Following the defeat of the evil alien Berg Katze, the CROWDS system is accepted by the people of Japan until one day a terrorist organization called VAPE under the leadership of a man named Rizumu Suzuki begins attacking people with red colored CROWDS. This causes the public to fear the CROWDS system and a desire to abolish CROWDS starts to swell. In addition a new alien named Gelsadra crash lands in Nagaoka, just in time for a girl named Tsubasa Misudachi to be made a new member of the Gatchaman. The chaos started by Rizumu eventually boils over and ultimately results in a massive shakeup in the Japanese political scene. Does the new Gatchaman Crowds give us some much needed insight, or is it just blowing hot air?
Her Majesty Hajime Has Returned
Hajime was one the best surprises of the first season of Gatchaman Crowds. She initially appeared to be an airhead just spouting off nonsense, but was in actuality probably the smartest one in the room, often saying things that were closer to the truth than anything anyone else was saying.
In Gatchaman Crowds Insight, she returns as the voice of wisdom, taking a rather neutral approach to the various discussions in this season, much to the chagrin of everyone around her. While everyone else was trying to paint things as a black and white scenario, Hajime took a very literal grey stance to things, agreeing with points both sides were making, but never fully backing one side or another.
In addition, it is in Gatchaman Crowds Insight, more so than even in the first season, that Hajime proves she is more than deserving of the label of “hero”. Going into the specifics of this would be a massive spoiler, so I’ll just leave that for you to find out for yourself.
Lastly, there’s a rather big difference with Hajime this season compared to the first season. Her body is now a vessel for Berg Katze, how this happened I don’t know myself because it is only explained in the director’s cut version of the first season’s finale, which unfortunately Sentai Filmworks did not get the rights to so it isn’t legally obtainable. All I know is that this has led to some great moments with Hajime interacting back and forth with Berg Katze, often times involving her just ignoring him using harsh language towards her.
Now if only people would give Hajime a chance and stop basing their preconceived notions about her on her buxom chest and bubbly personality. Oh well, baby steps.
Criticizes the First Season
The first season was pretty damn great, though it did kind of end on a bit of an idealized note. It would be almost impossible for the CROWDS system to go its entire existence without anyone doing anything wrong with it. Whereas the first season highlighted the very best in humanity when given access to power such as this, Insight focuses on the opposite, the very worst of humanity when placed in such a situation.
You Damn Dirty Apes
A prime example of what I mean by this showing the worst of humanity in the kind of social media-driven world of Gatchaman Crowds, is the insane mob mentality of society at times. We see it all the time in real life on social media nowadays where everyone gangs up on someone over the slightest rumor that ruffles enough feathers. I have no dog in the fight regarding Gamergate, that’s a whole can of worms I refuse to touch even with a fifty foot pole, but that whole mess is rife with this scenario playing out over and over again. This situation is made especially true in cases involving criminal acts, where people are more than willing to be judge, jury, and executioner on social media before any details beyond the initial reporting are out in the public.
But things are made even worse in Gatchaman Crowds Insight, as this kind of mentality winds up having serious effects on society as a whole, thanks to people being able to vote on important issues via an impulse-driven social media poll. The genius of Gatchaman Crowds Insight comes from how various characters throughout the season are able to so easily manipulate the Japanese society by guiding the atmosphere the mob mentality feeds off of.
It goes without saying, but eventually Japan’s society gets FUBARed by their social media voting system, and at first they don’t even know it. What ends up happening is Japan becomes a willing dictatorship, where their leader is the head of a literal cult of personality. It makes their society look eerily like North Korea’s. The cherry on top of this dystopian sundae is the actual thought police, called Kuu, that end up arriving in the show a little over halfway through.
They are a physical manifestation of the atmosphere, and are there to help everyone become “one”. At first, because their embrace calms down any dissenting thought, but when that fails to unite everyone, they start taking the easy way out, by swallowing whole anyone who doesn’t want to neatly fall in line. Despite their cute appearance, the Kuu are rather terrifying, and you can see the fear they instill in anyone who clings to their individualism. Eventually many people start to catch on to what is going on and simply start pretending to fall in line so as to not be gobbled up by the atmosphere, you know, kind of like how people sometimes behave online.
