Created: 01-01-2006
Last update: 15-01-2022


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Ethnicity in Gatch Part V

The last investigation into ethnic representation in the Gatchmaman series, covering the second half of Gatchaman F, which produced twice as much material as Gatchaman II, of almost twice as laughable nature. To start with, Joe's birthplace revisited:

21 - Back on B.C. Island

It's good to be home! The tombstone is still up, the girls are still pretty, the view is still scenic and the place is infested with bright red birds. (Galactor spycams, anyone?)

A comment I made on the main page for the previous "Ethnicity in Gatch" about horses still being a common means of transport in Europe in the twenty-first century refers to this ep, where the pretty girl and Joe escape in (fuzzily visible at the end of the street) a horse-drawn cart. I hate to break it to the animators, but Sicilians mostly ride around on scooters.

In yet another plot-device blame-the-goodguys ep, this girl has somehow let herself be persuaded that Joe/G2 is the cause of the trouble the island's had with Galactors, and leads him to an underground bunker where he's locked up. She's reconverted to the righteous path of Gatchaman by green goons surrounding her and casually offing her brother. Those two baguettes sticking out of her shopping bag should have been pizza crusts, ciabattos - anything but French bread.

22 - American Heroes (or Villains)

This picture is proof that captain Marstora ("Mars Tiger") has the same ethnic origin as pulp comic characters like Superman, Batman, the Incredible Hulk and the X-men: one of his subordinates is the Silver Surfer!

23 - Tanzania?

That's just a wild stab in the dark concerning the nationality of the VIP (greeted by people waving the usual unhelpful flags) who may be an ambassador and has flown all the way here to meet President Nambu. (Summary of the ep: Galactor attacks him but he's saved by Gatchaman. The End.)

24 - Shaka Zulu

Ken crashes in the jungle, is brought round by a friendly chimp and runs into a visible reminder of (and possibly reference to) an anime character nicked by Disney, although I'm not sure if this feline is called Kimba, Simba or something else entirely.

Ken is unaware that this creature occupies the role of Man's Best Friend, but fortunately one of the locals prevents him from doing something regrettable, as well as catching Jinpei totally off guard.

This is one of those eps with an Ecological Message. Why do the locals attack the white men (like the Japanese Ken and the probably Chinese Jinpei)? Because they destroy the environment. Galactor has never valued green as anything other than a uniform colour. By the way, that tree looks a tad big for the savanna.

White Man Ken is led into the village of environmentally minded locals and addressed in what is supposed to be the native style.

The next day sees these locals putting out another forest fire caused by gleefully destructive green goons. Well, it makes a change to razing down the place with chainsaws. Ken and whassisname give one goon the treatment I'd like to see applied to representatives of the logging industry.

Just as twenty-first-century Europeans still travel by horse & cart, so bows and arrows are the best defence against the high technology of Galactor.

As are spears and tame lions. Do they even need the Gatchateam?

Mmmm... maybe against that giant spiky Cataroller mark II. I notice most Zulus have tame lions? Ironic since the real Zulus are cowherds, hence not too fond of anything that could kill their livestock, and consider it a test of valour to kill a lion single-handed.

And so another ridiculous ep draws to a close as the females trot up to bandage their men's superficial wounds and whassisname watches the GP leave after a job well done. Wouldn't it be nice if real-reality people trying to defend their habitat had as much luck.

26 - Cloggies in Texas?

There are a lot of Dutch people in the United States (and Canada) because the Dutch reason like this: "Filthy foreigners who come here to steal our jobs and make money off our country - yay, let's find our fortunes in America where the streets are paved with gold!" And New Amsterdam only changed its name to New York after a financial transaction. The cow scene at the beginning of the ep is very giddyap-rawhide, but the fireworks - red, white, blue and orange - strongly suggest cloggy-land, where the natives are called "kaaskop" - literally, cheese-head - so expect plenty of bovines in this land of (in all senses of the word) cheese.

And yes, the Dutch are buffoons. Though they'd be the last to notice.

Hm, this one looks Texan; wearing a real cowboy hat (as opposed to the Stetsons the Texan oil well elite like to wear) and chewing on a three-leaf clover with very elongated leaves, like a sprig of cannabis with the two lower leaves snipped off.

Here's something the Netherlands and the United States have in common: religion for all occasions. As one fan said on a mailing list: "Was the man going to marry his cow?" (Incidentally, Dutch cows i. are not brown, but piebald or skewbald; ii. don't wear bells but yellow plastic ear tags. And cows are only paraded like this in alpine Swiss villages where people hold cowfights - not kidding! - and garland the winner.)

This looks like the south of France, where the bulls - black, in that region - are released yearly into the streets to chase and be chased by humans. Although these black cows gone ballistic are Galactor material and the uproar they cause is not part of the festivities. Let's see what shop signs this bovine races past. Rock'Roll, Kentucky something, Blue Moon - sounds Yankee to me!

27, 39 - Ze man in ze Iron Mask

A Japanese computer game (not for the faint of stomach) called Enzai proves how readily France and Germany are confused by foreigners: the game plays in post-Revolution France, but the controls are labelled in German. Similarly, the situation of the stereotypically German Egobossler and his half-brother is lifted straight out of a novel by Alexandre Dumas, the creator of characters like the Three Musketeers and the Count of Monte Christo: one of the musketeers discovers that Louis Quatorze has an imprisoned twin brother called Philippe, and tries to make them switch places. The twin was imprisoned and given an iron mask - so the novel goes. Ego, or Helm as he's called, learning from his mother that he is the son of the count who just whipped her to near-death, kills his father and has his half-brother locked away, wearing, instead of the mask, a pair of metal boots that cripple his legs.

