Gatchaman Crowds, a series that offers a really quirky, unique spin on the sentai genre, opens with the rather happy-go-lucky teenager Hajime being abruptly inducted into the ranks of the Gatchaman, a group of superheroes dedicated to protecting the earth from extraterrestrial attacks. In particular, they’ve been locked for some time in a conflict with Mess, a weird, geometrical alien species that has been abducting humans.
It seems as though Gatchaman Crowds will thus settle into a monster-of-the-week formula as Gatchaman fights Mess and unravels the mystery behind them. But by the end of the second episode, Hajime (who does not initially seem to take her newfound duties seriously at all) discovers that it’s all due to miscommunication, and that Mess doesn’t mean any harm. The conflict is resolved nonviolently and rather anticlimactically.
The plot then swerves to the eccentric, young millionaire, Rui, who has developed a popular new social media app, GALAX. This app mainly uses social networking and RPG-esque elements to spur everyday people to acts of altruism. Rui’s hope is for this app to help bring about a revolution in the moral consciousness of the world as people become more aware of their capacity for good. Meanwhile, a mysterious alien known as Berg-Katze is trying to manipulate events to his own evil purpose.
So the show offers two different kinds of heroism: one centered around an idea of greatness, and another around the cultivation of everyday virtue, and asks whether we really need the former if we can have the latter. I don’t think it manages to satisfactorily answer its own question—without getting too deep into details, I found the ending to be a bit of a cop-out in this regard (though there is a second season, so mayhap that was intentional).
But one thing that I think Gatchaman Crowds does really well is emphasize the idea of choice, and how the kind of society we live in is created by the aggregate of choices we make as individuals. Almost all the characters have some sort of awakening moment where they are called out of complacency and take decisive action—for good or evil.
We have a tendency, when we think about society, to view it in very abstract, political terms—having a good society is about having the right leaders, the right laws and policies, etc. And it’s not that these things aren’t important, but a well-governed body of miserable people is still a body of miserable people. And we also have a tendency to think of society in a deterministic fashion, that it’s inevitably going in a particular direction and we’re just along for the ride.
But within our own sphere of influence, however seemingly small it may be, comes a great power to do good or harm to ourselves and those around us, and the sum of each of our everyday choices ultimately shapes the world we live in. If we can’t learn to love the actual, concrete people in our own lives, then we’re going to be in trouble, and politics or holding the right opinions won’t be able to save us.
Another thing that occurs to me: Rui’s attempt at using social media to create a supra-society that functions as a moral vanguard for the world is, when it comes to it, a desire for a secular Church of sorts. It’s the Church, which provides a society that transcends cultural and national boundaries, calling everyone to their full dignity and ultimate purpose. However, the Church accomplishes this by being the Body of Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. As such, it is the one society that is properly ontological and capable of bringing people to their true selves, as it were. It is communion, rather than mere community, and this is the one thing needful in Gatchaman Crowds.
Getchman Crowds can be streamed on Crunchyroll.