Author Topic: Anime Reviews  (Read 181 times)

ludomastro

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Anime Reviews
« on: November 24, 2016, 07:53:09 PM »
Greetings all!  I wasn't sure where to put this so I made it a space.

I recently finished watching GATE: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (lit. Gate: Thus the Japanese Self-Defense Force Fought There!).  It's an anime that asks and answers (emphatically) the question of what would happen if a magical gate opened between the modern world and a world of generic fantasy.

Our protagonist is Youji, to whom we are introduced to while he is wearing heroic fantasy adventuring gear and leaping from a small cliff into the midst of a horde of goblins, trolls and orcs.  He draws his sword, the horde draws a collective breath and then Youji freezes.  A floating rectangle appears in front of him which says, "You have run out of energy.  Please pay for more."  A quick zoom cut to his eyes shows us that Youji is sitting on a train and playing a mobile game.  A flash cut back to the inside of the game shows the horde smiling and pummeling our defenseless hero who is complaining about never having enough cash.  I love this introduction because it gives us his worries and tells us quite a bit about his personality in one simple scene.  We continue following Youji to a convention of some sort (I assume it's the Comiket) so he can buy doujinshi (self-published magazines, manga, novels, etc.) when the titular gate opens and a horde of monsters - identical character models from his game - come pouring out as shock troops to a seemingly human army that bears more than a passing resemblance to the Roman legions.  He springs into action to protect the citizens around him because they might cancel the doujinshi sales if he doesn't act.  (Yeah, he self identifies as an otaku).  Nevertheless, due to his actions many people are saved.  The Japanese Self-Defense Force (SDF) comes swooping in and mops the floor, roads, and skies with the invaders.

Later, Youji is revealed to be 2nd Lt. Youji Itami of the SDF and is promoted to 1st Lt. for his heroics.  The media-dubbed Hero of Ginza breaks down in tears on the stage but we are treated to his inner monologue of lament that they cancelled the doujinshi sales as he feared.  Newly promoted and riding a wave of publicity, the SDF decides that 1st Lt. Itami (the name that normally gets used by those around him) is assigned to the Third Recon Unit and sent through the gate.  We get to see the full hell that modern warfare can unleash on the unsuspecting medieval forces brought to bear against the forward base.  It's not even a fight.  Curb-stomp doesn't really even describe it.  Borrowing from Jim Butcher, it's like watching Mike Tyson in his prime take apart a 10-year-old blind girl.  It's gritty and realistic and is accompanied by fantastic music.  It firmly establishes that modern tech will OWN the battlefields on this side of the gate.  And it paints the SDF in the best possible light.

Nevertheless, Itami is sent out to make contact - preferably peaceable - with the locals.  He succeeds beyond his CO's wildest dreams when he brings back a scattering of refugees after driving off a red dragon and saving 3/4 of the original group.  (His scattering are those that are too broken or disconnected to continue.)  Among them are Tuka, an elf with what we would call PTSD; Leilei, a 15-year-old mage who appears to be fully human; and Rory Mercury, a demigod and an Apostle of Emroy, the god of war and death.  The scene where Rory meets Itami is played for all the double-entendre-ness that can possible be milked.  Did I mention that Rory appears to be about 13 to 14?  (Never fear, she's really 960-ish and our protagonist is a perfect gentleman, much to her annoyance.)

With the first three episodes under our belt, we have the basis for Itami's unwanted (anime) harem and the plot seeds for tales of daring-do against the Empire.

So, will you like it?  I don't know.  I thoroughly enjoyed it; however, it's not without it's flaws and more than a few accusations of overly nationalistic (some have used the term jingoistic) portrayals of the SDF and Japan in general.  While the anime doesn't fall into the dictionary definition of jingoism, it does fall smack into the more colloquial definition.
Quote from: Wikipedia
Jingoism is nationalism in the form of aggressive foreign policy. Jingoism also refers to a country's advocacy for the use of threats or actual force, as opposed to peaceful relations, in efforts to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests. Colloquially, it refers to excessive bias in judging one's own country as superior to others—an extreme type of nationalism.

If you're trying to parse the two, North Korea is jingoistic in the dictionary sense.  Many Eagleland portrayals of America can be guilty of the colloquial version.  I'm fine with folks from Japan having pride in their country and putting it a few steps up the ladder if they want to but I'm aware that some will be turned off by it.  Further, America isn't portrayed well in the anime.  In one scene the American president flat out blackmails the Japanese prime minister.  So, yeah.

Also, you could be forgiven for thinking that the anime is a recruiting commercial for the SDF and that may not be too far from the truth.  The author of the original, Takumi Yanai, is a former member of the SDF.  His work was first published on line but when a professional publisher approached him they had him alter the first two web-novels to make them less nationalistic.  The third web-novel was expanded.  The anime was produced by A-1 Pictures.  Fan rumor has it that A-1 toned the nationalism down again when they made the first 12 episodes.  (If that is true, then perhaps the accusation of jingoism might apply to the original manga.) 

