Gatchaman Episode 56: The Bird Missile of Bitterness by lborgia88, saturn
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This is a Gatchamania Episode review. Opinions expressed are those of the author.This episode review is image intensive. Thank you, Saturn, for the screen caps!

 

Gatchman Episode 56: “The Bird Missile of Bitterness”

BOTP Episode: N/A



 



The episode begins with Jun zooming along a road alone through the countryside on her motorcycle, just as a storm is looming and the skies are dark. There’s no indication of where she’s going, but I could believe that she might like to do this sort of thing purely as a way to de-stress and enjoy herself.



 



This is one of those rare occasions where a member of the Team is shown wearing something other than their birdstyle or their civvies, though I think that if her birdstyle could convert to a one-piece suit (like what the guys wear), it might look something like this (minus a cape, of course).



 



Unfortunately this road appears to be popular with motorcyclists and Jun’s solitary zooming is interrupted by a horde of Blackbirds, all laughing jeeringly, who spot her and begin pursuing her on their own motorcycles. Soon, she is surrounded.



 



One Blackbird seems to be trying to shove her, with his own motorcycle, into the path of an oncoming car. Is this considered a form of flirtation within Galactor circles?



 



However, she’s the Swan so she simply leaps her motorcycle right over an oncoming car (to the consternation of its driver) and one of the Blackbirds, leaves the road and goes tearing off through a field.



 




“She went that way!” snarls a Blackbird, “Turn around!”

“Is she trying to make fools of us?” demands another.

They all leave the road too and pursue Jun across the hilly field. She leaps her motorcycle right across a gorge, but they all do it too and continue to chase her.




 




Perhaps she wasn’t expecting them to still be following her at this point, because the direction she’s taken is now coming to dead end at the bottom of a high cliff and she has nowhere to go.




 



She’s forced to stop now, turning her bike to face her pursuers, with the cliff at her back, and for the first time, she’s looking a bit nervous about the situation. One of the Blackbirds pulls up right beside her.

“Hey there babe, nice biker moves. Why don’t you come take a ride with us?”

Oh right, what girl can resist an obnoxious thug?

I think I might understand now why all the women in Galactor are Devil Stars and whatnot instead of goons or Blackbirds–to avoid the men. And no wonder they all fall for Joe… Wink1



 



Jun smacks him hard in the face, sending him and his motorcycle toppling over. The Blackbird immediately leaps to his feet and with an angry cry of “You wench!” he swings his fist at her. However, she quickly leaps in the air, such that his fist connects only with empty space, whips off her helmet and bashes him in the head with it on her way down. That sends the Blackbird sprawling, but now the others get off their motorcycles and close in on her, all in agreement that “she needs to be taught a lesson.”



 



Just at that moment, another motorcycle appears on the scene -except it’s up above, at the top of the cliff- and it draws everyone’s attention. Its rider is wearing a Blackbird-like helmet, but no Blackbird uniform, and his motorcycle is white instead of dark blue. Lightning flashes, obligingly adding a further touch of drama to his arrival

“Oh no,” complains a Blackbird, “It’s the Captain.”

And the Captain then skillfully takes his motorcycle down the steep cliff. Reaching the bottom, he demands “What are you boneheads doing? You know we don’t have time for you to goof off like this!”




 
He continues to berate them for their inattentiveness to duty –“We’ve got important things to take care of!”- but he also remembers that the plot requires Jun to be able to see his face, so he lifts the visor on his helmet.



 



Jun stares at him intensely…

He tells the Blackbirds to “Move it!” and they all get back on their motorcycles and go speeding back towards the road, and the Captain turns to Jun, telling her “Nothing good will come from hanging with guys like them.”

I think she knows that!

But Jun doesn’t care –she’s figured out who he is. “Koji, is that you?” she asks. Now, he realizes that he knows who she is too, saying “Jun? I didn’t recognize you!”

“It is you!” she says excitedly, “Koji Yabane!” and moves towards him.

