The Story of Joe, the Condor
by N. Toriumi
by N. Toriumi
Deep in the most remote heart of the Himalayas, at the foot of an ancient mountain, through the billowing mist, snowflakes swimming around him, walks Condor Joe.
Where is the God Phoenix? Where is Ken?
Here, on a featureless plain atop the so-called "roof of the world", strange stone monoliths stand like silent sentries. Beneath is hidden the secret base of the Gallactor Syndicate. The underground entrance lies near, information which must be given to Ken, to the Science Ninja Team, by any means necessary. It is this thought alone that keeps Joe moving, breathing despite the pain that wracks his body.
Nothing else matters. Now I will force them to relinquish their base, and for this reason alone I'm still breathing...
Time and again he has faced death, unafraid. More than once he has stood on the brink of losing his life...but this time...
Suddenly he is attacked by Galactor soldiers and dragged underground. He is taken by force before their leader, Berg Katze, who vents his hatred and impatience on the captive. Joe is beaten bloody, then his body is riddled with bullets. It's finished. After such a long time waiting to die, Joe is feeling his life slip away.
The voice of a Galactor soldier pierces his thoughts the way the bullets pierced his body. "The God Phoenix is coming! It's the Gatchaman!"
Death will have to wait! I have to live! I have to live to see them!
Condor Joe's entire body is covered with wounds. He crawls on his belly, like an insect, struggling to reach the surface.
His limbs feel heavy as he fights to move them. Shouts emerge from the thickening fog. He hears the sound of running footsteps.
The Galactors, Katze's men, were looking for me. Could it be them...? Or is it...?
Were the sounds those of Gatchaman coming to rescue him, or of Gallactors intent on killing him? He can't be sure.
Struggling to think clearly, Joe checks his left wrist, then his right. Nothing. His bracelet is gone. He remembers Katze's men tearing it from him. He puases and spends precious seconds searching his pockets.
One feather dart left. Katze's men had missed his darts when they searched him, before they had beaten him until he'd almost died. He had flung one feather dart at Katze--and missed.
It would have been worth dying to kill Katze. It doesn't matter. I have to wait for Ken now. Each breath I draw brings me closer to meeting him. I have to live for that.
He puts the feather in his mouth and crawls up into the pale grey light outside. He leans up against a cold stone wall, waiting.
Just a minute--that sound. Who is it? Gatchaman? Gallactor?
Joe listens painstakingly to the commotion, the sounds of battle.
Those sounds--they're turning into something else. The sound of...waves? Yes, I remember. The three of us--my mother, my father and I, on the island. The sound of waves. It was late autumn, almost winter, but the sun was warm. I was playing in the wet sand, building a castle...
One gunshot, then another. The boy left the surf-strand and tore madly up to the beachhouse, crying out for his mother and father...who both lay dead on the hot sand, side by side. Standing over their unmoving corpses was a female assassin. The sound of waves. The sunlight. The wind moving over the hot dry dunes, scattering sand. George Asakura's parents had been murdered by the assassin standing over them. The boy ran forward and grabbed the gun from his father's lifeless hand and aimed it at the assassin. He cocked the hammer, but he wasn't strong enough to pull the trigger back. His heart pounded, but he didn't make a sound.
The woman smiled almost lovingly at him. Her hand raised up in a languid motion and she tossed a beautiful rose upon the sand in front of him. It blew purple smoke, then suddenly exploded. George was thrown up into the air in a burst of light and salty sand.
For a long time after that, he saw nothing but darkness. His small body was wracked with agonizing pain, and he couldn't move. He heard the assassin's voice, mocking him, but the words made no sense. He listened. He listened, but he couldn't make himself understand.
The assassin had been sent to the island to murder Joseph Asakura, a scientist who sought refuge from the Gallactor Syndicate. In desperation, shortly before his murder, Asakura had contacted a member of the ISTO, Dr. Kozaburo Nambu.
Asakura and his wife were dead, but unbeknownst to the assassin, the child still lived, though barely. Nambu and several native dwellers found the boy on the island, near the bodies of his dead parents. A certified doctor, Nambu signed a death certificate for all three of them and then secretly spirited George away on his small private plane.
George woke up and looked up into the face of a stranger...a man with a mustache and kind, knowing eyes.
"Don't be afraid anymore," he said. "The best thing you can do now is forget what happened. You have been reborn."
Nambu returned to the Institute with the boy. After long months of recovery, he was well. But he was no longer George Asakura. He was Joe the Condor. George Asakura lay dead with his parents on B.C. Island. Dr. Nambu showed Joe the papers that proved it.
Dr. Nambu trained Joe, helping him make his young body whole again, and stronger than before. When he finally took Joe home, the boy was introduced to another child, a boy his own age, the son of a test pilot. The boy's name was Ken Washio.
Ken's father had gone missing during a test flight in South America the year before, and his mother had died recently after a long illness. In spite of that, Ken's disposition was cheerful and optomistic, very much unlike Joe's own brooding, introspective nature. Ken enjoyed life and didn't mind showing his pleasure, despite the uncertain fate of his father. Despite their opposing natures and differing ages, the two boys became close friends almost at once.
