Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri, or just GATE, is a Japanese fantasy novel series written by Takumi Yanai and illustrated by Daisuke Izuka and Kurojishi and published by AlphaPolis. There was a manga adaptation illustrated by Satoru Sao that began in July 2011 (quite a bit better than the anime and even the original light novel at points), and three spin-off manga began in 2015. Season One of the anime ran from July to September 2015, and the second season recently concluded here in March of 2016. The basic premise is what would really happen if a medieval fantasy world were to attack our world with its current technology and modern military tactics. As you can expect, even with their magic and dragons...it doesn't exactly go their way. In fact, that kind of leads me to the goddamn Star Destroyer in the room, and I'll need to address GATE's biggest flaw before we get into the review proper.
GATE is fantastic story. It's also one of the most pretentious pieces of shit I've seen come out of Japan since Saint Seiya. I say this in the most vestigial and ironic senses of the word, and to the author himself, but I'm fucking sorry, dude. I am fucking sorry your country got stupid and then got its ass handed to it back in World War II. I am fucking sorry it took a couple of goddamn nukes to make your people realize just how boned they really were. I am fucking sorry we are better than you at war, and for the sake of the world, most of which doesn't give a shit about things like civilian casualties and human life, you better be damn grateful we're still better. All that shit going on in the story? I'm fucking sorry, but it was us who likely furnished that firepower, and it was us who trained you on their use and in modern military tactics. All that humanitarian relief and whatnot you were showing in this story? Yeah, that didn't come from you initially...we taught you that. I mean let's face it: This story has about all the drama in the military sense as me walking up and clubbing a baby seal to death. Granted, the baby seal in this case is a homicidal cuntwad with a suicidal GOD complex, but still, these forces are about as much threat to the JSDF as that baby seal is to me. Actually celebrating this in your story as some awesome military accomplishment, with the anime adaptation taking it up to the nth level with an epic “we're fighting back against hopeless odds!” score at several points, is a level of arrogant self masturbatory fanatasy-think I've not seen since Saint Seiya's huge nationalist rant on anyone not Japanese being worthless at just about everything. No, this wasn't a war. THIS was pest control. This is the same shit that happened in Babylon 5 when humanity walked up and shot a Mimbari cruiser and killed their leader. They were going to exterminate us for it, and we were going to be lucky if any of us survived once they were done. And look author, I get it...the adapters for the anime slapped their dicks on the table and cut out some story to get in on the JSDF circle jerk to crank it up to eleven. Still, that really doesn't excuse that part of the blatant underlying, and often overlaying, current of it in the original itself, because it's obvious what you were writing.
It may sounds like I'm giving a bad review to this story, and I'm really not. Again, I rather enjoyed the story, for what it was, and found the world building, and the general idea of medieval fantasy vs modern military to be fairly engaging with a set of characters I found both endearing and sympathetic. However, it doesn't change the fact, that this is basically someone beating off to Japan and the JSDF, and I really don't like watching other guys slapping their salami. It's one reason I quit Tenchi Muyo, after all. If that's your thing, well...hope you enjoy it, because it doesn't stop for 24 episodes.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk a bit about the story. I can't really comment too much on the light novel, since I can't find a reliable translation, so I'm not sure it actually started the way the anime did. The manga sort of glossed over this part, and I'd have to say that this was a mistake if this was included in the light novel and wasn't adapted. The initial invasion actually helped to establish the main character, Yōji Itami's, well...character, and why he was placed in command of several of the missions and personnel of the JSDF on the other side of the gate. Not to mention him getting away with all the shit he did being a minor national hero due to his actions during the initial invasion in saving lives and beating back the invaders. We needed this to get to know the guy we'd be spending most of the time with during the course of this little excursion into high fantasy with 5.56mm, and it's good we got it in the anime if nothing else. Of course, the reason he was there was to indulge in his otaku addiction and attend a doujinshi event, and even asked if he'd like to do hard work, he replies honestly that no, that shit sucks. Push comes to shove though, the dude manned up and did what had to be done and saved a lot of people's lives, and that didn't stop when he got to the other side. It's probably one reason he's attracted a harem consisting of a goth loli demigoddess, Rori Mercury; the young, but powerful, sorceress, Lelei La Lelana (whom in an extremely hilarious, yet dangerous move, they hand to her a book of physics...you can imagine how powerful her magic became when she realized what it was she was REALLY doing); the light elf, Tuka Lunan Marceau; and the dark elf, Yao Haa Dushi. Then again, it is kind of interesting they were all brought together by a rather large Fire Dragon, and his efforts in saving survivors and defending people from it. Though that was a little tangential in Rori's case. She seemed to take an instant liking to him. Given that she's actually a nascent god of that world, I wouldn't be surprised if she peered right into his soul when she first saw him, in order to discover what kind of man he was. Certainly I don't think he's realized that she's claimed his soul for her own when she finally undergoes full apotheosis and he dies. I could think of worse fates for an eternity.