He thinks that she’s looking well, and he ought to be able to tell –it’s not like her outfit is concealing much!




 




She notes that she hasn’t seen him in a long time and asks what he’s doing these days.

Well, a bunch of nasty guys who have Galactor logos on their chests are taking orders from him –what do you think he’s doing, Jun?

Koji frowns at this question. He tells her that he’s no longer a Grand Prix racer; now he’s just a stunt racer working for the Prime Minister. It’s starting to rain and he clearly doesn’t want to linger. Jun says “Koji!” and puts her hand over his, but he answers “It’s been a long time, and I’m not the same guy you used to know.”




 




He adds, “Take care of yourself,” and then he abruptly speeds off on his motorcycle. But Jun quickly gets back on her motorcycle and follows him.

Koji is now leading the pack of Blackbirds through the rain and lightning, but he’s recalling memories of Jun.



 

 



She’s wearing her #3 civvies (and bracelet) in his memory, so I take that to mean she was already living at Dr. Nambu’s when Koji knew her, though I don’t think it necessarily means that the Science Ninja Team was active yet. He closes his eyes briefly, thinking “I can’t believe I ran into Jun at a time like this.”

Meanwhile, Jun is still following him, and recalling memories of him.



 

 



She’s also wondering why Koji wants to avoid her now, and what “important things did he want his gang to take care of?” It must be assumed, then, she didn’t notice the red Galactor symbols his gang was sporting on their uniforms. Or, she’s in denial regarding their likely significance.

Now we see some place that resembles an airport. “Carved into a mountainside on this country’s outskirts,” explains the narrator “Lies an air base for the National Defense Force. It looks like a landing strip for their primary fighter squadron, but in fact it hides an underground armory for air-to-air missiles.”


Koji and his gang are speeding towards the chain link fence that surrounds it, and soldiers carrying rifles are rushing out to confront them. However, Koji and his gang all leap the fence easily on their motorcycles, knocking the guards down as they land on the other side. Then, they all head into the air base.



 




More soldiers open fire on them, but they succeed about as well as goons do when they try to shoot the Science Ninjas, so Koji and his gang, still on their motorcycles, are able to get into the underground missile armory. They go tearing down a corridor and a large drill attachment now protrudes from the front of Koji’s motorcycle. They approach a heavily guarded door, but the soldiers here have clearly abandoned all hope of success and don’t even bother to fire on the intruders. So, using the drill, Koji quickly breaks through the door and his gang follows. Koji pushes a button on a wall panel, and a large door slides open to reveal a tough-looking (and probably high ranking) military type, flanked by two machine gun toting soldiers.




  

But, it turns out that this guy is in league with Koji and his gang. He says “Good work. Everything is ready on our end, Captain.” Now, the previous soldiers on guard were presenting resistance (albeit ineffectually) to Koji and his gang, so this guy and his two companions appear to be acting as traitors within their country’s military.

Koji doesn’t reply, but he and his Blackbirds now all open compartments in their motorcycles and bring forth devices that resemble bombs with timers.



 



“Hurry up,” says the military traitor guy, gesturing towards a door behind him, “The nuclear missiles are in there.”

And indeed they are –big ones at that.



 



Koji and his cohorts now begin placing their devices inside the missiles as military traitor guy watches. “The timers that Koji’s gang are installing,” explains the narrator, “Are rigged to explode from the smallest shock and detonate the base’s missiles to cause a nuclear blast.”

“I’ll finally become this country’s President,” says military traitor guy, laughing. Since he apparently isn’t aware that villains are supposed to explain their evil schemes aloud, in detail, I can only assume that he thinks that blowing up the National Defense Force’s air base in a nuclear disaster will destabilize his country’s current government and enable him, in the ensuing chaos, to get elected President (or, more likely, to head a ruling military junta).

Or could this guy be the country’s Prime Minister? Koji told Jun he was working for the Prime Minister, but such offices aren’t normally occupied by guys in military uniforms.

Koji is taking an unusually long time installing his device in one of the missiles.



