Gate was one of those anime of recent season that many people followed whether they liked it or not, simply because they wanted to see how it would turn out. And the reason for that is that Gate has a premise that makes it very easy for the viewer to get hooked onto. I mean really, which one of us didn’t imagine a fantasy vs modern weapons scenario, at least once? It’s just something that by its nature would be interesting to see being played out, because the scenario itself has a lot of potential. The scenario of Gate is essentially that of Native Americans vs Conquering Europeans, expect instead of Native Americans we have a fantasy empire and the Europeans are replaced by the Japanese Self “Defense” Forces or JSDF. Either way, the cultural exchange alone would have made this series worth watching.
But sadly Gate trashed its completely worthwhile premise just so it could pander to its viewers and have harem fanservice.
Let’s start off with the core of the problem, the main character.
Youji Itami is our main character, he is a 33 year old guy who likes anime and doujinshi and everything otaku related, except on top of that he is also a military officer, former member of the Delta Force and also a Ranger. Just from this short description alone it should be obvious that he is nothing more than a wish-fulfillment character for the otaku audience to self insert into. Not only it is highly unrealistic for a member of the armed forces to be such an oddball, but it is also bad from a writing standpoint as Itami is defined solely by the fact that he is an Otaku Soldier, that is his entire “character”. He is just like Kirito from Sword Art Online a typical self insert character who just flows with events of the story and responds to whatever he sees according to his arbitrary morality. In fact I would say that Itami is actually worse than Kirito, because at least Kirito had the goal of escaping his death game, while Itami has no goals at all, he is just riding with the wave that is the JSDF, but he doesn’t even like that ride as it distracts him from his hobby and free time activities, as a soldier’s life is obviously 24/7. So why doesn’t he just quit? It’s not like there are no other jobs that he could take with his successful resume (jobs that would actually restrict his time far less than the current one). But yeah he remains because he is the self insert character of the story.
And this is where we arrive at the biggest blow to this anime, Gate sucks because it is centered and focuses on the shitty and uninteresting character that is Itami. In actuality the best parts of the show have to do with the moments where Itami is nowhere to be seen or is in the sidelines (Battle of Arnus, Ride of Valkyries, the Trial), because whenever Itami is on screen, the show is nothing more than a harem, a wishfullfilment story about an otaku with successful military career that everyone likes( despite the fact that he openly disobeys the orders of his superior, [And somehow never gets demoted or condemned]). Pretty much the entire “story” is about this character wandering around the fantasy world with his squad, saving everyone and building up his harem. And yes he indeed builds a fucking harem, he gets a Magician, an Elf and a powerful Demigod, all of them who want his dick someway or another. The fact that they are all so different (instead of just humans) is typical of harems, because it is basically doing a checklist of unique and exotic character archetypes, because who the fuck wants normal human girls? This point is further emphasized that Itami has a boring ex-wife at his home, who is portrayed in a much worse light than his new and exotic waifus. Gate is little different from typical harems like Rosario to Vampire in this regard.
Pretty much all of the problems of Gate can be traced back to the fact that our main character is Youji Itami, and that the story is told mostly from his perspective, and pretty much everything we see from his perspective is fucking boring, wish-fullfilment nonsense and fanserivce. Just think about it, if Itami wasn’t our main character then we wouldn’t have all these harem elements, we wouldn’t have to listen to boring black and white morality speeches where Itami and his group are always right, and we wouldn’t have our time wasted by watching the irrelevant and insignificant “plots” that Itami and his group deal with, because yes they are insignificant in the grand scale of things that are going behind the scene. In the first place Itami is a nobody, he is just a low ranking officer, not some interesting General or perhaps a Politican, no he is just a goddamn Otaku Ranger, why the fuck is he in the focus? Seriously? We have this huge war scenario and instead of focusing on some important character or having no character focus at all, it focuses on someone completely irrelevant and boring! Imagine if Legend of the Galactic Heroes had nobody else but Oliver Poplan as the center of focus, who would care about it? Who who would watch it? That’s right nobody. It would have been forgotten to the generations of the future, just like Gate will be.