I recommend watching the first three episodes.  If you don't like those, you won't like the rest of it.  If you like those, then you'll most likely enjoy the whole thing.  At the time of this review, the full 24 episodes are available on Crunchyroll in sub-titled format for free streaming.

jarvvoitlus

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2016, 09:25:39 AM »
I thought GATE was okay, and the "Flight of the Valkyries" scene was fantastic, but it didn't stand out to me as too special. Worth a watch if only for the interesting concept, although I'd use this anime as a prime example of amazing potential being squandered.

Antilles

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #2 on: November 26, 2016, 12:31:32 AM »
I've watched the first season of the anime, plus quite a bit of the manga, and I Have Thoughts about this series.

I tend to view it as three different parts in a way. The first's the clash between modern and fantasy military, which is indeed as awesome as it sounds like. Happens far far too rarely, but when it does it's a great spectacle. Then there's a lot of time spent on the interplay between our modern civilisation and the fantasy-medieval civilisation, which is interesting and often kinda funny (them making inroads with enemy senators by giving their wives modern underwear and cosmetics is a good one) but ultimately kinda shallow and played up for laughs IMO. I much preferred '"Be Mine, Hero!" "I refuse!"'s take on societal uplifting. Then finally there's the harem bit, which is occasionally kinda dire, but mostly just boring old faff.

In summary: Eh, I don't consider the time I spent watching this a waste, but I'd be hesitant to recommend watching the entire series over finding some 'best scenes' compilation on Youtube.
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RusVal

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2016, 11:55:20 AM »
Ah, GATE: And So The JSDF Actually Got To Kill Stuff, I have so many thoughts on you.

Before we start, quick disclaimer: this is basically the type of story I'd probably write if I ever completed anything, so keep that in mind while I dive into this.

With that out of the way...

Spoiler: Revenge of the Greenshirts • show
Oh my goodness, how cathartic this series is for me.  Because...

[quote]The first's the clash between modern and fantasy military, which is indeed as awesome as it sounds like. Happens far far too rarely, but when it does it's a great spectacle.[/quote]

...while it is true that this happens far to rarely, technically this happens all the time.  What's rare is that the work takes a serious look at what would happen should a modern military actually face off against a fantasy army.  Simply put, I highly doubt any Western studio would be willing to come close to doing something like that, that wasn't directed by Michael Bay.  Prime example: Every scene the Spec Ops show up in Mortal Combat X.  Anyone in a military uniform, using proper military equipment, is chunky fodder for... everyone really.  GATE, on the other hand, shows that anything flying can and will be decimated by modern Anti-Air weaponry.  There's a reason all those Wyvern Riders don't show up much after the initial invasions face-first into Ack-Ack cannons.  And even if your fantasy creature is tougher than a normal human, few things can survive extended combined arms fire from trained soldiers.  And if your fantasy troops are normal humans, heaven have mercy, 'cause basic squad tactics won't.

They even, in the manga at least, go into detail about how they would take down a Red Dragon, even though said dragon has been proof against up to .50 cal weapons (but not Panzerfausts): Use Fighter planes to suppress and force the dragon to land, then pound it with tank and artillery fire.


Spoiler: What I really liked • show

The age comparison scene in the Japanese Diet was funny, and a nice little wink towards the tendency for fantasy life-spans to be drastically different.

The Flight of the Valkyries was done with obvious love.

The fanboy getting to meet a catgirl was obvious, cliché, and I would have not done it any other way.

Shino Kuribayashi.  What can I say?  I have a thing for very busty women in tactical gear. ;D

Finally, I find it hilarious that "Warrior Bunny" was in Engrish in the original Japanese.  Sure, technically it was Imperial translated to Japanese for the story, but it's still funny.


Spoiler: America the Boorish • show

To start off with, I'm alright with the JSDF being the center of the story.  When I think about it, if this was created in America, or Great Britain, or any other country, then the same thing would happen, in that the main country's army would be the hero, with everyone else being inept and useless.  It's just something that is common in media about a nation's military being the heroes.

It also helps take the edge off considering all the adoring shoutouts to American military media there are, up to and including the Ride of the Valkyries scene.  Not to mention that most of the JSDF's gear is second hand from the US.

That said, Japan is in a relatively unique political position in the world, at least when compared to most first-world countries.  Sure, the idea of a nation surrounded by three aggressive yet nominally friendly ones is something to write about, the fact of the matter is, whatever your current feeling about the United States military, Japan really is supposed to let them take care of larger threats, with their own forces in a purely defensive role.  And we got to be in this role through military conquest.  A conquest, I might add, that we can very easily reinforce via the very thing that allowed it to come about...

