing of Hajime and B-K at the end both made complete sense to me, as well as didn’t make any sense at all, but you post helped me clarify to myself why that made sense. So thanks.

    1. “I think it’s also easier to accept B-K as a character than Hajime. The narrative of Hajime is less common than the narrative of B-K.”

      Oh for sure. I’ve loved Hajime from the get-go; however, I did see a lot of commentary on her character as viewers struggled to reconcile themselves with a being that could be that “good.” There were many calls for her to be taken down one, or many, pegs, as well as cries that she was too perfect. Berg is a lot easier to understand because people are more ready to accept flaws than they are the strengths in characters. It’s a lot easier, for me anyway, to see Berg and Hajime as two sides of every other character, rather than separate characters on their own.

      No problem, I’m glad you liked it. Thanks for the comment.

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