Okay I been actually bashing Gate quite hard, so I shall take this moment to be fair. It’s not like you cannot do interesting themes or stories from the perspective of a single soldier, they have been done before in anime after all, namely with Area 88 and Gundam MS Team, both of which are considered to be good anime. So why is it that Gate is a failure? Because those two shows I mentioned, actually did something with their themes and premises, something that actually benefited from having the perspective of a common soldier. Area 88 was about war’s effects on the minds of a pilot, while Gundam MS Team was about the horrors and cruelty of war and wishing to escape that situation, both of which are quite solid themes that can be explored meaningfully. Now look at how Gate has absolutely nothing like this, it would never have anything like this because Gate is a self insert story, and nothing bad can ever happen to the self insert character in a self insert story.Self Insert Stories are entirely about fulfilling the wishes and dreams of its audience, not their nightmares, so it is unthinkable that anything bad would happen to Itami and his co, instead the opposite happens in the form of consecutive successes.
Now that we discussed the primary evil, lets move onto the lesser ones.
1. That the JSDF have already won.
In case you didn’t notice, it happened in the first episodes, in episode one the Emperor’s personal forces were annihilated, then in the following battle of Arnus hill the forces of the empire were collectively destroyed and scattered. It wasn’t just some random scouting party or a small division, no in that battle of Arnus hill the entire might of an Empire was present, which is why people with ranks of a King were there, commanding the troops. The Empire put up all of its collective might and they were absolutely and brutally annihilated.
You might be thinking “Surely that can’t be it, right?”
But that was pretty much it, in the Medieval Era if your main force was annihilated you effectively lost the war, there is no more men to rally and put into armour, because that’s all you had, you levied the armies of your vassals and told them to go to war, the vassals then raised the levies of their own vassals and told them to go to war and the vassals of the vassals did so as well, this is how you built an army in the Feudal army, and that army was now pretty much gone, meaning that the Empire already lost. You can either surrender, hire mercenaries or futilely struggle. But the Emperor isn’t doing any of that in Gate, he sits calmly on his throne as if he wasn’t in a major crisis, which is nonsensical. Either the Emperor is crazy or the creator doesn’t know how to write a ruler. And it’s not just the fucking Emperor, nobody seems to be panicking about the fact that entire army was pretty much wiped out in a single battle, while the remainder of the armies had gone rogue. Many of them are still pretending that they can somehow deal with the JSDF like the idiots they are.
Even if the JSDF doesn’t attack them, they are still in a major crisis. A. Because of the fact that the remainder of the armies have turned to a life of banditry and are now plundering their own cities (As even the anime has shown this obvious result) B. Pretty much all the major political figures other than the Emperor and his family are dead, the Kings that ruled the Kingdoms that made up the Emprie died in the Battle of Arnus. Instead of panicking once more The Emperor goes into “all according to plan mode” as if that was his goal all along. To that ,I say that bullshit, because you still just lost the majority of your army. Surely there would have been a more efficient way of doing this, no? Is assassination out of style?. And secondly, what do you think is going to happen after a ruler dies? That’s right, chaos and succession wars that can pretty much affect your own Empire, and now these crisis’s are bound to turn up in pretty much all of your vassal states due to your lack of Rulers and lack of order that comes from the lack of rulers. Good job Emperor.
The Empire is obviously on the verge of a collapse and they can’t do anything about it with the JSDF around the neck, yet the show still tries to pretend that there is still some kind of “validity” for the conflict. There is not much point to watching the events of the show when they are either pointless or when we know how they will end or turn out, and those are the only kind of events Gate does. If this was a more meaningful anime they would skip 90% of the events of GATE and switch to future where the fantasy realm is dominated by the JSDF , because anyone with a brain can see that is going to happen. Instead the show just wastes our time with pointless events and what is essentially filler (Dragons, Return to Human World arc etc)
2. That the Empire is laughably evil and one dimensional.
Any ruler with some brains would have surrendered under the aforementioned conditions in order to minimize his losses and keep the remainder of his power, but the Emperor in Gate doesn’t do it because he is depicted as the typical one dimensional evil villain as if he just popped straight out of Akame Ga Kill. He constantly fucks everyone over, refuses to heed reason or logic, pretends that he can still recover from this and is generally arrogant, one must really wonder how this Empire survived for so long with such a ruler.
