Anime Review | GATE (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 27.10.2015

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Originally a series of novels in Japan, the GATE series has already received a manga adaptation and has now been licensed for two seasons of anime. The premise of GATE offers a brand new twist on some overused anime tropes. When a gateway appears in modern day Tokyo's rich Ginza district, the people in the area initially think it must be the filming of a movie. The reality of the situation hits them hard when an army streams out through the portal and starts mercilessly slaughtering anyone in the area.
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The army turns out to be one pulled straight out of a medieval fantasy RPG - Knights on horseback ride along with Orcs and Goblins on foot, while Wyverns fly overhead. Civilians are struck down by sword and lance and arrow. Luckily, an off-duty service man, in the area for the summer doujinshi festival, takes the initiative and hides the remaining survivors in the Imperial Palace. How will society ever fight back against such a foe? Easily… very, very easily. The military is called in and slaughters the entire army of invaders in no time at all. Wyverns and plate armour don't mean a lot to the Japanese Defence Force's military helicopters, who turn the enemies into Swiss cheese using mini-guns.

The story then follows the government's incursion to the other side of the portal. There is a rich and vibrant land there, underdeveloped and full of natural resources. The off-duty officer, Yoji Itami, is quickly promoted and leads the excursion. His mission is to establish a foothold in this other world, ensure no further attacks will be coming, and to develop relations with the people on that side. The idea is fascinating and lends itself to a multitude of potential stories in a variety of genres - the fantastical nature of the world, the political intrigue of other world governments trying to exert pressure on Japan and the competing interests, the human aspects of common interest, and possibly even a look at what humans have done to their own planet and what damage could be done to this new one. There are many aspects that serve as superb blank canvases for rich storytelling. Sadly, though, they are all wasted.

The series barely touches on any of these elements and instead focuses on some harem-esque interest for Yoji in the form of a Mage, Elf, and Gothic Lolita psychotic killer, along with some others. The Japanese Defence Forces find themselves embroiled in numerous small conflicts and one-dimensional political machinations, while developing relationships with the inhabitants. Admittedly, towards the end of this first season, some more interesting developments take place, touching on other countries' interest and the inhabitants of the other world being brought to this world, and then dealing with some great fish-out-of-water style moments. These developments are too little, too late, however, with an already squandered potential.

The animation quality and voice acting are decent, at least, and Yoji and his harem, in particular, deliver some great performances, while the scenes that highlight the conflicts between the medieval forces and the modern military powers show what could have been, but they are just small moments in-between the insipid bulk of the show.

Image for Anime Review | GATE (Lights, Camera, Action!)

Rated 3 out of 10


With such a promising premise, and so much potential, it is criminal that the end product of GATE turned out to be utterly forgettable and mediocre. There is a second season planned, although it is hard to see how anyone could think this is deserving of one, or how it could redeem this terribly underwhelming first effort.

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