Despite including the combination of Gatchaman Crowds and Gatchaman Crowds insight in my best anime of the decade list, I was nervous to return to Gatchaman Crowds for many reasons. I didn’t rewatch it for that list save a few scenes in key episodes, and hadn’t rewatched it since mid-2016. The rapid evolution and effect of social media in society generally has rendered more than several specifics of Crowds obsolete. I maintain that if the insight season hadn’t course-corrected a few of the generalizations made in it’s initial season, Gatchaman Crowds would be a completely un-rewatchable time capsule: a monument to ultimately believing the best in others while time definitively proved otherwise.
It’s still somewhat of a time capsule.
Yet, in returning to it, I’m already pleasantly surprised by how much I still love. The naive me that wrote all of those Crowds posts in 2013 certainly doesn’t exist anymore, but I appreciate that she did exist at one point in time. There’s still a lot to take away, especially in a rewatch where you already know what’s coming, both in the scope of the series and in the real world.
I’ve already written about Kenji Nakamura’s tendency to use visual framing, and the first episode of Crowds is no exception. The series starts with the morning routine of straight-laced Sugune Tachibana for a reason. In most other superhero series, he would be the protagonist. He has a strong sense of duty alongside a strict societally-driven moral code that’s reflected in the way he carries himself and the setup of his apartment in the opening scenes of Gatchaman Crowds‘ premiere. When Hajime Ichinose first enters the fray and joins up with the rest of the G-crew, it looks like she’s going to play quirky sidekick to his straight man. And while the two do fall into this pattern, it’s Hajime who takes the lead role and almost immediately skewers his ideals and perception with her actions. Sugune’s prominence in the first cold open of the series is more of a point of reference than a path forward. It tells us that this is what needs to be challenged, not upheld.
This is reinforced by Sugune’s actions on the train. On his commute to school, we see a woman struggling with illness who consults the gamified do-gooder app GALAX to help. Behind her in a fox mask is one of the “hundred,” a group that will later rise to prominence as GALAX’s importance increases throughout the show. By contrast, Sugune sees a pregnant woman who didn’t ask for help and forces a younger man (who is most likely ill given the fact that he is sweaty and wearing a mask) to give her his seat. This doesn’t make Sugune “wrong” here but it also doesn’t necessarily make him “right” and the entire exchange encapsulates how he sees himself in the world, doing the right thing based on existing moral codes without question. That’s his idea of heroism.
At the end of the first episode, we get a hint of just how much Hajime is going to stomp all over the status quo — this is reinforced visually already by multiple nods to modern art — with her amazingly irreverent “Bird…go?” while transforming. Sugune says “Bird, go!” with authority, sounding exactly like what we would expect from a traditional gatchaman member. Hajime sounds curious and confused when she starts her transformation. She doesn’t sound anything like a gatchaman is supposed to sound like and it’s a harbinger of what is to come.