First Impression – Gate

Gate 01

The face of a hero.

My apologies for the lateness of this FI. Last week was a real doozy for me…



Who Wants To Be A Hero?

Gate 0101

The calm before the storm.

Let’s kick off this double-episode first impression. Gate opens in a fairly standard manner. The eponymous gate connecting two worlds appears in Ginza. Monsters and Roman-esque soldiers pour through, indiscriminately slaughtering civilians. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) arrive shortly and repel the invasion. Everything that happens essentially follows the formula for a generic introduction of the background of the show. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though nothing particularly stands out in the resulting product. That said, perhaps the most interesting thing we can glean from the premiere is the main character’s personality. Itami Youji is a typical otaku; a character trait employed by anime of late presumably in an effort to elicit a stronger connection with viewers. Some might see this tactic as cheap exploitation. But I’m not here to talk about that, so I leave the debate to your own imagination. Anyway, the interesting twist about Youji’s character is that he also happens to be a soldier of the JSDF. And as it turns out, he plays the reluctant hero when his efforts to prevent the cancellation of a doujinshi event in the midst of the foreign invasion are “misinterpreted” as heroic deeds. What a terrible misunderstanding, eh?

Gate 0102

Youji gets a promotion.

So once the smoke clears and the JSDF gains control of the situation, Youji finds himself with a shiny promotion and a new set of responsibilities as a Second Lieutenant. Responsibilities which he no doubt finds more of a burden than anything else since they act only to reduce the amount of time he can spend with his doujinshi and various other otaku paraphernalia. Now, I get the feeling that this depiction of the hero is meant to make us feel a bit skeptical of him; a sentiment clearly shared by one of his new subordinates in the second episode. The guy gives a carefree and irresponsible impression. Particularly when he continually monologues about how everything besides his otaku hobbies are a bother. But despite this attitude, we must not forget that Youji is actually quite a competent and functional member of the JSDF. His motivations aside, the guy leaps into action to help people in need in the face of an inexplicable attack by unknown creatures emerging from a mysterious gate. And as episode two demonstrates, he has a keen grasp on how to calmly respond to outlandish situations when his squad is confronted with a fire-breathing dragon.

Gate 0201

Youji’s recon squad.

Though the guy may sing magical girl anime opening songs and relate dragons to Godzilla monsters with his fellow otaku squad mates, he certainly has his head screwed on right. And on that note, I do find the apparent prevalence of otaku in his squad interesting. Is it just a coincidence? Did the JSDF perhaps deliberately put such eccentric characters in a group? Or is this a comment on the JSDF’s more recent use of anime mascots to attract new recruits? I digress. Anyway, Youji’s actions speak for themselves. And he managed to leave a better impression in my mind as the second episode came to a close, just as he changed the way his initially skeptical subordinate saw him.

Political Shenanigans

Gate 0202

Hi, I’m evil.

The second episode also sees some hints at the kind of political intrigue that we can expect from the show. We learn that the Emperor who rules the world beyond the gate is a manipulative asshole. Sacrificing his subjects and allies to secure the safety of his Imperial Capital, the guy is almost a caricature of a villain. It’s comically evil for him to send the armies of his neighbors against the overwhelming might of the JSDF just so said neighbors won’t have the military strength to challenge him later on. And it’s definitely over-the-top for him to essentially send his own daughter to her death by ordering her on an extremely risky scouting mission. Oh, and don’t even get me started on his implementing scorched earth tactics to his neighbors’ and his own territories; sacrificing the common people to delay any potential advance from the JSDF. I’m hoping it’s not long before the guy is overthrown and replaced by someone more reasonable (perhaps his daughter) so that the JSDF may begin peaceful negotiations in earnest. The common people of the land certainly don’t appear to have any qualms interacting with Youji’s squad. So I get the feeling the different people can learn to get along relatively easily if not for people from above pulling strings to stir up a conflict.

Gate 0203

Hi, I’m a sleazeball.

