Gate: The Self-Defense Forces (First Cour) Review — Japan’s Version of Modern Borefare

No.

Nonononono. I am not reviewing another military story so soon after the last one gave me a meltdown. Fuck that shit. I mean is there any point? We all know that even disregarding that genre bias, I’m just going to spit bile on it based alone on the fact that it was adapted by A-1 Pictures, a studio whose anime both bore me and their very own staff members to death given how they obviously don’t care about the quality of their works as long as the die-hard fanbase is satisfied.

Okay maybe that’s being a bit mean, but you’ll be hard-pressed to point out an A-1 show in recent times that didn’t simultaneously look awful and padded with so many unnecessary scenes that Peter Jackson is calling them out for it. I don’t know who the fuck runs things at that studio, but they really need to take a good long look at themselves in the mirror because I doubt even they can deny all the ugliness when it’s staring them in the face. I mean as much as I don’t care for Spec Ops, Full Metal Jacket, and whatever the fuck the new Gundam show is about, at least their messages are positive towards their audience. Can’t say the same thing for Gate, an anime I could only describe as a shitty hybrid of Sword Art Online, most modern military shooters, and Zero no Tsukaima. Do three wrongs make a right? Is breaking up with your girlfriend on a group Skype Chat a good idea?

Who schedules my review releases anyways? Oh right, I do. Well I can think of few people less trustworthy than myself, so let’s get on with this.

The show opens with some loser otaku in his twenties named Itami doing his loser otaku things before a mysterious portal opens in the middle of the city, causing a bunch of fantasy soldiers to enter the real world and slaughter everyone in sight because they’re dirty racist foreigners who hate Japanese despite having just met them or something. No really, that’s it. We never get an explanation for why this portal even exists, let alone why these soldiers have a beef with Japan other than “because there’d be no story otherwise”. Also because they wanted to show that nerdy losers can kick ass too, because it turns out that said loser otaku is actually in the military – and I never got the backlash for this by the way because we have a fujoshi in the military running a fairly popular anime blog right now, so it’s not that much of a stretch.

After that admittedly exciting conflict, the show proceeds to dump a whole lot of boring plot on us by deciding the best response to this act of aggression is for Japan to send their own military into the portal and weed out the foreigners before they come back to weed-whack them. And any sympathy you may feel for the country due to the “innocent slaughtering” in the show’s opening act will quickly dissolve when every character seems to forget about the first act long before the audience does. In fact, Itami forgot about it as soon as it was over. No, I’m not exaggerating here. I’m not as iffy on the matter as fathomlessblue is, but it breaks my immersion a fair amount when after all the killing that happened in front of him, the first thing Itami thinks about is the anime event he was supposed to attend rather than helping civilians in the aftermath. You literally could have just had the otherworldly portal appear out of nowhere, send the military in for no good reason other than “human curiosity”, and it would have made no difference to the story. For a fictional product centered on soldiers, death is really cheap in Gate.

And by god does it get even cheaper as it goes on, with a good helping of one-sidedness to go along with it. Most of the battles that happen in this anime have very little purpose other than to show how outclassed magic and dragons are compared to machine guns and tanks, and whenever a powerful fantasy creature who can go toe-to-toe with the military does show up, they’re always on the protagonists’ side so there’s no tension to follow our heroes. Itami’s group literally gains three fan-pandering fantasy “anime” girls within the span of a single episode, and one of them is a demi-god who is immortal, far superior in terms of fighting prowess to everyone else to the point that she resembles a cheat code, and joins because the plot says so – along with the fact that it wouldn’t be a light novel adaptation if we didn’t have physically fit females falling in love with clueless male leads. They didn’t even try to explain anything regarding why she finds him or helping the Japanese interesting. It’s just a masturbatory power fantasy that gets in the way of the plausibility and the excitement of the scenario.

