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The Summer 2015 Anime Preview Guide

How would you rate episode 1 of
Community score: 3.7

Rebecca Silverman


Some shows start slowly, gradually reeling you in with increasing amounts of information. Gate is not one of those shows. Covering about three months in carefully timed increments, it opens with otaku Itami riding the train on his way to a doujinshi event, happily playing a fantasy RPG on his phone. He's so into his game that he's pretty much oblivious to the rest of the world, when suddenly he notices that something strange is going on. We the viewers have seen this coming in small scenes of Ginza and another world, where a vast, fantasy-medieval army is preparing for something. Meanwhile a little girl out with her mother sees a Classical style gate slowly materializing in the middle of the city. All of these scenarios collide when the gate opens and the fantasy army comes forth, complete with dragons, armored horses bearing Roman-looking soldiers, and the most piggy orcs I've ever seen. The army immediately begins mowing down citizens, which is when Itami reveals that he's more than just an otaku: he's an off-duty member of the JSDF, the Japanese Self-Defense Force. He quickly leaps into action, earning himself unwanted fame and a promotion, when really all the guy wanted was to go to his doujinshi market. By the end of the episode, Japan has more or less annexed the mysterious fantasy land beyond the gate, and Itami and his otaku army buddy have been sent through the gate as part of a recon mission...possibly because of their otaku interests, which have been overheard by a superior officer.

It's hard not to compare this to Outbreak Company with a militaristic twist. The idea of an otaku being sent to a fantasy world because he might have specialized knowledge is certainly present (if not central) to both stories, but the fact that this other world attacked Japan first may give this an edge, particularly since Japan seemed to think that annexation was the best option. (Or is that just what they're telling the citizens?) There will clearly be three lovely ladies of various fantasy races showing up sooner rather than later, which may give us a harem aspect to the show, but with Itami being a grown man rather than a high schooler may create a very different harem than we typically get. The show does stand poised to use a heavy hand with its symbolism, given the way the little girl who initially spotted the gate is used with Itami in terms of motivation: we first see her with her mother, eating a treat; next Itami spots her wandering around lost as he's trying to figure out what he's doing, and finally he spots her at the memorial for those killed in the invasion with an older woman; clearly her mother did not survive. This last is what looks to really make Itami invested in the operation, but it's also pretty much the sledgehammer of symbolism.

The combination of modern military might and high fantasy imagery is definitely a point in its favor, making this at least an interesting premise. Itami is an affable hero, a mix of insecurities and prowess that holds potential for this type of story. It's different enough that even if it trades in tropes it should still work fairly well. While this wasn't the most enthralling first episode, it definitely has potential, and I'm certainly curious to see how it is going to develop. Plus that one scene where Itami jumps over a barrier is just impressive enough that I'm hopeful for some good visuals...

GATE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Nick Creamer

Rating: 2.5

Thirty-three year old Itami Youji readily admits to his otakudom, and that he works only to support his hobby. But on the way to a weekend doujinshi event, he finds himself caught in the middle of a multidimensional battle, as a strange gateway opens in Tokyo and out pour a wild mix of dragons, orcs, and all other manner of fantastical monsters. Thinking quickly, Itami helps rescue civilians and organize relief efforts as the strange hordes tear through the city, only to eventually be driven back by Japan's Self-Defense Force. And in the wake of that unlikely encounter, we learn Itami himself is a member of the Defense Force, and that he'll be joining his comrades on a journey back through the gate, to discover what wonders lie beyond and maybe drive a tank over them.

GATE seems like an almost inevitable combination of commercially loaded variables. Where do you go from the mega-hit Sword Art Online (also by A-1 Pictures, who are essentially the loose production arm of Aniplex), that mixed fantasy and videogame escapism into such a crowd-pleasing production? You throw in the Self-Defense Force, allowing for tons of long shots of tanks and rifles to rile up all the military fans. From there, add in a variety of cute fantasy-world girls, top it off with a hapless otaku protagonist, and you've got a show that seems designed from the get-go to print money.

GATE's execution seems to bear out the idea that A-1 are betting a lot on this production. The production is crisp and well-animated, full of lively colors and sticking to a very grounded visual aesthetic. No visual experimentation here - GATE simply looks “professional” much in the way SAO did, sticking to safe, eye-popping character designs and lovingly rendered vehicles and weapons. The music is equally solid-but-unremarkable, offering a selection of orchestral tunes and choirs to match the on-screen drama. This first episode moves forward quickly to establish the plot, and though the writing is mundane and humor downright bad (complete with “classic” gay panic joke), it at least has a sense of momentum. The show also seems a bit heavier than Sword Art, given that even within this first episode, our intrepid hero straight-up stabs one of the invaders. Nothing so far seems to indicate this show will rise above “fantasy setting plus military fetishism plus cute girls,” but if you want to see a show where a helicopter mows down a dragon, GATE has got your back.

Theron Martin

Rating: 3.5

Review: An otaku and the JSDF sojourn into a fantasy realm after a gate is discovered between there and Japan. In the process the otaku eventually (by all indications in this case) has dealings with a variety of cute fantasy girls.

So did someone remake Outbreak Company or something?

No, likely it is just a coincidence that this new manga adaptation shares common traits with that 2013 series, as the approach and tenor are very, very different. In this case the otaku is Youji Itami, a 33-year-old who, if he had a choice about it, would prioritize his hobby over his job: being a soldier in the JSDF. His skills from the latter come in quite useful when, while he is attempting to attend a doujinshi event, an extradimensional gate opens nearby and fantasy-themed forces pour out to mow down the civilians. His heroics earn him commendations and a promotion to Second Lieutenant, but he isn't happy about the way that interferes with his hobbies. He's stuck with it, though, as he soon is part of an expeditionary force sent fully-armed through the gate to confront any forces on the other side and (forcibly if necessary) bring them to the negotiating table.

Boy, if any series cries out for an extended-length introductory episode, this one does. The entire first episode, except for the last 30 seconds or so, involves events on the real-world side of the gate which establish Youji, briefly introduce a handful of other characters who will presumably be important, and lead up to the expedition; in other words, it is all mere set-up for the actual story, which looks like it will primarily take place in the fantasy world. Unsurprisingly, Youji, who has long imagined himself as an heroic fantasy warrior, is hinted to have some special connection to this new realm, as he foresees various characters from that realm whom the opener and closer indicate he will meet in person at some point. Unlike with Outbreak Company, though, GATE plays things almost entirely seriously and realistically (or as realistically as mixing modern military tech and fantasy warriors can get), with a heavy emphasis on military equipment and a suggestion that the forces from the other side might have been an expeditionary force seeking new lands to conquer. (Unfortunately for them, they weren't aware that a dragon rider vs. a modern assault helicopter isn't a fair fight at all.) Without having read the manga, my suspicion is that the fantasy army will turn out to be from a despot, and the individuals seen in the opener will turn out to be opposing or rebel forces.

Whichever way it goes, the tense atmosphere of much of the episode provides an enticing set-up, and the male lead actually being a full-fledged adult is a nice change of pace. The technical merits are pretty good, too. My one complaint so far is that they seemed to be stretching out the “military moving through the gate” scene at the end so that they could end the episode at a certain point, but otherwise this looks like a promising variation on a long-standard concept.

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