Ok, so you want to make America one of the antagonists.  Fine.  It might come as a shock to some people, but many Americans don't mind portraying Americans as the bad guy.  Though we would prefer it if we were the cool badass bad guy. ;)  And you want to use them to portray how Japan should break away from the treaty, ok.  But play with it a little bit, don't just write them into a single scene where they get slaughtered, then forget them.  Have them be active antagonists, people who are supposed to be there to help, but are letting their "pushy brutish Imperialism" get in the way of that.  Y'know the CIA?  Have them do all the rotten things people think they do, like arming the Imperials with modern weapons.  We don't mind, since we portray them as doing this anyway!

Personally, I would go down the "Worthy Rivals" route.  Have a squad of US Special Forces, with a foil of Itami as the CO, be there as "advisors".  Maybe the foil be an LT who just barely passed selection despite having to work three times harder than everyone else.  Maybe even on top of that, have him be a sci-fi geek who's not that into all the fantasy shenanigans going on around him.  Maybe even play him as a tragic hero, who is so reviled with the entire world ("Untold light-years, through a gate of untold power, only to run into the SAME DAMN SHIT!") that he's willing to go to any lengths to tear everything down to build what he believes is humanity's future ("All the talk of colonizing other planets, when we have one right here for the taking.").  Toss in some cultural posturing for flavor ("Yeah, you've been quite honorable so far.  Good thing we beat seven shades of sense into ya all those years ago, eh?").  They could even add Rory's slaughtering of the SpecOps groups in the canon proper as an extra motivation to work against the heroes ("Those CIA jackasses are idiots, but you still took American lives, and sexually enjoyed it, you freak!")  And frankly, a squad of US Special Forces in Exo-Suits fighting Rory would make for an awesome fight scene, particularly if they play up how they can lift her axe while they have the suits on.

But yeah, there's a good reason there's at least two fan fics that deal with a friendly US force assisting the JSDF.


Wooo, long post.  Yeah, I've got some thoughts about GATE.  Mainly, I really wish there was more.

MilitiaJim

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2016, 03:03:53 PM »
If you want "arming the Imperials with modern weaponry" to be a believable thing, have the ATF do it, since they have helped cartels run guns south into Mexico.
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Antilles

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2016, 09:55:48 AM »
Yeah, how it treated the other (Earth) nations was one of the few times I went 'Bullshit!' rather than roll my eyes and continue. Fair dues, it's supposed to be nationalistic so I don't mind the bit where the three caricatures of the most powerful leaders make a power play and is thwarted by the cunning and self-sacrifice of the Japanese politicians, it's the lack of a follow-up that bothers me. There would be constant 'legit' diplomatic pressure/negotiations not just from USA/China/Russia, but EVERY nation and political union in the world. Every academic and research institute would be begging, borrowing and stealing for access to the other world. As soon as there's confirmation about exploitable resources every company and corporation will want a piece of that pie. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the various religions started making noises about wanting to send missionaries. At the very least there should be a "The new city we're building to house all the incoming diplomats and emissaries will be ready in a month" line dropped at the end of that arc.

Of course, once you go down that route you might need a better handwave than "since the gate's on Japanese soil, we think everything on the other side is also Japanese soil." But on the other hand, I don't know if 'more politics' would make the story any better...
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ludomastro

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2016, 02:33:31 PM »
Using Antilles three divisions as the starting point, here's my slightly longer take on things.

The JSDF vs. the Empire:
Yes, it's fun to watch; glorious in some cases.  However, I'm glad it wasn't done more.  I think too much of that would verge on war-porn or some weird type of schadenfreude.  It does serve as a good reminder that modern military forces would be seen as either angels of death (for allies) or demons unleashed from the pits of hell (to enemies) to medieval forces.  Google "Battle of Alnus Hill" if you want a taste.

The clash of civilizations:
To be honest, this is normally the part of a show that I immensely enjoy.  However, the entirely pro-Japan part of this put me off.  I get that the locals wanted Japanese goods.  That makes sense since Japan is the lens through which they interact with our world.  But the Japanese never want anything from the other side?  That didn't make sense.

The harem stuff:
It is what it is.  That said, I found it less annoying - and less creepy (normally) - that other anime with a harem.  It also explains why Itami gets minimal character development.  Although we see more of his character as he interacts with the harem he doesn't fundamentally change.  (Par for the course in a harem show.)  Nonetheless, I found it more believable in this circumstance than I normally do.

Itami interacting with the people of the Gate-world:
Though closely related to the harem stuff, this was my favorite part.  The image of a soldier being a human being and fighting for others because it needs to be done strikes a chord with 14-year-old me and his first forays into role playing games and wanting to save the world because it was the right thing to do.

