Skip to main content

Review: World enough, but not time.

I recently finished watching the anime Gate. While an overall enjoyable show, it does have its flaws. I've been thinking about it now and then since finishing, and two problems in particular keep bugging me.

The story begins when a gate from another world appears in Ginza, a shopping district in Tokyo. After repelling the incursion of ogres, dragons, and centurion-like soldiers who came through the gate, the JSDF mounts a counter-invasion and sets up a base on the other side of the gate--in the "Special Region." From there, the JSDF encounter all manner of monsters and mischief, usually either slaughtering it with their military might or wowing them with the superiority of Japanese culture--but more on that when I get to the second problem.

This constitutes the first problem, which is mostly amusing: Basically, the series is about as masturbatory an exercise in Japanese pride as any I can imagine. Well, actually, I can imagine more extreme cases, but the series gets pretty heavy-handed at times. At turns, it predictably glorifies the JSDF in particular and Japanese culture & heritage in general as the best bestest to ever best at bestfulness. Seriously.

As the JSDF import Japanese culture to the backwater Special Region, the reaction to Japan's wares and customs is pretty uniform. When introduced to Japanese cuisine, men and women of the Special Region alike moan and squeal orgasmically about how divine it is; awed by its crafts, enamored of its shops, charmed by its customs, they can't get enough of Japan's marvels. It's as though these know-nothings had never before experienced such delicate sensations as polyester or gluten, as fine confections and porcelain. Ultimately, this motif is more annoying for being stilted than for being overly prominent; it's more repetitive nuisance than cloying gimmick.

More pointed is the exaltation of the Japanese military forces. The JSDF obliterate in seconds any opposition they face, be it slaughtering a couple hundred thousand troops or beating up an arrogant prince. The might of the JSDF is evidently unparalleled. But actually. In a way, the glorifying is counterproductive: The ways and means by which they overpower every opponent both says a lot and not very much. They use tanks against calvary, machine guns against centurions. If I'm supposed to be impressed by the JSDF's successes, I'm a bit appalled at the use of excessive force and underwhelmed by the "challenge" instead.

Even gimmicks and war-crimes considered, the show is really quite enjoyable. I had fun watching it. However, such enjoyment plays into the show's biggest problem. (That is, problem #2.)

The show falls short of itself. The series promises a lot--elves and magic, political intrigue and manipulation. With side plots ranging from assassination attempts to jealous gods, there's a lot of world-building to explore. But the show ends somewhat abruptly without realizing even half its potential. I really wanted to see them catch that master assassin who turned impressionable people into his psychological puppets; I really wanted to see the demi-goddess tell her former "lover" (a goddess) that's it's over; and I really wanted to see the "evil" bunny woman continue to manipulate the empire into ruin with her clever cat-and-mouse game.

But, for whatever reason, it was all cut short. I'm sure there's an explanation, but frankly that doesn't make this weakness any less deleterious. I'd rather never have dealt with the assassination plot at all than have been so tantalized and disappointed, and so on.

This brings up a couple of questions about how we enjoy the media we consume. Can one still enjoy something that's ultimately disappointing? I think, as evidenced by my comments, that yes, one can; one just enjoys it less or differently (a note of bitterness in place of satisfaction). Oh well.

In this case, the show was fun, and I enjoyed much of it, but I certainly would have enjoyed it more if these plethora of possibilities had been explored lovingly rather than abandoned abruptly.

Comments

Other things that might interest you...

This moment: A tattoo.

So I read Mrs. Dalloway in high school, and it was perhaps the most beautiful thing I'd ever read. One passage in particular, very early in the book, hit me hard with my first experience of the sublime, and stayed with me—and led at last to my first tattoo.
In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.  (Emphasis added; full paragraph included below. From the full text of the novel as made available by the University of Adelaide.)

The paragraph this is from, the 4th paragraph of the novel, is the 1st passage with the stream of consciousness the book is famous for; although self-limited here, the flow is no less gorgeous. In the passage, Clarissa is walking on a street to get those famous flowers herse…

Losing Doolittle.

I recently got to spend a few days at the lake house my family used to visit through most of my childhood; we no longer own it, and it turns out I missed it more deeply than I realized.

Anthony and I both got the week before NYC Pride off this year, so I contrived to get us a little time there. The cousins who own Greenshore gave Anthony and me permission to relax there for several days rather than just the 1 or 2 I had expected. Good god, I'm grateful for that.

I missed this place. Standing on the balcony, the porch, or the dock and looking out over the lake, I was reminded of the beauty and tranquility this lake represents for me. The meaning and memories, too.

This was always a place of solace and stability for me. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but we always came back to this place. It had been in our family for generations before I was even born—if we'd been able to keep it, it would have been a solid 4 generations including mine. This was where I figured out I w…

Gardenzia carnivorus.

I recently got back into horticulture after a bad moment of burnout, and wouldn't ya know it, I'm back at it with carnivorous plants! Despite tweeting about it endlessly, I haven't actually explained how or why this started.

Back in middle school, I helped my science teacher set up a carnivorous plant display. Nothing elaborate, mind you; a terrarium with a bunch of sphagnum moss and some pitcher plants, a sundew or two, maybe a Venus flytrap? Didn't leave much of an impression, except maybe that they died and that sucked. shrug.
A couple years later, I was in a bog near my grandmother's lake house, when things changed forever. I was in the back end of the canoe, and as my dad pulled the front end out of the water, I glanced to my right and spied, on a stump with some moss, sundews (Drosera rotundifolia, to be precise).
Of course I recognized therm instantly—they're hard to mistake, with those the sparkling tentacles and all. I gathered 3 or so of them (I know