Alt title: Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri

TV (12 eps)
4.093 out of 5 from 25,249 votes
Rank #627

On August 20XX, a gate suddenly appears in Tokyo's Ginza district, unleashing a portal where monsters, medieval knights and other fantasy beings come from another world and wreak havoc on Tokyo. The Japanese Defense Force take action against these monsters and push them back into the "Gate". Third Reconnaissance Team is dispatched to the "Special Region" lead by officer (and otaku) Youji Itami. On their travels, they are joined by a beautiful elf girl who is a survivor from the dragon's rampage and guide the group across the dangerous new world. 

Source: Crunchyroll

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Story: When deciding to watch a show, I generally aim to have as little information going in as possible. Usually the synopsis, title, cover image, and average user ratings are the extent of what I expose myself to upfront, leaving my expectations completely open to whatever gets thrown my way. As my quality compass has honed a bit over the years, I am fairly apt at picking out “decent” series these days, and on occasion stumble across the good or the great. GATE puts me distinctly at odds with my intuitions: is this series decent or is it good? As an odd conglomerate of several different genres and topics, pinning down its scope is rather difficult. On one hand, the series is a mixture of military showoff, bleak drama, and general socio-political commentary on a scenario in which a country has initiated war against a foe which dwarfs its military might a hundred times over. On another, GATE is a fairly amusing parody and commentary on otaku culture, sprinkled with a fair amount of fanservice and over-the-top combat antics that clearly serve as eye candy more than story substance. Underwriting both angles is an overwhelmingly rosy-eyed JSDF propaganda piece which carries a sort of beaming nationalistic pride that’s rare to see from the modern Japanese anime scene. Quite surprisingly, this works pretty darn well. While the norm of such a frenetically-themed show would be spastic incoherency, however, GATE progresses fairly steadily in a character-driven narrative. The overall story quickly dwindles into irrelevancy, and what remains is a bunch of fairly interesting actors on a quirky stage of “what ifs.” There exists an odd semblance of a slice-of-life vibe, fronted by the JSDF’s Itami as the main lead, which cleanly sifts between different subplots to keep appreciable forward momentum. While at no point was I ever blown away by this creative pacing or content, the show maintains an entertaining nature from one episode to the next. Sometimes its presentation is decent, sometimes it is good, but rarely is this hard-lined on genres; the parody, for example, has times where it is hits and times when it misses. What makes GATE ultimately succeed comes from its insistence to never take itself too seriously. In the same manner that Wotakoi never truly aims to be a serious romance, and yet underwrites a potent romance beneath its comedic layers, GATE masquerades as action-flicked, parody-packed comedy with just enough underlying drama to give it depth. Animation: While there is not too much to say on the animation front, GATE delivers on its “cool” factor when it needs to. The author’s love of modern warfare is readily apparent, and there’s something harrowing about seeing fifteen Apache helicopters mow down a feudal army with ruthless abandon to Wagner’s opus. Still, there’s nothing particularly impressive here – the series looks as one would expect from a production of average resources, and judiciously spends its funs on “overwhelming force” fight scenes when needed. That said, it is appreciated that the show pulls no punches when it wants to be dark. Real life combat is not pleasant, and characters touched by mortars have limbs blown off. Real life politicians are not good people, and they have little reservation sexually abusing subjects who have no power to resist their perverse whims or twisting events entirely based on propaganda to spin a narrative which is completely fictional. While certainly no horror or gore flick, there’s a measure of gritty realism placed alongside elves in jeans and wizards in gas masks that balances the whimsicality of the humor with the grittiness of the underlying commentary. Sound: The music in GATE is fitting but readily forgettable. Likewise, the voice acting hits the important parts it needs to but does not deliver any particularly memorable performances. A large part of this, in my estimation, is the spastic nature of the show in which it jumps around from cool action sequence to parody to drama to slapstick comedy routine. All of these work together as a cohesive whole, but there’s no room for an overall audible aesthetic that ties it all together. Again, passable but nothing to write home about. Characters: Not knowing what to expect with GATE, the first episode took me quite a bit by surprise – Japan gets invaded by some otherworldly denizens, and some random otaku is running around directing people in the face of the calamity. Once the chaos dies down, though, Itami’s character is developed as quite a bit more than random otaku, and the show spends much of its time promoting his general likeableness. Itami comes across as a sort of perfect soldier who balances personal life, professional duty, and having to make brutal decision quite nicely. Most of the JSDF follow in his lead, and I honestly remember none of them outside the commonality of their faces. What’s most interesting to me about the characters, though, is not a particular take on any one individual. Sure the JSDF  are all too-good-to-be-true soldiers in terms of their real life aptitude (for example, in the real world many good soldiers on Itami’s level are enticed into not-good roles – take a look at Timothy McVeigh outside the mainstream narrative if you’re interested in what goes on) but they’re not terribly interesting beyond that. More functionally than the JSDF, the array of side characters directing its actions spells out quite nicely just how scummy the world of politics is. The viewer is given the dialectic of “Japan