Don’t sleep on this amazing anime series.
Previously in my “AJ’s Anime and Manga List, Volume 1” article, I talked about how great and massively underrated Gate: Thus, the JSDF Fought There! was. I also made this comment:
I could go on and on about how great this series is, and I probably will soon in a future article.
This is that future article, folks. I’ll try not to repeat myself from the previous article too much, but I make no guarantees.
Ever watch a movie or show where some cocky douchebag with a sword somehow manages to take out an entire army of guys with guns for no reason other than “lol magic idk” and find yourself annoyed that magic allows someone to move quicker than 3,000 feet per second? Me too, I think the “sword beats gun” trope is overplayed, silly, and completely unrealistic even for a fantasy scenario. Half the time it’s coupled with the femme fatale trope and used in a vulgar display of fan service.
That’s why when I discovered Gate, I was skeptical at first. I thought it was just going to be another generic “sword beats gun” anime, especially after I saw that one of the characters was a gothic loli wielding a giant halberd.
Holy shit, I was wrong!
The series opens with a mysterious portal opening up in the middle of Ginza (one of Tokyo’s largest shopping districts). Out of the portal pours a giant army of Roman-style legionnaires, medieval knights, goblins, orcs, minotaurs, dragons, and other fantasy creatures. The portal army proceeds to unleash chaos upon the unsuspecting shoppers of Japan, resulting in mass casualties and wanton destruction.
Within moments, the police force and the Japanese Self-Defense Force (what Japan calls their military) respond to the invasion, using modern weaponry to stomp a thousand mudholes in the invasion force:
Plate armor and wooden shields prove to be no match for tear gas and bullets, and fire-breathing dragons stand no chance against Apache helicopters armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. The JSDF not only drives the invading force (known simply as “the Empire”) back into the portal, but they follow them in and set up a base in the parallel world (referred to by the Japanese as “the Special Region”).
During all this chaos, a Japanese soldier by the name of Yōji Itami is in the area for an otaku convention. Before he can get in though, he sees the invasion happening and runs off to help people. It’s this bravery that leads him to being promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. Itami is put in charge of a unit and sent to go join the JSDF forces stationed in the extra-dimensional base.
Meanwhile, Emperor Molt finds out about the Japanese incursion into his land and is furious. Without realizing just how outclassed his forces really are, he orders his army to gather up 100,000 troops and attempt to take the Japanese base. It goes about as well as you’d think it would:
I should mention here, I watched the Japanese version with English subtitles. Please excuse the terrible English voice acting in this video, and watch the Japanese version with the English subs.
From there, the series focuses mostly on Itami and his squad, as well as an assortment of supporting characters from the Special Region, including characters like 19 year old princess Piña Co Lada (the Emperor’s daughter), 15 year old magician-in-training Lelei La Lelena, and 961 year old gothic loli demigoddess Rory Mercury. While that might seem very off-putting to some, these characters really aren’t as annoying as you’d expect them to be. The princess is depicted as stubborn yet reasonable and realistic, and Lelei is calm, collected, and generally level-headed. Rory is admittedly a fan service character (I’ll get into that in a moment), but as someone who normally hates fan service characters and isn’t a loli-loving pedophile even I didn’t find myself hating her, or even disliking her for that matter. Honestly, I couldn’t find much wrong with any of the characters in the series. I found myself rooting for the heroes and eagerly wanting to see the villains get their comeuppance.
I mentioned Rory Mercury being a fan service character. For some reason, the Japanese absolutely love making characters that look like prepubescent girls but are actually centuries old. I’m not sure why this is a thing, but I’m glad it seems to be dying out in modern anime. But yes, Rory Mercury is, without a doubt, a fan service character in terms of appearance and personality. Thankfully though, this is actually played for laughs quite a bit. Rory is constantly coming on to Itami, who doesn’t know how to react to things like her sitting on his lap or literally throwing herself at him demanding he have sex with her (he doesn’t). There’s one funny scene in particular, where Piña, Lelei, and Rory go before the Japanese National Diet (Japanese Congress), and one lady repeatedly insults Rory by calling her “little girl”, to which Rory responds by doing the same back to her and clarifying that she’s actually over 900 years older than the lady and telling the lady to respect her elders. The only cringe-worthy scene with Rory (and possibly in the whole series) is where Rory explains to Itami that she sometimes gets extremely horny and the only way she can alleviate that state is by either having sex or by killing a bunch of people. She then goes out and slays two teams of American and Russian special forces guys attempting to capture the group. Other than that one scene though, Rory is a solid character and her status as a fan service character can easily be overlooked.