Moving back to our side of the gate, we see a brewing political struggle of our own as the US government, though at the moment hesitant to take any risks, is anxious to move in and grab hold of any resources that may be found on the other side of the gate. That’s kind of a contrived depiction of the US. It fits right in with the international stereotype of Americans being greedy, meddlesome, and power-hungry, which might offend some western viewers. But Gate isn’t the first work to paint a less than pretty picture of the US. So I don’t find this kind of depiction particularly egregious at this point. Presumably the interest in resources beyond the gate will eventually spread to other nations, so I don’t foresee a prolonged spotlight on the US as the primary antagonizing force on our side of the gate. Moreover, it’s strange to begin with that Japan would have exclusive control over the gate, even if it is located on their own soil. Most works of fiction would more likely go with a UN approach for a more internationally neutral response. But then again, perhaps this political wrinkle is exactly one of the main points of the show that sets it aside from the rest of the bunch.

Gate has had a rather ordinary start so far. It hasn’t really wow’d me in any way, but it definitely retains my interest with the building up of Youji’s character and the hints at political complications. Perhaps with the introduction of the first main character from the other side of the gate (looks like it’s the elf girl) things will start picking up come the third episode. Plus, it looks like Youji’s squad will move to confront the fire-breathing dragon that’s acting on the Emperor’s behalf to raze the lands of the hapless commoners. So things might get heated up (no pun intended) next time around.

Gate 0204

Elf girl get!


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56 Responses to “First Impression – Gate”

  1. Di Gi Kazune says:

    So… medieval Stargate this looks like says Yoda.

    Unfortunately missing one key ingredient: MacGuyver. Colonel O’Neill.

  2. IreneSharda says:

    I wasn’t really sure what to make of this show when it was first advertised. I know nothing of the original material and the summary didn’t really interest me, and sounded a lot like a series that came out a year or two ago that I didn’t have any interest in either. Then as I read more about it, it began to sound a lot like “Stargate the Anime” (note, I didn’t say “the animation” since Stargate does indeed have an animated series. :p ).

    However, when I finally decided to give it a watch on a whim, I found the show to be very interesting. The main character seems like an otaku stereotype at first, until you find out that he’s quite capable and a very good soldier at that. And that’s what I liked the most about this series. There is some pretty funny and easy moments, but a lot of it is meant to be taken seriously People actually die in this, and die by the thousands. And I’ve always wanted to see a modern military army go up against a medieval one, even though I know what the outcome would be.

    I liked the politics too, and while I don’t know much about Japanese politics, I can still understand what’s going on there and how it takes quite a bit of hoops to get them to go to war. I’m pretty tired of the big bad Americans always being the greedy sleazes in all these shows. It’s always felt like a sense of insecurity on Japan’s part, and it still does.

    However, the politics of the fantasy world are what really is interesting me. I really just want to call Emperor Molt, the good-looking Emperor Palpatine, since their methods and underhandedness are pretty similar. I’m interested in seeing where that goes and how these two worlds meeting together will turn out.

    This series already has quite a bit of controversy around it because of the level of violence (or lack thereof), and because of changes of characters from the semi-original material. However, being an anime-only fan, I’ve enjoyed it a lot so far and I’ll be continuing this series as far as I can tell.

    • zztop says:

      This series already has quite a bit of controversy around it…

      Actually, the real controversy is that the source novel promotes Japanese ultranationalism and far right-wing politics; especially given the rise of right-wing politics in modern Japan.

      I’ll talk about this in a separate post later.

      • IreneSharda says:

        I had heard about that too. However, if you go on any forum, you’ll see page upon page of people complaining about the lack of violence in the first episode and how it effects the reasoning for Japan’s choices. That’s what I was referring to.

      • Di Gi Kazune says:

        Sieg Heil?

  3. Namaewoinai says:

    This show will make anyone (or it’s just me?)……..




    Show ▼

  4. Highway says:

    I was actually embarrassed for the show for the first half of the second episode. I mean, you’re not supposed to wave a war boner around like that, it’s just unseemly. It was just idiotic the way they threw army after army at the impenetrable wall of the JSDF entrenchments. I mean, you’d think that maybe after the first 20,000 guys got massacred, you might rethink your strategy, not to mention the 60,000 that never came back from your expeditionary force, but no, let’s throw another 40,000 guys at the same thing, with no chance of success. “Hey, I was able to launch ONE ARROW at them!” You’d have thought at least one of those commanders would think “You know, this may not be the best use of my army, producing predominately red abstract art on the landscape.” But hey, it plays into the hands of the slimy emperor.

    I thought it was much better when it moved to Youji’s squad doing things, even if whatsername doesn’t exactly approve of his methods.

