GATE (2012)

[ゲート 自衛隊 彼の地にて、斯く戦えり]

Volume 1

GATE - Volume 1 (2012)

Author: Takumi Yanai
Artist: Satoru Sao
Publisher: Alphapolis

A portal to another world opens in Tokyo and an army from the other side invades. After pushing back the invaders, the Japanese Self-Defense Forces launch a counter-invasion.

Because my introduction to the series is the anime, my perspective may be a little different from some others whose point of entry was the manga or the original novels. There are some things, such as the Battle of Ginza, that were expanded in anime which I rather like, so it feels like the initial setup gets the short shrift here. Setting that aside, another thing that got me was how much more brutal the manga is. It might be a little shocking to someone who isn't expecting it, maybe even enough to turn you off to the manga entirely. For the most part, though, the story is basically the same, covering first contact, the assembly of our gang and the start of the Battle of Italica. One of the benefits of the written format is that it's easier to represent the language barrier without coming up with a complete conlang. (The anime tries to represent it by having the Jieitai speak in broken Japanese at first courtesy of a translation convention, but this is quickly dropped.)

I realize my commentary thus far has been entirely in comparison to the anime, so let me start from the top for the uninitiated. I don't like military fiction with little grounding in the actual military, one of my main beefs with the Gundam franchise, but military experience isn't terribly common in Japan. The author of this series is an exception and while there are a lot of breaks with reality for storytelling purposes, there's solid grounding to work from. Apparently Yanai takes a lot of flak for his nationalism, but that isn't a problem for me. Don't expect other countries to get anything resembling favorable treatment for starters. In a real-world scenario, the Japanese government would probably seek a UN peacekeeping force to go beyond the Gate with the US doing most of the heavy lifting. Here they fairly reasonably make the excuse that US forces are too tied up in the Middle East and the potential for things to go pear-shaped serve as an excuse for the Americans to only provide logistical support, effectively selling the Japanese the rope to hang themselves with. The Jieitai gets idealized treatment and doesn't have to suffer many of the real-world consequences that a military power, no matter how high-tech and well-intentioned, has to face. There are still some intriguing political wranglings on both sides of the Gate and the greater draw is the character interactions rather than the actual conflict. Our lead Lieutenant Itami is a military slacker in the tradition of Irresponsible Captain Tylor and you may or may not find him as an avenue for otaku wish fulfillment. (The light harem elements don't help to absolve him of this.) There's a good balance of personalities among the principal members of Itami's team that mesh fairly well with the three Special Region members who join up. On the Imperial side, Emperor Mort is a nicely crafty and merciless villain with a knack for making the most of any situation no matter how unfavorable and Piña gives us the perspective of the untried leader thrust in the middle of an impossible scenario. One difference from the anime is Piña showing shades of her father in her meeting with King Duran. It would seem that she was putting up a front more than anything, but it would be interesting if that side of her personality was explored more. Instead she seems to be used for comic relief more than anything else.

While I find the character designs in the anime more visually appealing, in some cases the designs here make more sense, particularly Kuribayashi having shorter hair and a little more meat on her bones. As noted above, the manga is much more brutal than the anime and we get some rather disturbing imagery that really drives home just how bad things are in the Special Region. It's not pleasant to say the least and delicate readers will probably want to steer clear. In addition to blood and gore, there's also more explicit nudity, less so in this volume than others, but that could be another red flag for people.

Setting content aside, character designs are appealing (even if I favor the anime designs more), military hardware is lovingly rendered and action scenes carry a lot of visual punch. Also, I can't fail to mention that Lieutenant Yanagida always looks so dang smarmy. It's great. ^o^

If the nature of the story and the more extreme content of this adaptation compared to the anime aren't turn-offs for you, I can easily recommend adding this to your collection. While I'd like to see a more complex conflict, I do enjoy what we get and find the story well worth reading.

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