The greatest strength of this series though is how realistically lopsided the battles are. The JSDF outright steamrolls the Empire at every turn throughout the course of the series. My favorite scene in the entire series perfectly illustrates the gap in power between the two sides. A group of bandits made up of Imperial army deserters attempts to attack the town of Italica, and ends up finding out the hard way just how outclassed they really are when a JSDF helicopter unit shows up blasting Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and proceeds to mow them the fuck down in a homage to the movie Apocalypse Now:
This scene is the epitome of bad-ass, holy fucking shit!
There are other scenes throughout the series that also show the Empire getting their shit wrecked (including one where the JSDF calls in an air strike on the Empire’s senate building as a negotiation tactic), but this scene is the one that captures the disparity between gun and sword the best. There are so many great parts about this scene, I don’t know where to start. How about the whole goddamn thing?! The helicopters riding out of the sun blasting Ride of the Valkyries as they get ready to lay complete waste to a bunch of primitive screwheads. The guys attempting to load a spear into the ballista, as the helicopter spots them and says “Anti-aircraft weapon on the wall. They’re still loading.” before receiving clearance to blast them to Hell. The look of pure shock and awe on the faces of Piña and her assistant as they behold the glory that is the Bell AH-1 Cobra, which had the power to end a days-long battle in five minutes flat. Even Rory, who is known for leaving a bloodbath in her wake everywhere she goes and is revered as a high priestess of their world’s Angel of Death, is stunned by the power of a modern military. If this scene didn’t convince you to watch this show, then nothing will, and you suck.
In another scene, Itami and his group decide to go deal with a fire-breathing dragon that’s been terrorizing communities:
After killing the dragon using C4 and a rocket launcher, Rory’s rival, Giselle, shows up with two “baby” dragons, which are still big enough to be a problem. As I was watching this part, I remember commenting aloud to myself “Fuck this, call in an air strike dude!” Not more than five seconds after I said that, what happens? The fucking air force shows up and blows the baby dragons out of the sky. The dragons are down, good enough, right? Wrong! The JSDF follows up with not one, but two artillery strikes, completely decimating the dragons. Even Giselle (who is also a demigoddess) practically shits herself at the sheer might of modern weaponry.
Now, judging by everything I’ve shown you so far, it’s easy to think that this show is all vulgar displays of aerial superiority. It’s not. There are many other awesome scenes which illustrate just how much more efficient modern-day training is. For example, in this scene Itami and his unit enter the Imperial capital and meet with the Emperor and the Prince:
The Prince reveals that during the raid on Tokyo his forces took a few prisoners, including a woman. He then proceeds to abuse the woman in front of Itami and his crew. Itami in turn proceeds to beat the ever-loving shit out of the Prince and his guards, right in front of the Emperor. Kuribayashi, a female soldier, also joins in the fun. After bayonetting half of the Prince’s guards, she cuts down the other half with her rifle, literally blasting holes in their shields. She then continues what Itami started, beating the frightened Prince to a bloody pulp while he begs her for mercy. After this, the Emperor realizes just how badly he fucked up and agrees to pursue peace with Japan.
This series is just one amazing scene after another, and I’m surprised it never got more of a following given its relatively unique premise of modern technology meeting the medieval world (on a side note: I STILL WANT MY PROPER FILM ADAPTATION OF “A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN KING ARTHUR’S COURT” HOLLYWOOD! AJNET DEMANDS YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN!). Whereas so many series depict people with swords and magic as unstoppable forces when going up against opponents armed with guns, Gate is a healthy dose of realism and the breath of fresh air that the genre needs. I don’t care how magical you are or how skilled you are with a sword, you’re not going to win going up against a team of trained killers who can fire projectiles at 3,000 feet per second. Your plate armor and shields are NOT going to stop a bullet. It was so satisfying to see a bunch of medieval soldiers getting cut down by machine gun fire, dragons being blown the fuck up by missiles, and Roman-style legionnaires having their asses handed to them with modern martial arts. And throughout the entire thing, the Japanese soldiers remain professional and serious when it comes to doing their jobs, treating their enemies like serious threats even though they’re clearly not.
This is a very entertaining series and it deserves way more respect and recognition than it’s gotten. If “modern world meets fantasy world” is something you like, then you’ll definitely enjoy Gate.