GATE (2015)

[ゲート 自衛隊 彼の地にて、斯く戦えり]

Season 1

GATE (2015)

Director: Takahiko Kyogoku
Studio: A-1 Pictures
Starring:Junichi Suwabe, Hisako Kanemoto, Nao Toyama
Episodes: 12

After invaders from another dimension attack Ginza, the Japanese Self-Defense Force launches a counter-invasion, pitting medieval technology and magic against the latest military hardware.

A mere fluke of Google brought this series to my attention and I'm glad it did. Stories where a modern military force goes through a timeslip or something like that isn't exactly new, but if well executed, they can be rather interesting. That was the case here, or at least that was how I felt about it. With main character Lieutenant Itami being a slacker otaku actually made me think of Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series. You see, in those books, baseball player Sam Yeager proves to be one of the better people equipped for mentally processing the alien invasion because he's a big sci-fi buff. Similarly, the otaku Itami is already mentally geared toward the fantasy world on the other side of the Gate. It's a neat idea. Some people complain that the overwhelming military power of the Jieitai takes all the conflict out of the show, but really, this isn't a fight that can be wholly won with firepower alone. There's a lot of political machinations going on both sides of the Gate and that's where the real fight is.

Apparently the themes and message of the original light novel series have been toned down a bit, but that doesn't stop people from having a problem with this series and its creator Takumi Yanai. Japanese chauvinism in their popular media is nothing new, but a militarist bent is much rarer. Fetishisizing weaponry, sure, but a strong pro-military stance isn't seen much this side of WWII. The Jieitai is lionized as a hypercompetent benevolent power in a setting where it's given much more operational leeway than it has in real life (though recent controversial laws may change that). I'll admit to rolling my eyes a bit at how flawlessly the Jieitai performs, but I'm certainly not offended by the text or subtext presented. However, staunch Article 9 defenders, Chinese, Koreans, and most generally left-leaning folks are probably going to have a problem. The government doesn't seem to mind, unsurprisingly, as the Ministry of Defense is actually using the show as a recruitment tool. If you're very strongly anti-military or particularly anti-Japanese military, then you need to steer clear unless you just want to get your dander up.

Now that we've set the political tangle aside, I can say that I'm pretty fond of the characterization. There are some light harem elements I could do without, but you can't seem to get away from it and it's fairly subdued so it's less of a problem. Fanservice is generally muted as well, at least in comparison to what seems to be the norm these days. The action set pieces are pretty rewarding and all in all, I've enjoyed the ride.

I'm looking forward to the series' resumption in January and if you don't have any politico-ideological objections to the content, give this one a watch.

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