“I did give them power, a hundred capable GALAXters I chose. But we’ll update the world without relying on that power!”
– Rui Ninomiya, Gatchaman Crowds, Episode 3
For someone who is now labelled an optimist who believes in the good of others, Rui Ninomiya was, and remains, quite the opposite.
It’s now difficult to recall the pre-Hajime Ichinose Rui. A snarky, doubtful genius, Rui distrusted humanity as a whole. This included the elite Hundred who were chosen specifically by Rui to carry out the mission of “updating the world” with increased powers that their social media network GALAX could not provide them.
GALAX exploited others’ need for recognition through gamification – Gatchaman Crowds‘ third episode and the milk incident is still the best example of GALAX working as intended – calling attention to just how distrusting Rui was of humanity in general. Recognizing that many people will refuse to help others unless prodded, Rui created GALAX to push people towards aiding one another regardless. The milk incident clearly delineates the two sides – crowd-sourced “equality” versus traditional power structures – and identifies Rui’s supposed greatest enemy: the preexisting vertical social structure. Rui notes that the primary opposition to GALAX is not necessarily those in traditional points of power, Hajime’s schoolteachers for example, but those who are afraid of responding due to societal pressures keeping said power points in place.
“X, you know why I formed the Hundred, don’t you? I have to make the world update itself, my Hundred and you, we’re the ones who can change the world.”
– Rui Ninomiya, Gatchaman Crowds, Episode 4
By Crowds‘ fourth episode, Rui already feels significant pressure to make a move against Katze and push the updating revolution forward. By Episode Five, it’s clear that Berg Katze and members of the Hundred, are continuing to shake any faith Rui had in humanity. Following Hajime’s gatchaman reveal, Rui declares an intent to use the gatchaman in service of updating the world. At this point, Rui has been pressed by both Katze and the Hundred, yet still continues to espouse an ideal world where gatchaman, and traditional power structures are not needed, all the while hypocritically holding a figurative thumb over the hole in the dam that is CROWDS.
It’s important to note that Rui never intended for CROWDS to be used – just as Rui never intended to have superpowers in the first place – yet initially bestowed them upon trusted individuals. This reflects a distinct distrust of humanity as a whole to not fully follow the GALAX system, even with in-app rewards, and offers Rui an alternative should people not buy in to GALAX. Later, when pressured by Katze’s release of CROWDS to about 23,000 people, Rui grants CROWDS to all combining their powers with the gamification of GALAX. It’s not until this point, towards the end of Gatchaman Crowds, that Rui expresses any genuine faith in humanity. Even then, Rui uses GALAX to manipulate them, hoping that good will ultimately prevail.
From Rui to the Hundred, to all GALAX users, CROWDS cannot be stopped once granted. This is where Rhythm Suzuki enters the Gatchaman Crowds stage.
“You’re the ones who are using dangerous powers.”
– Rui Ninomiya, Gatchaman Crowds insight, Episode 2
In his self-introduction to both Rui and the Gatchaman Crowds insight viewer, Rhythm claims to also have been given a similar power from Katze, which he now brands as VAPE. Unlike Rui, Rhythm feared the power and sealed it away. Rhythm trusted no one with CROWDS, not even himself, where Rui immediately used them to start a revolution, beginning with one incredibly important person: Rui Ninomiya. In contrast to Rhythm, Rui’s natural self-centeredness becomes apparent, even if it’s in service of something Rui considers good.
Conversely, Rhythm’s powers are labelled “bad” by Rui largely in part because Rhythm is using nefarious means to take down Rui’s existing CROWDS institution. In Rui’s mind, this makes Rhythm worse than someone like former Hundred member Umeda, who at least claimed to use “bad” actions for the greater good.
Rhythm leads VAPE on guerrilla-style raids purposefully creating dissent and a distrust of Rui’s CROWDS. More importantly, he reaffirms Rui’s prior distrust in people as a whole, and additionally shakes Rui’s confidence. This is later exemplified when Rui forcefully terminates the accounts of CROWDS users that had appeared to stop VAPE, prompting the confused reaction, “But we were the good guys.”
Claiming to be a radical peace activist makes Rhythm out to be a cartoonish villain at first; however, Gatchaman Crowds rarely deals in black and white absolutes, only in convoluted grey messes. The first season mixes Rui’s ideals, Hajime’s ideals, and Katze’s ideals before chaotically dumping them out and asking the viewer what they think. Few people are as one-sided as Katze or Hajime – which makes their union all the more interesting – and it’s likely that Rhythm’s narrative will parallel Rui’s more than anyone else. What Rhythm wishes for, the eradication of CROWDS, was something that Rui initially wanted as well. Unfortunately now that the CROWDS box has been figuratively opened, there’s no going back.