This collection of two write-ups focuses on Umeda, who is the true “antagonist” of the show, unlike Berg-Katze who’s more of a phenomenon than a person, Umeda is the darkness within us all, and what we must all face and fight off. He’s also human. These two write-ups continue from Rui’s World and will to power to exploring the various manifestation of power and leadership within the series, followed by the first foray into the hotly contested topic of trolling, and how one’s reaction to trolling is very partisan, dependent on whether they’re dishing it out or receiving it. In other words, this is another write-up on how Gatchaman Crowds explores what it means to be human, and this time from what we like to cluck our tongues at, even as we often fall into it ourselves.
This is a Things I Like post, it’s not a review, but more a discussion of the show and of ideas that rose in my mind as a result of watching the show. There will be spoilers for the entire first season of the show.
Return to the Gatchaman Crowds Project page.
Rui, Umeda (#26), and Sugayama – The Will For Power, The Dream’s Death:
I guess you could also fit Pai-Pai here, but his is a mask of leadership he assumes out of perceived necessity, and we don’t know of any desire he ever possessed of fixing the world. Unlike Joe. Well, maybe Sugayama is likewise, but one needs a certain drive to become a Prime Minister. But I digress.
Rui begins the show dismissing those who make public apologies, saying they should’ve done better to begin with. He has power and isn’t answerable to anyone else except himself. He is at the apex, but still casts aspersions at those who wield power and are answerable to others. Enter Umeda, Number 26 of the Hundred. He casts aspersions on Rui for not making use of his power for “the right purposes”. Rui wants to change the world? He wants a revolution? Then by golly, he should have one, and make it bloody, and make it quick! You have the power, so why should you answer to anyone else? Just use it!
And then Umeda gets to lead the Neo-Hundred, courtesy of Berg Katze, and he has to deal with being in Rui’s previous position, of having power. But he’s answerable to others, because they don’t have to listen to him. Here he finds himself wishing that he would’ve been in Rui’s position, of having absolute control over who he gives power to, and how they use it. It’s easy to cast aspersions and speak of “let everyone do what they wish!” when you see yourself as part of the everyone. It’s quite different when you’re the one footing the bill, and when you get to see the larger picture of it.
Umeda spoke for letting people have power, for not being a dictator, but that’s exactly what he ended up wishing he could do. His revolution was just that, and left him in the same spot. His utopia of recognition and power ended up as a dystopia, because the very people he railed against ended up being the people in his community. You could say it’s because he ended with “the bad ones,” but the more universal argument of people being people is what holds sway here.
Then we have Sugayama, the Prime Minister. Towards the end of the show he proclaims, much like Joe, how he too wished to change the world, but that you cannot do it alone. Of course, if he can’t, with the power and acceptance of the country, then who can? Who, who is answerable to others? And that’s just it. It’s one thing to try and do better, to believe you can change the world. But you should not cast aspersions on those in a position you’re not occupying, because when you find yourself in their shoes, you might find yourself making the same decisions, for the same reasons. There’s an idiom in Hebrew that goes, “What you see from here, you don’t see from there.”
Umeda in power also drives home in retrospect how answerable Rui was to others. He never truly wielded “hard power” over others. Not the Hundred, and not the Galaxters, and had to rely on their cooperation, on their choosing to follow his lead. His power is only the one given to him by the people who chose to follow him. And this is a discussion for another day, but even the police and the army only work because people choose to obey them.
There’s one more aspect here that is important to the next aspect as well, which has become very relevant over the past decade, on the internet, and that relates to making amends and admitting you’re wrong. People ascribe their failures to external influences and bad luck, and attribute their successes to their hard work and inner qualities (smart, fast, etc.), while they do the opposite for others. It is the same with making amends, where when people make a mistake and admit it, people will still drag it up in years to come. And when people hold one position and then preach another, years later, sometimes decades hence, people will call them hypocrites, rather than accepting people, those they dislike, that is, can change, are allowed to change.
Don’t be like that. Encourage change, and then accept it as it happens. And even if people change “the wrong way,” it’s part of what people are like. The show also says something about the futility of the will to power itself, that you can always chase it, but when you “obtain” it, you realize how powerless you still remain, and how you’re only left with two avenues, to keep seeking power, or to give up. And then you have Sugayama, at “peak power”, who gave up. Well, until you choose to do what you can, and rely on others. See the Joe and Sugane section.
