What They Say:
When a mysterious gate suddenly appears in Tokyo’s Ginza district and begins spewing armed warriors and flying monsters, the world is thrown into turmoil. Although the deadly attack is thrown back by Japan’s Self Defense Force, there’s now a new and entirely unknown land on the other side of the portal, and Japan is effectively at war with a nation on the other side.
Determined to secure peace, the JSDF must send an armed force into the Gate, but ogres, dragons and a ruthless Empire populated by elves, humans, and half-animal warriors aren’t the only dangers they’ll face. With the resources of two worlds at stake, the balance of power on both sides of the Gate is destabilizing, and betrayal can come at any time, from any quarter. There, trapped right in the middle of the ensuing firestorm, stands officer Yoji Itami and the JSDF’s Third Reconnaissance Team as they plunge into the GATE.
The audio presentation for this series brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo as well as the English language dub, both of which are encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series works a very good balance overall as there’s a good bit of action throughout it, from magic to military, and that’s all given some distinct elements that stand out. Bringing the two together works nicely as well and the stereo design is a bit stronger than a lot of other shows with what’s going on, especially when you add dragons to the mix. The dialogue side is a bit simpler but it often has numerous characters involved at any given time and that’s given solid placement as needed as well as depth. The back and forth and some of the fun that comes from it is well handled and the mix as a whole is a very clean and problem free one with no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally starting in 2015, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-four episodes are spread across three discs with a nine/nine/six format that gives it plenty of room to work with. Animated by A-1 Pictures, the series is very richly detailed and with a strong color design applied to it that makes for a really fantastic experience. Almost too much it felt like at times because it’s just so lived-in and full of what it needs to feel fully realized. The animation quality is great whether it’s military or magic and combine that with the characters that run the gamut as well and it’s definitely a treat to take in visually. The encoding brings it to life in great form with clean colors and a solid feel throughout, though there are a few gradients to be had that are in the source from time to time, while the high motion areas avoid any blocking or other problems such as noise. It’s a great looking transfer overall.
The packaging for this release brings us a standard sized Blu-ray case with a hinge inside to hold two of the three discs.l The cover artwork uses the key visual from the second cour that’s more intense and action oriented as it blends the magic and military sides pretty well. It’s a bit darker than I think it should be with the shadows and backgrounds but it has a good look overall and doesn’t try to get you to believe it’s a cute girls kind of show, even if there are those elements in it. The back cover carries over some of the familiar shades of green to lay out a military theme as we get a few shots from the show on the right. The breakdown of the premise is solidly done and the extras are clearly listed as well. The remainder is rounded out with the familiar production credits and technical grid that lists it all out clearly and cleanly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release works with static menus across each disc where it changes out the character artwork. The layout is one that plays to the military them as you’d expect The right side sets some good blocking with the episodes listed by number and title in white on a darker green while the left side breaks out the artwork that works different character groups. They’re blended in with the green solid sections of the rest of the menu and it’s a good contrast with the more vibrant colors of it all to catch the eye. The navigation is simple and easy to work with as it’s just episode selection and language setup, making it quick to get around in both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu.
The extras for this release are pretty basic as we get the clean opening and closings and the promotional videos for it. There’s also a brief animated comic piece from the Japanese releases.
Based on the light novel series Gate: The Self-Defense Forces Fight Like This in That Place by Takumi Yanai, the series is animated by A-1 Pictures. The original work kicked off back in 2010 and has ten main novels so far, which were amusingly broken out into sixteen with reprints along the way, and it also got a manga adaptation back in 2011 that has seven volumes so far. Otherworldly adventures that are “next door” aren’t as common as they once were but there’s been a steady stream of them overall over the years and this one takes up that position in the summer season. It gets some raised status with A-1 Pictures being involved in the production though since the quality of the animation they put out tends to be strong, even if the show itself turns out to be weak. And that can be enough to make it worth watching by itself.
