What They Say:
You can’t keep a good Gatchaman down, especially when a new organization called VAPE (short for Violent Ape) starts hijacking CROWDS technology. The ensuing wave of “Red CROWDS” incidents targeting high profile targets like the Prime Minister make it clear that the good team needs to start recruiting; fast. Fortunately, help arrives quickly, and with a rather… loud entrance. The alien Gelsadra’s ship crashes in a rice paddy in Nijima!
Besides being generally peaceful, Gelsadra has a unique power involving comic-book-like speech bubbles that display a person’s inner feelings, rather like an emoji. There’s also the fireworks enthusiast, Tsubasa, whose life becomes the focus of millions of viewers when she’s chosen as the newest Gatchaman – on nationwide live television! As if that wasn’t enough pressure for a teenage girl to handle, she’s also assigned Hajime as her mentor! Will she survive? Will the world survive? Things are about to get really wild and crazy in GATCHAMAN CROWDS INSIGHT!
The audio presentation for this show brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the new English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. While just a stereo show, we get a pretty solid mix here that does some very fun stuff as it progresses because of the mix of action, the dialogue placement and the general design of it all. The use of the net capable aspects is nicely handled, especially with X in how it sounds a little displaced and all around at times, while the flitting nature of some of the characters like Berg Katze definitely comes across well. The action side of it has a good flow to it as it moves about the screen and with the transformation sides as well. The dialogue side is what dominates though and that uses the forward soundstage well to tell its story while keeping the movement flowing as characters walk about and interact in a number of settings that make for some good set design. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The show is spread across two discs in a standard layout of nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by Tatsunoko Production, the series is filled with some really beautiful colors and designs, a lot of fantastic detail and a great shift between CG animation of the transformed suits, the more traditional character and world designs and the virtual aspects that come into play. When watching the show, you can see just how much detail is involved in the world building here and it comes across really well and in a striking way where you’re reminded why visual design is so important. There are familiar things of course, but this isn’t a cookie cutter show where you’ve seen these familiar buildings before or settings. What we get here involves some real creativity and architectural design that really does leap off of the screen because of the solid encoding that captures all of what was put into it, especially the vibrancy and pop of the colors.
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against their interior walls. The cover artwork brings out the main key visual that was created for it as we get the main cast in the foreground with the city scene behind them and the creepy helpers, something you don’t recognize quickly. I love the illustration style for it and the tone it conveys, especially since it doesn’t go overly vibrant or bold. The back cover rolls the red, white, and blue colors along with some greys throughout it as the background while providing a full color image of Tsubasa along the left as she does her pose. The premise is what dominates the middle of the cover with its large amount of small text on a white blob that is trying to convey way too much. The episode and disc count is laid out clearly and I do like that the symbol at least makes an appearance here. The discs features are a little harder to see but the production credits are laid out well and the technical grid covers everything in a very clean and straightforward way. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works two different cast images where they’re set against an array of colors related to events in the show but the main takeaway is just how busy they are. With a lot of white used and some bold primary colors, it’s full of pop and vibrancy and really is just filled with detail since there are so many characters standing around. It’s almost a touch overwhelming but there’s a really great color design to it and it feels kind of surreal overall in a way, so it fits so perfectly for the show. The navigation along the right just has the episodes listed by number and title and you get a tab for languages on both and extras on the second disc. Everything load quickly and looks great both during the main menu and as a pop-up menu during regular playback.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the second volume.
The revival of Gatchaman into the Gatchaman Crowds series that we had before was something that was certainly met with some resistance, and understandably so. When I ended up seeing it as a full marathon I came away pretty pleased by it overall. With the way so many anime shows play it safe, alarmingly so in many cases, Crowds staked out its own territory within the familiar and then rarely used the familiar. Would it have garnered as much attention without those trappings? I’d like to think so but I also know better. So when a second season was given the green light you just knew that they wouldn’t try and recreate the magic of that first season. And Insight certainly goes its own way, but ends up coming at a time where it just feels highly prophetic, dangerous, and frightening.
Frankly, watching this series at the same time as the 2016 US election really is kind of surreal. The premise of the story is straightforward in that we have a sea change going on in the population about how to be involved in what happens to the country within the world that’s under protection by the alien overseers. This puts its focus on Gelsadra as the CROWDS are out and about and the idea comes into play to make everything truly democratic by doing all voting for many important things through cell phones. There are some neat visual tricks with this but the essence is that everything is boiled down to simple ideas without any nuance and then made yes or no kind of choices. Of course, actual governing isn’t anywhere near that easy and anyone who has looked at the nuance and details of a ballot understands there’s a lot going on.
But what the show is trying to paint here is what happens when we make the choices too easy – so easy that we give away our ability to make those choices, in fact, once the populace makes the choice to allow aliens to run for prime minister and we get a terrible moment of honesty from the current prime minister, the populace realizes that Gelsadra, upon his first acts, largely seems to be making all the right choices. That leads them to deciding to just leave everything to Gelsadra so they can enjoy their lies without having to worry their pretty little minds about what’s really involved in being a part of a society. Again, probably one of the worst times to watch this show and yet a week later while thinking about I still can’t shake those particular feelings. Naturally, all of this goes well for a while but then things take darker turns as the effort to make everyone happy turns into a place where those who can’t connect or get along in this kind of society find themselves… removed from it. There’s some surreal Gatchaman Crowds style elements to the designs, but the core ideas of what they’re presenting here showcase that even in a very monocultural kind of context that it’s going to go badly for a whole lot of people, nevermind what this would be like for a far more diverse culture.
Our eyes into much of this is with the addition of a new Gatchaman, a young woman named Tsubasa that has a very idealistic look at everything. She’s not exactly under Gelsadra’s sway but she thinks he’s on the right path, one that comes from a fairly naive point of view. It’s hard to put too much on that because the show avoids a lot of detail and nuance, instead opting to go for the big picture ideas and broad brushstrokes in how it plays out. While Tsubasa is a solid enough character and pairing her with Gelsadra for a lot of it almost like an acolyte plays well, it comes at the expense of most of the rest of the familiar team. In fact, they feel like outsiders in their own show throughout much of the season before becoming more involved toward the end. In that sense it makes this feel like less of a Gatchaman Crowds show but it also shows that the property can go off and explore some unusual ideas within the context of the larger world.
Gatchaman Crowds is a conflicting series because of what it presents and the time in which I viewed it. I think the show did some really neat things in going in different directions than the first season did but also made some odd choices by mostly working without the main cast from it. Visually, it’s another beautiful treat of fantastic design ideas and animation that really makes it engaging to watch simply from that aspect. But it’s also the kind of show where you can really have some very in-depth conversations about what it’s doing, why it’s doing it, and the larger meanings – all while mostly operating at a superficial level. But it’s doing more than most other series and that makes it a worthwhile challenge, one that I suspect will work better for me down the line rather than in the here and now.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 22nd, 2016
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.