Gate is an interesting series insofar as it highlights what I think are the greatest strength and greatest weakness of A-1 Pictures as a studio. In recent years anyway, a number of A-1 shows have gotten a lot of attention for their visual style and interesting premises. SAO is the most famous example but even shows like this season’s Erased got a lot more attention than it probably deserved because the premise caught people’s eye. The biggest issue with all the A-1 shows that seem so good at capturing the anime community’s attention is that they so rarely deliver something that truly lives up to the hype. There are exceptions of course, Magi, Nanatsu no Taizai and Shin Sekai Yori to name a few (hey I reviewed two of those shows here and here, how nice). In my opinion this is because A-1 sucks at realism. A while back I made a post about the realism and how it encouraged mature shows, and I think A-1’s lack ability to grasp the use of realism hurts them badly. Well sort of. For the young adult demographic that many of A-1’s shows appeal to, realism isn’t necessarily a strong suit because that audience just tends to care less and be less critical. However when I imagine shows like Erased or Gate written from a more realistic viewpoint, I see shows that totally kick ass. As I mentioned in my Surly Summary of Erased, the fact that the characters lack the nuance of grit of realistic characters made the show much weaker, because it would have made mystery far more engaging if you factored in the complexity of well-realized human characters. Instead most of the show’s characters were way one note, to serve a narrative purpose not to exist as actual characters. Now onto Gate specifically.
Gate is a show that would have been totally fucking awesome if it were told in the tradition of realism. Imagine if it were actually dark and gritty, casualties on both sides would be high as medieval warriors were mowed down by bullets and artillery while modern weapons failed in the face magical attacks or were smashed aside by dragons that went onto level the army base. If you wanted to, you could write a brutal, vicious story about warfare between two civilizations that didn’t understand each other tactically, using the exact same premise and even the first two episodes of Gate season 1. Instead this show was a bit more cartoonish. Technology basically never lost, the SDF was the most competent and elite military on the planet and ra ra, Nippon, ra ra. But whatever, what we got was entertaining and it looked good, even if it was mostly silly and paled in comparison to the story that could have been. Things get weird though when we reach season 2. Unlike season 1 which seemed pretty aware that the show was a bundle of silly wish fulfillment after the first two episodes, season 2 inexplicably tried to be gritty and dark and boy did it fail. With the exception of the dragon fight and Tuka’s reaction to trauma, which worked out ok as a serious part of the show, this show couldn’t handle serious stuff. I mean how could it, it spent all of season 1 proving how silly and unserious it was. All the bullshit with Tyuule and Zolal was so heavy handed and tactless that it was both comically bad and approaching edgy as fuck. This is seems to be a recurring problem in a lot of A-1’s shows, the villains are comically overdone and that makes them suck. Now in some shows, like Fairy Tail, ridiculous villains are fine. In most shows however it’s off-putting at best and cringe-worthy at worst to see villains with so little nuance and tact trying to come off as evil and badass by being as over the top evil as possible. Which is why this studio really needs someone to show them how realism works and teach them how to make complex and interesting villains. Anyway that’s about all I have to say about Gate. Season 2 mostly failed, though I admit the finale was actually decent because it came back to the cartoony shit Gate did decently well. Also Arpeggio was a great addition to the show because her magic was way more interesting than Leilei’s, and I consider her best girl because she is so much more my type than the blatant attempts to cash in on stereotypical otaku fetishes that were Leilei, Tuka and Rory.
And while I’m on the subject of A-1 and finales I recently wrote a post on Fairy Tail with no idea it was going on hiatus after this week’s episode. So rather than write a whole new Surly Summary for Fairy Tail 2014. I though I would just take a moment to say the finale was a surprising return to form, I mean I still don’t like FT 2014’s art-style compared to the original’s, but in terms of tone and humor the 2014 finale felt like the good old parts of Fairy Tail all over again, and I was happy to see that. All I can say going forward is that when returns it I hope it brings back the old art style with it. Hope you enjoyed this post and I’ll see you in the next one.