Created: 31-10-2004
Last update: 15-01-2022


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Ethnicity in Gatch Part II

51-52 - Corrupt (and colonial?)

The investigation continues... The Gatchaverse is full of imaginary countries, usually a mishmash of different forms of European cultural heritage, peopled with matching Caucasian-genotyped extras. Huntwall is such a case: described in part I as reminding of pre-Castro Cuba, or of any island colonized by Europeans and made into one big holiday resort (the team certainly doesn't act surprised when Nambu sends them on holiday there) it might, with its mountain ranges and luxury cruise ships sliding past fairytale castles, equally well be based on the anachronism called Monaco.

The population is in any case a dubious mix of Caucasian and Japanese. Meet Sabu, Ken's milk-skinned childhood friend and also-orphan who travels as easily to his assumed birthland Huntwall as to the Snack J, suggesting that Utoland and Huntwall are quite close to each other. (I have to admire the way this character was drawn: although he's just another recolour of the male-teen model also used for Koji, Romina and the prince of Ruman, the animators managed to make him look like a total dweeb from beginning to end.)

And here's the Cuba connection: corrupt politicians and their nasty, whip-wielding military backup figures (here, fortunately, in the process of being shot) against a background of mahogany bookcases and buildings whitewashed inside and out. However, given that in ep 46, Arthur Kelly escapes the country driving through a snowstorm, Monaco is the more likely model.

57 - ?? meets ??

I was going to say "East meets West" in this ep where Mike "fastest gun in the West" Miller is released from what looks like a USA max-security prison - check out the octagonal policeman's cap - into a world he doesn't understand, but really I have no idea what his ethnic background is. The hat with feather looks vaguely non-cattle-country American, but otherwise, I'm just basing myself on his prowess with firearms. One episode guide calls him "sniper", but that's a word I associate with military forces and civil wars; "hired gun" might be a better word.

Galactor has also heard of his prowess with firearms, and sends him a special taxi. Has anyone heard of the Scandinavian vacuum cleaner brand "Nilfisk", tub-shaped machines on wheels with a "Nilfisk the Norman" logo featuring a smiling Viking? This Galactor captain reminds me of both the logo and the vacuum cleaner; he has that same tubby build.

Challenged, Miller shows his battle reflexes (is that crooked finger the "wanna fight" gesture so horribly popular since "The Matrix"?) and impresses even the tubby captain by tossing his gun back into his holster.

And this is where the "East" bit would come in. The spandex space suits with upturned shoulders - quite different from the genuine astronaut suits in ep 97 - worn in this space station, about to be destroyed to lure out the Gatchateam, are like Russian science fiction film outfits. As usual, the map Nambu projects on a screen to tell the team where it happened is no help; the boundary running between almost-touching landmasses suggests the Bering Strait, but the shoreline is all wrong.

64 - A dash of fascism

Flanbel, another fantasy country only described as "northern", is as ethnically confused as Huntwall. Only recently freed from the rule of a dictator - that sounds like Spain - who looks made of Bismarck material, complete with fearsome moustache and the spastic-eagle emblem so popular with oppressive nationalist dictators, this war-scarred, weapon-littered country shows that, hm, maybe the USA sent troops abroad again? Since that helmet is not German.

The tenuous but scary connection with Germany's part in World War I & II is continued in the ex-dictator's scheme for revenge: gassing the country through "presents" distributed by the new ruler. However, that's as far as the connection goes. The eternal washing lines behind this gang of street brats to signify that this is a poor neighbourhood, reminds me of Naples - hm, that's Italy, another country that produced a fascist regime - while the uptown gang that steals their present looks like Yakuza material.

66 - Monaco, take 2

Unlike Huntwall, Monarins is a genuine monarchy. That's all for the best, though, since the queen donates generously to ISO. It looks a bit Caribbean...

But that, it turns out, is only on the floats. The ordinary inhabitants are as humdrum as in any European country west of Austria, and the city is the usual ugly conglomeration of tower blocks and raised highways. Maybe someone who knows more about cars than I do could figure out the probable intended geographical location from the licence plate.

