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Gatchaman Crowds Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

9 min read
Power to the people (?) (!)

Power to the people (?) (!)

What They Say:
The city of Tachikawa is in danger! As humans are being abducted by a strange alien entity, the city’s secret defenders, the Gatchaman Squad, are leaping covertly into action to save the world once again. However, this time things aren’t going to follow the usual super-heroic pattern, since the Squad’s latest recruit, Hajime Ichinose, definitely marches to the beat of a different drummer. And while she’s more interested in stationery than being a hero, she’s about to cause a world-altering series of changes simply by thinking WAY outside the box! But wait, there’s even more! When someone starts hijacking CROWDS technology, the Gatchaman team needs to start recruiting again and things go crazy quickly when a very unusual alien lands in Niigata!

The Review:

The discs come with two audio tracks, English and Japanese, both in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. For my viewing, I listened to the English language track and am happy to report no issues whatsoever. It’s a very good recording. English subtitles are also available for the hearing impaired and those who prefer to watch their anime in the original Japanese but aren’t native speakers.

The video for both series is gorgeous, full of bright, vibrant colors and great line work. This is a great-looking show.

Both series come packed over four discs (two for CROWDS and two for INSIGHT). This is the first time I’ve encountered this, but the case is a modified stack pack, so that discs one and two lay on each other on a spindle on the inside of the front cover, and discs three and four do the same on the inside of the back cover. I’m not sure if this is a cost-cutting measure or some new fad, but I can’t say I like it too much.

Moving on to the art, the front cover features the entire Gatchaman crew. The posing is interesting, as the none of the characters occupy the center space. Instead, they’re positioned as a circle around an empty center over a background that looks like green graph paper with white lines. Considering the overall premise of both series, this makes sense, as no one character is more important than others, and this subtly deconstructs the idea of a “hero.”

Interestingly, the character the art designers chose Joe to be featured on the spine, and not Hajime, who is the de facto protagonist. Maybe it’s because there was a Joe in the original Gatchaman, and this adds a bit of continuity between that series and this one.

The back cover does feature Hajime prominently. There’s an overall circular design used in the formatting of the story synopsis and the stills from the show. It’s an interesting aesthetic and goes along well with the show’s general theme.

The menu’s pretty standard. The majority of screen space is taken up by a picture from the series (in the case of the first disc, it’s a still from the Galax chat room). The episodes are listed on the right side of the screen. The menus are easy to navigate and is nice to look at.

Not much here, I’m afraid, just clean Op/Ed and Sentai trailers. I was hoping there would be a feature on how CROWDS and INSIGHT connected to the original series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Gatchaman CROWDS: The Complete Series is actually two series in one collection. The first is called CROWDS and the second is called CROWDS INSIGHT. Produced by Tatsunoko Production, CROWDS first aired in Japan in 2013, and INSIGHT aired in 2015. The show takes some general concepts and one or two characters from the original 1970s Gatchaman, but really other than the name there doesn’t seem to be, and that’s actually a good thing.

I was fortunate enough to review that huge Gatchman set from a few years back: the one that restored the original story and used new voice actors. It was super fun, super 70s, and super long, and I enjoyed the hell out of it, so I was curious when I saw CROWDS. The new series looks nothing like its predecessor and is an entirely new take on the idea. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but let me tell you, this is one of the smartest anime I’ve seen in quite some time, zigging when I think it’s going to zag, deconstructing the whole idea of heroes (super and not), and turning the general superteam formula on its head.

But let me backtrack a little bit. The focal character for both series (but especially the first) is Hajime Ichinose, a high school girl living in Tachikawa City, which is either a city with Tokyo or a sister city to it—it’s never clear. To say she’s a normal high school girl would be a misnomer. Sure, she goes to school and gets on the social media platform Galax like her friends, but she’s far more interested in stationary, pens, and notebooks than she is in the things her friends are into, such as debating the existence of the Gatchaman team. For Tachikawa City, the Gatchaman team is basically Bigfoot: some people say they’ve seen them, but no one ever provides proof. Hajime gets proof firsthand when she is approached by Master JJ, the enigmatic leader of that group. She’s given a notebook, which allows her to make herself invisible to the public, and to summon special high-tech battle armor that reflects her inner self (Hajime’s is very scissor-oriented, befitting her love of stationery and scrapbooking).

Now, if this were a typical show, Hajime would need to be shown the ropes, learn her place within the team, and the unique power she alone possesses. This is not a normal show, and Hajime does none of that. At first, she seems flighty and maybe a little stupid, but that’s only because she approaches the world in a very different way. She takes to being a Gatchman quicker than the Flash and she immediately brings light to the ridiculous rules and regulations that the rest follow simply because that’s the way it’s always been.

