by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 18 of
GATE (TV 2) ?
After several episodes of big events and high intensity, episode 18 looks for a while like it is going to be a more light-hearted reprieve. Indeed, that impression holds until the two-thirds mark, when Prince Asshole's reappearance signals a much more serious shift. Before everything is said and done in the episode, chaos reigns once again. It's almost as if the creative team is trying to say, “don't mistake us having a little fun for the show going soft.”
The fun part is Itami getting pretty much free license to go anywhere as an explorer for “resources” and literally taking the fantasy girls along for the ride – after he both serves a suspension for abandoning his unit and receiving many commendations for his actions, of course. That means we probably won't be seeing Kuribayashi for a while, but it also means a trip to the academy city of Rondel, where Lelei is making a bid for a Master ranking (about equivalent to seeking a doctoral degree in most modern-day countries). There she runs into her irascible older sister, who seems quite put out by the success Lelei has had and the company she keeps. The sister was mentioned once before – way back in episode 3, when the old wizard was commenting about how Lelei's sibling was much better-endowed in the chest – so it was probably inevitable that she shows up eventually (and she does, indeed, have a much more developed figure). Looks like they don't get along, so that should be fun.
Disappointingly, the episode does not update us on the status of Noriko, Yanagida, and Delilah, but it does flip over to the Imperial side in the second half to show what's been transpiring there. Sugawara previously earned the attention and affection of the 12-year-old daughter of the Tyueri family, and to his dismay she's fixated on him with a puppy-dog kind of love during a formal reception that is a prelude to peace negotiations. In one of the episode's sharpest moments, though, Sugawara learns not to underestimate a girl who is probably being raised and trained to play politics and read social dynamics at the highest levels. She picks up on things that even a veteran diplomat like Sugawara doesn't and knows how to play the scene to Sugawara's advantage. Once she's of age, Sugawara could do much, much worse for a wife, and seeing how that situation develops should also be amusing.
On the darker side, though, Tyuule is still playing her game and Prince Asshole still thinks he's smarter than he actually is. He is even more perturbed when the Fire Dragon's head is delivered to the Imperial castle and others than him get the credit for it. The prospect is raised about Lelei getting invited to the Imperial court so that the Emperor can honor the one Empire citizen who participated, and indeed, he does order Pina to find her. However, that is put in limbo the episode's final event: Tyuule apparently arranging for the Emperor's wine to be poisoned. He's down as the episode ends, with Prince Asshole's expression turning from shock to glee.
I have to wonder what the prince would think if he knew that Tyuule had perpetrated this. Would he be pleased or outraged, assuming that he didn't know why she was really doing this? Either way, Tyuule is going to have what she wanted: a leader on the throne who can run the kingdom into the ground, and that should keep things juicy for some time to come. The only question now is whether he is clever enough to worm his way out of the trap he's in; he has shown that he's not an entire idiot, but I don't have high hopes for a “road less traveled” here. Hopefully he'll leave enough of the Empire behind for Pina to salvage. (Because really, who doesn't now think that Pina is going to end up as Empress before the story ends?) The Itami storyline seems more run-of-the-mill at this point, although the prospect of Rory eventually coming face-to-face with Hardy (due to wanting to visit her temple) is intriguing.
The artistic effort has regarded its consistency, as this episode shows few to no problems with being off-model. What the series is doing with Lelei and her expressiveness is a nice touch, too. Her expressions may not change much, but a couple of times this episode they shift just enough to tell that she is nervous or disgusted. In a format where characters tend to be either stone-faced or wildly expressive, subtleties like that too rarely get used.
So once again, lots of stuff is going on. This series shows no signs of even coming close to being boring; how long can it keep that up?
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