good, everyone else bad” to a certain degree, sure, but the show spends a great deal of time bagging on the Japanese politicians just as much as it does the foreigners. At the end of the day, everyone on earth is trying to exploit the world beyond the GATE, and is doing so for self-indulgent and destructive reasons. China wishes to use it for population offloading, Japan for natural resources not available on its own islands to create independence from the rest of the world, the US for maintenance of its hegemony, etcetera. There are no real protagonists in the show outside the on-the-ground Japanese soldiers, which carves out a bleaker undertone hidden amidst some of its more serious scenes than the show is willing to outright state. Deeper still are some interesting takes on the importance of cultural identity of the GATE’s native inhabitants in the face of the foreign interlocution by the Japanese. It becomes quickly clear to the native armies that swords and bows do little against mortar rounds and helicopter battalions with machine guns, yet many still throw their lives away nonetheless in an attempt to repel the JSDF. On one hand this seems primitive and stupid, and yet there’s an underlying honor of “death before slavery” amongst the GATE’s bad actors which is understandable in the greater context of what Japan does to “win” the war. Much of the humor of the JSDF’s conquest comes in Itami interacting with the natives on their own terms by, for example, dressing up in a toga and bribing young women with jewelry. Behind the hilarity, however, one can see the slow erosion of the GATE’s native culture with that of Japanese capitalistic, mass-produced luxuries. Part of this narrative comes in the innocent question of “what if a primitive person were to engage with modern technology?” as the natives bathe in hot tubs and hot-tail away from dragons in ATVs. Another aspect to this, however, which weaves itself cleverly into the writing, comes in the form of “Look how easily the natives throw away their culture when confronted with this materialism.” Japan hardly needs to lift a finger to utterly destroy the identity of the empire’s citizens. In the context of Japan’s history, with the nation having evolved very quickly from a series of warring feudal states into a modern power, these undercurrent themes come across as a lot more poignant and telling than they might otherwise have. In many ways, Japan was the country behind the GATE – a bukido-driven, primitive society that met, quite shockingly, with the technological imperialism of the west. The ingratiation of the western powers toward 19th and 20th century Japan parallels much of the insidiousness of the JSDF toward the natives, and one familiar with Japanese history might notice very striking parallels to the eradication of historical Japanese culture at Shiroyama with how the JSDF crushes native resistance. As the show moves along, the creeping influence of the JSDF on imperial culture start everyone against each other, vying for the favortism of the invading power, and the Japanese need to do little other than sit back and let the native actors sort out the conflict on their own. The most telling scene in the series is when Itami presents Pina with the demands of the Japanese government and she realizes the magnitude of what they are – Japan will essentially “buy” the empire and make it a vassal state, culturally and economically enslaved to its conquerors. She realizes, at this point, that her empire and everything she knows is dead. The manner in which the different side characters interact with this greater narrative is quite good, and reminiscent of not just Japan post World War II, but also Germany and the Ottomans post World War I. I could go on a bit more, but I think my point is aptly stated. While I do not think the depth in the character writing does any particular justice in making GATE a better series, it does add substantially to it being an interesting series. Many of its two-dimensional and seemingly flat characters have a great deal of relevance in the bigger picture of Japanese history, which is quite amusing given the heavily pro-Japanese propagandistic nature of the content. Food for thought for all those who simply watch and say “Ugh, I hate nationalism!”   Overall: Having come late to the show on the series, it amuses me to no end seeing comments on the order of “But look at how blatantly nationalist and propagandist GATE is – it’s hideous!” Simply put, just about every single work one will encounter in the real world is propaganda of some form or another, and GATE is at least willing to be upfront and honest about it as part of the gig. Putting this angle aside (and let’s be clear, there’s absolutely no shame in it pulling the nationalist angle), the show knows what it wants to be and makes no attempts at hiding it. It’s silly, ridiculous, cool, interesting, and willing to throw out some social commentary that doesn’t fit with the modern trends of the left-leaning anime community – but so what? The political and social commentary it offers are interesting outside of a left-right paradigm (and let's be honest, the whole notion of the left-right paradigm is bullshit anyway). At the end of the day, the show offers some fairly thought-provoking perspectives from a Japanese man who saw his country and culture radically transformed by western military domination. It’s packaged completely differently than something like In This Corner of the World, but the originality of its presentation gives it a certain admirable charm. Thus, while the show breaks no unique ground in terms of its core content, inbetween the lines is a refreshing and unique commentary that flows along from event to event with no major redeeming hiccups. Watch it, enjoy it, forget it on these merits. However, against all this, it does carve its mark in the  anime scene by its willingness to talk about “taboo” topics such as the historical fall of Japan against the modern world and parallel it with a modern nationalist Japanese spirit. GATE does not deserve to win any special awards, but it will nevertheless provoke some interesting thoughts for those willing to have their brain piqued. On that ground alone it has my recommendation.


