While the people of Gatchaman Crowds are well aware of the existence of extraterrestrial life, it’s still a frightening experience when a UFO crashes into sleepy Niigata. Fortunately, Hajime Ichinose is a master of marketing, even if her successes are usually unintentional.
The first episode of Gatchaman Crowds insight is aptly named “Contact Point” piggybacking on Episode 0, “Inbound,” reiterating a focus on marketing that the “insight” subtitle brings to this second season of Gatchaman Crowds. Through the lens of marketing, we’re all targets to be examined – and potentially exploited – as necessary.
Gel Sadra’s crash into a Niigata rice field could have been a disastrous point of contact between alien and human. An anxious observer cries out that their rice had just been planted, as other witnesses scream of an alien invasion. All in all, it’s a bad first impression from Gel whose brand, so to speak, could have been irreparably tarnished both as an individual and for future alien and human interactions.
In contrast, Hajime’s name alone has become a brand in and of itself. As the cellphones of witnesses to the crash begin to ring with her ID, Tsubasa Misudachi and friend Kodama celebrate that they’re about to meet Hajime Ichinose: Gatchaman extraordinaire. Deftly, in her usually overly-excited manner, Hajime navigates the situation, ensuring that Gel’s first impression on humans is a good one.
Gel brings with her a built-in tool for gathering insight on her potential customers. Able to turn people’s impressions into colored speech bubbles directly above their heads, Gel monitors the atmosphere of a conversation. This also allows her, consciously or not, to directly affect the tone of her interactions with others and their interactions with each other. As she acclimates herself to Tsubasa’s home, she mentions several times that she wants everyone to be united.
While this is an admirable goal, Gatchaman Crowds know that it isn’t that easy. Even when gathering data on both the Prime Minister’s popularity and citizens’ current thoughts on the use of CROWDS, Jou Hibiki acknowledges that not everyone is going to be the same. While the previous series showed time and again how people can come together to do great things, it also is well-aware that not everyone is going to get along all of the time.
Additionally, that public opinion is easily swayed in one direction or another, especially in the world of social media, where events can go viral in seconds. When Paiman states that the planet still needs to be placed under their protection as a reaction to a television broadcast the insight bubbles above everyone’s heads immediately change, reflecting different – most likely opposing – viewpoints. Similarly, Gel’s sadness equally affects the opinion of those around her and their speech bubbles change color becoming uniform again, in spite of those same people having very different views on the situation only moments before. With Gel Sadra’s power, Hajime is given a visual representation of their thoughts from which she can draw conclusions on how to market to them, or change their opinion. Needless to say, the opinions and insight bubbles of others change quite frequently.
One thing that doesn’t change, seemingly regardless of the situation, is Hajime herself. Her insight bubble is grey, signifying that she will not be influenced by the actions of others, and always relies on her own thought processes regardless of what is marketed towards her. Tsubasa’s great-grandfather is another person shown with a grey bubble, indicating that he is similarly-minded, and his thoughts are equally difficult to impact.
Another contact point within this first episode is Tsubasa’s transformation into a Gatchaman. Nearly a public relations disaster, Tsubasa’s induction as the newest G-Crew member is publicly broadcast to all of Japan. Instantly marketed and celebrated, similar to the birth of a royal family member, Tsubasa becomes a celebrity within seconds. While the news of revolutionary group VAPE continues to garner influence and support for the group, Tsubasa’s transformation conveniently interrupts the negative news cycle, exerting a more positive and uplifting influence across the country.
The first Gatchaman Crowds series was steeped in art history references and a focus on others’ personal context. Thus far, insight piggybacks on this tradition by draping its narrative in marketing terms and further examining our influences.