The protagonist of Gate is Itami Youji, a 33 year old soldier in the SDF –Wait! Don’t leave yet! Hear me out first! No, no, I get it. How could you possibly relate to someone who has a different job and different interests than you, right? But don’t worry, because the truth is, Itami is actually an otaku! That’s right, he loves anime more than anything, just like you!
Thank god, now you can watch this show without feeling horribly alienated.
There’s something disturbing about the blatant pandering of having an otaku protagonist (leaving aside shows that are actually about anime fandom). It’s almost condescending, really. “Aww, what’s wrong, little anime fan? Scared by anything outside your comfort zone? Don’t worry, poor baby. We’ll make sure to coddle you with constant references to your favorite things”.
And they can’t be casual fans either, their life has to revolve entirely about anime. Itami is no different. If anything, he’s worse. Despite being a soldier, he makes it very clear that it’s just a way to make a living, and his hobby comes first. His otakuness is used throughout the first episode as an easy source of awful jokes, that do little but make him come across as a social maladjust. A fantasy army invades the city and causes dozens of innocent deaths? The real tragedy is that the anime convention was canceled! Ha Ha Ha.
Oh right, the actual plot. A gate opens in the middle of the city, and what appears to be a Roman legion supported by dragons and pig-men comes out and starts attacking people at random. The few hapless policemen find themselves hopelessly outmatched, but that’s where Itami steps in. Itami apparently has a special power, which lets him transform from his bumbling otaku self into a competent human being for a short period of time.
Itami is the only person who realizes that he should do something other than panicking, and suggests letting the civilians take refuge inside the imperial palace. Of course, the policemen brush him off, because they’re petty cowards and not brave heroic soldiers. Sorry, getting ahead of myself here, that’s for later. Anyway, they find out the guy is in the army and that they should actually carry out his crazy plan of not leaving people to their fate.
With the people of the city safe, the army comes in and we get to watch how effective swords and spears are against tanks, helicopters and automatic weapons.
For his efforts, Itami is given a commendation and a promotion. His face is all over the news, and he’s now famous enough to get recognized by other soldiers. Hold on a second, all he did was say “Hey maybe we should take these people to a safe place”, and that makes him a hero? I guess in the land of the braindead, the otaku soldier is king.
Now we’re finally introduced to a secondary character: one of his fellow soldiers, who immediately starts going on about how great Itami must be. Wait, did you say soldier? Hold on, you can’t expect me to relate to a sol- Oh, he’s also secretly an otaku. Phew, crisis averted. This is followed by an awkward attempt at a joke where the punchline is “I thought you were gay, and gays are icky”. Hilarious. No one seems all too bothered by the crazy and possibly traumatic stuff that had just happened, by the way.
The rest of the episode is relatively boring, other than seeing the prime minister announcing that the land beyond the gate, the so-called Special Region, will be considered a part of Japan. Just letting you know straight away that we’re heading for unabashed imperialism. Itami is chosen to be part of the first expedition force into the other world and the rest of time is spent preparing for it and talking about how great the army is.
What’s really scary about Gate is that it hasn’t even reached its full potential yet. I haven’t read the original novels or the manga, but I’ve heard dark voices speak of things to come. We haven’t even been introduced to Itami’s harem of fantasy girls yet, or gotten a real look at the underlying political views of the author. The most objectional part of the first episode was how it constantly rubs Itami’s anime fandom into your face. Granted, that covers about half the episode in itself. Who knows, though. Maybe Gate will be an entertaining trainwreck.
First episode rating: 2/10
What it would take for me to watch another episode: Wanting to see how deep this rabbit hole goes