GATE is a popular manga that has an anime adaptation airing this season, as many of you know. I have never read the manga, but after seeing the first episode of the anime adaptation I got to wondering how true to the manga it was, so I asked around a bit. It was suggested that I watch and read GATE simultaneously while keeping a record of my thoughts on how they compare to each other. Thus this series was born. This week, I will cover...a single chapter.
*Some images used may not be of consecutive pages or scenes*
Though the anime takes a while to get going, the added scenes of Youji at the beginning help to ease the viewer into the show and solidify Youji as a normal guy, not some power-hungry protagonist with a vendetta to right every wrong. The added scene of the lost girl helps to form his character as well, elaborating on his inherent desire to help people, even if he says that his job’s only purpose is to “support [his] hobby.”
Once the real Japanese forces start opening fire, we see that this is basically the Japanese equivalent of a “Muricah!” moment. One of the most interesting parts of this story, for me, is how this power-imbalance will be handled throughout the series. It could be a creative way to get the soldiers’ confidence up and then have the rug pulled out from under the JSDF, or it could be a total sweep of the Empire’s forces for the entire show.
The vision Youji has of the three girls seems very random, much like the appearance and subsequent handwaving of the gate. Having seen that the three girls are on the manga’s character intro page as “main characters,” this adds to my apprehension towards the level of writing the anime will have. There are a few things that seem to get the short end of the stick explanation and development-wise, but this is only the first episode, so hopefully this does not portend future character introductions being shallow and brief.
Youji’s face is oddly long, a detail I noticed while watching the episode, which was compounded once I read the manga chapter and saw his original character design. A few other characters’ faces are as well so that may just be the style or look the studio wanted.
The battle/massacre in Ginza seemed longer and to have a bit more weight because of that, but the toned-down violence sacrificed the ability to make the Empire seem as bad. This was probably to avoid censoring and trying to hit a wider audience, but it really was detrimental.
The part added in where Youji kills an Empire soldier to save a policeman is a bit odd and out of the blue because we don’t know that he’s a part of the JSDF yet. My first thoughts from that scene were “everyone is going to think he’s a killer psychopath and he’ll be arrested.”
We see a bit of the Empire when a cavalry commander talks a bit, but the council scene from the manga seems to be more informative of the inner workings of the Empire. One character’s development doesn’t contribute to the world as much as a view of a society’s governmental structure.
We don’t figure out that Youji is in the JSDF until he gets an award, which makes things a bit confusing as I mentioned earlier. Youji was definitely less assertive in the evacuation of citizens in the anime; in the manga he really took the lead. Without this distinction of his character and personality, the award he receives seems a bit odd considering he was only shown to somewhat direct people as they fled and talk to some security guards.
Also, the JSDF meet the enemy as soon as they enter the world through the gate; in the manga it appeared as if they had been there for a bit. A minor inconsistency, but it feels like another thing that happened by coincidence. Why go charging through acting as if you don’t know what’s there when you recently stated that you have had scouts there for a month now?
The biggest thing that I feel the manga did well was Youji’s assertiveness and his ability to take a leading role in evacuating the citizens amidst mass panic. This little fact alone sets him up to be a great main character in a story about a military exploring and fighting another world. Youji was not put up as some hero who is all about valor and glory, he’s just an otaku that was going to Comiket (most likely) and is genuinely a good guy. He even states that his only aspiration in his work is that he may continue working in order to be able to support his hobby, which proves that he isn’t looking for awards and accolades like you would think the protagonist of a military-focused manga would be.
In the manga, the Empire is a more convincing foe for the JSDF because there is much more violence shown as they spread wanton destruction and death across Ginza. The way the Empire’s soldier attack with extreme prejudice is a valid (even if lazy) way to depict the invaders in such a way as to immediately repulse the reader and instantly demonize them. This atrocity committed by the Empire justifies Japan’s use of military force, and both the United States and China offer support and advice, which I found funny.
While there was a quick aside that gave the viewers a look into the mind of an Empire cavalry captain in the anime, I feel that the Senate-like discussion in the manga did a better job of explaining a bit more of how the Empire is set up. The
Holy Roman Empire on the continent of Walmart Falmart reminds me very much of Rome and therefore gains a lot more inferred depth. This may or may not have been the intention of the author, but it certainly made me feel like the world was more developed (the best lie, or fiction in this case, is based in facts).
The JSDF soldiers’ mentality towards the Empire’s medieval army is made clear in the manga, which allows the general atmosphere to seem more realistic. Honestly, if I saw a conflict arising between a modern military with helicopters, battle tanks, APCs, and firearms and a medieval mob of cavalry, swordsman, and monsters, I would place my bets and move on to something else. “We’re in the middle of a DVD here!” is a great response that embodies the JSDF soldiers’ complete dismissal of the enemy’s strength in battle, something I believe will come back to bite them sooner or later.
While a useful resource that I will probably use throughout my reading until I get well acquainted with the cast, the immediate introduction of a ton of people that I will in turn immediately forget seems like it forebodes forgettable characters or poor introductions in the writing itself. While we’re here, let’s look at some stand-outs: Rory Mercury, Freddy Mercury’s long-lost (Asian?) descendant; Lelei La Lalena, the (Hawaiian?) girl with entirely too many L’s in her name; Piña Co Lada, the most original name I’ve heard in a while; Molto Sol Augustus, Hail Caesar of the Molting Sun; Dirrel, because Americans only have one name.
After setting the scene as “20XX A.D., Summer...Tokyo, Chuo Ward, Ginza...11:50,” the reader is unceremoniously thrust into a horde of what appear to be orcs supported by wyvern-mounted lancers with a main force trailing behind coming out of a post-and-lintel structure that can be easy assumed to be the “gate” referenced in the manga’s title.
Directly after that, the citizens of Ginza get destroyed by the fantasy world army that appeared for no reason whatsoever. The woman’s reaction in the page on the right is pretty accurate to what the reader feels - “eh?” I personally don’t like being dropped into an event that gets no explanation because it is typically used to avoid having to build a sufficient world depth to justify whatever is glossed over; the Portal-Between-Worlds is quickly handwaved and buried by the ensuing chaos, which is accurate to how it would unfold were the events to happen in real life, but it would’ve been nice to at least have an attempt at an explanation at some point. I’m sure in future chapters all the questions will be answered and the reasons explained, but I had to limit myself to only the first chapter.
Overall, a pretty rushed chapter that had a few jumps which were detrimental to the flow, but the initial invasion seemed a lot more violent, solidifying the enemy as cruel and worthy of your hatred. There wasn’t as much time spent on the invasion as in the anime, so it felt almost small even though it was more impactful because of the intensity.
While the anime had better opening and set up, the manga had a better look into the Empire and how they function. The anime’s integration of the invasion and introducing Youji curbed the “what is going on?” feeling that I got from the manga’s first few pages. The anime is focused on a different angle of Youji’s character, but gets the same general point across as the manga. Both were very enjoyable, but I preferred the manga to the anime episode.
AnimeGATE is a series on experiencing an anime and its manga source material simultaneously. But really, “it’s about ethics in anime adaptations...”