 



And, he is clearly ill at ease.



 



In fact, he’s thinking about Jun again. He’s finished installing his device, but he’s hesitating to press the red button that will activate it.



 

 



Still hesitating, finger at the button, he’s imagining the coming nuclear disaster and Jun herself being destroyed by radiation.



 

 



“What’s wrong with you?” demands military traitor guy, “Set the timer!” But Koji pulls his hand away. Even more impatiently now, military traitor guy adds “Come on, why don’t you just press the damned button!” as the Blackbirds just stand around him and stare at Koji.

But Koji cries “Damn it!” and pulls the device out of the missile. Before anyone can stop him, he shoves his way past military traitor guy (knocking him down) and the Blackbirds, and runs off.

Outside the air base’s buildings and back on his motorcycle, Koji instead hurls his device at one of the parked fighter jets on the airfield. Upon impact, it blows up the fighter jet, but that is certainly less damaging than blowing up an arsenal of nuclear missiles.

He could be hoping that this lesser explosion will still enable military traitor guy’s political ambitions, without resorting to nuclear devastation, but I suspect it’s rather a gesture of defiance against the whole scheme.

Meanwhile, Jun has arrived near the air base. Her motorcycle spins out on the muddy grass but she leaps clear of it agilely and lands on her feet in time to see the smoke from the fighter jet’s explosion rising into the air.



 



“That’s an air force base,” she says to herself, “What on earth is going on?” Well, the fact that Koji suddenly comes speeding away from the base where the explosion has just occurred, on his motorcycle, is a strong hint as to what’s going on. Jun ducks behind a big rock, so Koji doesn’t see her as he goes tearing past, but she recognizes him.

Now we cut to a screen, somewhere else, that’s showing a news broadcast about the explosion at the air base. It shows two fighter jets burning, so it seems that Koji did more damage than it initially seemed. “According to reports,” says the newscaster, “Authorities suspect a large criminal organization is behind this disaster. Local officials have declared that an all-out manhunt will commence at any moment now.”

Now we see that it’s Dr. Nambu and the Team who are watching this broadcast. On screen, a man who appears to be a civilian official of some kind is giving a statement to the press.


 


This official explains that it’s believed the explosion at the air base was part of a conspiracy aimed at detonating the nuclear missiles there and that all other military bases have been contacted and are on high alert. Now Dr. Nambu’s heard enough and he turns the screen off.

Dr. Nambu is “at a loss,” and is nervous that a nuclear war could be triggered if any wrong steps are made.

“Do you suppose it could have something to do with those strange bikers who attacked Jun?” asks Ken, as Jun stares anxiously at Dr. Nambu.

So, she’s told the others about what happened to her, but has she told them everything?

Dr. Nambu’s uncertain there’s a connection, citing insufficient information to draw any conclusions. So, Ken now looks to Jun and asks her to relate, in detail, everything that happened. Jun doesn’t appear too enthusiastic about this.



 



“But I’ve already told you everything,” she insists.

“Something I heard recently didn’t sit well with me, Doc,” says Joe, “That rider Koji Yabane has made a comeback as a stunt bike racer.”

Jun reacts nervously to this.

“Isn’t that the childhood friend that Jun was just telling us about?” asks Dr. Nambu.

Joe affirms this, saying that Koji was a “far out biker” who disappeared three years ago.

Hmm, three years ago… If Jun is 16 at the beginning of the series, she’d have to be 17 by episode 56, which means that until this day she hadn’t seen Koji since she was 14 (or younger). If Koji already had a reputation as a “far out” biker three years ago, though, he’s likely at least a few years older than Jun.

Now Jinpei is convinced he’s got it all figured out. “Koji’s the one after the nuclear missiles, I’m sure of it!” “Think!” he tells Ryu, “Galactor must be controlling him and that’s why he’s doing it. It’s got to be it.”

Jun doesn’t want to hear one word of this (no doubt because it’s what she suspects herself but can’t bear to believe).

“Jinpei!” she scolds, “Quit making up stuff about my friend!”

