GATE
Episode 20

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 20 of
GATE (TV 2) ?

GATE has been so busy this season that it has not commonly stopped to focus on any one aspect of its story for long. This episode, which almost entirely deals with Prince Zorzal's efforts to clean house, is one of the exceptions.

Actually, Itami and crew do appear, but only during the prologue and only long enough to show Lelei getting exasperated with Itami's approach to avoiding assassins: if they don't know where they're going themselves (in other words, randomly choosing which way to go at a fork in the road), how can the assassins possibly anticipate their moves? But really, what else would you expect from a man who practically prides himself on feigning incompetence and yet always seems to come through in a pinch? And he's not actually wrong.

Beyond that, though, this is all about the reign of terror led by Zorzal and orchestrated by Tyuule. Japanese officials quickly recognize it as typical totalitarian regime house-cleaning and order their people to not get involved, lest they kill any chance of peace with the Empire. But that's exactly what Tyuule wants, so she has her pig-man (can I just call him an orc and be done with it?) arrange to make things “interesting” – which in this case means subtly providing an opportunity for Sherry, the young daughter of the Tyurei family who is fixated on the diplomat Sugawara, to escape a dragnet of imperial Cleaners (they wield brooms which can be turned into spears, you see) to escape with Marquess Casel to the Jade Palace, which in modern terms is Japan's embassy in the Empire. Even without that help, Sherry once again shows herself to be older than her years and someone who (as one character aptly puts it) will be a real terror when she grows up. She holds it together relatively well when her parents burn down their mansion to cover her escape with Casel and is even pretty clever about trying to get past Pina's knights, who are protecting the Jade Palace. That's where her being a 12-year-old kicks in, though, as one of the knights astutely realizes that her claim to be Sugawara's future husband is just wishful thinking. But her being a 12-year-old also works to her favor, as when the Cleaners track them down to the Jade Palace and seize Casel and her, Sugawara can't hold to refusing her anymore and does imply Japanese protection based on her being his future wife.

The reaction of the female Vice Minister to all of this is interesting. She clearly knows the Japanese position about not taking in noble doves at this time, and so commends Sugawara on sticking to that – but she only commends him in terms of being a diplomat, leaving implicit that the way he actually does act in the end is what she sees as right for him as a man. That already leads to bad consequences before the episode ends, with the Cleaners and Pina's knights charging to fight each other over the matter, but what will be truly interesting to see is how deep the fall-out on the matter goes. Does this endanger Pina's precarious position? Will this provoke more open conflict, like Tyuule was undoubtedly hoping? And how bad will the consequences be for Sugawara personally? This is the kind of thing that Itami has been getting away with all along because he somehow finds a way to get it to conveniently dovetail into Japanese interests, but the hoop-jumping here may have to be particularly rigorous.

In a strictly dramatic sense the scene could have been played up a little stronger, but that would have required spending more time forging an emotional connection between Sugawara and Sherry, and the series just didn't have time for that. (In fact, not having time to fully explore and elaborate on all of the story possibilities and ramifications is the series' biggest ongoing weakness.) Also, it's curious how the male knights seem to suddenly disappear when it looks like a fight, with Pina's female subordinates apparently eager for the challenge. Still, seeing Sugwara ultimately come to Sherry's rescue is pretty satisfying, and the way the sun rises on them is a nice little bit of symbolism. The potential ramifications of this event even keep it from being too schmaltzy. In other words, this is another classic example of why this series is so much fun to watch.

Rating: B+

GATE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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