And it’s not just the Emperor who is needlessly evil, pretty much everyone other than those who are willing to submit to the JSDF in some or another are portrayed as evil. Just look at the former soldiers who started raiding the villages, literally all of them were portrayed as psychopathic evil bastards for no reason other than that they were soldiers. They were presented as these battle hungry blood knights who were disappointed with the results of the Arnus battle so they went to raid innocent villages and cities in order to find their “true warfare”. Riiiiiiight~ You couldn’t get any more stereotypical than this. It’s not like you couldn’t have had a logical reason for the behavior of the former soldiers, for example they could have just raided the villages in order to sustain their own existence with food and money, the life of a soldier was all they knew after all. But noooo, we cant have that because that would paint the JSDF in bad light for ruining their livelihood!
Currently at the writing of this article I am not up to date with Gate, meaning I have not watched the Second Season, but from what I heard they introduced the son of the Emperor who is a rapist, sadist, slave owner. I’m just glad to see that they keep sticking to this one dimensional evil empire cliché that that they have established for themselves. What’s next, an Empress who is also a dominatrix and tortures little boys?
Pretty much all of them just exist to play the part of the “Villain you love to hate” trope and feel good when the main characters beat them.
But of course this is nothing more than cheap appeal to the emotions in order to create drama and excitement, and barely works on those who refuse to self insert as Itami. Needless to say, you can’t make a conflict interesting by painting one side to be obviously evil, its as boring as Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. For any conflict to be interesting and deep, both sides need to be Grey, as that is how human conflicts are in reality.
3. That the JSDF is painted as morally superior and right.
Naturally if one side is demonized by the course of things that also implies that the other side is morally superior. And yes the show does its best to the depict the Japanese Army as the “good guys”, to the point that even in the opening sequence that plays each episode all you are shown is how the JSDF are helping the poor fantasy people.
The primary method they reinforce this image is by not showing us anything actually important that the JSDF does, this comes from the fact that I said before, meaning we see 90% of the story from Itami’s and co’s perspective, who are usually acting the role of the stereotypical good guys due to self insert reasons. There is undoubtedly some serious shit going on in the background, but nope, can’t let the viewer see that. The show also paints pretty much every other country other than Japan in a negative light due to their constant manipulations that we are shown (Despite the fact that the show barely even shows the Japanese leaders) and tries to tell us that other countries trying to take a piece of the specially designated area beyond the Gate is bad when Japan doesn’t have much legitimacy in meddling there either. At one point I was wondering if I was watching some kind of propaganda instead of a regular anime because it got so ridiculous with its Pro-Japanese bias.
And the show does nothing but help me reinforce that they were going for this bias since anyone who opposes the JSDF and by extension Japan is painted one-dimensionally evil as I have mentioned above, while those who think that they can’t fight the JSDF, meaning those who are willing to submit and cooperate them are the only fantasy characters portrayed in a positive light. In fact I think the show clearly tells us what the fantasy people are supposed to do before the mighty Japanese with the case of the Dark Elf and Itami.
They exist for no other purpose than to be added to their harem and be exploited. Because lets face it, Exploitation is occurring everywhere behind screen, sure we see all these diplomats walking around trying to sugarcoat it, but in the end the same fate will befall on the Emprie that happened to China and most of the Far East.
Either way it is really hard to care for the characters when the show tries so hard to make them into the good guys and everyone else a hateable douchebag. What happened to ambiguous morality? Is that too complex for the modern anime fan?
4. Other Characters
I already touched upon Itami so I shall won’t bother with him in this section nor with anyone else who are so insignificant that they aren’t even worth a mention (meaning most soldiers).
