A completely shameless, albeit reasonably entertaining commercial for the JSDF, mixed in with some interesting fantasy.
Studio(s): A-1 Pictures
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Military
This is… not at all what I was expecting, frankly. Not that I was expecting much. I’ve already made it abundantly clear that the only reason I even picked this up was Rory’s fun character design. Well… that and I haven’t really covered a Fantasy series in a while. Though this certainly isn’t your typical Dungeons & Dragons rip. As alluded to, previously, it’s essentially a glorified JSDF showcase, featuring the world’s most likable soldier – Itami, Youji. I’m sure there are a lot of political themes within it that could be construed as problematic or even just pure propaganda. But I care so little about it as to pay zero attention to that aspect at all, in the first place. Alas, the things I do generally care about aren’t exactly abundant in this series.
I’ll be honest. That’s about where my deeper thoughts on this end. On that matter, it’s a series that has a lot of really fun, likable characters. But it’s not character-driven… really at all. At least not on the psychological level that I’m generally interested in. And I’m all about stories featuring fascinating character psychologies. So, as one might expect, this has very little for me. We get glimpses of those things in this season, but only glimpses. Things like Tuka’s father and Rory’s… “interesting” perception of life and death.
Sadly, though, the story spends a lot more of its time on political hoo-ha and military jargon that I… honestly can’t be bothered caring about, on its own. When that kind of stuff is involved, I prefer to observe it from a ground-level, through the eyes of the characters. This series, however, is much more world-heavy. It manages to have a very top-down view of the entire situation. It uses it well, to be sure. Though there were certain portions that had me scratching my head, rather thoroughly. I cannot, for the life of me, understand any of the actions being taken by the non-Japanese countries in the whole hot springs event and thereafter. Seemed rather contrived and counterintuitive in the extreme. But whatever.
Either way, I honestly don’t have a real thesis to present on this one since basically the entirety of my specialization is rendered moot, for the moment. Maybe that’ll change in Season 2, when more significant developments take place for the characters to respond to. But, for now, I’m honestly at a bit of a loss. What made it entertaining? Well, the action, for one.
It was all superbly animated and choreographed. There’s no question about that. But A-1 generally has no problems in that regard. What’s more, the character interactions are great. They’re just not overly deep. I get the impression that Itami is supposed to be a flat character. He isn’t supposed to do much growing at all. And that’s fine. Because he’s supposed to create change in the world around him. But I honestly wasn’t seeing much of that going on because… well… not character-driven.
Yes, his actions are creating waves, but seeing how his behavior influences other characters or the greater system of the world is the point. Thus far, we’ve only seen the slightest inklings of this. People wondering what he’d do towards the end, when the Dark Elf comes to plead for help and he isn’t around. Of course, he influences the actions of the Princess with the embarrassingly obvious name pun. But that’s… kind of it. The characters have essentially all been behaving the same since square one. And there haven’t been quite enough huge developments yet to see the world, itself, changing on a systemic level that encompasses greater themes and whatnot. All the changes, thus far, are basically superficial.
And that’s where I’m at a loss. The characters are all fun. They’re all fundamentally interesting in terms of potential. But they haven’t really been pushed yet, with the exception of the aforementioned Princess, who I’m not going to name out of sheer respect. So what about the world? Well, that’s where I think the majority of attention went in this first season. Developing not only the fantasy world, itself, but its dichotomy to our world and how our world winds up affecting it is a major point of the series. But, let’s be honest, a lot of it is just down to showing how absolutely overwhelming modern military might (specifically the JSDF) is in comparison to what the fantasy world can muster. Though I did like seeing, towards the end, how Lelei’s deepening understanding of science was helping her improve her magic. It actually reminds me of Kenja no Mago, in that regard, since that’s clearly the source of Shin’s might… that and Isekai Protagonist powers.
There are some other things to consider, when talking about this. I’d said the series is “slow” on Twitter, but that’s not exactly the case. You can’t be slow in going to a destination when you’re not actually going there at all. The slowness I was referring to was character development. But it’s clear this season, at least, was never really interested in that, to begin with. Character establishment, perhaps. But not development. But there is one other thing I’d like to point out and that’s the editing.
This series is edited really strangely, at times. The shot composition and whatnot is just weird, often just opting to take a split camera approach to characters talking. Which isn’t inherently an issue. But it kinda uses it so much that it becomes distracting, at times. From what I could tell, there were two reasons to do this. They did it spice up exposition so it wouldn’t just succumb to “Talking-Head Syndrome,” in which case it definitely didn’t work. If anything, it just made it more noticeable. The other use was to give us more camera angles and shots of the military equipment, vehicles, and soldiers. It’s a very Michael Bay style visual decision. Which makes sense, considering that the man also seems to have a hard-on for the military… seriously. Don’t make a drinking game of it. You’ll die.
A bit upsetting that I wasn’t able to really get more out of this. There are a lot of interesting themes in play and the second season may deliver on it all in a package that’s more to my personal tastes. Hopefully, anyway. But as things are, this series didn’t really provide much more for me than pure fun. It does have a genuinely nice sense of humor, a lot really cool ideas, and glimmers of character that shine through. I definitely did enjoy it. But for me, thus far, it’s basically just Junk Food, at the end of the day.
What’d you think of GATE? Let me know, down below. As always, thanks for reading, folks! Keep up the Awesome!