Part 7 of my final impressions countdown.
7. Gatchaman Insight
Back for another round, here comes one of anime’s most divisive series in recent years (at least to the relatively small number watching it).
It’s not hard to see why some people might take issue with Gatchaman Insight. At least with Crowds, you could claim that regardless of its socio-political commentary, it was still fundamentally a sentai series until the final episodes revealed the true scope of its stance towards how technology should be implemented into a democratic society. Insight, on the other hand, is firmly about forwarding ideas than it is about individual people. Rather than making a statement about the role of superheroes that eventually blossoms into worldwide lessons, here we have a story that from the first moment concerns society, government and the lack of individual accountability.
The sticking point is whether you buy into what Insight is saying, and equally as important, how it goes about it. I’m generally in favour of its thoughts regarding how populations have the unfortunate tendency of being awed by spectacle and are easily swayed by general fears. As individuals we must be held responsible for our beliefs, but as an anonymous mass we can be aggressive and ill-informed in our attitudes, finding safety in numbers. The show wants the viewer to understand how dangerous this can be, especially when nations wrap themselves around leaders offering easy answers for the price of compliance.
It’s a nice train of thought, if presented extremely clumsily. For a show that’s all about people, Insight doesn’t have a clear grasp about how they think, beyond generalised stereotypes. Characters like Rui, Tsubasa and Suzuki become little more than simplified representations of ideals, to the extent that it feels like they’ve been programmed by a computer. Just take Rui’s confrontation with Suzuki in episode three – his single-minded belief in his goals manages to overwrite all other rational thought, including self-preservation, leading to life-threatening injuries. It was like watching two robots lacking auto-detect repeatedly walking in to one another because they didn’t understand how to step around. Likewise, Hajime was known in Crowds to aggressively pursue the path she believed was right, but here is forced to stand at the side mulling things over until the plot dictates she can come up with a solution. The rest of the cast like Jou, Sugane, O.D., & Utsutsu have little to no real purpose at all. You can’t make a statement about people and society when you only view them as slaves to paper-thin worldviews. The plot dictates their actions, not the other way round.
It doesn’t help that Kenji Nakamura (director) & Toshiya Ono (writer) display a degree of ignorance in what they believe and the actual reality of the situation. Season 1 had the infamous line from Hajime about simply turning off the internet to get rid of trolls, something that the past few years has proved to be demonstrably false, while here they resort to using the same group-think the show rallies against to make people feel guilty over Hajime’s sacrifice, completely ignoring anyone that would have found her suffering entertaining (Crowds and the first arc of Insight specifically addresses that when given a sense distance from their/other’s actions through media, such people tend to exist in significant numbers). Also let’s not forget to mention how it recycles S1’s Hajime-as-Jesus narrative of as a cop-out solution. The show yet again undermines itself by promoting the idea of intelligently crowdsourcing rule, only to then use a literal uber(wo)man to all the immediate fix issues and steer people onto the correct (ie the staff’s) path, especially considering she was made out to be passive to the point of indifference for much of the season. Nakamura’s ideals are nice, but often that’s all they appear to be, giving little thought to how processes and people operate beyond base patterns.If I sound pretty brutal towards Insight, I do get what it wants to be and applaud it for actually taking a stance that isn’t “fuck yeah, nationalism!”. I recall someone once saying when it comes to helping create awareness of an issue people refuse to recognise, you have to act like you’re teaching them the basics from scratch. Maybe that’s what’s happening here. I mean the show literally has to namedrop WW2, just in case one person out there doesn’t make the connection. Maybe Insight feels it needs to simplify the message to make it clear enough for those that either ignore, or flat out rejects such ideas. However, the way it quietly sneers (intentionally or not) at attitudes contrary to itself by making them look impulsive and weak won’t inspire much allegiance to anyone but the converted. It’s the same approach Mahouka attempted, only flipping round the political spectrum. People didn’t give that show any slack for the bull-headed & condescending way it addressed right-wing politics, and I’m unwilling to give Gatchaman a free pass just because it leans on my side of the fence. Telling people to take their time & think on matters is all well and good, but then snapping at those who give the ‘wrong’ answer, claiming they’re being too emotional (by not adhering to the arbitrary one month schedule), undermines the core point.
Perversely, my overall reaction to Insight largely mirrors its general populace; undecided and generally wishy-washy over giving a concrete opinion. I respect it in spirit & admire the sentiments represented; I just wish it came from a better place of understanding and nuance rather a storybook mind-set. It’s entertaining and has an especially valuable message to say. I just wish it had a better speaker.