A. The Emperor
He is evil, stupid and starts of the entire events of the anime. Those are the only things you can say about him.
B. Tuka Luna
Literally the generic blonde elf that is found in every fantasy. Has some ptsd/mental trauma due to her dad dying, but since this show is obviously a shitty harem, it is never explored or delved into.
C. Rori Mercury
Your stereotypical Kamidere and blood knight combined into one.
D. Lelei the Mage
She is the token Dandere/Ayanami Rei clone, or should I say Tabitha clone instead, since she is like a carbon copy of Tabitha, another Ayanami Rei clone who is also a mage. You could pretty much replace Lelei with Tabitha and you wouldn’t notice a single difference.
E. Aoi Risa
Itami’s shitty and unappealing Ex-Wife, whose sole purpose is to highlight how much better the fantasy girls are compared to modern women. Also she has this disgusting Yaoi fetish that they like to shoehorn into anime so much, so I naturally hate her.
A king and the commander of the Empire’s forces during the battle of Arnus. Typical hotblooded general who refuses to retreat, his idiocy cost pretty much the entire army of the Empire. Compared to the other Empire characters at least he is not portrayed as evil, but he is still massively idiotic, which I do not like. It’s not as if everyone in the medieval ages were idiots, especially not nobles and those of high upbringing who have been taught in the art of warfare from their childhood. Sure they are not accustomed to modern warfare but at least they should have the sensibility to run away when the situation becomes hopeless. I can’t forgive the shitty creator for automatically assuming that medieval=idiot.
G. Shino Kuribyashi
Typical annoying girl character that was only included because feminism. Also an actual female soldier is highly unusual even in modern times, if the author were to look at any statistics where they accept female recruits, then he would know that they fail 99% of the time. The fact that in this show she effortlessly switches to melee( via her bayonet) and defeats males 2-3 times her size is nothing more but feminist wish-fulfillment that will never become reality. Especially when you notice that fact that she is very short and slender looking, you cannot see muscles on her arms (which would naturally form in an army life).
H. Pina Co Lada
From the name alone you should be able to tell how seriously this story and the author takes this character. She is the annoying female soldier/princess/knight character on the side of the Fantasy. (Whats with all these female soldiers?) At least this one makes more sense due to her being royalty and thus more free power, but I don’t see why the evil Emperor would let her play around as she pleases instead of just marrying her off. Either way, she has been a submissive character towards the JSDF from the moment she appeared, realizing that they cannot win against them quite early, after that she decided to prevent a possible war by all means available, even if she has to marry Itami (Because yes Wish-Fulfillment, gotta add the princess to that checklist). Even if what she is doing sensible I cannot tolerate nor like her for she is simply pathetic as a person. She is also into Yaoi after she went into our world and met Itami’s ex-wife, so yes more hate points from me. I will never understand why they force this girls love yaoi cliché, it is neither funny nor appealing, it is disgusting and will never be normal no matter how much you push it.
I. Yao Ha Ducy
Token Dark Elf.
That was all the character that were worth mentioning in Gate. I think it speaks for itself.
5. Magic exists in the fantasy world, yet nobody bothers researching it.
Seriously, even Lelei the wizard does more research on our tech than we on their magic despite the fact that we are supposed to be the scientific and technologically advanced civilization.
They really have no excuse for this as the Gate is connected to motherfucking Tokyo, which is one of the largest, busiest and most important cities in the world, you are telling me that they can’t just send a few scientist (from the universities) over for analyzation? Or send back samples of the fantasy creatures? Even if they did do it in the background, they never showed or mentioned it in the anime while bunch of harem and fanservice moments were shown instead, so naturally I won’t accept this. And speaking of gates….
6. The Gate
Why does it exist? We don’t know.
Will it ever be explained? Of course not
Why is it connected to Tokyo, Japan of all places? Plot Convenience
Why only Japan? Why only one gate? Plot Convenience
How did it materialize from thin air? Seriously it just appeared out of nowhere in Tokyo, that’s now how Gates are supposed to work, if one part exist on the other side then the exit should naturally be solid on Japan, otherwise it would lead to a vast nothingness. Whatever. Magic. Not gonna question it.