More a cultural than an ethnic image, but at least the makers got it right: ninjas, the guerillas of Japan. Not very visible, are they? Yes, that was the idea. These are all female and probably all Caucasian, to better blend in with the local population.

Nothing to do with the theme, but I couldn't resist: Ken and Joe meet their respective matches. (It is after this encounter that Ken concludes: "If we're to beat these women, we'll have to put on rollerskates!")

This gathering of Old World royalty shows a shift, not only in geographical location, but in time. Eek! Stomachers! Crinolines! I did say Monaco is an anachronism?

67 - Fiji

While not quite atoll-shaped, these islands that Ken is heading towards in his function as flying mailman do look like the kind of islands dotting the Pacific where biologists go to study rare bird species.

And the inhabitants of the main island with its landing strip are as ethnically indeterminate as the inhabitants of such islands tend to be, when they've had their share of colonists and immigrants. They are quite content with the primitive form of mail delivery, despite its disadvantages.

69 - Egypt

Of course it's not called that. It's called "Shosken" and the pyramids and pharao statues are in the "Ohara desert". And these tomb robbers are investigators. Yeah, right.

In this country which we shall not call Egypt, Ken is leaning against a palm, Joe is sitting next to a sphinx, and Ryu is risking being knifed by a male relative of the young woman which by the social standards of the country he is approaching indecently.

Jun, meanwhile, is window-shopping, and Jinpei is strolling through what in most Arabic-speaking countries is called the "souk".

That is, until he's spotted by a woman selling roast corn cobs (by North African standards, quite a beauty; seriously, I've seen taped performances of Moroccan "dancing girls" with the same waistline) who is convinced he's her lost son.

She takes him home on camel-back and shows him the photo as proof.

71 - Nepal? Tibet? The Himalayas

To keep people from nosing around Galactor HQ, Katze employs a Yeti mech. This is counter-effective: everyone but Mulder and Scully turn up to investigate. Well, what can I say... It benefits the local economy. Here, a hotel owner welcomes yet another tourist.

75 - Yes, they're Japanese

Isn't it convenient that the area around Japan (itself a set of islands, I'm aware) is dotted with islands on which to wash up after a shipwreck caused by, as usual, Galactor? It's Ryu's dad and his crew again, happily out at sea after that nasty business in ep 26.

I'd almost take back what I just said at the sight of their gajin-haired wives welcoming them home. And Nakanishi Sr has grey eyes here?? I'm glad that was changed in the second series.

77 - Transsylvania?

On the map, Nambu points out Dokual, a small republic that, when compared with the atlas, might be to the right of Italy, or north of the Black Sea. The toga'd statue would support this, as the Greece of ancient history extended well into Turkey, covering a great deal of Eastern Europe. Dokual might be Rumania, Montenegro... But though the large-scale flag-waving is typical of countries behind the Iron Curtain in the Soviet era, the flags themselves are not terribly helpful.

It is at any rate a country where Scary Things Happen. The team are welcomed by a nastily grinning Igor-type hunchback and led through a palace where chandeliers drop on them, suits of armour attack them etc. One would expect the president to look like Dracula, but his appearance is quite mild. (Too bad he's really a disguised Blackbird.)

80 - Assham

This is an existing place - not a country, but part of India - also spelled as "Assam", and known for its tea. In the Gatchaverse, however, it's known for the peacocks strutting around in what looks like the garden of a maharadja's palace, and being photographed with tourists that, as usual, all look Caucasian.

81 - Sicily

Okay, BC Island, but it's the place where Joe's parents were shot, and he's mafia offspring, therefore it's Sicily. (It might have been Corsica, but that island's criminal organization just doesn't appeal to the public imagination as much.) Popularly speaking, an island of devoutly Catholic gangsters, poor people and old men sitting in the sun watching passersby as they ponder on the meaning of life - although they don't usually hide cameras in their walking sticks. Oh, and did I mention mayors with criminal connections?

