When a self-confessed otaku gets caught in the middle of an invasion from another world in Ginza Tokyo, Yōji Itami suddenly finds himself at the tip of the Japanese response force going through the GATE into a new world, and ‘Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There’.
What happens when a modern-day 21st-century military goes up against a medieval world filled with magic, dragons, elves and wondering demigoddess’, along with an Empire which starts to fall apart from the inside. From A-1 Pictures, the studio that brought us Sword Art Online and Fairy Tail comes GATE a 24 episode military and political drama, based on the Light Novel from Takumi Yanai. Originally airing in the Summer of 2015 and the 2nd half in Winter 2016, GATE comes to the UK in a Collector’s Edition combi set with 12 art cards and a 74-page artbook. Standard Edition Blu-ray and DVD releases to come later this year all courtesy of MVM Entertainment via Sentai Filmworks.
GATE follows Yōji Itami the self-confessed otaku and special forces Ranger, who openly admits to using his JSDF job just to fund his hobby. Tuka Luna Marceau a 165-year-old High Elf the last survivor of her village following a dragon attack. Lelei La Lelena a 15-year-old human witch who becomes the go-between for Japan and the Special Region (the land beyond the Gate). Rory Mercury a 961-year-old demigoddess who seems to take a liking to Itami. Yao Haa Dushi a 300-year-old dark elf who will do anything to get the help of the JSDF and Piña Co Lada the daughter of the Emperor of the Special Region who finds herself fighting for the Empires throne, along with her Rose Knights. Itami is also joined by his fellow squadmates in the 3rd Recon Company. GATE focuses on the exploits of Itami and his squad while exploring the Special Region and the political ramifications on both sides of the Gate regarding the Japanese involvement in the land beyond the Gate.
GATE does a lot of things right, but it also does a few minor things bad. One thing we know A-1 Pictures are good for are the character designs, and once again they didn’t disappoint, but what impressed me the most were the object and background designs. What I mean by this are the designs of the guns, armoured cars, tanks, planes and helicopters, the level of detail and how they fit into the environment of each scene, for each of them are akin to what I’ve mentioned in my Girls Und Panzer der Film review a few months back. However, the CG of some of the monsters especially the Fire Dragon could have been improved somewhat, as they are highly noticeable and a bit of an eyesore when they have extended screen time.
Another element which really impressed me was the pacing of the story, GATE could be split into 3 distinct parts, 1st is the action-heavy military focused episodes between the JSDF and the Empire. It then shifts to what is easiest to describe as a political drama with some of Earth’s governments making political maneuverers against Japan, while still having minor action scenes throughout these episodes. The final section is a combination of both military and political elements, as the conflict between Japan and the Empire starts to subside a new threat appears. The sound effects are also another standout point, with gun and cannon shots clearly echoing throughout the environment.
One of my personal favourite aspects of GATE is when it references other series’ or movies, with one episode copying shot for shot the helicopter scene from Apocalypse Now, even including Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” and some matching dialogue to boot, in the aptly named “Ride of the Valkyries” episode. With another episode taking inspiration from the Fate series. Just like how most if not all American and Western War movies are just propaganda pieces, GATE is just as guilty of being the same, even so far as having the tag in one episode of “The JSDF could do no wrong” and was used as recruitment material for the JSDF. Don’t get me wrong it doesn’t take anything away from GATE but there are times that it is noticeable when this happens.
As normal I’ve watched the English dub for this review, continuing with Sentai’s recent trend the dub is very good and personally its up there as one of my favourite Sentai dubs, with all of the main cast fitting their roles. David Wald (Gajeel Redfox in Fairy Tail) lends his voice as Itami and was a perfect fit, being able to go from fanboying over the latest news to the serious Special Forces soldier he should be. Lelei is voiced by Brittney Karbowski (Yuri Nakamura in Angel Beats!) who also provides series narration, Lelei is shown to quickly pick up the Japanese language and acts as a translator between the two parties. Although she does come across a bit serious she still has that childish nature inside her, which Brittney was able to successfully get across. The High Elf Tuka voiced by Juliet Simmons (Kurome in Akame ga Kill!), has the most in-depth backstory of the group following the Fire Dragon attack on her village and the after effects it has on her. The demigoddess Rory Mercury voiced by Molly Searcy (Akame in Akame ga Kill) like the others starts to develop feelings for Itami, although she is the boldest of the group and is not one to be messed with when it comes to hand to hand combat with her large halberd. The Dark Elf Yao Haa Dushi voiced by Rachel Landon (Draco in Monster Musume), joins Itami and his crew in the 2nd half of the series, looking for Itami and the JSDF’s help in protecting her village. The supporting dub cast is also brilliant.
I did watch GATE when it first air and the Japanese version is excellent featuring; Junichi Suwabe (Itami), Haruka Tomatsu (Piña Co Lada), Hisako Kanemoto (Tuka), Nao Tōyama (Lelei), Risa Taneda (Rory) and Yoko Hikasa (Yao) as the main cast, and I was really impressed by each of them. The two opening themes are Gate (Sore wa Akatsuki no You ni) and Gate II (Sekai o Koete) both sung by Kishida Kuoudan & The Akeboshi Rockets, while the two ending themes are Prism Communicate and Itsudatte Communication both sung by Kanemoto, Tōyama and Taneda.
While sometimes coming across as recruitment material and a bit of dumb fun, GATE is still a very enjoyable 24-episode show, which balances war and politics while keeping the story interesting and engaging for the viewers. Featuring an excellent cast in both English and Japanese, mostly good animation from A-1 Pictures and great comedy. GATE is well worth watching if you’re an action fan or like me enjoy military-based shows.
Review copy provided by MVM Entertainment