Nambu then introduced Joe to the other children--Jun, Jinpei, and Ryu. He gathered the five of them together and spoke to them with determined affection.
"From this point on, I will teach you how to fight against Gallactor's evil. You will be one body, and fight with one spirit. From this point forward, you are Gatchaman."
And thus, the Science Ninja League was formed.
Dr. Nambu, a prominent scientist and director of the Mantle Project, had been assigned by the world leaders to organize a special resistance force against the Gallactor Syndicate, a group of criminals whose influence was felt in each nation. It was his belief that the best place to base such a specialized group would be an isolated location such as BC Island. However, Nambu knew that Joe's parents were Gallactor agents and that Joe had blood ties to criminal families associated with Gallactor. Joe was only vaguely aware of this truth, and his mind closed itself off from this information and he did not remember.
Joe grew up believing that his parents were innocents who were murdered by Gallactors, and he swore vengeance.
This will be my counterstrike against them.
Their trial by fire came against the giant robot mecha, the Turtle King. In the sky over the ocean the God Phoenix battled the steel beast. The mecha was the creation of Berg Katze, the Syndicate's androgynous leader.
Yet Joe was not satisfied with their victory, wherein they destroyed the Turtle King and drove back Katze. It wasn't enough for him. By Nambu's direction, the Gatchaman were designed only to be a defensive force, taking action only when Gallactor activity threatened innocent lives.
What a waste! We're playing a see-saw game with them. What are the Gatchaman for, anyway? What are we fighting for?! The true evil, the true enemy is Berg Katze. We chase them off, and chase them off, and chase them off again, and they keep coming right back at us. What's the point?! Every time they strike, they leave more versions of me--orphans, lost and alone.
With every day, with every conflict, Joe's anger and frustration grew. The other Gatchaman, Ken especially, believed completely in Nambu's pacifistic approach. This brought Joe and Ken into constant conflict.
He doesn't know how to hate. All he's ever known in his life is peace and security.
Unlike Ken, when Joe fought, all his anger and hatred rose up inside him and he waged war against the Gallactors in a sort of mindless rage.
There's no point in acting like Gallactor's echo. If we're going to fight evil, let's strike at the heart of the evil and destroy it once and for all.
This is the reason that Ken was appointed leader of the Gatchaman rather than Joe; because Ken believed in maintaining peace where possible, whereas Joe wanted all-out war.
Nambu continued to stress the importance of acting openly only when the threat of Gallactor was apparent.
At one point, Jun was taken prisoner by the Jigokiller flower mecha, and without knowing which flower contained Jun, Ken blasted the flowers anyway, to free the city's reservoir and save the townspeople.
Then, for the first time, Joe hit Ken. The fact that Ken acted so heartlessly, willing to sacrifice Jun, whom Joe knew was in love with Ken while Ken himself had no time to notice, was incomprehensible to Joe. Thankfully, Jun was later found alive.
As might be expected of him after such an action, Ken tried to run away from his feelings. Nambu called a special meeting of the team.
When asked to present her side of the incident, Jun pointed out that not only had she been rescued, but that the attack on the flowers had actually improved her chances of survival. Why, asked Ken, would that negate the fact that he had cast aside his personal feelings? Why, she asked in return, would his feelings, whatever they might be, change the requirements of their mission? Whether what Ken did was distasteful or not, it was a question of duty. Whether he cared for her or not, it was still a question of duty. Each one of them knew that, however much they cared about each other, their duty would always have to come before anything else.
"Isn't that your duty?" she asked him pointedly. "Isn't that the duty of the Gatchaman?"
In the meantime, Joe began to see more of Ken's true nature. At the same time, he found himself becoming more like Ken, seeing aspects of his adopted brother in his own character. Joe's anger did not diminish, but he learned to use it more effectively, rather than taking aim against anything that he might suspect to be Gallactor. Ken became gradually more aggressive, more willing to take forceful action. They were more alike, Joe and Ken, than either ever would have imagined.
Nothing brought this home more forcefully than the incident in the country of Hontowar, when Gallactor developed a missile capable of disrupting the earth's Van Allen radiation belt. Gallactor held the world hostage against destruction until the leader of the Red Impulse Squadron, who was revealed to be Ken's long-lost father, sacrificed himself in order to save the planet. Red Impulse flew the ship with the missile and changed its course so that it would not affect the Van Allen belt. He died in the explosion, and the earth was safe.
This incident changed Ken forever. He became a fierce, almost mindless fighter, killing Gallactors ruthlessly, with a savage ferocity that even Joe found excessive. Joe found himself attempting to stabilize Ken--a decidedly unusual situation. Eventually, Ken's self-control reasserted itself, although he had been forever altered by the experience.
During the Marine Satan incident, Joe's sensitivity to sudden flashes of bright light became almost constant, rendering him all but ineffectual.
