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I’ve never had as much trouble deciding whether or not a show was trying to pander to me than I have had with GATE. Between the Otaku main character, and the moe, jailbait tropes, it should be little more than anime smut. But I haven’t seen anything smutty about it yet.

Let’s break down what this show is. A mysterious gate appears in Japan, and monsters start flooding out of it in to the streets and skies. In that initial moment of chaos, Yoji Itami, and Otaku who only works to support his hobby and who is very upset that the monsters interrupted his convention time, takes charge and ensure the safe evacuation of civilians. From there the Japanese defense force hires Itomi, they drive the monsters back, and then sets out into the gate to ensure that they don’t return. It’s a weird premise that will probably never make sense, but it brings us into a fantasy world story.

GATE Rory Mercury episode 3

I know I say this show doesn’t pander, but god she’s cuet ^.^

On the other side of the gate there are surprisingly no monsters, but instead armor clad soldiers in the middle of their own squabbles. The Japanese defense force has pretty much no reason to be involved at this point, but somehow you just don’t question it.

So what the hell is this show? Well, it’s fantasy adventure. I think. Each of the first three episodes have been somewhat different. The first just gave the premise, which was a mess but somehow still worked. The second was constant, completely one-sided fighting, with soldiers on horseback versus tank. And the third is elf-girl, plus magic-girl, plus loli-goth-girl. Yet somehow is all flows together into a cohesive continuative narrative, and I think it’s because of the tone set by the characters.

Itomi (who is immediately promoted to first lieutenant in charge of a squad because reasons) and his right hand man, Takeo Kurata, are huge Otakus. They talk about waifus while driving their military transport. They joke about running into cat girls and loli-goths. And then they do just that! It’s an un-seriousness of tone that trumps the changes of story tone. It allows for greater suspension of disbelief so you just go with the flow.

GATE episode 1

A lot if stuff reminds me of Spice and Wolf, but this really reminds me of Spice and Wolf.

But how do we have all these dumb anime tropes, and not have it be pandering? Well, simply by not having it pander, at least, not yet as far as I can tell. There are no panty shots, or hot springs scenes. There was one moment where they were about to cut the elf-girls wet clothes off her, but it cut away before the first snip. It’s like the show is saying, “This is what you expected of us, right? This is how low you thought we’d go? Nope!” Later, when that same girl is running around naked, it never leers at her or shows too much. Her behvious when she’s naked in that scene comes off as a testament of her character, and not fan service. It’s just a little thing that somehow makes me take this ridiculous show seriously. I like it.

I can’t say much about the three moe-tropes girls at this point, since they’ve only been in the third episode. The loli-goth, Rory Mercury, is apparently some kind of religious being to many of the people living in the world on the other side of the gate. He’s playful and deadly; nothing we haven’t seen before, but something I still find fun to watch. The magician, Lelei La Rellena, is the sweat, quite one. She reminds me a lot of Tama from Bamboo Blade. And the last one, the elf girl, Tuka Luna Marceau, really hasn’t had much screen time, so I got nothing.

Another thing I really liked was the dragon. In episode three Itami’s squad gets in a fight with a Fire Dragon. Dragons have never really seemed like intimidating monsters too me. Too much exposure, too much fantasy I guess. But GATE broke through that and present a dragon that made me think, “Well, they’re all screwed.” It’s something like that that lets you know the director is doing something right.

As for the overall pacing, well, like this first reaction, it’s all over the place. I’ve already mentioned change in scope and style of each episodes, but just in the little things it’s all over the place. Rory just happened to run into our main characters on the road. In just a few words she was in their vehicle without another word said about it. She never introduced herself to the squad, and they never introduced themselves to her. She just sort of said, “Okay, I’m in this story now.”GATE first reacion

That’s about all I have to say about GATE right now. I’m gonna keep with it, and I’ll give it a recommendation. If the weird sporadic focus is a turn off for you, I will say that I think it’s going to settle into more of a rhythm now that the world and characters have been introduced. Hopefully I’ll be writing a good second reaction to this one too. Until then,

Don’t Lose Your Way