by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 23 of
GATE (TV 2) ?
If one of your primary interests in GATE has always been the hard-core military action then what is presumably the series' penultimate episode will not disappoint. In fact, it is a veritable display of precision military execution.
What's going on here, plot-wise, is relatively straightforward: now with the proper authority to act, the JSDF moves to secure the ambassadors and peace-oriented Empire dissidents at the Jade Palace and free the political prisoners at the capital's main prison. This most dramatically involves a paradrop (which has suitable impact on Zorzal), but also involves all sorts of firefights and more stealthy work with combat knives. The military venues are varied: strike team maneuvers in securing a facility, sniping from a city wall, shooting down flying dragon-mounted warriors with jets, bombing a staging ground for the dragon-riders, and even getting involved in a pitched battle at the Jade Palace. Ultimately the goal is to secure targets and get out, so they do not dig in to defensive positions, and they (regretfully for some) strictly limit themselves to the purview of their mission. Unfortunately for her and her subordinates, rescuing Pina is not part of the mission. That is a task which will apparently fall exclusively to Itami and his girls in the series finale – but really, would you have expected anything else?
For as direct as the plot is, there are a lot of interesting angles to consider. The military actions are executed with virtually textbook precision, and the careful animation of details such as hand signals and even how a soldier drops his equipment and rolls when landing from a paradrop indicate a strong familiarity with military training. For one of the few times in the series the JSDF is not shown to be infallible, as the fight at Jade Palace does include one conspicuous scene of a soldier being injured (albeit not critically) by enemy fire. The whole business does allow several familiar faces to pop up anew, too, such as Kuribayashi and the rest of Itami's initial unit (albeit basically only in cameo appearances), some other soldiers who have previously appeared, and even the winged prostitute, who helps transport political prisoners to a rendezvous point.
The way the violence used in the episode is also interesting. Mercilessly gunning down the bandits at Italica didn't seem excessive because they were, well, bandits. Zorzal getting the crap kicked out of him back at the beginning of this season was brutal but also fully acceptable because he was a total ass. This scenario, however, has more of an edge to it because most of the victims are just Joe Soldiers doing their jobs. Though the JSDF is unquestionably the Good Guy group here, its soldiers don't resort to just incapacitating peon enemies; foes are killed (sometimes graphically) without a second thought, as if one were playing a first-person shooter game. Indeed, that impression is furthered by a first-person perspective shot similar to one back in episode 14, where we see through the eyes of a shooter. I am confident that no kind of statement was intended here, and after all, warlike scenarios aren't going to be so cozy. Still, that does give the episode some extra bite.
The most merciless person in this whole scenario, though, is Tyuule. Whether this is the way she intended things to go down or not, she is clearly delighted by the opportunities this turn of events offers. Every one of her suggestions to Zorzal seems calculated to sow chaos, put more Imperial forces in the line of fire, and/or even put Zorzal in danger himself. She carefully maneuvers her dialogue to give him no outs, no paths to safety, without him even suspecting that he and the empire are being set up for a big fall. And whether she originally planned it that way or not, keeping Pina prisoner gives Tyuule a trump card because she's certain to lure someone back to rescue Pina (and thus hopefully finish the job with Zorzal as well). In a way she's scarier than most anime villains because she does not need plans to play out in a carefully-articulated fashion to achieve success; she's quite adept at opportunism, and after all, her ultimate goal could be accomplished any of a number of different ways. She only really loses if stability and sound leadership is achieved without the Empire being wrecked first, and given how much damage has already been dealt, she does not entirely lose even then.
The one negative here is my concern about whether or not a sufficiently satisfying conclusion can be achieved in only one more episode. Too many cards are in play, and too many threads are dangling, for the story to be wrapped up so quickly and neatly. So will the series come up with a good way to handle it, or will another season be forthcoming? I am hoping for the latter.
GATE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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