First Look: GATE

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Alternative titles: Gate: The JSDF Fought there!, Gate: Jietai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri
Light Novel Adaptation by A-1 Pictures
Streaming on Crunchyroll, Fridays 1:00 pm EST

Premise

A 30-something JSDF soldier goes about his day job to support his true passion: he’s a total otaku that loves fantasy anime and games. The two collide in the worst way when a gate opens in Tokyo and an army of fantasy monsters and soldiers attempts an invasion. With the initial attack quelled, our hero joins an expedition through the gate to see what’s on the other side.

Jel’s verdict: Still Open

At the very least GATE was not what I was expecting. I was quite amused the main character is an employed, grown man in his 30’s and more of an older style fantasy otaku as opposed to being into idols and moe and what not. It also had a surprisingly serious tone, with no problem showing civilians getting murdered by the incoming army. As I mentioned in our preview I was totally expecting this to be otaku wish fulfillment fantasy, so what we got was kind of refreshing. It could still go that route as we haven’t yet met the cute anime girls that were literally in our hero’s dreams. There’s also a super strong GLORIOUS NIPPON nationalistic vibe that Gee will touch on below. I mean the crowds run into the Imperial Palace for protection and emerge unscathed, not too hard to interpret that one. So there are a quite a few ways GATE could go wrong moving forward, but until it does it seems interesting enough to keep tabs on.

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Gee’s verdict: Bogeys Ahead

Full disclosure: I don’t like the original GATE manga at all. Steeped in nationalist circlejerking and hilariously unaware rhetoric, GATE is an example of a novel premise weighed down by the biases of its author. We’re talking about a manga in which its characters wax lyrical about its fears that one day, Japan could be capable of enacting a hyper-militant campaign of violence and destruction against its neighbors, as if such a thing didn’t already happen 50 years ago. We’re talking about a manga in which the Japanese Self Defense Force single-handedly fights off the American, Russian, and Chinese military combined.

That said, the anime is not the manga or light novel, and there’s entirely reason to believe that the GATE anime will forge its own path, instead focusing on the genuinely entertaining idea of a fantasy universe and modern civilization clashing. Unfortunately, GATE still isn’t very interesting. Our main character isn’t particularly engaging in the slightest and the initial conflict that kicks off the story never really feels that well-written. Why would any military from any era suddenly start slaughtering citizens? Especially if transported to another dimension? It feels like a flimsy excuse to give the Japanese military an excuse to invade without being painted as the bad guys. I mean, considering Japan’s love of falsely painting itself as the victim, I guess I shouldn’t be particularly surprised, but it’s still pretty contrived.

I will continue watching because the idea of a modern military fighting the likes of wizards and dragons is pretty cool. I’m just hoping the anime manages to focus on what little good GATE can bring to the table without its numerous blemishes.

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