    And I thought the part with the Americans was just irredeemably silly. So the USA is going to actually *invade* Japan to go through a dimensional gate that is in the middle of their biggest city? Yeah, THAT wouldn’t have any problems.

    • IreneSharda says:

      I was actually embarrassed for the show for the first half of the second episode. I mean, you’re not supposed to wave a war boner around like that, it’s just unseemly.

      Yeah, it was kind of bad seeing them send group after group against them like that. Though you have to admit that the last guy did try to employ different tactics of trying to ambush them at night using the new moon as cover. It was a pretty good if desperate strategy. How was he to know that the other army had signal flares or night vision equipment? Things they don’t even know about?

      But then again, this was probably all just to show the might of the JSDF. From what I’ve heard, the original writer of the novels is pretty right wing, and put quite a bit of his political stances into the story outline. I’ve heard they’ve had to dial it back a lot in this adaptation, but perhaps the “war boner” you sensed, was what was left over?

      • Highway says:

        I dunno, I think it was still a bad strategy, because “Hey, all the guys we sent out never came back, but we’ll still succeed because even though we’re less effective in the dark, they must be even more less effective, even though we didn’t even see what they looked like because we never got close enough. We’ll just trust that even though they can rain fire from the skies, they won’t see us coming…”

        The opinion about the show being ‘right wing’ or not is probably not anything I care much about. The people who tend to see that stuff are the ones who are looking for right-wing bogeymen behind every curtain anyway. I mean, what’s the difference between Nationalism and ‘Ultra-nationalism’? Is it that instead of just centering the globe that we look at on Japan, they distort the size of Japan on the globe to make it look better (you know, like the King of Siam)?

        • skylion says:

          …or like the Northern Hemisphere vs. the Southern. People do think Greenland is bigger than Africa…

        • IreneSharda says:

          Well, you still have to remember to think like a fantasy warlord character. It may be stupid in hindsight, but it was really a last ditch effort they had. They should have known the environment more than the newcomers and they more than likely had more practice fighting at night as well, but whatever.

          As for the politics part, I’m just saying that maybe why the writer had the fantasy army tactics be pretty stupid, just so they could serve to make the Japanese military look even more impressive.

          • Highway says:

            Eh, I dunno. Thinking like a fantasy warlord shouldn’t entail “being a complete dumbass”. I guess it’s excusable as “thinking like a character in a story who is trying to be gotten rid of.” But you don’t get to be the long-lived, highly respected warlord by stupidly throwing your army into a meat grinder. That’s what felt most inauthentic about it. It’s not like they were wiped out in one go. It was three. You’d think they’d figure out a little more. But oh well. Now there’s just the Imperial Army left to be the target dummies for the JSDF.

            At least they’re not having the JSDF march tanks and APCs through the fantasy towns.

          • Di Gi Kazune says:

            Victorious warriors win first and go to war while defeated warriors go to war first then seek to win.

    • Sumairii says:

      As you astutely observed, the alliance army’s crushing defeat was mostly a very convenient plot device to further convey the dastardly deeds of the Emperor.

  5. skylion says:

    I looks like a pretty cool adventure all things considered. But they really screw up by not having the Gothic LOLi LOLi not up front and center. I mean, seriously.

    As for the real world politics? It feels like a storm in a teacup. If you have a political axe to grind, an LN is not the place to do it. As for the show, if there is any political shenanigans going on, it looks like big dumb stuff. Pretty insipid all things considered, and not why I’m watching the show.

    • Sumairii says:

      But they really screw up by not having the Gothic LOLi LOLi not up front and center. I mean, seriously.

      I want to say you’re probably just being facetious, and I certainly hope that you are in any case. Because if you aren’t, such words make me think less of you…

    • IreneSharda says:

      But they really screw up by not having the Gothic LOLi LOLi not up front and center. I mean, seriously.

      Maybe they’re just saving the best for last? 😉

      • skylion says:

        This is true. A LOLI is neither late, nor early, but arriving exactly when she means too..

  6. zztop says:

    Gate was originally written as a webnovel; the lack of censorship there meant the author was free to promote his far-right views on the ideal modern Japanese army. There was no writing subtlety at all, just outright paragraph after paragraph of them.

