In early elementary school, during an election year, I begged my parents to tell me who they voted for. They refused. Every election following, I asked them who they voted for. Every year they refused to tell me.
To this day, even as an adult, I still have no idea who they vote for.
Now it’s become a running gag between the three of us, with the additional anecdote that my mother apparently writes in my father’s name when she disagrees with all of the choices. As an aside, my father would make a terrible president.
At that time, it was infuriating. However, I now realize that they likely wanted me to make my own decisions, do research, and have fairly educated reasoning behind said choices.
Gatchaman Crowds‘ Hajime Ichinose seems to ascribe to a similar school of thought.
“You can’t just blindly follow the internet.”
– Hajime Ichinose, Gatchaman Crowds, Episode 3
While Hajime is introduced as a savvy individual who is up-to-date in her knowledge of social trends, she also maintains a certain distance from said trends, never losing herself to them. Each obstacle she faces is tackled, for better or for worse, with her unique problem-solving methods. Hajime is not above using or even trumpeting the convenience of social media platforms like GALAX, but she maintains a relative emotional distance from them.
Everything Hajime touches, she pokes or prods at first, challenging the reasoning behind it. She tries to communicate with the MESS instead of defeating them. Her first human project is Sugune Tachibana, forcing him to reevaluate why he is a member of the G-Crew, and the meaning or reasoning behind his actions. And she’s the only gatchaman who attempts to communicate with Berg Katze rather than fighting him.
Sugune isn’t the only person affected by Hajime’s outlook, as her perspective also forces Paiman, Utsutsu, Rui Ninomiya, and Jou Hibiki to all examine their respective viewpoints. This is where most who dislike Hajime find her character to be grating and noisy, presuming that it’s her point of view that must be respected over all others. While I’d personally argue that this was not the case – even in the first season – Gatchaman Crowds insight makes it clear that Hajime is not as focused on bringing others to her side, so to speak, as she is understanding the “why” behind others’ actions. In the process, her line of questioning forces one to reexamine their own thoughts and separate them from the mob or prevailing social atmosphere.
The first season of Gatchaman Crowds concerned itself with personal context, something that Hajime seemed keenly aware of at all times. In certain cases – like those of Utsutsu and Sugune – it allowed them to put their values at the forefront of their actions, rather than doing things out of fear or duty respectively. For Jou and Rui, it meant a clearer understanding of what – above all else – was most important to them.
Now each action Jou takes, even if he acknowledges that the methods are wrong, is a step towards achieving his own justice. Likewise Rui came away from the first season’s events with an optimistic outlook that, with the right tools, humanity will eventually update itself. One has an incredible distrust of others while the other has developed a seemingly unshakeable faith. Jou and Rui’s perspectives are particularly interesting when they come up against Tsubasa Misudachi’s convictions.
“Is self-motivation really necessary? Sorry. What you’re talking about is too difficult for me to understand a lot. Can’t the world be more simple? Help those in need. Protect those who are suffering.”
– Tsubasa Misudachi, Gatchaman Crowds insight, Episode 5
Hajime can only prod so much before Tsubasa simply speaks over her. So attached is Tsubasa to her own beliefs that she eschews all else, forming a simple but near impenetrable viewpoint. Unlike the other members of the G-Crew, Tsubasa defaults to standard ideas of heroism and the fervent wish that things could be simpler. Her point of view is indubitably necessary, but when it makes up the prevailing atmosphere, it undoes much of the personal responsibility that people should have when they act or make a choice.
The end of Gatchaman Crowds showed a situation where the force of a mob mentality – with a dash of gamification – was used for good. Insight is poised on the precipice of showing just how dangerous that same type of mob mentality can be.
In an environment that has become infinitely more complex, Hajime requires time to process her own thoughts. This is both a strength and weakness, as it offers her a better understanding of multi-faceted situations, but the rest of the world will hardly wait for her to fully process what is happening. In a way, the entirety of the first season can be seen as a Hajime poking and prodding her way to her own personal conclusion and merging with Katze. While she has an immediate effect on others, her own thoughts are informed much more slowly, and with extensive research.
Unfortunately, Hajime’s largest failing continues to be her inability to communicate. In the first season, she spoke of how she wanted people to come together, but it’s not in the same manner that Gel Sadra wants all minds united. She also spoke of “what heroes do,” but with different nuances than Tsubasa Misudachi’s dramatic Episode 3 transformation. She coyly will not reveal who she voted for when asked, even while carrying significant social clout and influence.
With the prevailing, ever-shifting winds of the mob dictating the pace of insight, Hajime’s presence has been significantly muted. However, when said atmosphere of the people inevitably changes, Hajime will indubitably be a crucial part of cleaning up the mess.