Jinpei insists he’s just trying to help, but now Jun really loses her temper and yells “Shut up!” while brandishing a fist. Jinpei leaps behind Ryu for protection.



 




Dr. Nambu intervenes, telling them both to stop, but then he orders Jun to investigate Koji. Jun doesn’t want to believe that Koji might be with Galactor but Dr. Nambu insists they can’t rule out the possibility.

“I can’t do it, I won’t,” says Jun, turning away.

Ken puts a kindly hand on her shoulder and asks her what’s the matter.



 



Joe, less kindly, flanks her other side and demands “Have you forgotten that you’re Science Ninja Team?”

Jun hunches her shoulders and covers her face with her hands.

“Listen to me,” says Ken, even more kindly, “We just need to prove that Koji isn’t part of Galactor; that’s all.”



 



“I know this is my job,” says Jun quietly, not quite sobbing, “But I hate it. I hate having to be suspicious of everyone I see!”



 




Joe and Dr. Nambu both close their eyes resignedly, while Ken continues to look at her.

“And to be suspicious of Koji!” she cries, looking at them again, fist clenched, “I just can’t do it!”

With that, she storms out of the room, ignoring Jinpei’s plea of “Wait, Sis!”

“There she goes again, with another fit of hysteria,” sighs Ryu. Aargh, men love to pin that word on women. Nevertheless, while I feel her pain, she’s clearly not at her best here.

Now that Jun is gone, Ken’s eyes narrow with suspicion and he says “I think she may be hiding something about Koji.” I think it’s quite clear that she didn’t tell them everything she witnessed, or they’d all be totally on board with Jinpei’s theory. Dr. Nambu is looking equally suspicious and he instructs Ken to keep an eye on her as he thinks she will probably try to contact Koji, and that Jinpei could be right about him being under Galactor’s control.

Speaking of Galactor, now we cut to an on-screen Berg Katse. “We have resorted to any means necessary in our conquest of Earth,” he says, “And we have given political power to this country’s rebel army in return for its support.” Military traitor guy (possibly Prime Minister?) is standing there, holding a whip, but it seems that Katse’s words are aimed at the guy who’s being held with manacles on his wrists.



 

“This will be our springboard towards world domination,” gloats Katse, as we see that the man in the manacles is Koji. I guess he didn’t get too far before Galactor tracked him down.

“We paid you handsomely for your support when you were just a beggar!” growls military traitor guy, propping up Koji’s drooped head with his whip’s handle, “We had so much faith in you we made you Captain of the Blackbirds Squad, and you betrayed us!”




 




Koji doesn’t answer so he begins whipping him, so hard that it starts shredding his shirt.

“That’s enough, Commander,” intervenes the on-screen Katse. “Commander” looks annoyed that his fun is being stopped but he complies. Koji just sags limply in his manacles, but he opens his eyes at Katse’s next words and looks up.

“I’ll give you one last chance. The President will be attending tomorrow’s motorcycle race. Your orders are to assassinate him! If you fail to do so, then Galactor will execute you! Understand?”

Koji hangs his head again.


Now we cut to Jun, sitting glumly at the Snack J counter all by herself, and staring up at a photo on the wall of herself on her motorcycle.



 



The photo changes to an actual memory of Jun’s, of her riding her motorcycle as music plays that evokes happier, more carefree times of the past



 



In this memory, she’s accompanied by Koji, also on a motorcycle.



 



“Come on, Jun!” he calls out, briefly going airborne as he crests a hill in the road. She laughs and calls “Wait up!” as he laughs too. However, her motorcycle skids off the road and pitches and she falls onto the grass and lies still. He cries out “Jun!” and goes rushing over to her.



 



“Are you all right?” he asks anxiously, lifting her shoulders. But it turns out she was just faking, and she opens one eye coyly while laughing.




 



He’s both amused and exasperated.



 



As she laughs again, gets up and runs off playfully, he chases after her.