Like the renegade musketeer, Ego's right hand man Kempler, having been slapped in the face once too often, retrieves the real blue-blood from his prison and, after a shave and a haircut, presents him to Ego's generals and has Ego arrested and dragged away. (The poor ex-prisoner doesn't survive the ep, and Ego is soon back in power.)

28 - Liberia?

Or maybe South Africa, or maybe whatever location Ken Serawiwo mysteriously disappeared in for getting in the way of Shell - it's comforting to know that the world is ruled by multinationals. An anonymous African fleeing in a jeep is dispatched by a shaggy-haired Galactor captain. (But the note asking Gatchaman's help arrives at its destination anyway; all part of Galactor's trap.)

The captain reports to a president? general? with "corruption" written all over him. What reminds me of Liberia: there's a civil war going on. The real war went like this: to compensate for a nationwide feeling of shame, the US dumped liberated cotton-plantation slaves in a part of Africa dubbed "Liberia" in the same way that the West dumped freed Jewish concentration camp survivors in Israel. In either case, the benefactors overlooked the fact that the land being offered was already inhabited. The result: war. Israel's war with the Palestinians is going on as I write this, the war in Liberia is officially over (if it hasn't restarted yet) by the defeat of the latest dictator? I haven't followed developments, but one dictator (Samuel Doe) was killed by a rebel leader who became the next dictator (Charles Taylor, or was that the one after that?) to be attacked by the next rebel leader... Far from fighting for freedom and justice, the rebels were scum who generally plundered, raped and killed civilians (I've heard first-hand accounts) and abducted children to take part in their raids and work in the diamond mines that financed the war. The West didn't mind: cheap diamonds, so who's complaining? The natives must have thought how nice and quiet it was before the Americans dropped on them...

But while I can read "how the West fucked up" between the lines in a number of eps throughout the Gatchaman series, the eps themselves are nice and simplistic. These rebels are real whitehats fighting for freedom and justice, though not very effectively. That foreign help had better show up fast.

And so it does, and the resistance leader is unmasked as being the shaggy-haired captain who shot the real leader, and Gatchaman makes sure that justice triumphs. These are close-ups of the (fake) resistance leader and his faithful stand-in and love interest, two black Africans of undetermined nationality who look just like a coffee-dyed Ken and Jun.

29 - Spanish hearts

"To a nunnery, go", spoke Hamlet to Ophelia, and she couldn't make up her mind between Spain and Italy. Not only are these countries bulwarks of unchallenged Catholicism, unlike almost every other part of Western Europe where Protestants have kicked the pope off his pedestal, but they idolize the Virgin Mary in ways paralleled only by that other ancient Christian institute, the Orthodox Church. If it's meek, pure and dressed in a nun's habit, it's probably Catholic and almost as probably, Italian or Spanish. The fact that this nun sitting on the church steps is playing guitar in the classical style suggests the latter.

But the young man who made her forswear make-up and take her vows was not a sweetheart of royal lineage, but her brother, who left the family to serve Galactor - as a cyborg. According to the Law of Plot-device Probability, he crashes into her house and receives her care.

She doesn't immediately recognize him, but he knows her (or more accurately, the family snapshot) and expresses his brotherly love by sabotaging a Galactor mission at the cost of his life while his sister prays for his soul; we all do what we're best at.

38 - Lapland

Yes, this is Lapland. Exhibit A: reindeer. Exhibit B: uhhh.. Jinpei immediately cries "wolf!" but I wouldn't even have identified it as canine.

Whatever it is, it's tame, and its young owner is not convinced of Jinpei's good intentions. Isn't it funny how Jinpei can sneak into heavily guarded Galactor bases and mow down scores of green goons, yet every time he's tackled by a little girl, he lets himself be taken by surprise.

A more convincing exhibit C and D: a settlement of Lapps guarding their reindeer. Lapland is not a real country, but an area in Finland inhabited by reindeer and the humans who live off them. Postcards from Finland often show these natives in their colourful, embroidered traditional costumes and tasseled hats. (The aforementioned is based on a journey across the Scandinavian peninsula when I was a child. At the time, I didn't know yet that the more correct word for this ethnic group is "Saami".) These grownups, telling the little girl not to stray too far from the camp, are rather drably dressed in comparison. It turns out that straying far from the camp is the best thing she could do, since shortly afterwards it's obliterated by Galactors.

40 - Jim Button

Somewhere in the twentieth century, a German author wrote a children's book called "Die unendliche Geschichte", which was translated to "The Never-Ending Story" and made into a film that totally missed the point of the book. A more obscure work by the same author (I can't even remember the title) told the story of Jim Button, a little black boy delivered as a baby to small island inhabited by default, therefore white, grownups. The book is very "toyland" and a bit farcical - Jim ends up freeing the princess of China from a dragon - and has a child's eye view of ethnicity: exotic, but of no real substance. Like this Jim, the only non-white orphan of the four who don't want to leave the island being evacuated doesn't look like someone with a specific ethnic background, but seems to be just a random foreign insert. Everyone else on the island, including their guardians, is generic-Caucasian.

And why are they so determined to stay? Because they don't want to leave the cemetery where their parents are buried. (So this foreign insert is a native!) Then something interesting happens: Jinpei slaps them in the face to persuade them to evacuate so they won't have to die. A good example of the half-assed Gatch morality: any character "good" or "evil" has to be ready to instantly give up his/her/its life to Save the Earth, but anyone who actually wants to die is maltreated for wasting the precious gift of life!

And that's it - no more Gatch for a while. I'm suffering from soppy melodrama overload.

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