Director: Kenji Nakamura , Series Composition/Scripts: Toshiya Ono, Animation Character Designer: Yuichi Takahashi
Voice Actors: Maaya Uchida (Hajime Ichinose), Ryota Ohsaka (Sugune Tachibana), Daisuke Namikawa (Jo Hibiki), Aya Hirano (Paiman), Ayumu Murase (Rui Ninomiya), O.D. (Daisue Hosomi), J.J. Robinsoun (Katsuji Mori), UTsu-Utsu (Kotori Koiwa)
Studio: Tatsunoko Productions
It is the year 2015 and the place is Tachikawa City, the “second metropolis” of the Tokyo area.
The city has a population of 180,000 people and rumour has it that amongst these people are beings known as “Gatchaman”. Nobody believes this because they have never been seen.
Hajime Ichinose is a strange school-girl with a love of notebooks, something her friends don’t quite get.
Actually, there’s a lot that’s strange about Hajime but she’s about to get stranger when she meets an alien named J.J. Robinson.
Don’t let the name fool you because he’s genuinely an alien. He’s as tall as a house and has the ability to reach into people’s souls and bring out latent superhero abilities.
People like Hajime Ichinonose.
She is now a “Gatchaman”, a warrior with a special suit powered by “NOTE”, a notebook which is the manifestation of special powers in living beings or, as one character describes it, their soul.
A Gatchaman can use the NOTE like a tablet, send messages, contact others and even make little doodles. It is through these NOTEs that a Gatchaman get their orders from.
They are commanded by J.J. Robinson, an extra-terrestrial being to protect Earth from alien criminals. The Gatchaman face a mysterious entities known as “MESS”, alien creatures that are criminals and like absorbing humans.
Hajime witnesses Sugane Tachibana, another Gatchaman and a student at the same school as her, in action with his katana.
With the guidance of Sugane, Hajime will come face to face with MESS and have fun being a super hero.
Going into the summer season there were few titles that I saw which struck me as being as good as something like Mawaru Penguindrum, my anime high-watermark of the last five years, but Gatchaman Crowds had potential not least because the director is Kenji Nakamura. As I mentioned in my summer preview
“he has worked on great weird anime titles like tsuritama and Mononoke. They surge with strange stories and are adorned with gloriously inventive visuals. Even with the super sentai concept I can’t see this being a straight adaptation. And even if it is, it’ll still be insane…”
Well, it’s nice for my predictions to come true.
Gatchaman Crowds is visually and aurally awesome. The inventiveness and fun is on display everywhere from the characters on display to the funky disco beat that plays when Hajime transforms into her superhero form and we hear “GATCHAMAN!” sung out loud. Playful is the word. The whole thing is entertaining. The city is bright and colourful and the colour-schemes are always light from the sky-blue punctuated by white clouds.
The latte browns of underground malls.
Even the alien rubik’s cubes are colourful.
Gatchaman headquarters even more so.
It looks like someone was let loose with a selection of paint and an surrealist furniture catalogue.
The school has grass on top of it for crying out loud!
The CG neon coloured Gatchman uniforms are fun to watch. Just totally groovy, right?
The characters are equally cool with their long limbs and cool poses. Their clothes are kind of stylish and even a girl prancing around in her bikini is kind of cool but what really pulls everything together is the characterisation and voice acting.
Hajime Ichinose is our route into the world and she is a basket case. She comes across as a bit like a genki girl or Ed from Cowboy Bebop, somewhat divorced from reality but totally there. When all others are being serious and secretive, she’ll be skipping around with a smile singing, “Gatcha-Gatchaman!”
Maaya Uchida is cute but restrained enough to make sure her performance doesn’t grate. Her happy-go-lucky performance fits in with the overall exuberant style of the show but it is the way the rest of the team react to her which makes the whole thing gel.
Ryota Ohsaka fresh from his role as Sadao in Hataraku Maou-Sama is voicing the straight-guy Sugane and is a great counter-weight to Hajime’s lilting tones.
Daisuke Namikawa as Jo Hibiki is too cool for but then he’s had lead roles in stuff like Persona 4, Black Lagoon and Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto. He only gets a few lines in the episode but his refusal to shake Hajime’s hand and his lazy persona is a further indication that far from being the solid team seen in the original Gatchaman, there’s a vein of mischief going on. Ah, there’s even some heritage going on because the original voice actor for Ken Washio (Katsuji Mori) is voicing J.J.
The original Gatchaman might have been strait-laced and earnest and full of team work against evil but this is 2013 so the anime doesn’t take itself too seriously and is quite affectionate with the whole.
Based on the first episode alone, if the quality is maintained, this is my highlight of the season.
Love the OP and ED as well.