Miscellaneous · Seasonals

12 Days of Hardcore Marathoning: Gatchaman’s Distant Hero

Bird, Go! Source: ksmyu
Bird, Go! Source: ksmyu

Perhaps you know of someone who’s made an impact on your life despite never truly meeting him. This person might be someone like the leader of your country or someone as subtle as the asshole cop who keeps ticketing your ride for parking on weekdays. Regardless, until we meet these people they exist, to us, only as ideas in our mind and furthermore, it’s also extremely unlikely that when you meet this person that they’ll still exist as only a representation of that idea. The only time we meet people whose sole purpose is represent an idea is in fiction, and even then, it’s rare for these characters to star as the lead.

Hajime Ichinose is more than just a character; she’s an unstoppable force of change. Unlike a majority of the protagonists we observe across the medium, Hajime neither experiences emotional growth in her journey nor gives us her personal past. Hajime exists in the series as a character from whom we are distant and most forms of emotional connectivity that we experience the series hinges on her certainly imperfect cohorts, from the depressed Joe to the straight-laced Sugane. She’s for all cases and purposes an idea given physical form.

Gatchaman Crowd’s heroine is as straightforward as Berg Katze – the two are best likened to direct representations of the themes at place than they are to actual human beings. As open and inviting as Hajime is, she is inarguably distant from the viewer – she has no weaknesses, is almost always perceived as right, and is consistently detached from humanity. We never quite observe what goes on in her mind as much as we witness her effects on the surrounding world, either through a literal updating of the world or the gradual change in the Gatchaman squad. Although we may empathize with the cowardly Paiman, the shy Utsu-tsu, and the powerless Rui, from the flawless Hajime we are completely detached. Although we might feel adoration or even disgust for her character, it’s almost impossible form an emotional connection out of empathy with her.

This estrangement is really neither here nor there (although if you strongly disagree with the ideas she represents, you’re almost guaranteed to hate her), but it forces the viewer to observe a live, chaotic human event with a logical, rational lens, the same kind of perspective granted from Katze’s shadow of a character. Although complete emotional detachment from the lead is one of the keys to modern narratives, here we’re observing two different views on the every irrational chaos under the pretense of rationality. We’re not just expected to observe this squabble, but we’re also invited to judge again through rationality whether chaos netted from total freedom, whether on the internet or in real life, is sustainable or self-destructive. (Crowds already makes the stance that chaos is completely inevitable because people are fucking crazy, so there’s that).

The conflicting values at place here are interesting but also rather frustrating once one realizes that one can’t exactly sort out chaos with rationale. I’ve written in the past that we should approach the show with complete emotional vulnerability Deleuze-style since a man’s character is inherently chaotic (in short, you can’t judge something observable before you sense it), but the portrayal of the show’s lead character and villain resists this in every manner. Ironically, the same problem occurs when we attempt to judge who’s right and who’s wrong in Gatchaman Crowd’s and even, as I would argue, when the director and writer tilt towards Hajime’s perspective. The show claims through Sugane and Paiman that pure order will always fail and yet we’re made to view the show using it.

In the end, Gatchaman Crowd’s statement is a bit of a cruel joke. The general thrust of the show is that chaos allowed by freedom on the internet or perhaps, even in general will always shift onto the side of those who just want to have fun, instead of towards those who see everything as shit, since they can be merely ignored. So yeah, the show makes a claim about inevitable disorder despite using a rational lens and argument to prove it, which is just a bit silly. But even though the way that Hajime and Katze teach us to view themselves, the conflict the two represent, and consequently the show itself remains just a bit messy and unclear, perhaps it fits in with Hajime’s claim that nothing is ever certain. And so long as things remain uncertain, I doubt that arriving at one concrete answer will ever get boring, either.


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