Notice: This review covers both seasons. The hook of this show was a medieval civilization coming in contact with an advanced one. How will they interact, solve their differences, coexist, and learn from each other? A very interesting concept that is sadly completely destroyed by the simple fact the whole thing is based on a light novel written by a military otaku and then adapted by A-1 Pictures, the studio with an uncontrollable urge for butt shots. The first episode is promising, since it shows how the less advanced civilization would try to solve all its problems by invading and taking over land by burning down houses and enslaving its population. The more advanced civilization would of course not only overwhelm it with better weaponry but also use far more elaborate political games to ally itself with this now world. All that are soon thrown out the window soon afterwards, since the author was more interested in self-indulging in a fantasy where his favorite toy soldiers are steamrolling everything else and have harem adventures with all sorts of fetishes. It is not hard to see his overbearing nationalism, as he favors the Japanese military (JSDF) to the point they are doing everything right, while everybody else is incompetent. This does not limit to savages from the other realm, but also to every other nation on our earth.Anyways, the plot is basically a bunch of otakus joining the military and crossing over to the other side of a dimensional gate, where they are supposed to secure their forces and forge a truce with the local leaders. The way they achieve this is by simply bombing the hell out anything that attacks them, scaring the leaders with a display of advanced weaponry, and amassing a harem of elves, witches, bunny girls, and any other sexual fetish you can imagine to be their prize. Everything is clearly one-sided, as there is no actual cultural exchange taking place. The JSDF is easily taking over everything with its super amazing tactics and firepower, while at the same time showing zero interest in magic forces that would allow it to make people immortal, or offer it instant regeneration. This is what I meant by self-indulgence, since there is no attempt to make both sides grey. If you are a Japanese soldier, you are the paragon of good with the most powerful weapons in the universe. If you are anything else, you are an incompetent asshole who loves to gloat before getting pulverized by the awesome JSDF. The show goes as far as making America seem like a back stabbing bunch of assholes who wouldn’t miss the chance to invade and take over the gate (something which they do before magically getting wiped out by the supreme JSDF). Also, the nobles on the magical realm are sadistic rapists who love to torture innocents, thus making them one-dimensional evils that deserve to be killed by the (of course) inspiring JSDF. And of course all females in the show are there just for otaku pandering, to be saved by our noble heroes and then turn into their waifus. Essentially, this is an anime that belongs in the pre-WW2 era, when everything animated in Japan was military propaganda. The characters have no real personality or character development and exist to simply be plot devices for furthering an agenda. The protagonist in particular is a clear example of a character not made to be an individual, but rather an archetype appealing to a certain demographic. He represents what otakus worldwide wish they would be (kindhearted, with a job, nobody minds his sleazy hobbies, is super smart, a top soldier, all chicks want to have sex with him) and has no problems in his life other than missing the latest porn doujin because orcs invaded his manga store. It’s all so painfully pandering to the point it stops being funny after a couple of episodes. Yet another example of why light novels are cancer and otaku pandering is what helps it spread.


[12 episodes viewed, update at the end] The adaptation of the setting and plot isn't bad. It's a good mix between Isekai or stranger in a strange land fantasy (hero summons) and modern Japanese SDF and otaku cultures. The source material would be rated seinen, as in dealing with mature themes from the 20-30 age grouping. However A-1 Pictures chose to use a tone adaptation and downgraded it to everyone or teenage ratings, which means some of the more crazy parts were cut out or modified. For example, they had the MC kill an enemy straight off using a blade across the throat, but they chose to use clothed male models rather than naked female models when an enemy army wanted to use psychological warfare to lure out the defenders. That's the kind of thing I mean by "tone change". A-1 pictures in the past have done similar changes to the licensed source material of other series, which I didn't think were particularly good or wise. Overall the fantasy/medieval setting is done well. It's a more gritty, historical, period in which sieges and aristocrats dominated military tactics. If anyone wanted to know what would happen if you threw a modern army formation back into the past, with semi unlimited ammo logistics, whether they could take on demi gods, dragons, and aristocratic based militaries... this is a good anime to start with. The MC is in a harem like situation, except he is a commanding officer. This is a significant difference from other series where the harem component is a primary issue. Here, it's more like a side project. The atmosphere feels more traditional, as in going back to a time of Japan where male leaders were always expected to lead females around. Whether that's because of the military setting or because of the medieval setting, it's hard to pinpoint. It's not a school harem about equality, however. A better adaptation would have earned a 90-100% score instead of a 7/10 or equivalent of 3.5 stars. I recommend Zipang for the more military orientated audience. Conflict on Geminar, one of the Tenchi Muyo OVAs, is another good take on hero in another world with mecha. I don't know why A-1 decided to moderate the tone and change the original source on such minor details. They could have extracted a lot more potential from the source. For one thing, people interested in this kind of fantasy meets modern military, really like blood, guts, and horror. They're basically the adrenaline crowd looking for thrills of some sort, they can take an Elfen Lied or two. If A-1 wants to get mainstream ratings, they can moderate the explicit content, but cutting or removing the material like this won't get them the hardcore support of the hard liners. Update: Curent quarter ends in episode 12. The ending episode doesn't get to the Second Red Dragon fight, so it ends on a "to be continued vibe" rather than a big battle or something of that kind. I thought the last episode did a good job wrapping things up, plot wise, and it didn't make the mistake of focusing too much on the weirdness of fantasy medieval world + otaku culture vibe. The audience is shown the interaction, but the focus is on somebody else. This is as it should be, because the future plot arcs have to do with Rory and Itami.

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