Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

26 Jul 2017

(Anime Series 2015) Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri

(Reaction) Wish Fulfillment by: Antonio Conejos

Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri presents a scenarios of classic wish fulfillment, both on an individual and societal level.

On the level of an individual this wish fulfillment is clearly seen in the main character, Itomi. Itomi is a decorated solider, hero of the first (sneak) attack made by the Empire’s forces, member of the special forces and all around do-gooder. Yet, as the opening lines of Gate tell us, the only thing Itomi wants to do with his time is pore over anime and manga – to immerse himself in the otaku lifestyle.

Itomi manages to achieve incredible things and meet incredible people beyond the Gate. But whatever happens to him he does not change his primary interest. Between attending the coronation of Princess Pinacolada (someone he has rescued on multiple occassions and a person he considers a friend) and attending a manga convention; he chooses the convention.

Indeed, Itomi’s chief skill in life is shirking everything. This is the assessment of his superiors who found this artful dodging so useful that they threw him into the special forces where he managed to dodge bullets and blows and other assorted difficulties.

Itomi then is the ultimate successful otaku. He never tries to succeed but success (and women) constantly fall into his lap. He does not care about any of his achievements, brushing them all aside so he can attend a manga convention. This is the ultimate hallmark of success for an otaku, as portrayed by Gate: one who focuses on his hobby with a singular devotion and everything else will fall into place.

Even the society past the Gate conforms itself to Itomi’s wish fulfillment. The inhabitants of the land are classic anime tropes, such as cat girls or fox girls. This fit between anime convention is not lost on the characters, early in the series Itomi jokes with another soldier if he thinks he’ll find the kind of character he fancies in the next town that they visit.

As a last note for the wish fulfillment of the individual, this extends to the gaze of a male viewer as well. Many of the denizens of Gate are incredibly well proportioned. In particular Kuribayahsi comes to mind in her scene where she takes down the evil prince Zorzal. It’s a wonder Kuribayashi is able to fight effectively considering the weight her upper body has to bear.

Beyond the level of the individual, Gate also pleases a particular societal wish – to expunge the shame associated with Japan’s armed forces. During WWII Japan’s armies mercilessly attacked and butchered in North Asia and South East Asia. Japan launched a surprise attack on the US in Pearl Harbor.

In Gate though the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) finds redemption. In Gate everything about Japan’s last great conflict (WWII) is reversed:
a. Japan , instead of being the invader, is the one ruthlessly attacked
b. Japan , instead of launching a surprise attack, is instead the victim of such perfidy
c. Japan, instead of brutally suppressing the lands it conquers, acts benevolently to the people beyond the Gate
d. Japan, instead of having to invade other lands for resources (such as oil), is able to peacefully negotiate for access to these resources (granted the negotiation is quite cunning on the part of the Japanese)

Gate portrays the JSDF in superlative terms. It is a humane organization, one of Itomi’s first missions involves him protecting refugees from a town destroyed by a dragon. These refugees are even welcomed into the JSDF’s main base beyond the Gate. Houses are built for the refugees and so a town springs up in the JSDF camp.

The JSDF in Gate is also a highly disciplined outfit. Soldiers are never shown drunk or maliciously destroying property. The JSDF soldiers do not rape or plunder. Even Itomi, who has a tendency to go off by himself on rescue missions, operates under the tacit approval of his superior officers.

All of this good guy ethos does not dull the JSDF’s lethal fighting capability. When it is discovered that one Japanese captive has died, and another imprisoned and abused, while under the captivity of the Empire, the JSDF launches a surgical strike which eliminates the Empire’s senate building.

Yet, despite all of it’s laudable goals and accomplishments, the JSDF still finds itself hamstrung by scheming civilians who just won’t let it do the right thing. In Season 1 a major plot point revolves around Itomi and friends appearing before parliament where a female politician quickly lambasts the JSDF for not doing enough to save village inhabitants from a flame dragon. In Season 2 a reporter goes out of his way to try to frame the JSDF as ineffectual loafers when actually the opposite is true.

In Gate the JSDF can do no wrong. It is a model armed forces, kind to civilians, respectful of the laws of war and absolutely lethal to its enemies (both animal and human).

Again, to belabor the point, this modern JSDF is a far cry from the real life Japanese Imperial Army of WWII.

It’s hard not to see in Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri the yearnings underpining its creator and the society which produced it.

Review:

The reaction reads quite harshly but on the level of pure entertainment I enjoyed Gate. The story moves briskly along and the characters are likeable. Season 1 for me was better in terms of narrative. I felt Season 2 just sort of meandered along. (The opening and ending songs in Season 1 were more to my taste too.)

I am not a regular anime watcher so I found it interesting to view a genre from the point of view of an outsider. All genres have conventions which fans take for granted. (In sci fi the captain of the ship is usually a benevolent, all knowing father figure. In fantasy much is often made about particular weapons or old artifacts.) These conventions are not good or bad and I tried to judge Gate based on its story rather than the tropes it, perhaps inevitably, had to carry with it.

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