Written by Bananaowns
Images courtesy of A-1 Pictures
Growing up I was a big fan of the show Deadliest Warrior. For those that are not familiar with the show, a team of analysts ran a simulation that featured two warriors from different time periods. For example, a Spartan might face a Samurai. A variety of factors were considered and a winner would be declared. The show that I’m reviewing today piqued my interest in a very similar way albeit in a much more one-sided manner. Gate features a plethora of battles between a modern military against a medieval army. However, this show is much more than that basic premise. I’m Bananaowns and this is an Otaku Youth anime review.
A mysterious portal to another dimension opens up in the middle of Japan. Waves upon waves of medieval soldiers come out of this portal and begin to slaughter innocent civilians. While initially stunned, the Japanese Defense Force quickly overcomes this attack with their better tactics and weaponry. After the attack, they send in an expeditionary force to explore this new land. Gate largely focuses on Itami, a self-proclaimed otaku who happens to be a member of the military. He acquires a rag-tag group of people ranging from a mage to a disciple of a goddess. The story involves him learning about this new land and its inhabitants.
Initially, Gate has a very light tone. The first half of the series place is a large focus on the antics of Itami and his group of friends. However, it does not hold this light tone throughout the entire series. The battle scenes with the JSDF take on a much more serious nature. The presence of a civil war in the second half presents a rather political focus that can get surprisingly dark. It’s not a rapid change, but the viewer should be warned that the tone of the show changes drastically and for a good reason. The second half is a better told story. It may lack some of the great character interactions from the first half but creates such an interesting web of intrigue that the tradeoff is worth it. Even with the tonal differences, Gate possesses a very entertaining story overall.
Gate has no shortage of characters between the various members of the military and the denizens of the medieval world. It can get overwhelming at times. The main party alone has four characters that each have a story arc and get quite a bit of focus as a result. For the sake of review, I am only going to talk about Itami. The characters of Rory and Tuka deserve to be watched and would be spoiled by any further mention.
Itami is a unique anime protagonist. He is a proud otaku. In fact, he only works for the military in order to fund his rather obsessive habit. He also can be quite a pervert, but a reserved one if that makes any sense whatsoever. Itami is a good man though, and a sociable one at that. I get tired of stereotypical otaku characters being overtly awkward. It was refreshing to see how charismatic Itami could be at times. Even if he initially expresses a lot of doubt regarding his promotion, he actually makes a great leader. My one criticism is that he takes on the traditional anime role of a character that helps everyone. The good thing about this characteristic is that it is largely curtailed by his superiors though. I also enjoy that Itami can be enraged despite his rather laid back and lazy nature. Overall, the characters are inherently interesting and do a lot for this show. My personal favorite is the hilariously named Piña, but there are sure to be a plethora of characters that could be fan favorites.
I will be perfectly honest here; the animation of the show is fairly average. Despite the mediocre nature of most of the animation, there are moments where the animation quality jumps immensely. Typically this is the result of the management of the animation budget. Certain scenes are planned to be of a higher quality, which can diminish the quality of other scenes. Of course the scenes with higher quality are the action scenes. The fantastical creatures have a high level of detail, but the absolute standout is the animation of the large variety of military equipment. The helicopter scene alone is one of my favorite moments of this anime. The way the weapons look, combined with the fluid movement of the characters make any scene with JSDF action a highlight.
The series is voice acted excellently. The performances of Rory, Itami and Piña are my favorite performances. However, the sound design excels with its foley work. The sounds of the JSDF weapons are impressive. I love the weight and impact of the sound of the mortars along with the sound of the helicopter’s weapons as well. The music is of a rather forgettable quality. The only scene that stood out to me in regards to music was the helicopter scene that features the Ride of the Valkyrie. Other than that, the music was not anything worth remembering.
Gate is a highly entertaining show that is only lacking in its presentation and music. While it possesses a tone shift, the story is engrossing. When combined with the excellent character interaction, the story elevates itself beyond being a simple guilty pleasure. While mostly mediocre, the animation has quite a few moments of standout quality. The sound design is of a similar nature. I give Gate my watch rating. It’s not perfect, but it is a highly entertaining show that I am sure will be loved by a significant amount of people. I’ll be back next week for another anime feature. Thanks for checking this one out.