Gate: 2nd Season – Review
Gate: 2nd Season:
Original Air Dates: Jan 8th, 2016 – March 25th, 2016
Synopsis: August 20XX, a gate appeared, without warning in Tokyo’s Ginza District, connecting Tokyo to a medieval fantasy world. Japan sent their best troops, the JSDF, through the portal after a ghastly attack on Tokyo of knights and dragons and ogres. Itami, a JSDF soldier and hero from the attack on Japan, quickly made allies on the otherside as the JSDF engaged and began political discussions with the local rulers and kingdoms. But now, a winged menace threatens the dark elves in the moutains. With political tensions high as Japan works to broker a uneasy peace with the Kingdom that initially launched the attack on Japan, Itami heads off to defeat the dragon and get revenge for Tuka, whose father was murdered by the same dragon that threatens her dark bretheren.
Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: Season Two continues the solid quality and style that was introduced and utilized in Season One. There are no drastic changes in the overall aesthetic so visually, the show remains as impressive or unimpressive as you may have found the first season to be.
Tom: As Linny said, Season 1’s art and animation are much as you’d expect going in from Season 1. There’s no significant dips, meaning you can expect the same, consistent experience as Season 1. There are periodically a few backgrounds which use a sort of rough, sketch-like art style that I found jarring and distracted me from the story, but even for such a minor complaint those moments are so few and far between that only the most nit picky of individuals will find them to be true faults.
Linny: The addition of several new characters helps breathe new life into the show, adding to the humour, drama and intrigue by introducing new elements and plots through their presence and actions. The story turns much darker with depictions of sexual abuse, tortured war prisoners, etc. As it introduces such dark elements right in the first episode, it can be a jarring experience. However, returning to familiar and comfortable topics, long time cast members aren’t completely pushed to the sidelines. This season focuses on the backstory and personal lives of some of the lesser explored original cast members in a lot more details, such as introducing us to their family members, and their pasts.
Tom: Itami himself, who never seemed to personally struggle with any of the obstacles thrown at him in Season 1, does finally struggle early in Season 2, facing problems he doesn’t immediately know the answer to, like how to help Tuka get over her father’s death, or when he faces off against the Dragon so heavily promoted in S2’s PV. People die despite Itami’s efforts and it’s great to see that struggle that Season 1 was building towards. It’s a nice bonus, but that level of escalation and obstacle quickly fades away as Season 2 progresses and suffers from not only that, but a host of other issues that tears the series apart.
Linny: S2 makes a clear effort and attempt to address Tuka’s reaction to the aftermath of the dragon destroying her village. She seems to be suffering from some manner of PTSD, as she urgently denies the death of her father and begins hallucinating his presence. However, the actual treatment of her PTSD seems inefficient and even comical as we watch her being lugged around on Itami’s back while in a magically induced sleep. While it’s noteworthy that the show isn’t shying away from the more serious and gloomy topics, there’s a sense that it isn’t exactly sure of how to handle them.
Tom: For instance, the early sexual abuse sequence Linny pointed out definitely addresses the darker aspects of this fantasy world and kingdom, but isn’t portrayed in the most audience friendly of lights. The sequence goes on too long, stretching far past the point of comfort. The show just doesn’t know how to handle such a delicate topic respectfully. Later we do get a twist surrounding the rape victim herself as there turns out to be far more going on with her character that prevents her from feeling like a total victim, but even so it doesn’t excuse the poor depiction and handling of the earlier scene. That said, Gate quickly shies back away from the topic of sexual abuse and other dark topics, so this issue disappears as the series continues.
Linny: Thanks to the show glorifying Itami and making him pretty much the Superman of the show, any and all drama or obstacles gets swept away easily. The ease with which Itami deals with issues gets ludicrous with each episode, to the point where viewers could find themselves losing interest and growing weary of the simplistic fixes and decimating victories Itami pulls off every single time.
Tom: The plot is as complex and scattered as before, with multiple story lines running in tandem, popping in from episode to episode. But as the season continues, it’s not just Itami who overcomes obstacle after obstacle with relatively low effort, it’s the entire JSDF force. The Empire’s forces never improve, never strengthen as a threat, always powerless against the almighty JSDF. There is literally, literally, only one JSDF member who takes any kind of injury in battle, an arrow to the knee. It’s ridiculous how unstoppable the JSDF is, and with their enemies continually at their mercy, there’s never any tension, never any fear that Japan won’t win this conflict. It gets old and leaves Gate feeling more and more like a power fantasy.
Linny: Like Thomas points out, the difference in the level of the armed forces and the armies makes any war or violent face off have a predetermined outcome. The audience isn’t going to be left all tense and worried when seeing the JSDF with their missiles, jets and guns facing off against cavalry and infantry armed only with spears, swords and bows. Even elements that are played and portrayed as major hindrances in S1 are then easily disposed off in a single episode in S2, not even earning a full 5 minutes of airtime.
Tom: The sheer undermining of tension begins mid-season, with some really cool developments surrounding Rory and the woman, as it turns out, seeking to force Rory into marriage. This suitor catches our heroes at their weakest, and could’ve made for some incredible developments, but everything is rushed into an abrupt conclusion that sees this new threat swiftly dealt with in just five minutes. From there, the show switches gears into two new arcs, centered around Lelei becoming a full fledged mage and the growing political turmoil in the Empire. It remains interesting on a conceptual level, but by this point there’s no longer any fear that Itami and the JSDF won’t be the victors. They’re unstoppable.
Linny: The show still manages to sprinkle some interesting takes on mixing fantasy with reality such as showing the jet pilots following a dragon and taking reconnaissance. This season has assasination attempts and plots as one of its main recurring themes and succeeds in weaving some very impact laden sequences emotionally and strategically. The unexpected twists and turns, and the raw emotions displayed during these sequences are one of the strongest displayed in the entire GATE franchise.
Tom: Beyond the larger issues, Gate suffers from abandoned characters. Akira, the glasses wearing hard ass of the JSDF stationed beyond the Gate, comes under attack during a conspiracy and is mortally wounded. His plot line is completely dropped, only returning at the very tail end of the series as part of a light-hearted jovial ending that undermines the previous events that left us wondering whether Akira would survive or not. Also, a new villain introduced early in the series, gradually becomes more and more over the top, becoming the kind of cackling villain you might see in old scooby-doo cartoons. For a series that prides itself on a ‘realistic’ portrayal of modern warfare meeting the medieval fantasy times, it feels so out of place.
Linny: If you enjoyed S1 because you enjoyed seeing Itami kick ass and have fun little adventures with the girls, this season has enough of that to keep you happy. If you were expecting sh** to get real this season, then you are most likely going to be disappointed. There are darker developments and twists but they turn into an Itami/JSDF victory fest and it’s all sunshine and lollipops too easily and too quickly.
Tom: There’s hints that, moving forward, Itami and the JSDF may become stuck in this fantasy world, cut off from Japan for good, as we learn the Gate closes and remains closed for hundreds of years at a time. That’s interesting and could make for some powerful and engaging events, but the longer it takes for the JSDF to face a credible enemy, the less and less I care where this story goes.