Honestly, yes, the world building is where the story really shines. There's several dozen demi-human races that also inhabit the world, ranging from catbabes, to bunny warriors, to medusa, and even fish folk. Each one has a bit of an analog in human history, the most blatant example being the bunny warriors which were the Amazons of their world, and suffered about the same fate at the hands of this world's Romans. Like our world, the Romans of this world have conquered pretty much the known world, and were looking to expand their territory when the gate opened back up. Having had generations of literally no one capable of stopping them, they wrongfully assumed themselves to be the most powerful people anywhere. As stated several times previously, it didn't go well for them. It went even worse when they tried to use old hand to hand armor and sword tactics with over a hundred thousand troops against a modern military with modern armaments. Even their dragons and magic users were no match against 5.56mm and up rounds, explosive shells, missiles, and who knows what else the JSDF decided to lob at them. It was a bloody massacre with barely a survivor to be found. Any sane individual running a country would then be wishing to parlay, see if they could pay any restitution for being a dick by invading and killing their people, and generally try to stay on their good side. However, these are Roman types, locked into modes of thought that they are superior and can win against anything. It's going to take a few more object lessons of that magnitude before they take the hint, and that's kinda what the story is about concerning Japan's negotiations with the Empire, though several in said Empire, like Princess Piña Co Lada, immediately got it, and were very much trying to keep others from being complete dumbasses and further pissing off the aliens they'd already pissed off once before.
If you're wondering about how the rest of the world was reacting, there were some chapters where they brought some delegates over to Japan, and wound up staying at a nice onsen resort, but not before introducing a few of them to yaoi doujinshi (those fools don't know what they've unleashed showing those girls THAT) and taking Rori to Baby the Stars Shine Bright (she likes fishnet stockings). In this the manga and the anime got it semi-right, at least in terms of Rori. See, she gets off on violence and blood. REALLY gets off on it. If it's going on in her neck of the woods, she either needs to be fucking or knee deep in the blood and gore wielding that giant axe of hers...possibly both, and maybe at the same time. It turned into a major clusterfuck when tac teams from Russia, China, and the USA all arrive at the same time to 'escort' a few of them to their countries, which then turns into a free for all with the Japanese tac teams surrounding the area join in (remember, this is someone's schlicking JSDF fantasy, so you can imagine how their part was portrayed). Since Itami was being a little bitch trying to rationalize her as being a little girl (at 940 or so years old?!), and that stupid Japanese cultural problem of not being able to ignore their phone getting him away from her, she decides to go out and get in the middle of the shit going on so she can get her jollies some other way. Basically, it didn't go well for the other countries, and unless they were going to do the full scale invasion...this was about what was going to happen. Shit, Rori alone would have been more than they could take; apparently super strength, speed, and regenerative invulnerability are what you get when you're an apostle waiting to ascend to godhood. Then they loot the bodies, which was fucking hilariously practical. Apparently Rori not taking part in the battle is what happened in the light novel originally, which everyone, including the audience agrees, is a waste of an opportunity. Not as big a waste as Dragon or Dolphin Sex, but a pretty big waste...best correct it now while you can. I'm looking right at you Heaven's Feel movies. RIGHT. AT. YOU.
