Based on the original ’70s anime series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (or simply, Gatchaman), Gatchaman Crowds (ガッチャマンクラウズ) follows the basic concept of the original, a science fiction-themed action series revolving around a group of superheroes. Crowds, however, bears little resemblance to its ’70s namesake beyond that. This is a purely modern, gorgeously animated series that, just as the original did, taps into the concerns of the current generation. Where the original series had a strong environmental theme, Crowds has an anxiety over technology, social networking, and its ultimate ability to control our lives.
The series’ main protagonist is Ichinose Hajime, a free-spirited 16-year-old high school student with a boisterous personality, an obsession over collecting kawaii personal planners, and a really big heart, despite her initially off-putting personality. She is recruited into the Gatchaman, a mysterious group of superheroes that many people think are just an urban legend, by their enigmatic leader and put under the direction Tachibana Sugane who has a somewhat reserved personality and tries to follow the strict code of the samurai. Just as she joins up, things really heat up, and she’s assigned to start hunting down MESS’s, electronic beings that suck out people’s souls. But, that’s only the beginning; in this highly advanced world, the entire world is connected by a highly sophisticated social network called GALAX. Using GALAX, an advanced coder named OD who likes to cosplay while in public is scheming to “update” the world he believes is defective. He’s been using technology from a strange, crossdressing alien named Berge Katze (based on the villain of the same name from the original series) called Crowds to change how society responds to disasters and to undermine the need for Gatchaman. Berg Katze, meanwhile, has been using OD all along to destroy humanity and the Gatchaman. A strange and manic alien who can steal people’s appearance by kissing them, he is even more powerful than what the Gatchaman are used to contending with and the Crowds technology he has bestowed upon OD is a Trojan horse; it steals people’s consciousness, so the odd, entities it creates can’t be destroyed without killing the people controlling them.
This series is a fantastic entry in the Gatchaman franchise. From the way it taps into anxieties over “big brother” controlling and watching over us in this new world of social networking to the breathtaking visual style and compelling characters, it grabs you from the beginning, smacks you in the face, and doesn’t let up.
Hajime is one of the strangest characters in anime I’ve yet come across. She’s weird, but in a good way. Perennially boisterous, single-minded, not prone to following orders (she always disobeys orders from Sugane), yet still somehow charming and friendly, she quickly becomes the center of the group of clandestine superheroes. She even befriends the quiet Utsutsu, a member of Gatchaman who is shy and gloomy, and afraid to get close to anyone. One of my favorites of the group is Paiman, a panda-like alien who is the leader of Gatchman, as determined by their true head, the mystical J.J..
Even apart from the characters, this series floors you with its visual beauty. The character designs, defined by flowing lines, multi-shaded hair, and big round eyes, are gorgeous in and of themselves, but when we get into the color schemes, or specific frames often bursting with small details, this becomes one of the best, most innovatively animated series to hit Blu-ray this year, and one of the best looking works since one of my personal anime favorites (in terms of style), Redline.
This is a gorgeous 1080p AVC transfer of Gatchaman Crowds on Blu-ray from Sentai Filmworks befitting the groundbreaking animation work. The colors absolutely leap from the screen, the imagery is sharp and bright, and no serious issues with softness or banding detract from enjoyment.
An equally solid DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo (48kHz/24-bit) track of the original Japanese-language mix is provided alongside an English dub, also in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo (48kHz/24-bit). This is one series you really wish you could hear in 5.1, but with that said, the sound engineers make the best of the 2-channel medium and provide really wide stereo panning and an amazing dynamic range, plus clear dialogue. It is no surprise the Japanese voice cast is superior to the English one, which sounds a bit hammy.
There’s nothing more here but the usual promotional material from Sentai Filmworks and the clean opening and closing.
- Clean Opening Animation
- Clean Closing Animation
- Sentai Filmworks Trailers
- Disc Credits
The Definitive Word
This is a beautiful series that captures the essence of the original Gatchaman franchise while creating something entirely new, modern and hip. The sleek animation, eye-popping visual style, and wonderful characters make Gatchaman Crowds on Blu-ray easy to recommend.
Additional Screen Captures