There are few titles closer to old school Otaku’s hearts than Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.
The show was created by Tatsuo Yoshida (who also created Speed Racer) and featured a cool cast of characters with their own special abilities and characteristics. While the show was big in Japan it became very popular in North America.
The title was adapted twice: once in the 70s as G-Force: Guardians of Space and the second in the 80s as Battle of the Planets. Both times the show was censored for younger audiences.
Over the years the show has been continued and update. However, this year Gatchaman got a new look in it’s newest adaptation, Gatchaman Crowds.
Gatchaman Crowds was produced by Tatusnoko Productions and was based upon the original Gatachaman franchise.
Crowds takes place in 2015 Tokyo. While the world is busy worrying about the latest gadget or their job there are a group of human’s working to stop aliens from destroying earth.
While this intro may sound similar to the original, things quickly change.
Instead of a scientist entrusting five teens with super powered suits, this time round another alien named JJ (who isn’t creepy at all) gives the group a note pad that allows them to communicate with each other and transform into mech-like costumes to fight the aliens.
The first episode starts off with G-96, Sugane Tachibana and the rest of the team tracking an enemy in a local mall. From there JJ pays a visit to Tachibana’s school where he selects a rambunctious and outspoken girl, Hajime Ichinose, to become G-101 the newest remember of the team.
Ichinose soon meets to the rest of the team including their leader Paiman an alien that looks a bit like a panda bear.
She’s told that there are aliens that are invisible to most humans on earth and it’s the job of Gatchaman is to find and stop these aliens from destroying the world.
The episode ends with both Tachibana and Ichinose going off to fight another alien that appears somewhere in Tokyo.
Crowds has a very distinctive art style. Characters are colourful and seem different from one another. While we don’t to spend a lot of time with them they all seem to show off their characteristics in the first episode quickly.
One thing that weighs down the show is its use of computerized models during fight scenes.
When the team transforms into their G-suits they change into computer-animated characters matching the Rubik’s Cube like aliens they’re fighting.
These scenes always stick out, due to the look of the animation. The two different art styles clash with each other and might take some getting use to.
While the animation during the fights scenes might be distracting, the show’s soundtrack really shines during these scenes.
The music lands somewhere between electronic pop and dub step and the energy of the music is a natural fit for the action. What does stand out is the rocking opening theme.
While the song is good, it feels a bit out of place, as it feels more like it should be in a Persona game not this anime. Despite this the song is still catchy (not as good as the original though).
On the voice over front, Crowds features some good voice acting. While I don’t speak Japanese, the voices weren’t annoying and seemed to fit the world.
Despite the positives there is one nagging issue with the show. It just isn’t Gatchaman.
Being a fan of the show, it’s cool to see the logo sprinkled throughout the background and one the notepads but aside from that there’s little that links Crowds to the original versions.
What we get is a show using the Gatchaman name and looking more like a Magical Girl or a different Super Sentai show altogether.
While it’s clear that Gatchaman and most Super Sentai titles have similarities, (some would say that Gatchaman is the predecessor to those shows) Crowds doesn’t really feel like it matches either the series or other Sentai shows.
Maybe over the series the show starts to make connection, but from the first episode the Science Ninja Team isn’t mentioned and the idea of Gatchaman seems to be something of folklore.
In fact with the upcoming feature film, it brings up the question of why they would try something different with a movie based upon the original on the way?
Gatchaman Crowds first episode seems to start an interesting story about alien and notepads but while the episode is solid, it’ll leave fans of the original Science Ninja Team cold.
However, if you’re looking for a new sci fi adventure Crowds looks like it could be quite enjoyable.
Gatchaman Crowds is directed by Kenji Nakamura and produced by Tatsunoko Productions. The series is current broadcasting in Japan on NTV but Crunchyroll is simulcasting all of the episodes on their website.