Itami is a laid back guy enlisted in the Japan Defence Force (JDF). One day a mysterious gate appears, unleashing a medieval army bolstered by magic in the middle of Ginza Japan. The JDF quickly repels the attack, but there's the question of what lies beyond the gate. Japan decides to send a military force (and Itami along with them) to the other side to secure the gate.
As a geek into fantasy stuff, the reality of fantasy isn't quite as Itami imagined. In the clash between worlds, he may be the best hope at bridging the cultures to bring coexistence between them.
Gate is a fan service for military otaku, put into a fantasy land context. In this regard, Gate is absolutely outstanding. Looking at the other aspects, it certainly has flaws, but still has many interesting reasons to give it a try even though it's inconclusive and tends to putter out the longer it goes.
I noticed Itami loading rounds which were 7.62 and not the 5.56 more commonly used in rifles these days. It's impressive an anime is accurate enough that I could differentiate ammunition. There are no generic tanks or guns, military hardware is meticulously reproduced. This is precisely the kind of thing Gate wants the viewer to geek out over, although if you don't get it that's okay too.
The linchpin holding the show together is Itami: a likable protagonist with balance between his laid back attitude, but serious desire to help others. Unfortunately no one else measures up, which is a big problem with Gate: it doesn't utilize characters well (or at all). This is best exemplified with the elf girl found in episode 2. I'm like, "well I'm sold on this anime now, it has an elf girl", but she's pointless for the entire show (only playing a minor role in a side plot). This goes for everyone in Itami's entourage, with the exception of the very awesome Goth Loli Death God (every anime needs one of these). Otherwise Gate is filled with actors filling slots required for the story, and sometimes not even needed for that much. This places pressure on the story and setup, which does well .. at first.
Initially it's awesome. The military vs feudal magic land concept is damn well thought out. From the JDF side it strategically makes absolute sense, which I thought would be a big fault sooner or later (until they let locals build a town in and around their base anyway). The mismatch between cultures and "rules" of engagement in fact hooked me more than anything. From the medieval side, they don't understand why the JDF doesn't pillage, punish and plunder with their overwhelming power. The JDF on the other hand, struggle with the more brutal reality their opponents think of as common sense, particularly with their lack of concern for human life (unless its a noble).
Later on, Itami (and friends) return to Japan, and I figured this would quickly take a nose dive, but was impressed with how well Gate kept this part entertaining as well. Back on earth, the gate expectedly creates a commotion around the world, with political intrigue at every turn. This stuff could easily drag the entire show into a political drama abyss, however Gate masterfully navigates around this; showing just enough to know it's there, but never getting into it much. Gate does a great job sticking to a formula you'd want to watch, only to lose focus in the second half.
The story splits between "the adventures of Itami" and politics of the empire - which either didn't make much sense, or I didn't care enough to figure it out. Flipping the story back and forth felt like someone changing the channel to a more annoying show I didn't care about, although at some point I didn't like either channel. The good stuff in Gate is still there (although less so), however the story gluing it together runs out of steam - like someone trying to keep a book series going that should have ended a few volumes ago.
I enjoyed Gate not simply because of the setup, but because the setup was so well thought out. The creator's attention to detail makes it the kind of adventure you want to see play out, without the dread of stupid pitfalls. - a problem this kind of show usually has. Even if the story tapers in the second half, I thought the first half made up for that. It's inconclusive so it could improve, and I'd certainly watch more, but I'm not sure where it could go from here. Despite all that, the concept is what makes the anime, and it makes it worth picking up.
Rory: Ruling over death means ruling over life. Death is the climax of life. To have the best death you must honor life.
Doctor: They say revenge is an empty thing. But some people can only move foreword after experiencing that emptiness.
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