Multilayered Like an Onion
Gatchaman Crowds Insight is already a rather deep, complex series on the surface, but look beyond that and it is quite clear a lot of time and care went into crafting the characters and story this season. For example, Tsubasa has trouble almost the entire season with consistently activating her Gatchaman form, and they never flat out state the reason for it. Rather, you have to infer it from several seemingly innocuous clues left scattered about. That’s just one example. There are several little bits of symbolism and character development just strewn about in Insight and it can be quite easy to miss these at first and often they aren’t even picked up on until discussed with others. Speaking of......
War of the Words
One of the most interesting parts of Gatchaman Crowds Insight was seeing the characters debate with each other. This is especially true when it is just the Gatchaman having a little discussion circle of sorts in their headquarters.
However, as fun as it is to see the characters discuss things on screen, it was even more fun to discuss each episode every week in the Ani-TAY Skype chat. It was thanks to bouncing ideas off of everyone that I was able to find some of the deeper meanings to this season. If you plan on watching this season, I highly suggest finding someone to watch it with, so you can discuss it. This is the kind of show that begs to be discussed at length about.
The Machinations of the Media
One of the more prominent side characters this season is a guy named Millio Toriyama, the host of a popular day time discussion/variety show called Millione Shop. Millio seems good natured, if not quirky, early on, but in truth, he is just a ratings hound. He’ll side with anyone and anything as long as it brings in the ratings, and in turn, the dough. He’s also one hell of a shit stirrer with many of the things that happen in this season coming from Millio basically siccing the masses on someone or something.
Action Takes a Backseat
While the first season of Gatchaman Crowds was never overflowing with action scenes, it still easily outnumbers Insight in number of fight scenes. There’s not a whole lot of action in Gatchaman Crowds Insight, because everyone is mainly fighting with words, not fists, which is something I’m ok with, but I know many aren’t. Another reason the number of fight scenes is so low this season is because there’s....
No Traditional Central Villain
Unlike the first season which had Berg Katze as the clear cut front and center villain that the Gatchaman had to topple, there is no such thing in this season. Overall the true big bad is an intangible concept more than a specific character, really. Again, something I’m perfectly ok with, because not every series needs to punch a tangible foe in the face.
Odd Sense of Timing
It would seem that a lot of events happen in rapid succession in a short amount of time this season, but more than likely this is just a result of trying to get a lot of progressive plot points to fit within the episode count. So rather that everything actually happening so quick after each other it is likely just a small case of rushing things just a bit by cutting out the time between the events.
So Idealistic Even Shirou Emiya Facepalms
Tsubasa and Gelsadra are presented as being really, really idealistic. To the point where they won’t even listen to anything remotely sounding like criticism and wind up taking an “us vs. the world” stance. Granted, these last two sentences apply almost specifically to Tsubasa. Gelsadra on the other hand is too damn naive to know any better, but that can be just as bad, because he literally does not grasp how bad his idealism is.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think being an idealist in and of itself is a bad thing at all. I just have an issue when you are so militantly idealistic that you flat out just won’t listen to the opposing side like a spoiled little brat. Unfortunately, that is Tsubasa to a T, at least early on. She eventually pulls her head out her ass, but for many of the episodes, you will hate Tsubasa.
Gatchaman Crowds’ first season was already a great commentary on modern society and was one of my Top 5 favorite shows of 2013. Insight goes above and beyond that by presenting one of the absolute best pieces of brutally biting societal commentary in a work of entertainment. This show is also far and away one of the most brightly colored and stylish dystopian dictatorships I have ever seen. It probably won’t be a winner for everyone, especially anyone who hates shows where the characters mostly just talk, but I think this is a masterstroke of a series that will probably stand up to the test of time rather well.
I love shows that make me actively think and give me more than enough credit to not hold my hand every step of the way, letting me figure many things out on my own and in that regards no other show so far this year has come close to delivering what Gatchaman Crowds Insight does. As such, Gatchaman Crowds Insight is easily my favorite show of the Summer season, and is currently my favorite show of the whole year.
Gatchaman Crowds Insight can be viewed on the Crunchyroll and Hulu streaming services. Gatchaman Crowds Insight has been licensed by Sentai Filmworks and will more that likely receive a home release some time next year.