Well, not Hajime. Her true power lies in her desire to understand. She asks the right questions and looks at the world from a slight slant that allows her to perceive it better than most. She causes chaos in the very first episode, and that’s exactly what the Gatchaman need.

The Gatchaman’s mandate is to protect the world in secret from alien threats. That’s their sole purpose. It’s a great deal of power and responsibility, but no one—until Hajime—thinks to ask the basic questions: why work in secret? Why use their power only to fight aliens?

Similar questions occupy Rui Ninomiya. Rui is a young, possibly transgender adult who identifies as male, but most of the time dresses as a female complete with wigs. (I hesitate to come right out and identity Rui as trans, because he—that’s his preferred pronoun—never comes out and says it, and also because I don’t know enough about Japanese culture to know if his actions would be considered as such. If you know, please drop me a line.) Rui created the social networking service Galax, which is like Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of other things all rolled into one. It’s actual purpose, though, is to “upgrade” the world. Rui sees superheroes as a fascist concept and believes that true power belongs in the hands of the people. To facilitate this, Rui gave power to one hundred Galax users who share his vision. When Rui allows it, they can manifest their will in physical form through cell and wifi signals using the CROWDS system. Like the Gatchaman, the CROWDS can operate invisibly, and Rui uses them help during disasters and the like.

It’s a great idea in theory, but there’s a big catch and its name is Berg Katze. Those of you who watched the first Gatchman will remember that name, but this Berg has very little to do with that one. For one, this new Berg is competent. He’s an androgynous alien with a similar ability to Master JJ’s in that he can bring out a person’s inner strength. He did that for Rui, and that’s what allowed him to create the CROWDS system. Rui hopes the CROWDS will upgrade the world and make it a place where poverty, oppression, racism, sexism, etc. etc. are all in the past. It’s a wonderful idea, but the question (and what Katze is counting on) is if humans are enlightened enough to upgrade, or if we’re all stupid apes one second away from blowing each other up.

That’s the central question for both CROWDS and INSIGHT: what amount of power should be entrusted to the people, and how much do we deserve it? Katze wants to use that power to get us to destroy ourselves (that’s kind of his thing). Rui thinks he’s wrong, but doesn’t have the strength to stand up to him. Not alone.

Thank goodness for Hajime. Her singular ability to see through bullshit is what saves the day. She not only beats Katze at his own game, but also brings the Gatchaman out of the shadows, making them visible and accountable.

If the point of CROWDS is that we have the power to save ourselves, the point of INSIGHT is that we can turn that same power against ourselves in the name of peace and unity.

An alien named Gelsadra crash lands on Earth and immediately becomes taken with the planet and its people. Or, perhaps becomes immediately taken with Tsubasa Misudachi, the newest Gatchaman member. Gel becomes the celebrity du jour and gets courted by the talk show circuit. He has the ability to manifest speech bubbles over people’s heads, showing what they’re feeling. A power that isn’t frightening in the least. No sir. No way.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Japan is taking heat for supporting the CROWDS system. Living by his word, he allows for the people to directly vote for his position. They can either re-elect him, or elect someone new. Gelsadra puts his proverbial hat in the ring, and he wins by a landslide. His goal is to make everyone “one”—to live in unity and harmony, which is great until people disagree on just what that looks like.

This leads to a division among the Gatchman ranks, which is exemplified by the split between Tsubasa and her senpai Hajime. Tsubasa can’t see what’s wrong with everyone living together and singing kumbaya, while Hajime sees the value in conflict, as long as it’s within reason.

I swear, I could go on and on and on about the philosophical and political issues these two series delve into. Like I said, this is one of the smartest anime out there. Not just in terms of the themes and questions it asks, but also in terms of plotting and character development. It’s very different from the original show, which was a more straightforward “we’ve got to save the Earth” series, and that’s a good thing. It uses the concept of Gatchaman to explore some very prescient and fascinating issues, and it’s also damn entertaining.

In Summary:
Gatchaman CROWDS: The Complete Collection is smart as hell and just as entertaining. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed an anime this much in years. If you haven’t watched it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Openings, Clean Closings

Content Grade:A+
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: C+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C-

Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: 11/13/2018
MSRP: $99.98
Running Time: 615 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 16×9

Review Equipment:
Panasonic Viera TH42PX50U 42” Plasma HDTV, Sony BPD-S3050 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection

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