And this may just be me, but am I the only one who thinks “Japanese Adam Sandler” whenver Itami is on-screen? I know most light novel anime feel like they were produced by Happy Madison, but Itami in particular really comes off to me like someone who’d be played by Sandler in the live-action Hollywood adaptation. The show just can’t seem to decide whether or not they want to portray him as a bumbling loser or a heroic badass, so one minute he’s a highly trained advanced special forces guy who’s undergone rigorous training and the next minute he’s getting pussy-whipped by princesses who always assume the worst. This unlikely scenario is brought to attention by some of the characters, but the show never gives a good reason for it, and he’s not even put in situations where his special training would be of any use, so he might as well not have it.

Literally, the only reason he’s the focus character is because the show needed a male protagonist to suck dick on since it’d have no idea how to progress anything otherwise. Gate has the usual light novel problem of going from act to act without much of a clear end goal in mind, and thus the only way to proceed is to put our leads in situations where they make things happen without undergoing any personal arcs of their own in the process. A small town is raided by bandits for the sole purpose of having the military show off their superior strength without suffering any losses on their side. Soldiers from other countries are massacred by the demi-god girl just to show how deus ex she is whilst also carrying the usual anti-American themes we’ve come to expect from most anime that involve government in one way or another. There’s this court debate involving the elf girl that I can’t be bothered to describe. And assuming you can get past the Japanese nationalism in all those scenarios, most of the credit for everything good always seems to go to Itami and no one else, even though all he did was get important women to fall for his charms.

Are you seriously telling me that no other military unit accomplished anything significant in some other part of this world, let alone did more than this dude? No one else bothered to learn the fantasy peoples’ language at all? I mean Japan eventually claims part of the other world as its own territory and instills its own customs on the local residents with no backlash whatsoever unless you count the occasional bandit, and yet only Itami can help out when a woman seeks “the green people” in order to hunt down a dragon? At least put him in scenarios where he actually has to work for his respect if you’re going to go that far in rewarding him.

But of course, whilst I could go on and on regarding these issues, the truth of the matter is that Gate’s scenario writing is so fatally flawed that you could have made James Bond the main character and it wouldn’t have upped the quality to any significant degree. Its “evil” end goals regarding the Japanese military and the obnoxious fan-wanking are just supplementary reasons to hate it compared to how unimportant and phoned-in everything plays out due to a lack of a convincing reason to care for the conflict, along with a lack of a compelling antagonistic force. If anything, they at least add flavor to pay attention to, even if it’s for the wrong reasons. I mean what’s left if you strip that all away? A really bland product with no clear sense of progression, no clear end goal, no tension, and ridiculous-looking animation that isn’t very exciting to the eye.

Even its fucking sequel hook is just to setup a random adventure that has virtually no bearing on the conflict between modern and magic. I guess I can credit it for being honest with the audience that there’s nothing to look forward to come next Winter, but why don’t you go the extra mile, A-1, and put up a disclaimer whilst you’re at it?

3 responses to “Gate: The Self-Defense Forces (First Cour) Review — Japan’s Version of Modern Borefare

  1. Is one of the superpowers of the redhead in that last screenshot to turn her head at unnatural angles without snapping her neck?

  2. Itami actually is rather consistent. When on duty, he’s responsible. He has to care, and takes it rather seriously. Off duty, he’s a slacker. He’s allowed to be. Rather simple, really. He’s not even close to the mediocrity that is Adam Sandler. His sense of humor isn’t nearly that bad to be. I mean, holy crap. Adam Sandler has few peers in the level of bad he sits at.

    And Itami getting all the credit isn’t really a thing. It’s more that the society is pro-human and patriarchal in the “other world”, so people tend to glance over the accomplishments of non-humans. The military’s structure also affords him a lot of credit as he is the leader of his squad. But it also lets them foist lost causes, like the Dark Elf, on him at no risk to them.

    The next arc does, in fact, involve some politics. But those effects are reserved for later on in the setting.

    Not surprised that the animation isn’t great. A-1 is like that…