Gatchaman Episode 20: A Critical Moment for the Science Ninja Team
It’s a peaceful night in the city, and below ground, the subway trains are running smoothly…
Of course this isn’t going to last long. Now, a subway conductor spots something on the tracks, further ahead in the tunnel.
“Aughh!” he cries, and pulls the brakes’ lever. But the train isn’t stopping fast enough, and what he saw on the tracks turns out to be a giant, clawed, mechanical paw that grabs the entire train, crushing it and hurling it off its tracks, right into the path of a train coming from the opposite direction. A massive explosion erupts in the tunnel as the two trains smash together, and wreckage goes flying.
Now, using its two paws, and rocket-style engines, this subway-tossing mecha quickly digs its way to the surface, in the midst of the city. People look on, crying out in terror, as the pavement of a city street begins to bulge and buckle and two giant, clawed mechanical paws emerge from the ground and each proceed to crush a multi-story building. Quickly, the entire mecha pulls itself out of the ground.
Yup, it’s a mole. Despite the fact that its clawed paws suggest “badger” to me, it has got a mole’s long pointy nose and whiskers. The mole mecha begins to turn its head, looking around, and we cut to its interior and to the “Captain of the Week.”
Yup, he’s a mole too! No other Captain yet has had a uniform that harmonizes so well with their mecha’s theme. Clearly, this is a Captain with fashion sense, and perhaps he was even inspired by Katse’s ant costume in episode 10. In fact, he’s contacting Berg Katse at this very moment. Now we learn that destroying the city is not this mecha’s main plan; the plan is to lure out the Science Ninja Team. But, until they show up, Katse wants the mole mecha to cause as much destruction as it can. In ADV’s dub, the voice actor is using a very gravelly voice, and an accent I can’t really place. Oh, and he keeps saying “Science Team Ninja” instead of “Science Ninja Team” too.
No problem for Captain Mole –immediately the mole mecha begins smashing up city buildings, electrical towers, and even a Concorde jet that unwisely flies low overhead. Next, the mole mecha reveals that it can also shoot laser beams from its eyes, and proceeds to incinerate cars, creating explosions left and right.
We see a quick series of stills of the rampaging mole mecha, and as the “camera” pulls back we realize that they are images that Dr. Nambu is seeing on a screen. Quickly, he contacts Ken, who is flying his plane in civilian mode, and he passes on the bad news
He’s sure it’s Galactor, and he instructs Ken to “Assemble the Team and launch the God Phoenix!” Ken transmutes and flies on in his G-1 jet as we cut back to the mole mecha, which appears to be wreaking utter devastation throughout the city. However, the God Phoenix swoops by in the sky. For once, Ken is not the last one on board. Joe is driving his G-2 car along a mostly destroyed street, and he contacts Ken on the bridge to say he’s sorry he’s late (I wonder what he was doing that made him late) and that he’s ready to link up.
The God Phoenix is descending behind Joe, and lowering the clamps from its nose to pick up his car, but just then Joe sees a puppy nuzzling its dead mother…
He stops his car, and looks again. The puppy is whimpering, and pawing its unresponsive mother. It’s a sight that brings a glistening tear to Joe’s eye.
The mole mecha is still firing its laser beams all about, and Joe’s driving his car again and is just about to be picked up by the God Phoenix, when he suddenly spins around and zooms back in the direction he came from. Ken immediately demands “Joe, are you out of your mind? What are you doing?” but Joe declares he’s going to “Go and save that dog, don’t worry about me!” Jun tries to no avail to tell Joe to come back, and that it’s too dangerous, but Ken is now surprisingly supportive of Joe’s plan.
So, as the mole mecha keeps walking around blasting targets on the ground with its laser beams, Joe is speeding back to the puppy.
As the mole mecha draws nearer, we see the puppy barking at it defensively. Now, for reasons unexplained, Joe stops his car a long distance from the puppy, leaves its relative safety, and begins to run (so fast that his gun’s holster turns white).
And run, while the puppy continues to bark.
Unfortunately, Captain Mole spots Joe, and recognizes him. “Keeel him!” he yells.
So now the mole mecha keeps trying to blast Joe with laser beams, as he finally reaches the puppy, picks it up, and begins the long run back to his car.
Now, a missile flies past the mole mecha’s face, distracting it from its attack on Joe, as the God Phoenix swoops behind its head. (Did everyone get that? Neither Joe, nor Joe’s car is on board the God Phoenix, but sure looks like it just fired a missile regardless.)
Captain Mole orders his crew to “Swat down the God Phoenix!” The God Phoenix comes around again, and flies around the mole mecha’s head, managing to evade the laser beams and its paws. So, now the doors of a missile bay in the mole mecha’s neck open up, and it fires a missile at the God Phoenix. Fortunately for the God Phoenix, the missile misses, although any occupants of the building that the missile hits instead are less fortunate.
Meanwhile, Joe is still running with the puppy, and the mole mecha turns its attention back to him, firing more laser beams. The laser beams miss Joe, so the mecha starts firing missiles at him instead.