Despite his illness, Joe accompanied Ken to the undersea base which Gallactor had taken over. Ken did most of the work because Joe was incapable. When the Gallactor undersea fortress was being destroyed, Joe was paralyzed by the flames.
Ken forced him to look into the flames of the inferno and face his fears and his tattered memories.
"Let the memories out, Joe!" he demanded. "Look into the heart of the flames, into the depths of your soul. Let the memories come out so that they will lose their power over you!"
Joe could sense that the undersea fortress was disintegrating around them. In its belly sat the two men, with the sea threatening to rush in and crush them at any moment.
Joe let the memories come out. He was the child of Gallactor agents. He had always known, deep inside himself, but had refused to let himself remember.
In the fortress of the Marine Satan, the danger grew. The two of them barely escaped. Joe was reeling from the revelation of the truth.
He was the child of Gallactors. The knowledge was almost too much for him to bear. Although Ken would have kept his secret, Joe felt duty-bound to confess his true origins to Nambu...only to find out that his mentor had always known.
"The child of the Gallactors died on that island, Joe. You are G-2, Joe the Condor, of Gatchaman. Nothing else is important now."
Ken told him the same things that Nambu had said. However, Joe felt like a traitor nonetheless.
He had always hatted Gallactors, believing that his parents had been innocent victims. But they had been of the very organization that he hated so much. By right of birth, he was the same.
Father Alan--Joe’s childhood friend, now baptized as a Roman Catholic priest. He had known Joe’s parents. He still lived on BC Island. Joe returned to the island to see out Father Alan and discover the truth about his past.
He could not, of course, reveal his true identity. However, he had to make the attempt.
It turned out that Gallactor was still active in operations on BC Island, and Father Alan was involved in that activity. It was worse, far worse, than Joe had feared. His father, Joseph Asakura, had been the leader of the Syndicate, Katze’s predecessor, bound to both Gallactor and the Mafia with ties of blood. Joe carried that same blood in his veins, and he could never escape that fact.
Ken tried to talk sense into Joe by pointing out that he was his own person, Joe, and was free to choose his path in life just as Father Alan had chosen his. However, Joe became obsessed with the revelation and ran away--anywhere, nowhere, just to escape a horror he could never escape.
What could he do, what could he do, he asked himself over and over.
I have nothing left. There is nothing inside me.
Eventually, Joe realized the truth. He was running away from himself, and that he could never do. The others were right. Whatever he had been, whatever his family had been, he was a Gatchaman now. Just like Ken, and Jun, and Jinpei, and Ryu. Gatchaman was his family, and they needed him. He was only being selfish by denying them.
Joe returned to Gatchaman, to the world he found familiar. He believed in Ken and Jun's love, and encouraged it. He let himself believe in the God Phoenix, and its ability to overcome any menace. He put his faith in himself as well, taking one day at a time. He resolved to live or die for Nambu and his fellow Gatchaman--whichever they would most require.
It was the best time of his life. A time that would too soon end.
The Gallactor Syndicate released its greatest menace to date, the Black Hole Plan. During the incident, Joe became unaccountably ill. He became a victim of Katze's Mechanizer, which forced his transformation back to civilian mode. He somehow managed to escape, only to discover that his illness was worse than anyone had thought. His brain was damaged. There was no hope. He was dying. He had at most a week to live. He would be removed from duty.
Such a short time before I die. While I still live, I will see Gallactor fall--for Ken, for my friends. My death will have meaning!
Joe accessed Nambu's files to discover the location of Cross Karacolm and staged his own attack, hours before Gatchaman was scheduled to arrive.
But Joe's illness had taken its toll on his skills. He had only managed to throw one feather dart during the fight with Katze's men, and that had missed. He had been beaten nearly to death, unable to fight back effectively. After being bathed in a rain of bullets, he had only just managed to drag himself up the stairs and out into the greyish light.
And now, here, he waits, under a cold grey sky.
It doesn't matter what happens to me now. Either way, I'm dead. The End. If I can only survive long enough to meet with Ken. He deserved more respect than I ever bothered to give him. I have to tell him how much he means to me. Him, and gentle Jun, and lovable Jinpei, and laughing Ryu...
Footsteps. Nearby, coming closer.
He sees a flash of white run past. A Gallactor soldier raises his rifle to fire at a white shadow in the mist--Jun! Joe lifts the one feather dart he has left and throws it with every ounce of strength remaining in him. Miraculously, the missile finds its mark. The gunman falls dead to the ground.
Jun turns and sees him.
Dimly he hears Jun calling for Ken and the others. He forces his eyes to open as she kneels beside him. Tears are spilling down her cheeks. He smiles up at her.
"Don't carry on like that, Jun," he says. "I’ve still got a few minutes before I die."
He hears her protesting violently. He’s talking crazy, talking nonsense, he’s badly hurt, but he isn't going to die!
He clings to her voice like a lifeline. Just a few minutes more...just until he talks to Ken. Then, at long last, he’ll be able to fly free.
(Taken from the episode "Earth Vanishes 0002")