by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 17 of
GATE (TV 2) ?
True dragon fights are the apex of fantasy adventure, rivaled only by fights against demon lords or the gods themselves – or at least that's how it should be, anyway. GATE has shown before that it is one of the very few anime series to truly do such fights justice, and episode 17 completes that process with a bang – both figuratively and literally.
GATE excels here because it successfully generates a heavy degree of tension despite the viewer being reasonably sure that none of the main characters are going to buy the farm. (The cannon fodder dark elven warriors that are introduced early in the episode and trained to use RPGs? That's a different story. It would have probably been more surprising if any of them had come back.) The Fire Dragon is a menacing and lethal presence, and the directorial and animation effort fully brings out what it can do: devastating tail swipes, claws, burning victims alive, swallowing them whole, and just as importantly, a calculating eye which quickly evaluates the situation. Even in a more confined space it moves around, not remaining an easy target for the RPGs it is all too familiar with, and it is ruthless about going after those who harm it. Some great musical support through these scenes perfectly enhances the dramatic effect.
And what would a dragon fight be if it didn't bring out the absolute best in the heroes? Lelei has always been very restrained in her emotions, but once she figures out that she actually can hurt the dragon in a big way, her restraint drops and in one unsettling moment we briefly glimpse the true depth of her passion. (And the way that she does it is awfully cool, too.) Tuka, too, finally gets her moment. She spends much of the first part of the episode being carried around asleep, as last episode's confrontation was not enough to shake her back to reality, but when finally, irrefutable confronted with the menace of the Fire Dragon and the threat it poses to her new friends, she shows that she is no one to be messed with when suitably riled up, either. And yes, a heavy-duty lightning strike touching off several dozen pounds of C4 will finish off even a super-tough dragon in dramatic fashion.
The fun isn't even done when that fight ends. They find a badly-wounded Rory (who was supposed to be spotting for them outside) and the person who took her down while she was absorbing damage for Itami: an acolyte of Hardy who calls herself Rory's sister and has been sent by Hardy (apparently a goddess, not a male god) to fetch her. And hey, she has two young dragons with her, too, and was also responsible for waking up mama! While things look bleak, people had been eager to back up Itami last episode, and that back-up arrives right on cue. That allows the rest of the JSDF to get in on the action, too.
A few faults could definitely be cited about the episode. The animation quality has some consistency problems early on (though those disappear once the action scenes start), and the other dark elf warriors are too clearly disposable. Minor complaints might be made about rushing things towards the end, too. However, those errors simply get swallowed up by what the episode does right. In terms of what the series should be doing and what it offers to its viewers for entertainment value, it is right on the money.
GATE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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