This review is a tad wordy, I apologize for that. I also apologize if Gate was your favorite anime of the season, because I’m about to pick it apart. No offense to your taste is meant, but I had a problem with this show and had to get it off my chest. So with warnings and apologies out of the way, it’s finally time for my review of…
“Gate” or “Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There!” was an interesting amalgamation of genres. On one hand it seemed it was a harem with the one male lead and three female ones, but it soon became a sudo-comedy-action-fantasy show. The overall plot seemed to jump from protecting Japan, to protecting civilians and establishing relations, and finally ending in one of the most bizarre places it possibly could. The strongest part of the show is its action sequences, many of which are excellently animated. The characters are fairly unique, and the world is interesting enough to keep you wanting more. That being said this show had some problems that kept it out of my top spots, including the afore mentioned ending.
In the beginning we’re introduced to the main character (Youji Itami) as an otaku on his way to a doujinshi sale. Suddenly a gate to another world opens in Tokyo, and an army of humans and beast men wielding medieval weapons begins to slaughter the populace! Itami is at first worried about the effect the panic will have on his doujin sale, but soon switches into hero mode as he attempts to save as many civilians as possible. It is after this incident that we learn our lovable otaku Izumi is also a lieutenant in the JSDF (Japanese Self-Defense Force). After the dead are buried Japan sends the JSDF through the gate to figure out what is going on. On the other side they encounter hostile forces, but those forces are using medieval fantasy weapons against modern weapons. In this way the first actual battle between the Japanese and mystery forces quickly becomes a slaughter.
We are then introduced to the Empire, a confederation of client kingdoms on the other side of the gate, that forms a large army to combat “the green men”. Time and again these armies are crushed by the JSDF in some of the most one sided battles since Cannae. After the route, the JSDF decides to send out scouting parties to learn about the world that attacked them. Itami’s unit is chosen as one of the scouts and in a couple troop transport vehicles they head to nearby villages. The locals in the first village are helpful to the unit, but the second village seems to have been destroyed with an elf girl (Tuka Luna Marceau) as the lone survivor. After learning that a fire dragon was the cause of the destruction, Itami leads his team in evacuation of the first village. Along the way the evacuation caravan is attacked by the very dragon they fled from, and the JSDF team is fends it off with what weapons they had. After seeing this, the JSDF’s reputation with the locals grows.
Itami brings back some of the survivors to the base near the gate of the worlds, and this slowly turns the JSDF base into a refugee town of sorts. Among the people he brings back are Tuka (the elf), Lelei la Lalena (a mage girl), and Rory Mercury (a grim reaper demigod/goth loli). Tuka joins them to look for her father, because she is unable to accept his death. The other two are along to learn more about the JSDF and their world, though Rory is also along to have a chance for combat. This group along with Itami’s unit windup defending a town that is under siege by an army of soldiers from the empire’s previously defeated army. After this a princess of the empire (Piña Co Lada… yes I’m serious) draws up a treaty for the JSDF and relations between the two worlds enters negotiations. After this Itami is tasked with taking the girls and the princess to Japan for a meeting with the Japanese government.
When they reach Japan the girls give a speech to the Japanese government, and harshly rebuke the lead speaker for her narrow views on the JSDF. Governments of other nations send their operatives to presumably kidnap these other worldly dignitaries, but through the cunning of Itami and an old friend these operatives are soundly defeated. We learn in this area that Itami has an ex-wife (Risa Aoi) and that he is actually a special ops agent of some sort. After returning to the other side of the gate the story follows a new girl, a dark elf girl (Yao Ha Ducy) who is looking for the JSDF to save her people from the fire dragon. She is rejected by the JSDF command, but she is told that Itami would find a way to help her. Unfortunately at this time Itami is escorting a dignitary to Princess Piña to deliver goods that will supplement her sue for peace within the Empires nobility. Then it ends… right there.
Admittedly there will be another season, but it seems as if the studio expected to continue into next season rather than wait a season to continue. This is what my old superiors in the Navy called “piss poor planning”. I really enjoyed the show (mostly), and to see it end at one of the strangest point it could was baffling. There were glaring points of nationalism in this show as well that were eye-rollingly annoying, especially in this otherwise amazing fantasy anime. The writer seems to take pains in claiming Japanese superiority in all things military, and even the senator that rebukes the JSDF seems a caricature of a “liberal” who “don’t know what good ‘dem military boys do” to take my country’s far right’s word for it. Dialogue like “a sky without american planes” or “I thought american special forces were good” really gives away the intention of the writer, but then I’ve been told by many in the otaku community “it’s just a show” so I should just drop it. To these people I say “Birth of a Nation” is “just a movie” and “Mein Kampf” is “just a book”. All I’m saying is take a deeper look, and you’ll see there are some disturbing trends in this anime.
Of course that is all speculation, and maybe none of it is true. Still no one can deny the amount of blatant nationalism on display in this show. To anyone who would ask, yes I’m just as sick of it in my own country, but I’m not covering American “anime” now am I? I love war and fantasy novels/movies in my own culture, but if you asked me my favorite it would have to be “All Quiet on the Western Front” for it’s unequivocal honesty about the horror of war. By comparison this show’s characters seem to feel nothing while taking human life. Even if that life is of evil marauding soldiers the typical non-insane soldier would be expected to feel something for the life they had taken. The only solace I took in this area was Itami’s character, and his relentless pursuit of peace. Even if he only wants peace so that he can go back to Japan for doujinshi!
I’m still very much looking forward to the follow up of this show. The problems I had with the show knock it out of contention for my favorite show of the season, but I’m still interested to see where it goes. Maybe that whole nationalism thing will blow up in my face with everyone suing for peace, and I’ll look like a complete idiot when the JSDF leaves. I’m actually somewhat hoping that happens, because other than the nationalism and military fapping in this show I immensely enjoyed this summer anime. Still I’m sure that many disagree with me on this, so (if you haven’t already) watch this show and tell me what you think. Till then I’ll be catching up for next season, and waiting for “Blade & Soul” to come out in North America…
Arigatō my fellow BrOtaku!