by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 9 of
If the theme of episode 8 was overt politics then the theme of episode 9 is covert politics. Well, that and fan service of varying kinds.
Although it has not been a steady feature, fan service has popped up from time to time in the series, and this episode has the biggest dose yet; even though none of it reaches the quality of the top-line fan service series, it at least provides some sexy fun. A visit to a mountain hot springs gives the entire female cast – including Itami's newly-introduced ex-wife – a chance to show some skin. Some get this treatment more so than others; for instance, Kuribayashi is shown to actually be quite a bit bustier than she originally seemed, while contrarily, camera angles diligently avoid giving even a sense of Lelei's figure. The one most on-display is Rory, who has a propensity to bounce between being childish and maturely alluring. Hence Itami certainly has his hands full (almost literally!) when she comes on to him strongly enough on the night of the hot springs visit that one part of the cliffhanger ending involves whether or not he is going to resist grabbing some booty and going for it.
Part of the reason she is so hot and bothered may be that she (like everyone else) has been drinking, and/or perhaps that she is contemplating the upcoming time when she will forsake both the demands and pleasures of the flesh for her godly form. Likely, though, it has much more to do with the fact that people are dying nearby, and as has been established before, the spirits of the dead flowing through her kicks her libido into high gear. Those dying are the Special Forces agents of the U.S. and possibly other foreign powers who have come to rather aggressively “invite” the visitors from beyond the gate. The attackers, though, have run into the buzzsaw of a well-prepared Japanese SFG, an opposition which is only overcome when back-door political dealing involving a corruption scandal defangs them. That forms the other part of the cliffhanger the episode ends on, though from the way the Japanese Prime Minister responds to the American president, he is clearly anticipating the capabilities of a certain otaku soldier who also happens to be a close personal friend of the Minister of Defense.
Before the story gets to that point, though, we find out a lot about Itami's relationship with his manga-ka ex-wife: they function better now as friends because Itami never appreciated that while his former middle school classmate may have married him for material reasons, she did actually grow to love him. Pina's companion being in love with Itami's right-hand man, which has been mildly suggested for the past couple of episodes, is also confirmed. And that is presaged by a shopping trip, where even Rory finds interest in clothes beyond her priestess garb, Tuka gets to be a fashion plate again (really, she could have a career as a model if she stayed in Japan), and Pina and companion get hooked to the art form that is BL manga. All of this, of course, is Itami's unique (and at least partly self-serving) way of trying to protect everyone from potential pursuers. Never underestimate a competent man who passes himself off as a slacker!
For all of the fun and fan service, though, the latter half of this episode is a bounce back to the uglier side of GATE. The episode does seem to go out of its way to portray Japanese who aren't otaku as competent and genteel, while the Americans come off as boorish, heavy-handed, and militarily outmatched. This could, I suppose, be taken as further evidence of the nationalism that is often talked about concerning the source material, but regardless of what one may think about the accuracy of the American portrayal, GATE is quite far from the only franchise involving international relations to portray the American military and leadership this way. (In fact, fair and balanced portrayals, like the one seen in Zipang, are relatively rare.) This aspect strikes me more as a basic Japanocentric approach – in other words, it's made in Japan so naturally it's going to portray the home team in the most positive light – than outright nationalism. Whatever degree of nationalism may have infused previous incarnations of the franchise, it has been toned down enough here that it could be ignored and the show easily appreciated for its other merits.
And increasingly, one of those “other merits” is Rory. Her reactions to things have always been amusing, and her fighting skill has always been impressive, but in the last couple of episodes she has progressively come into her own as a character. Nothing deep, mind you, but at least enough to actually distinguish her as a character. Now if only they could do that with Tuka, too. . .
GATE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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