In the above review, a pretty usual MAL reviewer says that it is courageous for an anime to have a 33 year old as a main character. Well if that counts as “courageous” these days then it proves how shitty the state of the modern anime industry is. Also I viewed this as a good opportunity to get to my 7th point, that none of the characters are mature in Gate. Like really, you cannot find a single character who acts mature. Itami may be 33 years old, but mentally he is like an infantile teenager who only cares about his hobby, he is no better than any of his squad mates, his yaoi loving ex-wife and the helicopter pilots who think its cool to play Wagner while murdering people, because yeah lets glorify murder in this anime while we are at it (I know it was a reference, but still). The Emperor and his son are little different, they are just cruel kids instead of the good kids. Pina Co Lada, the princess is likewise blinded by idealism and naivety, though in her case excused as she is an actual teenager. Tuka is over 100 years old, yet she failed to attain any spark of wisdom in that 100 years. The only character who ever expressed some levels of maturity in one way or another was Rori Mercury, but that is expected of a Kamidere.
Not only are the characters not mature, the show does not present itself in a mature manner either, it is written and narrated from the viewpoint of someone who just discovered Fanfiction.net
I cannot even say that the show takes itself seriously, there are only attempts at it, but they are miserably bad attempts. And if the show cannot take itself seriously and respect its premise, then why should I?
8. That Battles are no more than mere fanservice
Because lets say the truth, I already mentioned that the JDSF basically won a long time ago, yet even after the said decisive battle of Arnus, the show spends a lot of time playing out battles before our eyes. This is obviously done to entertain us, but in the end it is little more than fanservice. It already established that the JSDF is superior in every possible way due to modern technology and tactics, they defeated the might of the civilized world in the form of the Empire’s army and the might of the fantasy in the form of a dragon. Dragons, which are usually the pinnacle of fantasy settings as far as powers go. So it makes little difference if they fight another dragon or two, we already know the results, the same with the Empire’s army if they will magically pull a new army out of their ass then they will get defeated the same way as last time. Battles end up being nothing more than a tool to make our main characters and by extension the JSDF look awesome and powerful, thus appealing to the self inserts who imagine themselves as Itami.
They tried to spice this up in the second half by having Rori Mercury, the Demigod fight a bunch of assassins, but in the end that only made the situation worse. Because it was also a pointless fight, which would have been finished and dealt with even if she did not interfere with it. So even that fight was nothing more than fanservice, if our character actually came relatively close to being killed or endangered, then it would have been a much better and more intense fight, but due to that lack of danger the tension was missing.
9. Maids and Cosplay
Just no, another reason why I cannot take it seriously
Even before the JSDF got there, it seems that there is already a maid and cosplay tradition in this fantasy Empire. This comes in the form of Rori Mercury’s attire, which is obviously nothing more than fanservice once more (fuck your “priest outfit” excuse.) And in the form of various maids that seem to serve the noble houses, who actually have proper late era maid costumes. Need I remind you that from everything presented in the show so far implies that this is a medieval world? So why the hell are there relatively modern maid outfits in a medieval world? I know its a fantasy world, but its just immersion breaking. There must be some kind of logic to things, it would be just as out of place if someone in a black trench coat suddenly appeared in Attack on Titan or if full plate armoured knight showed up in Naruto.
10. That Gate is not the only anime that does this
No, in truth pretty much all Light Novel adaptations are entirely about this. They hook you with interesting premises then go down the way of fanserivce, it doesn’t matter if we are talking about Toaru Majutsu, Sword Art Online, Accel World or Zero no Tsukaima, for they all go down this path.
Light Novel adaptations are one of the prime reasons why Modern anime suck. And no you can’t call them a minor influence for 1/5 of every season is made up of light novel adaptations, so they make up a huge chunk of the market and are always sadly popular with the masses. Just like how many at this very moment praise Gate as a modern masterpiece of anime in the community for its “realistic” depiction of old vs new.