The meeting everyone’s been clamoring for is about to happen. Surely it will be an electrifying confrontation!
A lot of this episode is figuring out one’s role, when to assume that role and how best to employ one’s talents in that role. From the start of the episode, Hajime pokes and prods to find out the protocol for being a Gatchaman. Why can’t they fight out in the open? The answers she receives aren’t totally satisfying: “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it!” and “We need to make sure our powers don’t fall into the wrong hands!” (Never mind that this has already happened.) But what use are the rules when someone else has already discarded them? That’s basically what Hajime is getting at. The Gatchaman crew is stifling themselves with rules having to do more with tradition than practicality.
In this scene, I also couldn’t help but chuckle when thinking about why superheroes operate under the cloak of secrecy. There’s always an in-story reason — the one that comes to mind immediately is that if the hero’s identity comes to light, then those dastardly villains will target those whom the hero loves the most. But, of course, that’s not the actual reason heroes are so tight-lipped about who they are. No, it’s because it leads to a story with more interesting tension! The characters in a hero’s personal exist for how they relate to the hero. Will the hero neglect his or her time with this person due to heroic duties? Will that person become the target of a mad villain? And so on.
But in Gatchaman Crowds we don’t know anyone in the personal lives of these heroes other than Hajime’s friends, yes? For the purposes of the narrative, they may as well not exist at the moment. Does it even matter, though? We already know Berg-Katze’s goal — to make everything go up in a big, red blaze. Whether that’s metaphorical or literal (or both), it’s still bad news for everyone, whether they’re related to the heroes or not. Everyone is in equal danger. So skulking on the outskirts makes even less sense. Hajime makes it clear she sees the Gatchaman more like the police or fire departments (groups that are integrated into the community) than a vigilante group. The way she uses GALAX speaks to this. Everyone has a role, and when there’s an emergency, everyone should help out as best they can. If GALAX knows about the Gatchaman, then they can be slotted into an emergency role and help out more efficiently.
Emergencies can happen at any time. When you look at the older, traditional superhero story, you’ve always got the one Bad Thing happening organized by the villain of the week. At one time or another we’ve all wondered what the other bad guys are doing when this week’s villain grabs the spotlight. Are Venom, the Lizard and Mysterio playing poker when Dr. Octopus toys with Spider-Man? When Joker fucks around with Batman, are Ra’s al Ghul, Bane and the Riddler catching a movie? There are ways around this inconvenient question (just lock ‘em all up in prison), but still, superheroes often have such a controlled environment.
Wow, that was a tangent. Anyway, where Hajime is much more sure of her role, Rui is much more confused. The thoughts Rui expresses alone and when speaking with others are at odds with each other. Rui’s vision of an ideal world sees everyone as equals who help each other with no second thoughts, and Rui also claims that there should be no one central leader at the top of GALAX. But who’s calling the shots? Rui is deciding when to use CROWDS and actively quashing the unruly elements of this group. The words say everyone is equal, but the actions say a benevolent dictator is needed to ensure equality. It reminds me a bit of the situation with the Chimera Ants in Hunter x Hunter right now. Normally they operate as a unit, but once Ants are born with power and humanity, they start looking out for themselves and fracture the group. That’s basically what’s happening here, and Rui has to take actions that are at odds with GALAX’s ideals.
This episode also pushes forward the limitations of communicating in one way. The scene on the bus sets this up: Hajime speaks up, and the two dudes in the back realize that though they communicate a ton on GALAX, they’ve barely met with each other in the ol’ meatspace. Text communication is great, of course, but there’s only so much you can do with it since people communicate in so many different ways. The real hammer comes right after Rui’s conversation with No. 26. During his conversation with Rui, No. 26 comes off like a power-hungry asshole, but then we see him with his daughter, and that basically says everything about him. Is he less eager for power and more fearful about protecting his child and giving her a better world? Rui can’t see this, however, because they’re talking solely by voice.