by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 14 of
GATE (TV 2) ?
The dramatic onslaught of the earthquake at the end of last episode promised big events this episode, and boy, do they happen! They just don't play out in anywhere near the direction that viewers may have expected thanks to a game-changing twist, one of a sort that was never on my radar but, in retrospect, probably could have been anticipated. The ramifications of that twist run deep even before the episode ends and are bound to have a lingering impact for some time to come.
The first minor surprise is that, for as nasty as that earthquake looked like it would be, it isn't a major one by Japanese standards; Itami estimates it to be nothing much beyond a 5 (on the Richter scale). It definitely still does damage and unsettles Imperial forces to the point that they are cowering, which isn't unrealistic in an area where “earthshakes” are only something from old stories and even movies of them wouldn't exist. Pina, who is more collected than most, it still rattled enough to beg Itami to come with her when she addresses her father about Itami's warning about aftershocks. That proves to be a disaster, though not in the way either she or Itami might have feared, because when Itami, Sugawara, and their escort arrive in the throne room they discover a dirty little secret that even Pina apparently didn't know about: the Empire had at some point kidnapped Japanese civilians and Prince Asshole has been keeping one them – a young woman named Noriko – as a sex slave. (Exactly when they were taken is not clear from the episode; the implication is that they might have been taken before the Ginza attack instead of during it, perhaps on some kind of secret scouting mission.)
And that's where we learn exactly what it takes to actually spur Itami to action. He doesn't hesitate or even bother to make some kind of outraged proclamation; he just goes after Prince Asshole, first with his fists. Once Noriko is secured, he unleashes Kuribayashi. Doing this instead of taking care of business himself makes a certain amount of sense for Itami; after all, Itami is well-aware of how capable and gung-ho she is and doubtlessly also appreciates that one small-in-stature woman single-handedly wrecking both the Prince and his guards/soldiers would leave an even more indelible impression than someone of his stature doing it. In a more meta sense, though, the producers also probably fully appreciate the allure of a big-chested woman in combat gear absolutely wailing on the enemy with knife, rifle, and fist.
Surprisingly, though, that scene isn't played as a high-spirited action piece. The more somber musical selection make it clear that things coming to this, and not the earthquake, is the true calamity here. Throughout the scene Pina is painfully well aware (or at the very least afraid) that the goodwill that she has been trying to build is now gone, and that could have bad consequences beyond just the mayhem in the throne room. It does convince the Emperor that the peace talks are inevitable, and Sugawara shows that Japanese will be no fools by pointedly reminding the Emperor that they are well aware that peace is just an interlude between wars. Meanwhile the spin is already working back in Japan, with a bombing of the Imperial Senate building authorized as a punitive measure and Itami being informed that he'll probably get away with his rash actions because of how good a PR opportunity it sets up. Hence the cynical aspect to the whole endeavor is still well-entrenched, too.
Perhaps just as interesting as the feature event is everyone's reaction to it. Whether the Emperor's unemotional, almost bored reaction to what happens before him is a writing flaw or a sign of his shrewdness remains to be seen; later comments by Prince Asshole to his brother, about how the Emperor may abdicate as part of the treaty but still pull the strings from behind the scenes, suggests the latter. Noriko is characterized enough that I suspect she is going to have a little bigger role than just being a flashpoint, and seeing Pina struggle to keep her political footing continues to make her the series' most interesting character. The most perplexing behavior, though, is that of Tyuule, the bunny girl whom the Prince was using and abusing last episode. She actually takes the initiative to defend the Prince from Itami, and her behavior afterwards towards the Prince is definitely not that of one under duress. Is this all just part of her gambit so that the Prince will play nice with her people? Does she have some kind of weird Stockholm Syndrome love for the Prince? Definitely hope it turns out to be the former, so I don't have to question the series' writing choices, but it looks like we'll be finding out more about her next episode.
The one negative here is that the end of the episode feels like a rather awkward place to take an episode break. Otherwise, though, this is an utterly engrossing episode which, once again, is filled to the brim with all sorts of meaningful activities and depictions of the JSDF in action, including one brief but great first-person shot from Kuribayashi's perspective as she mows down opposition. Is it meant to serve as a template for how Itami will get dragged into the fight against the fire dragon? That's where I suspect that this is going. And what else might the Emperor have up his sleeve? For now, though, the series is running forward with a full head of steam, and that's as much fun as seeing Prince Asshole get mauled.
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