    This includes:
    – Japan needs to reimplement its pre-WW2 imperialism ideology with the current generation.
    – Supporting WW2 imperialistic views, including “Japan did nothing wrong in WW2″ line
    – Japan’s army is the best, all foreign powers are evil slimeballs
    – The postwar peace constitution is useless and should be scrapped

    Remember Japanese jingoism isn’t quite the same as others, since some parts of their society to an extent are still stuck in a WW2-era mentality of militaristic/imperialistic nationalism that never really went away, unlike Germany.

    I do hope any comments won’t devolve into a verbal bloodbath; we ARE better than that, right? ;D

    • zztop says:

      Note that to Asia, “Japan did nothing wrong in WW2” is equivalent to Europe’s “the Holocaust never happened.”

      • Di Gi Kazune says:

        Japan’s and Europe’s postwar responds to both issues are opposite extremes. One is unpenitant. One is overkill remorse-submission.

    • Di Gi Kazune says:

      Summary: Basically the same ideals of *any* country’s militaristic nationalism. 3 come to mind. The other 2 are now wusses.

    • IreneSharda says:

      Yeah, I’ve been reading up on the guy. Takumi Yanai, he wrote both the original novels and the manga. His original webnovels were published, but altered to make them less “poisonous”. The novels were turned into light novels, and then eventually into a manga and from that into a anime.

      I don’t know how much of his views remain, but as far as I can tell, I’m enjoying the series as it is. But then again, that could be because it appeals a little more to Western views, which have a similar tone to Japan’s right wing to a degree.

      I remember studying Japan’s involvement and actions in Asia during WWII and how even today they won’t admit or acknowledge some of the actions they did.

      But the series seems to be standing on it’s own two feet so far without the real-life political edge affecting it too badly, I’m in it for the enjoyment, and I think that’s what matters most.

  7. zztop says:

    Word is the author drew on his service time in the JSDF to write the army scenes; other JSDF characters were based on his fellow soldiers.

    Besides, it’s nice to see a 30-ish otaku character who looks fighting fit, instead of a round fattie or scrawny skinnybone.*

    * Japanese media have only strengthened the stereotypes further by demanding the otaku they interview conform to the above bodytypes and more:

  8. HannoX says:

    I’ve been reading the manga online and I’m enjoying it a lot. The original material may be very jingoistic, but the manga not so much. Yes, the U.S. President is being portrayed as a slime ball, but our own media has sometimes portrayed the President as such. So far the U.S. has figured very little in the manga. True, it’s not presented in a flattering light when it does show up, but I can accept that. We don’t always present other countries, including allies, in a flattering light.

    It actually made sense for Emperor Melt to send his allied and subject armies to be slaughtered. After all, if the empire was the only one to lose a large portion of its army it could lose its ability to dominate its neighbors. Which could put the empire, and his throne, in a vulnerable position. Very ruthless of him, but history shows plenty of examples of ruthless leaders.

    Sending his daughter off to potentially be killed is just more of his ruthlessness. The manga hasn’t really stressed it yet, but she seems to be a problem for him. And Melt has a son, the crown prince. It’s not like she’s his heir anyway.

    • akagami says:

      Sending his daughter off to potentially be killed is just more of his ruthlessness.

      I felt it was more because the empire is more of a patriarchy society, and doesn’t place much value in females and especially not a female order of Knights. They really pull out all the stops in the manga to make the empire a unredeemable pile of filth.

      • IreneSharda says:

        It’s probably a bit of both.

        • akagami says:

          I don’t see the reason behind sending the princess and her order as ruthless, mainly because I fail to see the benefit. The order isn’t a threat to his rule, nor to the other nations, so I don’t think he’s using them as a pawn.

      • HannoX says:

        True about the patriarchy. But it’s precisely because his daughter and her female knights refuse to accept their ordained place in society that they are a problem. There are probably snide remarks that Emperor Melt is aware of along the lines of, “If he can’t rule his daughter, how can he rule an empire?” Absolute rulers cannot tolerate having their rule questioned. That can lead to being overthrown. More than once a ruler’s son has rebelled and replaced him. And I’m sure Melt’s son is the type to do that if he feels his father is weak and if he gets support from enough of the nobles.

        • skylion says:

          Yeah, Melt reminds me of some of the well known dipstick Targaryan kings…

          • IreneSharda says:

            Or an adult King Joffrey? But then again, this guy seems smarter than that.

            And is his name Melt or Molt? I know in the subs they say his name is Molt, but I’m just wondering.

            • HannoX says:

              It’s probably Molt and I’m wrong about Melt.