On that note, let me stop for a moment here. Rori is little, but hardly a little girl, as they've pounded into everyone's heads. This series is not shy about sex, showing everything up to brutal fucking rape. Itami himself is divorced, which means he knows how the process works and has done it a few times. What the fuck is up with him acting like a little goddamn harem anime protagonist there when Rori was coming on to him? If he just didn't want to do it right then, I get it. It does happen for guys, believe it or not. It really does. Even around insanely attractive women looking to score. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Is the only thing we're allowed to see are the badguys chokefucking a bunny girl? But not a guy having hot sweaty sex with a demigoddess goth loli? The fuck is wrong with you people?!
There's a lot the anime didn't get right too that the manga did. The manga does a better job at setting up the world in general, whereas the anime glosses over that to concentrate more the JSDF vs the baby seals...err...the Empire. This was a straight out mistake, as we needed to know about things like the Warrior Bunnies' backstory, so we know where they're coming from and why they're doing what they're doing. A fucking five second slide reel doesn't do shit for shit unless you've read the light novel or manga. Glossing over Rori's encounter with the other apostle and the information she shared was also a mistake, since it shed a lot more light on what the apostles were all about. The audience needed that information too. And if we're talking about an info dump, that rushed ending, cutting out a lot of shit, with the narmy 'Hey, look at all the couples!' was just...grade school.
And if we're going to talk about that, it's hard not to talk about the artwork and music of the anime. The animation in and of itself is the standard high quality we've come to expect (and I hope you all enjoyed that Apocalypse Now reference in the anime), however, the actual character designs sometimes left much to be desired. This was especially true concerning the demihumans. The anime had a bad habbit of drawing them thin, athletic at best, but often emaciated looking. This was glaringly obvious when you look at how the manga draws its warrior bunnies with how the anime did. Otherwise the human character designs between the two mediums are practically identical. In that respect, I greatly favored the manga's muscular and filled out demihuman designs over the anime's. The music was actually pretty good...by itself. How it was used...well, for the most part pretty good, however, it was occasionally exceedingly inappropriate. Whenever the JSDF was being portrayed as badass they'd put on some epic score of music ranging from classical to almost hymn-like, but as I noted in my little rant at the beginning, there was no badassery here. This wasn't the great strike-back, or D-Day, this was a superior force crushing a goddamn ant. When you realize that, it just makes one shake their head at such a pathetic display...like playing Dragon Force during a fight between Gary Coleman and Mike Tyson and trying to imply one should take this seriously. It just didn't work people, not by any stretch.
Overall, it truly is a good series, and quite fun, but you are going to see the inherent problems that I did. For some, the good won't be enough to overcome the narm, and I get it. Believe me, I get it. There's no shame in shitcanning the series if you cannot reconcile the two within your own mind. However, if you can, you'll find a magnificent world to explore, and a bit of something each of us has secretly wanted to do and just shoot the ones that prove belligerent with a goddamn M-16. Yeah, how do you like that shit, eh? Next time we nuke your ass...err...anyway, yeah, exceedingly good, yet exceedingly flawed series. Honestly, I've barely touched on just how much of that world is there, and just how interesting it all really is. It'll be up to the individual to decide if they like this one or not, though from what I can tell, even with said flaws, most seem to like it. And hey, Rori...the shit she gets up to is almost worth the price of admission alone. Though I suppose if were an immortal nascent goddess; trolling around, relentlessly messing with people, and getting into as much trouble as possible, would certainly fit the entertainment bill for a few centuries. I found it most agreeable, I must say.