Other nations:
Yeah, not having the other nations be present was a bit beyond far fetched.  While "more politics" would be more realistic I strongly doubt it would have made the story better.

I thought GATE was okay, and the "Flight of the Valkyries" scene was fantastic, but it didn't stand out to me as too special. Worth a watch if only for the interesting concept, although I'd use this anime as a prime example of amazing potential being squandered.
Emphasis mine.  What specifically are you referring to?

RusVal

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2016, 04:14:50 PM »
The clash of civilizations:
To be honest, this is normally the part of a show that I immensely enjoy.  However, the entirely pro-Japan part of this put me off.  I get that the locals wanted Japanese goods.  That makes sense since Japan is the lens through which they interact with our world.  But the Japanese never want anything from the other side?  That didn't make sense.

Part of it's the massive difference in information technology, as well as the fact that the Gate is a major bottleneck.  Just getting any information about the other world to Earth is a major obstacle with the JSDF monopolizing what gets through.  Hence why the political pressure would be much greater than what we see in the show.

The harem stuff:
It is what it is.  That said, I found it less annoying - and less creepy (normally) - that other anime with a harem.  It also explains why Itami gets minimal character development.  Although we see more of his character as he interacts with the harem he doesn't fundamentally change.  (Par for the course in a harem show.)  Nonetheless, I found it more believable in this circumstance than I normally do.

I just wish a none Japanese person (with some knowledge of the culture) was there to say something along the lines of "Dude, we've been in a Roman-era fantasy world for less than a week, and you somehow find the one gothic Lolita in the world?!"
« Last Edit: November 29, 2016, 05:01:51 AM by RusVal »

ludomastro

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2016, 07:13:11 PM »
I just wish a none Japanese person (with some knowledge of the culture) was there to say something along the lines of "Dude, we've been in a Roman-era fantasy world for less than a week, and you somehow find the one gothic Lolita in the world?!"

EDIT: If you are saying that this person should exist in the story, then, yeah, I'm on board with you.  Lampshade hanging needs to be done on this one.

True; it's HIGHLY unlikely ... in the real world.  However, GATE is a story and from the narrative perspective, it's interesting, so it stays.  Rory is some weird cross between  fan-service ... which has it's own issues since she appears to be about 13 (despite being 961) ... and the action girl.  Hence, the Gothic Lolita outfit stays.

RusVal

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2016, 08:33:31 AM »
EDIT: If you are saying that this person should exist in the story, then, yeah, I'm on board with you.  Lampshade hanging needs to be done on this one.

Yeah, that's what I mean.

ludomastro

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2016, 08:28:09 PM »
So, I just finished Re: Starting Life in Another World from Zero, or the less-of-a-mouthful, Re:Zero.

Um, HOLY HELL.  As a deconstruction of the lost-in-another-world anime, this thing is gorgeous.  Our protagonist, Natsuki Subaru, is getting snacks in modern Japan one night when something happens: the audience notices but he doesn't.*  Then he finds himself in another word one morning with carts being pulled by giant lizards (ground dragons), vendors hawking their wares, cobblestone streets, and humanoid races such as cat people, etc.  Being (wrong) genre savvy, our protagonist sets off to find his destiny.  After a series of misadventures he dies and resets to a conversation with an apple merchant.  He realizes that he can return by death (RBD) and thinks this is his superpower.  However, he's about to figure out just how bad that power sucks.

* I have a theory here but it's probably best put into a spoiler.

Think about his situation for a minute.  Death hurts - especially how he tends to go out - and he remembers all the pain and fear and other negative emotions.  Imagine being in the middle of a situation that you can't see a way out of and watching friends you've made die ... over and over and over.  This isn't the video game equivalent of save scumming, this is gut wrenching.  And it's great.  Natsuki dealing with the equivalent of PTSD is a very interesting direction to take things.  Also, one more wrinkle: he can't talk about his RBD ability without something (someone?) causing him intense pain bordering on death which would defeat the purpose of trying to tell the person about RBD.  (If he dies again, then he won't have told them and he'd be right back where he started.)

Like most anime, the animation quality gets a noticeable bump during fights or when there is a particular patch of scenery that needs the right amount of light.  However, we also get the pan across an otherwise static shot with background vocals/music/noise.  With an hour introduction plus another 24 episodes of roughly 30 minutes each, we get the chance to tell a lengthy story.  I did find that there was a bit of tone shift around episode 13 that shifted the gears on the expected outcome but I was having too much fun to worry about it much.

If you've seen it, feel free to comment.  If you haven't, I'd go check out the first few episodes.  As of right now, Crunchyroll has the sub-titled version available for streaming.

jarvvoitlus

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Re: Anime Reviews
« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2016, 10:38:29 PM »
Seconding, Re: Zero was pretty good. Drags on a bit towards the end, but overall very solid.