Well okay, a much nicer side appearance-wise. Political-wise…eh.
There are two kinds of sequels in the anime world – ones that are made because the writer has more story to tell and one that’s made to cash-in on the original. And whilst this new Crowds anime played out like the latter during quite a few points, the little man inside my mind always kicked that possibility to the curb whilst saying “Cash-in on what, exactly? It didn’t sell great, it’s not popular on MAL, and had so many production issues it’s a wonder people fell in love with it at all”. Unfortunately, another man who lived in my mind responded with “why exactly does this sequel exist then? What is it being insightful of? It feels more like a side-story in the vein of Gat Out of Hell rather than a continuation of what Crowds created”.
I don’t know what happened from there on out, but let’s just say the word “clusterfuck” might have a new picture in the dictionary soon enough. So you’ll have to excuse me if this review isn’t very coherent, but Nakamura anime are tough to summarize in general – unless it’s Tsuritama, in which case we can easily summarize it as coherent whilst also easily summarize it as being awful – so I doubt more than two guys are going to give me shit for this.
So sometime after Hajime absorbed Berg Katze into herself and caused the Crowds system to be widespread, popularity for the current state of things has declined and a mysterious organization called VAPE is causing havoc around Japan. However, things become even more complicated when an alien named Gelsadra (or Gel for short) crash lands on the planet near a girl named Tsubasa, who ends up becoming a new member of the Gatchaman on the basis that she’s basically Hajime 2.0. I don’t exactly have a good grasp of what happens afterwards, so let’s just say that VAPE’s entire purpose is to show that the current system is flawed without making much of a struggle after that’s done, causing the prime minister to resign and Gel to run for his position. From there on, the show becomes a load of idea-slinging as Tsubasa and the other characters do their best to maintain order despite Gel having a personality that makes Steve Carell’s stupidest roles look smart.
Gatchaman Crowds has never been a very subtle show, but that’s not exactly a valid complaint because The Simpsons wasn’t exactly Cowboy Bebop during its time either. What is a valid complaint is the feeling of “hey, haven’t we already done this?” that a lot of the show goes through. Too many of the themes are recycled from the first season or are so similar that it makes no difference, and because the show is mostly focused on the characters trying to maintain things rather than fix things this go-around (there’s literally no main villain in Insight and anything that could pass for one is more an annoyance than a threat), there’s a giant lack of urgency going on in the proceedings. Which probably wouldn’t be too bad by itself, but Crowds’ lack of compelling answers to the issues that it raises hasn’t been fixed either, and the issues it raises are stuff people have talked about multiple times by now. Yes they’re still relevant, but a good story would do its best to hammer in why it’s still relevant.
Does Insight do this? Maybe, but the show lost me around the last third and it wasn’t exactly holding my attention before then either, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you either way. All the logic-bombs at the expense of actual story or action that didn’t end anticlimactically were more alienating than Ghost in the Shell’s long cold philosophical jargon, and it got to the point that I was no longer a participant in its world, basically becoming Paiman with even less understanding of the situation. I couldn’t tell you what Tsubasa contributed to the story either other than being Gel’s best friend. And I couldn’t tell you what the significance of the Kuu-samas were beyond presenting a conflict that the characters had to solve, although I will say they weren’t the least bit threatening and I can’t recall them affecting much to begin with.
Action was never the point of Crowds, actively rejecting it as a solution whilst using technology and words as an alternative to defeating Lord Zedd, and I respect that. But we have so many western cartoons that deal with all this social satire stuff now in the exact same manner, and they do it way better in terms of getting to the point whilst also being funny to boot. Remember when I said that Prison School felt like a South Park episode that felt stretched out to more than ten times the length? Insight is a Rick and Morty episode that feels the exact same – although aliens have been done in South Park as well.
In fact, the finale of Insight reminds me of the finale of Rick and Morty’s latest season in terms of the final resolution and how the latter was executed so much better. Without spoiling too much, in both finales, an important/beloved character makes an important sacrifice in order to allow the people they love to have a better future amongst their alien brethren in order to end their seasons on an emotional note. However, whilst Rick and Morty decided to let the visuals and overall direction speak for the event’s impact itself, Insight ruins it by having the entire final episode dedicated to explaining the sacrifice and what it accomplished despite the fact that I clearly got the idea in the episode prior. And I didn’t even think it was that much of a sacrifice since the show hasn’t exactly established its universe as one where characters suffer any permanent damage unless having to live with Mamoru Miyano’s voice for the rest of your life is considered your personal hell. I’ll give it points for being something new in the Crowds universe, but that’s like praising the most controversial scene in Man of Steel by saying “at least it did something differently to The Dark Knight” and nothing else.
Look, I like the core idea of Crowds fine. But at the end of the day, I just don’t see why this sequel needed to exist. It didn’t fix the problems I had with the first season (bar not being as ridden with production issues) and it didn’t follow-up on anything said season set up, coming off more like an expansion pack rather than a vital part of the Crowds’ canon. Doesn’t exactly help that the characters just aren’t any fun here either. The two new leads did as much for me as a CD drive attached to my television set, mostly because they felt like rehashes of previous characters. And the returning characters’ annoying traits really get exemplified when they’d rather examine the story rather than contribute to it.
Seriously, what the fuck happened to the Hajime from the first season? The one who was always taking charge and leading humanity towards the brighter side of life despite all the complaints directed towards her attitude? The Hajime in this anime is nothing but talk, with half her old self transferred to the new girl and the other half sailed into space.