The show takes us into what’s going on through the eyes of Youji, a 33-year-old otaku who boasts that he works only to support his hobby and chooses that over everything else. While he invests his mind into the fantasy games he plays in a big way, which is represented in a fun way here, he also has some quite interesting visions when he smacks his head into a column on the way to the doujinshi convention that gives him glimpses of a fantasy world and some attractive women there. What he doesn’t realize is that a gate has opened nearby to a world where the fantasies he plays are real things – and an invading force has come through to conquer. The chaos is well played out as they move through the area, but as intense as Youji gets, it’s all about getting to the convention before it’s canceled. You do wonder at first if he’s dreaming all of this, but as it becomes more real, you see him really stepping up to deal with it. But only so his event isn’t canceled.
While things go badly for the civilians caught up in this at first, it does turn around when the self-defense forces arrive and basically cuts everything down quickly – including the dragon that came through. What’s interesting though is that while Youji was focused on the convention, he also did work to ensure that people weren’t killed in a real bloodbath along the way and that’s now earned him an award and a promotion as it turns out he’s an SDF member himself. He becomes fairly famous for his efforts but that just means more work for him – and the loss of the convention due to the events, which sets him in a bad mood. Even worse, in a sense for him, is that he gets put onto the recon team that’s going to go through to the other side since he’s fairly well recognized at this point. There’s some fun political maneuvering along the way and a mild exploration of how the society at large is handling it and what they intend to do by not destroying it but rather exploring it. For a small country, the potential of expansion lands beyond must be beyond exhilarating to think about.
With twenty-four episodes to work with, Gate has a lot that it can and does delve into that helps separate it from the usual wish fulfillment fantasies we often get. The journey to the other side sets up the Special Region from which the military begins its expedition to learn and understand more about this world while also ensuring that new incursions cannot come through as they secure the Gate and place it within another structure. While it may not go as big as one may expect, hedging their bets and all, it is fascinating to watch as the forces come through, set up shop, establish perimeters and focuses on keeping a safe area of operations to work from. We’ve seen this applied in the real world through various military adventures in the past two decades so it has a good ring of truth here even if it’s scaled down some.
When looking at a series of this length presented as a complete collection, I do find it a bit daunting in a way to talk about it, particularly one of this nature. Gate has a lot going on throughout it (and so much that I really don’t recommend marathoning it over two days as it takes it down a peg I think) as it moves between both worlds, introduces us the politics of the nation states that exist in this new land and all its people and races, while also ensuring that the politics of our world enters it to some degree. It’s certainly not realistic when you get down to it in how our world would react to it, but just including these elements and showing some of the higher political and military command sides having to deal with things is a bit plus. Particularly as they’re engaging with a very different opponent that’s coming from an older style operation of government as well as what they have for troops, both in style and numbers. At the same time, the inclusion of things from fantasy like dragons and magic means that the advanced weaponry of humanity isn’t always going to be the deciding factor. Yet, well, it often is in making a point of things. In fact, there’s one scene where the heightened training of one of the shorter female soldiers works to take down the prince so effectively that it really should radically alter the balance between the two sides because it’s clear that “our” side is far more advanced in just about every way.
Gate is the kind of series that’s a no brainer to recommend across the board. It dabbles in so many different areas and does it so well that it’s very easy to get caught up in it all. The storylines are spread out with solid pacing and subplots that interconnect at times and keeps it all moving along while also introducing a range of interesting characters on both sides of the Gate. It’s not a harem show even if it does work a male lead with several cute girls because it manages to avoid most of the cliches of it for the most part. I can definitely see revisiting this series in a more leisurely pace to sink my teeth into it because there are so many tangents to work with and there’s so much to like between character arcs, designs, and the general flow of the expeditions and conflicts that arise. Very recommended.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Animated Comic, Japanese Promos, Clean Opening Animation and Clean Closing Animation
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 11th, 2017
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.