Gatchaman Crowds Insight (Cert 12)
2 Discs Blu-ray/3 Discs DVD Combo (Distributor: Animatsu Entertainment) Running Time: 321 Minutes Approx.
Ordinarily I would open a review of a sequel with the stalwart proclamation of “They’re back!” or a similar cliché but in this instance, it would require you, dear reader, to cast your mind back to just over two years ago to when this modern alternative version operating under the classic Gatchaman umbrella first appeared here in the UK.
But the G-Crew are indeed back and by way of refreshing our memories, a 15-minute prologue episode serves up a quick recap of what occurred in the first series, followed by a swift, action packed lead in to this follow up. In this prelude, the Prime Minister’s plane is attacked by red CROWDS, malevolent versions of the virtual reality assistants, created a mystery organisation called VAPE.
The main story opens with an alien craft crash landing in a rural area near the home of schoolgirl Tsubasa Misudachi, who lives with her traditionalist grandfather. The G-Crew arrive on the scene just as an alien named Gelsadra appears from the craft. A childlike androgynous male (yup, another one) with red skin and blue hair, Gelsadra can make speech bubbles appear above people’s heads to see what they are thinking.
Gelsadra has one ambition: to make everybody come together as one and create a peaceful society. He is upset to see so much dissension and disarray in Japan that he decides to run for Prime Minister in the upcoming election, transforming himself into an adult to qualify. In a first, voting will be via the GALAX mobile phone system and is open to everyone.
With the UK currently in the grips of election fever (ahem..) perhaps voting a peace seeking alien into office might be a better prospect than the pernicious lizard creature that is our incumbent PM or the milquetoast hippy with balls of cotton wool. The timing of this release is purely coincidental but provides a cautionary tale of heeding the concerns of what you wish for all the same.
If you’ve ever wondered how a newly elected (or unelected in our case) leader can claim they will “unite the country” when it is demonstrably clear half the nation won’t support them, this show paints a startling and cogent hypothesis as to why it can never work, even with good intentions.
Boasting a garish and frivolous aesthetic, resplendent with psychedelic colours, free form backgrounds and bubbly wide-eyed characters, the notion of it carrying a profound political message wouldn’t be at the forefront of many minds. But perhaps this is the best way to attract attention to such prevalent and important issues – by dressing it up in the most accessible way possible – exactly how Gelsadra sees things.
Comparable on the visual design front, there is kinship with the series Humanity Has Declined in how Insight uses deliberately contrasting imagery to relay a tale laden with social commentary. For all the frippery and escapist context, the astute observational writing is tacitly trenchant and provocative, the urgency of the message seeping into our consciences via visual osmosis.
Prior to Gelsadra’s impromptu political aspirations, there is the small matter of the VAPE conflict and the addition of a new Gatchaman, whom it should come as no surprise is Tsubasa. Unfortunately, she has trouble transforming into her Gatchaman state thus rarely gets to fight. Instead, she works alongside Gelsadra having subscribed wholesale to his peace and unity doctrine, putting her at odds with the rest of the G-Crew when things start to go wrong.
The VAPE subplot initially presents itself as standard renegade force combating the good deeds of the CROWDS with his own destructive version, capitalising on the falling public support of CROWDS. VAPE it is revealed is in fact one man, Rizumu Suzuki, who was using his CROWDS by way of an allegory to expose the flaws in society’s reliance of CROWDS in general.
As it transpires later in the series, Rizumu’s prophecy is fully realised when (SPOILER ALERT) the bloom quickly comes off the rose after Gelsadra takes office and implements his own methods of ensuring public opinion is unanimous. The Gatchaman are the only ones who can see through the folly of Gelsadra’s solipsistic mandate but their interference isn’t welcomed by the brainwashed public.
Returning to the fore are the familiar faces of the G-Crew – Hajime Ichinose, Sugane Tachibana, Joe Hibiki, OD, Utsu-tsu, Rui Ninomiya and their panda leader Paiman. Unfortunately, character development is once again lacking for the veterans, saving the focus for Tsubasa and Gelsadra. Aside from major fight scenes, the entire ensemble is rarely shown together, nullifying the team aspect intrinsic to the Gatchaman ethos.
Perhaps likely to deter some viewers is the slow burn of the main story, taking a few episodes to reveal itself after the fast paced opening involving the VAPE scenario. The best advice is to exercise some patience and stick with it as the pieces do eventually fall into place and the two threads converge, amidst the kooky humour and biting satire.
The visual presentation remains suitably offbeat as it was before, but once acclimatised to the esoteric combination of colours and loose designs, the imagery is as absorbing as the story. Some character designs, such as Paiman, are deliberately loose and cartoony, reflecting their overt comic nature, but once in Gatchaman mode, it is all business, as is the animation for the fight sequences.
Because of the playful way this caustic tale has been shared, there is little room from pretension or didacticism in its intension. It is fictional and fanciful for good reason – to perpetuate the “Thank god it couldn’t happen to us” sentiment of relief we all feel when learning of the horrific experiences of others. Yet, deep down inside is always that lingering doubt…
Gatchaman Crowds Insight is an improvement on the first series by virtue of its clever writing and implementation of globally sensitive social issues. Deceptively compelling viewing for what is superficially a slice of sci-fi hokum.
English Language DTS-HD MA
Japanese Language DTS-HD MA w/ English Subtitles
Disc 2 only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Ending Animation
Rating – *** ½
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