          • skylion says:

            I was thinking of Aegon the Unworthy, the guy that thought he was in control…

  9. akagami says:

    I don’t remember the Americans stating a preference to invade Japan to get the resources… from what I recall, they were among a number of nations that were waiting for Japan to fail so they could offer their “assistance” and reap the benefits of staking claims to a new world.

    But the politics of the show is more focused internally on Japan and that of the new world – as many have stated before, there is a lot of flag-waving and trumpeting the might of the Japanese army. Which is ok, I don’t have a problem with it.

    For some reason I thought they met the gothic LOLi before the elf girl… but it’s been so long, perhaps I mixed up the ordering of Youji’s harem.

    • IreneSharda says:

      In the episode, the American president does specifically mention the new world and the resources that would be available over there, his tone and demeanor making it quite clear that America wanted them. And it was during that time that his aids were talking about other nations waiting for Japan to fail, though there was no mention of America’s thoughts on it, other than the President thinking the Japanese were playing too nice and taking too long.

      And America has already offered it’s assistance to Japan being the first ally to do so in the first episode. However in this episode, they are deciding to step back and see what Japan does, just in case they have to back out to avoid going down with them.

      • akagami says:

        Due to the lack of subs available, I was watching Crunchy’s version. They subbed the first scene as the President saying “Let’s invade Japan and take over the gate”, and the next scene as “you’re right, let’s wait for them to fail”. Unless I’m recollecting the scene incorrectly.

    • Di Gi Kazune says:

      A harem is a harem is a harem is a harem. Power changes quickly in a harem. The only thing that matter is who is the Alpha Bitch. (heh. BAD pun reference.)

      That aside, your comment re: preference to invade Japan is in relation to this show or real world?[spoiler]

      • akagami says:

        The show. I don’t state to know the inner workings of our leaders of the world. That being said, Obama’s track record is to huddle in his shell and shout stuff from inside it.

    • Highway says:

      Considering that the Gate is smack in the middle of Japan’s largest city (and in a fairly well-to-do area), I think one has to consider that any move toward “taking” anything from the other side of the gate would necessarily involve invading Japan.

      • akagami says:

        I was thinking of a UN exploratory force as Sumairii suggested. There would be a lot of political pressure to open up access to the gate, with Japan’s blessing and agreement to travel through their territory. Of course Japan would hold the keys, but with China and Russia just around the corner and hungry, I doubt they would say “ok, you go ahead and reap all the benefits of this new world”. Not to mention the Western nations.

        • Di Gi Kazune says:

          Unless their version of the UN has magical decision making properties… not going to work.

          • skylion says:

            Well, we can play, Let’s Toss a Dart at the Map. The Gate in US soil? We will not let anyone else play with it. UK soil? Goodness, the runoff elections would be tragicomedy. The Crimean Peninsula? Tooooo much reality for this fantasy. On Mars in the middle of Classroom Crisis? LOLWUT…

            • akagami says:

              They should have put the Gate on those Japanese islands that China contests. Then it’d be a political statement and entertainment at the same time. Take that China!

              Why not Antarctica? Then you can also send in polar bears with your exploratory force. Armored polar bear vs. orc.

            • skylion says:

              …You mean Penguins…Polar bears live at the other pole…

            • IreneSharda says:

              I think China might have been too risky. You’ll notice they don’t feature them often, and I remember a series a few years ago Night Raid, that took place in China during the 1930s, that had so much controversy over there. They had to keep putting up so many disclaimers for that series.

            • akagami says:

              Really? Hmmmm, I never really noticed, but now that you mention it…

              I watched a bid of raid, which started out interesting but lost my interest shortly after. I didn’t know about any of the controversy though.

            • akagami says:

              What!?! You mean there aren’t penguins in the North Pole and polar bears in the south? What madness do you speak of???

              But this is news to me, I figured they’d be where the cold was.

            • skylion says:

              The Madness of Geography and Biology!

            • Di Gi Kazune says:

              Put it… on the moon.

              Then at least when it blows it will send huge chunks of the moon flying into the ear… wait. that is not good.

  10. akagami says:

    *prods spammy with a stick*

    *poke poke*

  11. BlackBriar says:

    An intriguing first two episodes. Given that this is a two cour series, I’m very interested in seeing where it goes.

  12. skylion says:

    This is the preemptive claiming of Rory Mercury….

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