Gatchman_Crowds_001In 1972, the world was introduced to the world of Gatchaman. Ken the Eagle, and his team of heroes led the charge to save the world from the evil terrorist group Galactor. In the decades that followed the group’s original adventures, the Gatchamen returned time and time again to save the planet from evil forces that arose. In today’s market, though, it appears that the baton has been passed. Gatchaman Crowds, which began in the summer 2013 season, is a fresh take on the classic concept. And, with a new cast and a plot that breaks from franchise norm, it’s clear that this isn’t your father’s Gatchaman.

Gatchaman Crowds is set in a near-future version of Tachikawa, where the world is growing increasingly connected by the social network GALAX. GALAX, which stands by the motto of “Upgrade the World,” serves as a medium of connecting people, as well as a means to call individuals to action in times of crisis. For every incident, accident, and disaster, GALAX pulls together the nearest people that are capable of solving problems, whether they’re civilians, off-duty professionals, or experts on call. The network’s abilities to bring change have been great. So much so that, as more people trust GALAX, they begin to question whether agencies like the fire department or self-defense brigade are even necessary. Still, despite the growth of GALAX, there are persistent rumors in society. Tales of mysterious armored warriors known as Gatchamen spread across social media spread like urban rumors. While nobody’s actually seen a Gatchaman, there’s always a story, or a rumor about their latest exploits.

Gatchaman_Crowds_002Hajime Ichinose is one of the millions of active GALAX users. She’s an energetic, happy-go-lucky high school student with a can-do attitude and a (possibly unhealthy) love of crafts. She attends GALAX events, and isn’t afraid to go against the grain to do what she feels is right. Her life is taken on an unexpected turn one day, when she meets a mysterious robed man, who draws an unusual notebook from within her soul. The book, known as a NOTE, is the symbol of the Gatchamen. It’s her key to unlocking power to save countless, and protect the world from those who would dare to do it harm.

From the beginning, it’s clear that Gatchaman Crowds is a departure from its predecessors. Familiar heroes like Ken the Eagle and Jun the Swan are nowhere to be found, as are classic fixtures like the International Science Organization and the villainous Galactor. Instead, the series casts these elements aside to focus on a new world, and new heroes. While there are references to the original series, they’re little more than winks and nods to make the older fans crack a smile. The entire approach was risky, with many pitfalls that could reduce the series to a steaming pile of wasted potential.

Still, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gatchaman_Crowds_004Gatchaman Crowds is an addictive piece of techno-fantasy that revels in its bubblegum-colored portrayal of modern life. While the show’s core premise is the same “save-the-world” plot that’s entertained viewers for generations, it’s wrapped in a clever social commentary on the increasingly connected world we live in. GALAX’s dual role as an entertainer and protector, the population’s increasing skepticism of everyday heroes, and even the Gatchamen themselves feed into a narrative that humans are capable of great things, though they’re often stymied by walls they erect.

The world is brought to life by a vibrant, bright visual style that feels as if it was ripped from the Shibuya skyline. Characters pop with a unique, flat-shaded visual style that blends bold colors and a pop-art aesthetic. The Gatchaman designs are simply gorgeous, with sleek, clean styles accented by just enough accent colors to be attractive, without being loud. The battles are a joy to watch, as every encounter seems like a cleverly choreographed dance between the Gatchamen and their adversaries. Similarly, the show’s landscapes are a visual treat, with strong color choices and detailed scenery. The show’s score is a fun mix of catchy tunes that spans several genres. Tunes range from the bombastic techno of the “Gatchaman” fight music, to the show’s rocking opener, White Ash by Crowds.

Though there are still a few episodes remaining, it’s safe to argue that Gatchaman Crowds is a must-watch. The show’s strong narrative, charming characters, and fantastic presentation come together to create a truly addictive experience. It’s proven to be an absolute treat to watch through the first nine episodes, and well worth a spot in any fan’s watch list.