Gate was a show that I totally ignored when it first came out because of one simple, but very stupid and very judgmental reason: There’s one guy and a bunch of girls in the poster…
Yes, yes I know. Never judge a book by it’s cover, don’t be a dick and always learn to look both ways before crossing the road. But in my defense other shows that have the same male to female ratio in their cover tend to… you know? Not be good.
So I figured why waste my time with Gate? Surely it was going to be yet another moe moe ecchi harem type show like those other time wast-, err… I mean those other shows that were made to sell body pillows and figmas.
But something happened…
I finished watching Man in The High Castle (great show by the way) and was now out of shows to watch, anime or otherwise. And seeing as Gate is going to have a second season this week, I figured “why not? If it sucks at least I could review it and warn others about it.”
Thankfully it didn’t suck. Now it’s definitely not a MUST WATCH type show, at least for me, but it was definitely worthwhile and I’m actually interested in seeing the second season. In fact, even though I wasn’t too enthralled with the show, others might actually love it.
Nothing to see here.
The story of Gate is simple. A portal opens up in the middle of a Japanese city and out from it comes a bunch of fantasy monsters and men in knightly armor. They kill people, police show up, the fantasy invaders get killed and the government sends the Jieitai (Japan’s Self-Defense Force) through the portal into a world simply known as the “Special Region”. While on the other side, the Jieitai is to set up a base of operations, investigate the Special Region and make contact with the local populace.
What follows is one big circle jerk, stroking the ego of Japa-er, I mean what follows is an entertaining show about Japan’s finest being heroes and doing a lot of good and ass kicking. In all seriousness I didn’t actually mind the show’s patriotism. I found it endearing. And I thought that it was nice to see America as a villainous force for once, because though there’s fantasy monsters and what not to worry about, the show doesn’t forget the possible political maelstrom that would stir at the sudden discovery of a new world with yet to be discovered (and claimed) resources and powers. My only problem with that is that all the non-Japanese countries (America, China and Russia) are portrayed as being greedy villains with little to no depth… which just makes the patriotism a tad bit disturbing. Similar to how brown people tend are typically made into evil sand devils lacking in personality in some American media.
The show displays an attempt at fleshing out the kingdoms of the Special Region, so why not make non-Japanese countries just as complex? It’s almost as bad as a Transformers movie in that part (and only in that part, because the show’s actually pretty good).
But I guess that’s not really the focus of the show. The focus is, after all, the Special Region, its people and how they interact with the Jieitai; which we see through the eyes of Gate’s protagonist: Youji Itami.
When we first meet Youji he’s portrayed as being an otaku that prioritizes his nerdy hobbies over work and adult responsibilities, but as soon as the action kicks in we see our 33-year-old protagonist acting in a very non-otaku like manner. He’s putting himself in danger to save people, he’s giving orders to police officers and he’s fighting against the fantasy invaders. Right now I don’t really have any complaints about this sequence since the show does explain why he’s very skilled and can just give orders around like that later on. But watching it at first I was a little bothered by how the show doesn’t tell us more about his character. And I know, I know, show don’t tell. But it did feel like the show was forgetting to tell me stuff about Youji rather than purposefully keeping secrets from me. A minor complaint, but it was there and it probably won’t bother most other people, because Youji Itami is a likable dude anyway.
Besides him there’s the other Jieitai members that become a part of his squad. We don’t really get to know all of them all too well, but the show does make an effort in providing at least half of them personalities. Outside of Youji’s squad there were a handful of other Japanese characters (Jieitai, government official and civilian) that either help to progress the plot along and flesh out characters without becoming plot devices with absolutely zero personality. And that’s part of what I appreciate about Gate, minor side characters might have been minor, but at least they weren’t completely boring and lacking of personality. For the most part at least. Were they good and depthful characters? Naw. Not really. But they didn’t really take up too much of our time so it’s okay.
The characters that did get a lot of screen time besides Youji were the three main ladies on the poster (plus Princess Pina Colada… it’s okay to laugh). The three main girls of Gate are Tuka, Lelei and Rory. Tuka is an elf girl whose village was razed by a fire dragon, she’s suffering from PTSD because her father was killed. Lelei is a mage in training and is eager to learn about the world beyond the gate and about Japan. Rory, despite looking like the youngest of the three, is actually a 900 year old demigod who serves as a priestess of sorts for the God of death, or war… I don’t actually remember but when people die around her, their souls pass through her body and she gets very aroused… which leads to a number of scenes teeming with sexual tension… Yeah.
I really want to say that there’s more to these girl’s characters other than being your typical harem ladies, but though they do have pretty entertaining personalities they just don’t have anything else going for them. Tuka doesn’t do much except for be an elf. Lelei serves as a translator between the Jieitai and the people of the Special Region but other than that she and Tuka don’t really do much except use a few helpful spells, but even that felt lacking. Rory had some pretty cool moments but other than her cool fights and sexual tension with Youji there’s not a lot to her character. But if you’re a fan of cool fight scenes you might like her and you might even think that she’s a great character… You might not notice how uninteresting she really is, but your brain will.
And as funny as her name is, I actually find Princess Pina’s character to be the best out of all the female ones because she’s actually a character with fears and goals. Tuka’s suffering from PTSD sure, and that’s probably going to play in later on in the series but as of right now it’s just there to be there. She, and the other two girls, just don’t have any real goals other than to be cute and try to get in bed with Youji Itami.
Pina has real goals. She wants peace between her people and the Jieitai. She’s the daughter of the emperor but born to a concubine and has plenty to prove to the world and herself. Really, she has the most depth out of every character except for Youji and I’m glad that she didn’t ended up as just another loli harem character because you know that she could have easily been one. And if she does end up being infatuated with Youji, I wouldn’t mind it so long as she doesn’t lose her personality.
Basically what I’m complaining about here is that I wanted more from the three girls, not just screen-time but also something from them that’ll actually draw me in and make me care about them. Only reason I care about Tuka is because she’s worried about her dad, but even then that still felt like it was lacking. I want more damn it!
Oh well, at least the show does have plenty of epic moments like this one:
I’m sure, or at least I’m hoping, that the second season is going to be better. I still want the action and I still want to see more conflict between the Jieitai/Japan, the kingdoms of the Special Region and the world governments. But most of all I’m hoping that the next season gives us some interesting character moments because that could have really improved this show a lot. Not saying that it’s bad because I am going to recommend it to people.
For which people? Well, I think this is a pretty good anime for the typical anime fan who likes good action, decent story and cute ladies. And if you like fantasy and military stuff then this is definitely a show for you. Obviously a purely shoujo anime type then this show might not be for you. And if you’re looking for overt sexual stuff, go watch porn instead you fuck. The show might be a harem with a good amount of sexual overtones and tension, but it doesn’t ever go To-Love Ru levels of lewdness.
I would be disappointed if the next season didn’t have more Youji and Pina though.