Name of Anime: Gate:jieitai kanochi nite kaku tatakaeri
Streaming Site Used: Crunchyroll
Episodes Previously Seen: 0
Sometimes a work of art has the grave misfortune of parodying something that doesn’t really exist yet (my favorite example: the film Mystery Men). And sometimes a work comes out that is entirely a response to a single other already published work. Because both Outbreak Company and Gate are based on light novels, and I’m not a LN reader, I have no clue which of these two works is which.
Outbreak Company tells the story of a hapless NEET otaku who answers an online ad for a job that requires knowledge of anime, manga, and video games. After passing an online quiz, he is invited to an in-person interview where the job’s high pay and frequent travel are described before he is drugged. Rather than waking up missing a kidney, he wakes up in strange, magical fantasy land which is connected via magic portal to Japan, where he has been tasked with selling Japanese culture to the locals to win hearts and minds.
Gate is about a hapless otaku who is in Akihabara trying to buy merchandise when a gate to a magical fantasy land opens up and invading knights start killing innocent people. Long story short, he ends up in this magical fantasy land.
Whichever of these two authors had this brilliant original idea first, it’s clear that Gate is pissed at Outbreak Company, or at least at the ideas upon which Outbreak Company is founded. The central premise of Outbreak Company is that after a tense Mexican standoff, both the magical land and the invading culture decided not to kill each other.
Gate‘s response is, “Fuck that noise: any medieval kingdom or empire would fucking invade!”
So the entirety of the first episode of Gate is just that: one long, boring sequence of knights riding down the denziens of Tokyo like your average medieval peasant.
…until the dragons come and re-enact the last good Godzilla movie.
We do get to learn that the main character isn’t your standard MC-kun when he kills a man with his bare hands.
It turns out he is an otaku soldier, and for his heroism of telling first responders how to evacuate (and killing a man with his bare hands) he’s promoted to lead a team beyond the gate (in medieval fantasy land).
That almost sounds like a functional premise for a show. And in any competent show, episode 2 would begin the adventures beyond the gate: modern Japanese soldiers in a medieval fantasy land, a fish out of water story–except that here the fish are wearing bionic power armor and are perfectly fine walking on-slash-conquering land. Thereby showing that modern day Japan (and you, dear Japanese anime viewer) is “da best”.
But Gate is not a competent show.
Episode 2 is one long military fanfic about how cool it would be to watch hapless knights try to re-enact World War I vs modern weapons. (Hint, swords only win in video games and other anime; in fact, Gate is almost a subversion of anime tropes in that swords are not a good counter to assault rifles).
Going back to Outbreak Company, while it was never a particularly well thought-out aspect of the story that modern Japan and a foreign, medieval, multi-species empire had reached a diplomatic solution without direct violence, it was a necessity for what Outbreak Company wanted to be and do.
This is important because the tone of Outbreak Company was always reliant in a certain sense on abstract stakes: the possibility of a civilization-ending war stemming from a diplomatic incident works well when all of the underage queen’s advisers spend an entire episode deciding what her swimsuit should look like.
Besides the very troubling ethical implications of seeing 20 minutes of this:
There are some awful tonal implications. According to the opening and closing sequences, Gate is a lighthearted “modern” anime, meaning the main character will win all the time while an ever-increasing cast of diverse females follows him around and falls for him. There’s nothing wrong with “light” entertainment, just like there’s nothing wrong with the occasional comfort food.
It’s gross (in a different way than all of the other anime airing these days) for the audience to watch girls become attracted to a main character when he is literally willing to shoot at their friends, families, etc, like he’s in a Call of Duty game. (It’s kinda like a PETA-friendly menu which shows you pictures of how your burger was slaughtered, and what the cow’s name was.)
But more importantly, episode 2 of Gate isn’t just boring, it misses the point: after the first wave of knights is killed by the JSDF, cut the fuck away and get on with your plot. We get that you have a sworn a blood feud with Outbreak Company and you’ll never let anyone forget that “That’s not what would happen” if the JSDF fought medieval knights, but seriously, move on.
Whatever story you want to tell, or whatever idea you want to express, show that to the audience. If your only idea is, “Fuck this contrivance that Outbreak Company was built on,” then fine, but it doesn’t take a season to sell me on this idea (it doesn’t take even an entire episode).
On the plus side, Gate features a contender for “Anime Line of the Year” (always a good way to start a show):
No empty threat, given that’s it coming from a person who we’ve seen do this:
Gate is trash, but not irredeemable. It has something to say (“Fuck Outbreak Company“), and that main character is rehash of an archetype we haven’t seen commonly since the late ’90s. If Gate stops its obsession with watching Japanese soldiers mowing down DnD parties, it could end up working. I’ll have to watch a lot more of this trash to see.