Umeda and Trolling, A Question of Distance:
Dredging up the past happens beyond that, when we see young Rui and young Hajime. As if their past selves are something to be ashamed of. This goes along with the mockery mentioned earlier. But it’s also removing of the “masks”, it’s peeling off the make-up and battle-dresses, and showing that “the real you” (because you’re not allowed to change, remember?) can still be found. It’s also showing you that you’re vulnerable, that you can be found.
This section is closely tied to the past one, where Umeda learns that what you see from a position of power, how you’re tied down by others, is not what you see when you’re the one at the bottom, looking up in supplication and angry demands. But trolling is something similar, with the eternal hurt bully cry of, “But why are you so mad? I was just kidding!” when people turn on them in anger after their actions.
I sometimes take to performing “mirroring” myself, where when someone says something outrageous I say something that is outrageous in the same way about something they care about, or that is personal to them. Most people don’t notice the mirroring, in part because they’re too deeply hurt by what I said to them. It’s one thing to dish hurt on others, especially if not present, and another to have this hurt inflicted upon you. The hurt is so large that ironically, it itself renders you unable to realize this is what you’ve been doing to others.
When the Neo Hundreds are turned on the city of Tachikawa, Umeda is unable to realize that this is exactly what he’s been doing to others. All he wants is for it to stop happening to those he cares for, where he lives. He had no problem with a bloody revolution, with taking on politicians, police, and innocent bystanders. And even then, he doesn’t care about anyone else in the city of Tachikawa, just his own family.
In the Director’s Cut version of episode 12, we see Umeda, after he’s released from prison, bowing to it. He has served his time. This also concludes the other part of his arc which was discussed in the previous section – he accepts the existing structure and his place within it. He accepts he’s done wrong and needs to make amends.
But in real life, you should listen to pieces of media rather than have yourself go through the hard ways of learning that actions have consequences. When it happens to you, it’d be too late, and it’s not a form of justice that those who do X have X happen to them – it’s ironic justice, and we all know “ironically” colloquially is used to mean “not really,” and for good reason here. Plenty of trolls and doxxers are happy to say they don’t care if it’d happen to them, but it’s a mixture of being unable and unwilling to consider results (which plays a part in trolling others) and the bravado of the bully. And when it happens to them and they don’t see how it’s exactly what they’ve done to others? Well, because it’s easy to miss things when you’re hurt. And it’s easy to apply different values to yourself and others.
The best way to go about it is to believe what others say.
Reader Question: How do you feel about Umeda, as a character, as a person? How do you feel about trolls who get trolled and then recant the ways of the troll? Did they have it coming, or are they deserving of it? And what do you think this judgment says about the ones doing the judging?
Judgment. The problem is that who actually has the right to judge others? The population? Most of them never personally meet the one being judged. The expert? They have their own biases and flaws. God? I’m an atheist. The people holding the power to judge often have done questionable things to get where they are.
The thing is, we need someone to do the judging. A forum needs moderator who punish trolls. A nation needs law to punish criminals. A school needs teacher to punish bad kids. Do their judgment perfect? Obviously no. What if the troll is a mentally ill patient who desire care? What if the law harm good persons? It happens a lot.
In the end, some form of utilitarianism is always used in crafting judgment. Human is not perfect, but what is perfection even means? The entire Earth can blow up and the universe won’t give a damn. So we human are the one who actually care about punishing trolls.
Umeda is not a good guy.But the positive change in this world is not necessary made by “good” people. Let remember that an ex-nazi runs the US space program.
So Umeda kind of have a point? No, I think his perspective is too narrow. In a way, he represent the flaws of the system. A flawed system creates flawed men. His argument may not make sense, his action may be despicable. However, it points to the weakness of human society. Simply dismissing him won’t make the problems disappears. Like many trolls, he’s the symptom, not the disease. That’s something I think Gatchaman Crowd never address properly. The mobs riot because of systemic issues. The show points to no proper and concrete answer to various political problems.