Gate anime review
Given recent form, most anime fans will hope Hollywood has made the following New Year resolution: “I will not try to appropriate and remake an anime property from Japan, betraying its cultural integrity.” And that’s an understandable attitude. However, an anime series like Gate inadvertently makes the opposite case; that there are some great ideas which must be rescued from anime, because anime mucks them up so badly.
Gate’s high concept is this: what if Earth’s modern-day military might (tanks, fighter planes, the works) fought the forces of Mordor, or its closest equivalent? Picture it now: armies of orcs and trolls pillage our cities; Green Berets cross to the other side, occupy Minas Tirith and blast Smaug with bazookas. Just imagine what Peter Jackson could do with that, or Guillermo del Toro. Hell, we’d watch Michael Bay’s version.
In Gate’s first episode, a massive, er, gate materialises in Tokyo. Fantasy creatures pour out, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting shoppers and tourists. There’s panic and carnage; terrified civilians cower in the grounds of the Imperial Palace, as if Japan itself is besieged. It should be the start of a terrific disaster-fantasy, Tolkien hits Titan. This is going to be great! And… and…
…And the invaders are defeated in 10 minutes, leaving us shell-shocked and gibbering. Look, fantasies sometimes have to take controversial turns. But… really? Gate has the best disaster-epic idea for years, something anime can go to town with on a comparatively titchy TV budget, and it just throws it away?
Most of Gate, in fact, takes place in the fantasy realm through the portal of the title, where Japan sends its army to learn what’s what. Are they terribly outmatched, as in Kong: Skull Island? Are they faced with moral and political dilemmas, reliving the nightmares of the Pacific War? Nope. Our heroic soldiers carve through enemy armies like butter. They make loads of adoring allies, including an elf girl, a mage girl and a ‘Goth Lolita’ god girl, and they meet a princess called Pina Co Lada. For shame, Pina Co Lada!
There are far worse anime – Gate does at least have a few (emphasise few) truly cool fight scenes, especially with the Smaug-scale dragons. The second half of the 24-part series is markedly more engaging, with some interesting story strands, though the structure’s weird, with overlapping plotlines that have nothing to do with each other. It all collapses in a stupendously boring climax that’s another hymn to the unchallenged might of the Japanese army, with music and shouting turned up to 11. There’s probably a scary jingoist message, which we’d almost certainly forgive if the end wasn’t so lame.
The series hero is also an upstanding Japanese soldier called Yoji who’s amazingly brilliant at everything but insists he’s a gormless fanboy at heart. And after 10 hours of ‘thrilling’ adventure, he’s still not even slightly interesting. Paging Tinseltown: is Tom Cruise free? Reviewed by Tom Arden
RELEASE: 9 April 2018 (Collector’s Ed. DVD & Blu-ray Combi)
FORMAT: DVD & Blu-ray
AGE RATING: TBC