86 - India? Africa? WHERE?

Two mountain climbers (definitely not Caucasian) in the "Bikkuiero Mountains" (a place as fictive, I'm sure, as the Jupiter mountains) discover by accident that the water there is polluted with Sugare, an artificial sweetener.

And where does this happen? Nambu pulls out his typically unhelpful and exasperating maps. The first one, where the substance was discovered, might be of Africa, which would make the island to its side Madagascar. The second one, which looks quite different but is meant to be an enlargement of the first, rather suggests India and Sri Lanka. Possibly, Galactor activity has caused such tectonic plate movement that Antarctica has moved up to almost touch both.

At any rate, the team are dispatched to points A, B, C and D - the only legible markings on the map - to pose as tourists and investigate. Shots of them at work show primarily that no location on Earth, however exotic, escapes the scourges of tourism and high-rise apartments.

Jinpei and Ryu wouldn't be the Shaggy & Scooby Doo duo they are if they didn't show up in dippy disguises. Meet His Topkapi-ness, the prince of Somewhere-Or-Other, and his fez-bearing chamberlain. Although associated with Turkey, and formerly so popular there that President Ataturk outlawed it in his efforts to westernize the country, the fez is in fact Moroccan, while Jinpei's outfit is that of British colonists in the tropics, hunting anything from ants to elephants. If these outfits are an effort to blend in, their location would be somewhere in Africa. As in Assham, the extras all look Caucasian.

88 - Definitely Ind(er)ia

"It's Gandhi!" I cried out at seing this particular character, although a closeup shows otherwise. Eccentric rather than pacifist, Professor Hume has chosen to retire in the country of ascetics and enlightenment. Which might mean that he himself is not a native of this land. But he certainly looks the part.

90, 94, 100 - Vaguely Asian

With no flags, maps and landscapes to provide me with clues, I'm wildly stabbing in the dark when I call Doctor Finger Lenin's Manchurian cousin. While I can't identify his clothing as genuine traditional or Communist-era Chinese, it so strongly suggests both that I'm surprised to learn that this martial figure is just another stuffy Galactor scientist. He obviously feels he was made for better things, such as finally and definitely doing away with the Gatchaman team.

Komibe, that friendly gentleman whose only Asian feature is a sallow skin, at least has a country to his name: Utoland. Although I suspect that his exotically named "Torasshuu Plant" may simply mean "trash plant".

For some reason, I think Dr. Maxim looks Soviet-Russian, which means from anywhere between Moscow and the extreme eastern tip of Siberia. Blame it on the old Russian custom, tempered somewhat by tsar Peter the Great, of cultivating an enormous or at least noticeable amount of facial hair. Although British gentlemen in the Victorian age were just as fearsomely bewhiskered.

95 - Allegedly Chinese

I don't know where in the series, if at all, it is stated explicitly that Jinpei was born, or rather found, in China. It's just one of those bits of background information, backed up by the visual of this old man smoking who jumps up at the sound, rather than sight, of Jinpei returning to his homeland to research his ancestry.

96 - Genuinely Gajin

Lifted from the "Religious icons" page: genuine Americans, who typically don't watch baseball or cheer at presidential inaugurations. When I said in Part I that there was a period in Japanese contemporary history when "gajin" (foreigner) was equated with "American", this wasn't the ethnic group I was referring to.

The setting: Arizona, the episode guide tells me. Clearly in the arid zone of North America, judging not so much from Nambu's useless map as from the table rocks and the appropriately themed Galactor captain, who always responds to his leader with "How!" (which in pronunciation is not very far from "hai!").

And here is the genuine (as opposed to all those generic quasi-Caucasian extras) gajin: a blue-eyed, fair-haired, gun-toting roadhog who believes in solving everything through violence. The story goes a little deeper than that, but collecting the screen caps, I could see the ethnic/cultural stereotype of "the American" being applied; a stereotype that, colouring apart, doesn't exist only in Japan.

The End - for the first series, anyway.

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