by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 5 of
How would you rate episode 6 of
Episodes 5 and 6, taken together, both advance the overall storyline by increments and form their own mini-arc, one which concerns JSDF forces getting involved with the siege of the town of Italica when it is attacked by a veritable army of bandits. One complication is that Pina Co Lada (I must be slow on the uptake, as I just now realized the joke inherent in her name), a princess of the Empire charged with investigating the “men in green” who had taken over Arnus Hill, is also there with her entourage and had taken up defense of the town on behalf of the young noble ruler. In the face of the bandit threat, she took up Itami's offer to help defend Italica when he arrived there with the three girls – Tuka, Leilei and Rory – who were looking to sell the dragon scales that had previously collected so that they could support themselves independent of the JSDF if needed. Pina naively assigned them to protect one of the town's gates, a task she considered a suicide mission since they were essentially bait, but the bandits attacked the other gate instead. When the inexperienced Pina hesitated to call on them as reinforcements when her own soldiers started to become overwhelmed, Itami took the initiative, calling for support and then rushing to support Rory when she runs for the battle in a frenzy of arousal-induced battle craze. (Apparently the souls of the dead flowing through her have that effect on her, although whether that causes her somewhat lascivious personality or results from it is up for debate.) And when that support arrives, well, bad things go down for the bandits.
Those who have yearned for more of the action side of the series will certainly get it in this pair of episodes. The latter part of episode 5 and first part of episode 6 is replete with more typical fantasy/medieval battle scenes, but the action ramps up a notch when Rory gets involved and the short, short-haired female soldier in Itami's company goes absolutely gung-ho in support of her. That leads to some sweet tactical fighting as Itami hesitates not at all in backing up Rory and his wayward soldier, but the real treat for some viewers is certainly going to be the attack helicopters flying in for support. Not only do they tear up the bandits with a power that (rightfully) intimidates the astonished Pina to the core of her being, but they do it to Wagner's “Ride of the Valkyries” – and that isn't the only Apocalypse Now allusion in that scene, either. Pina walks away convinced that they couldn't do a thing if the “SDF” ever decides to push their overwhelming military power advantage for more than just relatively minor concessions, which will doubtless have significant story consequences going forward. And that may come up pretty quickly, given that episode 6 ends with Itami allowing himself to be taken prisoner by a retinue of Imperial knights instead of getting his company involved in another battle. (That they could have easily won that battle is irrelevant, since both Itami's orders and character dictate that he not needlessly cause conflict.)
While the battles are the main story, these episodes also have some other interesting details. They allow the character of some of the recurring soldiers to show through a little more, but more importantly, episode 5 also delves into Pina's past and shows why the Emperor referred to his daughter's knightly order as her “plaything” and why Pina was itching for a real assignment. That fleshing out is critical to understanding her behavior in both episodes and establishing her as a key player going forward; in fact, she is arguably now the series' best-established character. These episodes also do a nice job of integrating in the unintended consequences of the JSDF's actions, as the remnants of defeated armies turning into bandits is a common tale throughout history.
As seriously as these episodes take themselves, they do also allow for a sprinkling of humor, typically either at Itami's expense or concerning Itami's behavior. More so than in previous episodes, that element feels a little out of place here. The bloodlessness of the action, which has been a common complaint by fans of the manga version of the franchise, also continues here, to the point that it dilutes the impact of some scenes. On the voice acting front, the way Risa Taneda (the voice of Rory) laughs as her character goes into battle seems like an awkward fit for the scene. Hopefully Sentai Filmworks can improve on this when the series eventually gets dubbed.
Despite those flaws, the series is still continuing at a reasonable pace and carefully building its story with an eye to sensible actions and behaviors.
GATE is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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