Somehow, Joe knows a missile is coming at him, and he hurls himself forward onto the ground as the missile strikes right behind him, spraying him with shrapnel.
A piece strikes his helmet, causing Joe to cry “Aughh, my head,” thrash and roll in pain while clutching his head, and then go still as the whimpering puppy approaches him.
On board the God Phoenix, Ryu sees that Joe’s down. Ken immediately orders the God Phoenix to turn around and go to Joe. Soon, they all see him.
Joe’s still not moving, and now he’s got a puppy standing on his back, licking his cape. Touching, to be sure, but not exactly medically-approved first aid. Still, it’s only a puppy.
On the bridge of the God Phoenix, Ken orders Ryu to land, but before he can, the mole mecha bursts from the ground beneath them, and scores a hit on the God Phoenix with its laser beams. The God Phoenix survives that, and manages to avoid most of the ensuing laser beams that the mole mecha fires at them –most, but not all. At this rate, there’s no way they’re going to be able to land and rescue Joe.
“Feel the power of the mole tank,” gloats Captain Mole, “Even the Science Team Ninja cannot stop us! Swat down the God Phoenix!”
Yes, things aren’t looking so good for the SNT (or STN) right now, but a goon draws the Captain’s attention to something.
“The mole tank cannot operate in the sunlight,” growls an angry Captain Mole, shaking his fist in frustration. “They are lucky, for now…”
With that, the mole mecha burrows back underground and is gone. Yes, we will see dozens and dozens of mechas in this series that can operate just fine in the sun, but just by incredible luck, this one cannot. I guess we know now why it’s a mole and not, say, a squirrel.
Now, as all is utterly silent, the “camera” pans from Joe’s empty car, to the God Phoenix now landed on the ground and then to Ken, Jun, Ryu, and Jinpei. Somehow, the rubble-strewn street where Joe went down has become a grassy field, and they are performing the “Science Ninja Team technique –Emergency Medical Response!” It consists solely of standing there staring and doing nothing.
Now, the sad version of “dare da, dare da, dare da” plays, accompanied by the barking of the puppy, as everyone continues to stare and do nothing. Ken’s eyes are fighting back tears, and Jinpei is decidedly less than optimistic.
Come on people! I’m no expert but I’m pretty certain that someone here should at least be checking to see if he’s got a pulse! Maybe that’s what the puppy is trying to do, with its tongue.
Jinpei, the animal lover who rescued a baby whale just two episodes ago, suddenly decides that the puppy is to blame for all this, and that he should whack it with a stick. Ryu concurs, but fortunately for the puppy, Ken is staying in character.
As the puppy continues to lick Joe’s back, everyone continues to stand around, stare and do nothing while Ken explains that “Galactor killed Joe’s parents, just like they did this puppy’s. This puppy must have reminded Joe of his past.”
Jun now throws herself on Joe’s legs, sobbing “Please wake up!”
Touching, to be sure, but not exactly medically-approved first aid, but hey, Joe actually stirs! And it dawns on Ken that perhaps they could be doing something other than staring at Joe as he lies on the ground with shrapnel in his head.
So, they all pick Joe up –no stretcher, no neck board, nothing- and prepare to carry him away.
Ken tells the once-again-unconscious Joe to “hang in there,” as Jinpei remembers that he is, in fact, an animal lover and asks Ken about the puppy.
Ken wants to “leave the puppy,” but Joe then revives just enough to quietly gasp “Save him, please.” Ken suddenly relents and steps away from Joe (I’m sure Ryu can carry Joe’s upper half without any help), saying “Poor little fellow, today he’s become an orphan too,” and fights back tears again as he and the puppy gaze into each other’s eyes while sad music plays again. Meanwhile, everyone else is presumably just standing there awkwardly holding their teammate with head trauma, waiting.
Now we (finally!) cut to a hospital, where Joe is in a proper hospital bed, but otherwise doesn’t appear to have received much medical attention.
Ken and the others are there, still in birdstyle, and imploring Dr. Nambu to find a way to save Joe. Dr. Nambu draws their attention to a rather primitive looking x-ray, and explains the problem.
“It is impossible to remove it with any kind of operation,” he concludes gravely. Ken doesn’t want to believe that nothing can be done, but Dr. Nambu does go on that the only thing that they could try would be to “try using the centrifuge from the Space Research Facility to dislodge the fragment from his brain.”
Is there anyone who can believe that that might actually be a viable idea? I actually know a few neurosurgeons. Someday I’m going to describe this episode to one of them, and ask them what they think.
To his credit, Dr. Nambu does point out that being in a centrifuge can be dangerous, ie. “Joe’s body could be torn to pieces,” but they all realize that the alternative –doing nothing- is certain death for Joe.
Ken rationalizes the risk to Joe by saying that “If Joe dies, we won’t ever be able to use the full strength of the God Phoenix again.” I’d like to think that’s not Ken’s biggest reason for wanting to save Joe, his friend! Ken is ready to “take a gamble on the centrifuge,” and Dr. Nambu agrees to try it.