 


Jun’s memory ends with her and Koji lounging by their motorcycles, watching the sun sparkle on the sea.



 




There are certainly romantic overtones here, but as she must have only been about 14, I’m going to assume this is largely innocent “puppy love” on her part and not the stuff of some torrid affair. The motorcycle she’s riding in this memory looks the same as her G-machine in its civilian mode. In fact, it could very well be her G-machine in its civilian mode. She’s already in her #3 civvies (and bracelet), and even if the Team wasn’t active yet when she was 14, it’s very likely their G-machines had already been developed. It’s likely she was already a motorcyclist (possibly already with a G-machine) when she met Koji, and that this shared pastime was the initial basis of their friendship. I suppose, as he was older and reputed then to be a “far out” biker, she might even have learned some of her motorcycling skills from him.

But, Jun’s memory of a happier and more carefree time in her past fades, leaving her still sitting at the Snack J counter, sadly trailing a finger through a puddle of water on the counter’s surface.

Lost in her nostalgic thoughts, she doesn’t seem to notice when Ken, Joe, Jinpei and Ryu all come walking in.



 



Jinpei is all ready to cheer her up by playing some music and getting some dancing going but Ryu, more wisely, is aware that now is not the time for that. Yes, it seems that an “intervention” of sorts might be in the works.



 



Ken gets to begin. He sits down beside Jun, tells her that he and the others are going to go watch the race tomorrow and asks her if she’d like to tag along.



 



Jun replies that Koji will be competing in that race, “Won’t he?”

“Uh, yeah,” says Ken a bit uncomfortably, as we see Joe over by the door, arms folded and eyes closed.

“I knew it; you’re keeping an eye on me and Koji, huh?” she replies sadly, with perhaps a touch of sullenness, “Did the Doctor order you to?”

“Yeah,” is all Ken says but now it looks like it’s Joe’s turn. He’s moving towards Jun.

“Stop acting like a spoiled brat!” he declares.

Oh, and he also smacks Jun across the face. So hard that her water glass also goes flying along the counter and smashes.



 



“Joe!” cries Ken. It seems that this wasn’t part of the plan!



 



Ryu and Jinpei look somewhat appalled too.



 



“Look, Jun,” says Joe sternly, “Whether or not this Koji guy is your friend, we have to watch out or innocent people could die! The Science Ninja Team has to investigate him because he’s the only clue we’ve got right now –you follow me?”



 



Jun’s still leaning forward, her face on the counter, but now she lifts her head, touching her face where Joe hit her and looking distressed.

“We believe in Koji as a person too,” adds Ken now (yes, he’s definitely taking the ‘good cop’ role in all of this), “If anything, we just want to help him.”



 



This seems to have an effect on Jun. “I understand, Ken,” she says, but she also stands up with a grimmer and more focused look on her face.



 



So, even knowing that the Science Ninjas are all trained, hardened fighters, used to violence, I never enjoy watching them hit each other (unless it’s done totally in fun), especially when Jun’s the recipient. Joe’s anger here can be interpreted as jealousy of Koji, either for himself (though there’s scant canon evidence that he feels that way about Jun) or on Ken’s behalf. I get more of an “over-protective older brother” vibe here, myself. I have an older brother and I can well believe he might have smacked me if he’d ever thought I was covering for some guy he deemed to be bad news. Mostly, I think Joe is representing here, albeit harshly, a valid point of view; namely that their duty as Science Ninjas supersedes their personal lives and feelings, especially when the lives of many innocent people are at stake. It’s a hard pill to swallow; Ken himself grappled painfully with the same dilemma back in the jigokillers episodes. Heck, even Joe himself initially punched out Ken for ultimately being willing to set the field of jigokillers (possibly containing Jun) on fire, before he came around and gave Ken his support. Still, Jun was clearly very upset when Joe and the others walked into the Snack J, and it would have been nice to see a little more regard from Joe for her feelings, even if they’re feelings that she needs to put aside in the name of duty! But then, Ken was there to fill that role –I guess he and Joe really do complement each other well.

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