by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 15 of
GATE (TV 2) ?
For much of the series Tuka has been mere eye candy, the pretty elf girl who's usually around but doesn't actually do much. Episode 15 finally brings her to the forefront and dwells some on her circumstances. The result is (presumably) the lead-in to the meat of the Fire Dragon arc.
I speculated a couple of episodes ago that Yao might do something to Tuka to get Itami to help her, and it looks like I was right in general; it just didn't happen the way I had originally suspected. Instead of anything physical, she wages a psychological attack: she confronts Tuka with her father's death. Tuka can't handle that and starts seeing Itami as her father. By his own logic from the first season, that puts Itami in a difficult position. He plays along for now, but Tuka is in real danger of going off the psychological deep end, and Yao bitterly points out that the only thing he can really do to save her is to make her confront her father's death by avenging him against the fire dragon. Yao clearly isn't too happy about having to be so mean, but she's desperate. Though he is assured that he will be covered for if he does go after the fire dragon, Itami is reluctant to put the lives of his squad members at stake for what is basically a personal matter, but then we start seeing flashbacks to when Itami was a younger man which suggest that this kind of thing might not be the first time around for him. That drives him to undertake the mission himself (and only himself), and of course Rory, Lelei, and Yao aren't about to let him go off with just Tuka.
So raise your hand if you didn't expect this to happen at some point in the series. Anyone? Didn't think so. Some Law of Fantasy Adventures dictates that you cannot have a male lead surrounded by cute/sexy fantasy girls without them all traipsing off together on a quest at some point. Cynicism aside, at least the circumstances here are set up in a believable fashion. Rory wouldn't let such an opportunity for danger and adventure pass (especially with the man she's been trying to seduce heading it!), Yao has as much stake in the mission as anyone, and the more inscrutable Lelei is likely just helping people she's become friendly with and loyal to. Hence most of the ladies are going only partly because of Itami, and Tuka thinks Itami's someone else. As a makeshift special ops unit, they are a force to be reckoned with, too: a mage, a capable archer, an unkillable melee terror, and whatever Yao can do in a fight, in addition to a modern-day Ranger.
And that's not even all of what's going on. In keeping with the precedent set by the previous two episodes, this one does not rest for even a moment. On the Imperial front, Pina has a secret meeting with the younger of her two brothers, where she learns that Zorzal, despite being declared as the Emperor's successor, intends to rebel rather than being controlled by his (presumably abdicating) father. Apparently the person responsible for putting him up to it is Tyuule. In a prison cell conversation with an ally, she indicates that she is engaging in a grand revenge scheme against the Empire, one which, if brought to fruition, will destroy it. Her planned master strike is to somehow manipulate Pina into killing Noriko, whom she seems envious of because Noriko was offered salvation and she wasn't.
Well, now; that went in a different direction than I was expecting, too. (And we won't even get into how she matter-of-factly rewards the ally by letting him slobber all over her leg. That was just creepy, though I am also sure that it will eventually be meme-bait.) That scene does, at least, answer every question about exactly where she stands and why she was doing what she did last episode: Prince Zorzal is as much an invaluable tool to her as she is a slave to him. She's right that somehow getting Pina to kill Noriko (or at least make it look like it happened that way) would be a dagger in the back of any peace agreement, though I suspect that she is underestimating Pina here; the princess is definitely not the easily-manipulated fool that her elder brother is. Still, seeing how this plays out as a complement to the fire dragon business should be fun.
The storytelling and pacing on the episode is excellent, but I cannot give it a stronger grade because the artistic quality dips significantly. There are all kinds of problems with characters staying on-model throughout the episode, especially Tuka. Prior to this point that had been very atypical for the series, so I hope that this is just an aberration and not a sign of things to come.
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