GATE – Season 1

GATE – Season 1

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Whilst on his way to a doujinshi event, Itami Youji sees a mysterious gateway open in the middle of Ginza. From its depths pour an army of fantasy beasts, creatures and warriors that begin attacking civilians. During the battle, Itami saves a woman’s life and helps everyone get to safety before the police and the Japanese Special Defence Force eliminates the invading army.

As a result, Itami finds himself being promoted to second lieutenant and he is viewed as a national hero by the masses despite how unprepared and unwilling he is for the post. Being a self-confessed otaku who doesn’t want anything getting in his way of his compulsive hobby-funding, he begins to see his new military post in a better light when his unit is chosen to enter the mysterious gate and explore the ‘special region’ beyond it. It’s his chance to investigate a real-life fantasy world first-hand.

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GATE
has a really strong first episode. Great concept, with a lot going on from the start and, best of all, it was genuinely funny. I love what a hard-core otaku Itami is, and how everything comes second to his anime and manga addition. I had to laugh at the level of distress he suffered during the attack because the sudden opening of the gate ruined his chances of attending the doujinshi event and how he was able to predict the moves and attacks of the fantasy beasts because of his acute knowledge of fantasy thanks to anime and manga.

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Despite this initial comedy, GATE also has a bit of a dark edge to it. Not only do civilians die in this world-crossing battle, but we see some touching scenes of Itami and his unit helping small children and comforting them when it becomes clear that their parents didn’t make it through the onslaught. It also shows the soldiers behaving as soldiers would – taking modern weapons like guns and helicopters into a place where mythical beasts, kings and townsfolk have never seen such machinery. They also help out residents like you would imagine an army to do in another country, protecting villagers, helping to fix carts and building relationships with people in this ‘special region’ like blonde elf Tuka Luna Marceau, young mage Lelei La Rellena and gothic-loli apostle to a death god, Rory Mercury. Sadly, no catgirls yet – much to Itami’s constant disappointment.

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The one thing noticeably lacking in this anime is the way they portray violence – or lack of it. If a force of creatures, warriors and dragons suddenly burst into a busy area it would be a total bloodbath. The same goes for the attacks on the fantasy kingdoms, the battles and the dragon fights. Though I understand they were probably trying to avoid any tonal dissonance (because, first and foremost, GATE is a fantasy anime) but I thought it seemed a little bit jarring because they avoided it completely. However, now that Rory is around, the producers have to acquiesce that a little bit of gore now and then is going to be unavoidable. She throws her giant scythe around like there’s no tomorrow.

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After seeing anime such as Sword Art OnlineLog Horizon and even Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, I didn’t think that there could be another take on melding fantasy worlds with reality, but GATE has proved me wrong. It’s bringing two extremes together and trying to get them to work in harmony. I always wondered if someone would have the bravery to bring real people with real weapons into a fantasy world, and this anime answers some of the biggest questions I had for a crossover like this. Clearly, horses, swords and arrows are going to fail miserable against guns, tanks and airstrikes, but what the army fear is the unknown – namely magic and the uncountable forms in which it can present itself. It’s an interesting dynamic brought to life by some vivid characters.

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The first half of the episodes have been very solid. I’m looking forward to where this one takes me and what it has in store – hopefully more madness and mayhem inspired by this great premise.I really enjoy watching Itami try to interact with all the different characters that he once only knew existed on TV and in books. There’s plenty of exciting action to be had as well as well-placed humour, pathos and gravitas. This extreme otaku now has a little bit more to worry about now than just missing the latest doujinshi event.

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