Gate Season 1 – Anime Review
Synopsis: His failed attempt to save a doujinshi sale from an otherworldly attack turned Itami into an accidental hero. He’s promoted to second lieutenant of the Self-Defense Force and sent on a mission through the gate into another world. (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: When Gate was first introduced to western viewers, it had a few misleading plot summaries painting the series as a barely average story focused on battles and fantasy creature girl harems. But the first few episodes immediately sets the record straight. What you get instead is a show that blends fantasy and reality seamlessly to give us a series that stands out in the sea of fantasy based anime. Gate manages to portray both the ‘real’ world and the ‘fantasy’ realm as realistically as possible while preserving the magic of the two worlds mingling. Gate succeeds in giving us a unique take on not only war but the politics and the power struggle behind it all. I really have to shower Gate’s first season with praise for the style in which it tells its story, never over-dramatic and never shying away from the uglier parts of a war torn society.
Tom: Gate’s basic premise doesn’t sound all that compelling. Japan becomes connected to a fantasy world and the JSDF must head in to investigate? But it’s the sheer flawless execution that takes a questionable premise and turns it into something altogether engaging. As Linny mentioned, Gate expertly weaves its plot lines together, forming an intricately well told story involving the politics and skirmishes in seeing Japan come to know this fantasy world it’s now been tied to. This is aided by animation that never quits, and rarely disappointments. Every battle, every peace talk is animated with a quality most anime only dream of adhering to. Couple that with a stellar opening theme and it’s exceedingly difficult not to be pumped for Gate episode to episode. My appreciation for this first season is only marred by Gate’s, disappointing, second run.
Linny: Gate’s 1st season doesn’t hold back on quality all around, delivering not only some amazing visual action treats, but backing it all up with a solid story filled with drama, thrills and mystery. It constantly introduces new elements and twists that keep you on your toes episode after episode. However, this very same positive note can come off negative as at times, it feels like the show is trying to pack in too much. There are moments when certain events and developments were concluded too quickly or at an unsatisfying pace and manner. Pacing remains a constant issue for Light Novel adaptations (Gate being one such adaptation.) It’s not extremely overwhelming to follow the plot and events occurring onscreen but some viewers may feel cheated or rushed if they were enjoying a particular story line only to discover it ends either with too much happening at once, making it feel cramped, or with barely enough proper exposition to give it a satisfactory wrap up.
Tom: The show does move fast, and that means it rarely hangs around to explain things, and certain plot points can feel glossed over if you didn’t pick it up the first and only time they discussed the situation. That said, even if things do move a bit fast, the sheer wealth of lovable characters makes up for that. Rory, our goth lolita, scythe wielding, demi god, has proven to be extremely popular, and the other girls, Lelei the fifteen year old level-headed mage and Pina Co Lada the princess of the Empire and more have added a never ending treasure trove of characterization. The characterization isn’t perfect however, and contains perhaps Gate’s one true flaw. Itami is too perfect. The guy can do anything, and from what I’ve seen, possesses no significant character arc. If anything negative can be said about Gate it’s that its main character has a very real danger of feeling like a Mary-sue (or Gary Stu) if something isn’t done to make him more flawed. Yes, he’s obsessed with Doujinshi, anime, and manga, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot if he’s right one-hundred and fifty percent of the time.
Linny: Almost every major character seems to have been given a unique personality or backstory that helps the viewers understand and grow attached to them. I was especially impressed by how the main protagonist, Itami is portrayed to be an otaku but that isn’t just for the sake of making him the butt of jokes and humiliation. Sure, there are a few digs at his otaku lifestyle but he is also portrayed as perfectly capable at his job… Well, maybe a little too capable. Like Tom just pointed out, as Gate progresses, Itami seems to do no wrong and able to solve any situation or conflict without much of a stumble. There is LITERALLY a line of dialogue in the series where someone ponders, “What would Itami do?” drawing some amusing comparisons for Christian audiences.
Tom: Despite our quibble with Itami, Gate remains a solid Light Novel adaptation, offering a perfectly executed take on its source material (Even if some of the flaws of the series stem from Gate’s inherently nationalistic viewpoints.) The season ends with a final episode that offers a half-ending that hints/sets up the building blocks of Season 2, yet this is where I might suggest audiences part ways with the series. Gate’s 2nd season does little to alleviate the core problems of the story, such as Itami’s infallible nature, or the JSDF’s unyielding ‘roflstomp’ of whatever gets in their way. (Hello nationalism). These issues, while present in Season 1, feel easier to digest here, and only become a more souring point as the story continues. Unfamiliar with where the Light Novels continue after the anime (seeing as Sekai Books ultimately seems to have canceled their localization after Volume 2) perhaps my greater concerns are eventually addressed later on. But if these sound like sticking points to you, Gate is best left as a one season delight.
Linny: We’re revising and putting out this review long after we watched Season 2, which ended up completely destroying all the love we had for this first season. But even back then, when Season 2 was only an announcement, there were signs of troubled times ahead that we were blind to because of our then love for the show. The last few episodes of Gate Season 1 feels more like a mid season episode than a finale. All the characters seem detached and excluding one new character, all the main characters just seem like they’ve settled into boring routines. It doesn’t make a urgent case for viewers to continue onto Season 2, and having watched Season 2, maybe it’s for the best that there was only a hint at the continuation rather than a major cliffhanger ending demanding you watch on. That said, Gate Season 1 still has enough going for it to prove to be an interesting watch for anyone interested in a show revolving around war and invasions that mixes the medieval with the modern, magic and fantasy with real life drama, and lastly, tackles socio-political issues through several different viewpoints. If you can overlook or lovingly mock the presence of an insanely brilliant/capable male protagonist and be wary of the fact that Gate often tries to cram in too many different sub plots at once, you should be in for a mostly fun watch…just maybe don’t pick up Season 2 though, especially if you start getting sick of Itami’s all mighty position in the story.