Sep 18, 2015
Stark700 (All reviews)
GATE, a simple 4 letter word that can release so much potential with its premise. The idea behind GATE is that of a series about modernized humans clashing with fantasy (warriors wielding ancient armor, elves, dwarves, dragons, etc). By clashing, it doesn’t entirely mean a total war between the two sides. After a while, both sides begins to establish a diplomatic relationship with one another. Sounds strange right? It also kind of goes in a two-fold. Fantasy enters reality and reality enters fantasy. Both worlds are separated by a gate and at the center of it, there’s a man named Youji Itami.

Gate - Jieitai Kare no Chi nite Kaku Tatakaeri (Gate - Thus the JSDF Fought There) or simply known as GATE is a television series that adapts the light novel of the same name. It was originally serialized online on a novel website called “Arcadia” but later got published as a book in 2010. The series also has a manga that is based on the story with the same main characters. Speaking of which, Itami is the main male protagonist of the show and it’s easy for us to get familiarized with him. Despite being a soldier, he’s actually quite more like an otaku with his fascination for fantasy. This lands him in a position where he happily investigates the fantasy world beyond the GATE. Little does he know that is more than what he can bite off.

The show itself adapts many elements that blurs between lines of fiction and reality. The fiction part obviously comes with the fantasy creatures like elves, dragons, and even a demi-god. JSDF (Japan Self-Defense Forces) has more of the reality role. Their military is equipped with high level technology and hence were able to fight against the fantasy world in the beginning. There was even an infamous event known as the “Ginza Incident” when monsters appeared in the Ginza, a real world location and made a memorable massacre. Of course, JSDF responded fiercely and showed that humanity is a doorknob to absolutely nobody. By establishing such a premise, it’s no wonder that the show has a lot of potential. Think about it really, when you have a war that is more than just about imperialism, it shows how much it can evolve. Throughout the story of GATE, we see much of that with cultural, political, and military themes.

GATE’s characters are highly diverse not just because of personalities but by races. No, I’m not just talking about nationalities but also non-humans. The main core consists of three girls – Tuka Luna Mareau (a 165 year old elf), Lelei La Rellena (a 15 year old human from the fantasy world), and Rory Mercury (a demi-goddess who is apparently over 900 years old). These characters have different personalities but also creates fascination as they enter the real world. What we witness throughout the story is how they adapt with real world concepts such as modern life technology and politics. Additionally, a plus side about the show is that the human characters are fairly mature. Itami is an older male (as opposed to the high school teenagers you’d commonly see these days) and has a strong interest in otaku. His military experience also gives him an edge when negotiating with certain parties and we see a lot of what he is capable of throughout the story. His relationship with co-workers from the Third Recon unit also gives us a firm idea of his personality – a casual guy who is kind at heart and easily able to make friends with others.

From the fantasy world, there are also other regions that establishes the clever creativity of this how. For instance, there’s the special region that is composed of an empire with a diverse cast of characters. Pina, the princess of that empire, hopes to establish peace with Japan. There are obvious reasons for this but the show also affirms her personality as a proud princess who is caring towards her people. Furthermore, the show has a strong emphasis of its world fiction. Landscapes and towns are built with resourceful elements of fantasy to make the other world look legitimate. Similarly, there’s a creatures that show their menacing presence while establishing dominance in their world.

An interesting idea about the show also comes from the political affairs of the story. In the second half of GATE, we get politics as there’s some strong indication that not everyone is in favor of the “special region” idea. So in essence, the show plays its part with conflicting affairs that argues about political principles. The show also has some sense of nationalism although is vaguely portrayed and restrained to Japan, as other countries are pursuing their own interest. To say the least, GATE knows its principles and invests time to show ideologies from various parties.

On a more military aspect, I think the show is also aware of its modern technological capabilities. The military reveals a strong degree of realism with its arsenal of weapons throughout the show. We have aircraft such as the Kawasaki OH-1, AH-1 Cobra, and other artillery that makes its presence well known. Soldiers (known to some in the fantasy world as “Green Men”) also demonstrate their degree of professionalism and ethnics. While the series isn’t entirely built about military, it certainly has an appeal to this side. I will also say that GATE’s author did a fairly decent job at demonstrating the firepower and capabilities of the JSDF’s military. The battles have cinematic sequences and is well animated on most parts especially during mid-season.

While the show has lighthearted comedy from all sorts of angles, it also should be realized that its intentions isn’t a parody. Sure, the series makes a bit of fun at otaku culture such as Itami’s knowledge or the character designs of the main girls. However, there’s legitimacy with the war. The first episode easily establishes that JSDF is serious about their counterattack. Furthermore, Itami knows the stakes of war as lives are lost. Unfortunately, it doesn’t capture all the violence and more mature content of the original story. Certain contents are omitted from TV that are deemed controversial and violent. Fan service is also shortened although still exists in a few forms such as with Rory’s teasing and the bath scenes. However, the adaptation does expand on certain parts of the story, especially with events from the manga.

Impressively, A-1 Pictures actually manages to capture the art style of the story. Their work can be a bit of hit or miss in terms of fantasy shows but I do give them some praise for adapting GATE. The character designs of characters from both the real world and fantasy world evokes interest. Military technology looks and feels real with their modern looks. Japan also has a good degree of realism with its modern cities and technology. From the fantasy world, the main female characters are distinctive with their design ranging from Rory’s goth dress to Pina’s medieval style battle gear. And like I mentioned before, the world fiction of GATE stands out as a fantastic feature with what is shown. To further enhance the experience, we get epic battles that almost always reveal the potential of certain characters and weapons.

Soundtrack is powerful but not the type of mind-blowing you may expect. The OP and ED theme song has a catchy tone to it with a modest style of storytelling. What makes GATE perhaps more noticeable is the dialogues that are spoken with sharp tones. And by sharp, I mean the type that clearly defines what kind of characters’ personalities are capable of. Rory’s sarcastic and curious voice is perhaps one of the most noticeable while Pina’s voice shows a sense of her patriotism. On most parts, the OST works well enough to match the intense atmosphere of the action and lighthearted moments.

When it comes down to it, GATE is a show that opens a gate with wealth of interests. There’s the certain “it” factor that makes this show stand out with both sides of the world. It blurs between the lines of fiction and reality with what it has to offer. And to be quite honest, GATE does it quite well on most parts with its creativity. This show is definitely not one that matches anyone’s tastes though. Certain audiences such as those interested in political or military affairs may find this more enjoyable than others. For action junkies, GATE can appeal to that side as well although it’s not a main investment of the story. When it comes to characters, there’s a colorful range of them and by the end of the season, there’s likely one or more that you may like to find out more. The first season is set as 12 episodes but many of the ideas and concepts opens up potentially for more.