The anime adaptation of Gate: Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri, or Gate, is currently being released one episode per week on Hulu or Crunchyroll in the United States, and may also be available on other streaming outlets. Erica has very graciously allowed me to return as guest reviewer to say a few words about it.
Gate has a fairly standard set-up in fantasy literature — indeed, the subtitle, which could be translated as “The JSDF fights like this over there” gives strong hints about what’s going on. A rift between parallel worlds has been opened in the Ginza area of Tokyo. On the far side is a pseudo-medieval feudal society where magic works. Convinced of their own invincibility, the ruling empire sends through a conquering army of goblins, armored knights, and dragon-mounted cavalry. They rampage through Ginza, and have things pretty much their own way, until the Japanese Self-Defense Forces get mobilized, after which nothing really goes their way.
The viewpoint character, Yoji Itami, is a young JSDF officer. He distinguishes himself in the battle of Tokyo, and subsequently gets included in the excursion through the eponymous Gate. On the far side of the Gate, Lieutenant Itami and his Third Reconnaissance Platoon explore the terrain of the “special region” beyond, and encounter the populace of the Empire.
There are silly things about the situation. The Imperial Princess who becomes the JSDF’s friendly contact with the Empire has the ridiculous name of Piña Co Lada. The battle priestess who teams up with Itami and company has “ceremonial vestaments” which look like thigh-baring gothic lolita fashion; when people are dying around her, such as during a battle, she becomes sexually aroused. Most female characters of the special region who are anything other than background peasants have costumes which are rather… skimpy.
But here’s what really caught my attention about the series. While it has aspects of the harem anime trope, with various characters expressing attraction to the viewpoint character, Lieutenant Itami, it also has two Yuri couples: one implicit, and one explicit. The implicit couple consists of the forest elf refugee whom the third recon platoon rescues, Tuka, and the platoon’s medic, Mari. As of this week, episode 16 of 21, nothing has actually happened between the two, but Tuka’s eyes often follow Mari, and when the battle priestess teases her, “so, that’s the kind of girl you like?” Tuka blushes instead of denying it.
The second couple is explicit, and involves the battle priestess, Rory, herself. In this world, we are told, priestesses become demi-goddesses, and after a thousand years of service (Rory is on year 961) ascend to become goddesses themselves. One of the goddesses who has already ascended, the underworld goddess Hardy, wants Rory as her bride.
That’s it… in the whole series, there’s a teenage girl with a crush on another, slightly more mature girl, and a goddess who covets a demi-goddess as her bride. Hardly a core Yuri series, right? So why do I consider it worth talking about? Precisely because it’s not a core Yuri series. Bear with me for a moment.
As Yuri fanciers, we of course want more Yuri series. We want to see girls falling in love with girls, not for the male gaze, not as a stop-gap until they meet the right man, but in love with each other for each other, and for us. We want to see ourselves and our experiences reflected on the screen. And sometimes, we’re lucky enough to get exactly that. But as I’ve encountered recently, trying to sell my Yuri novel, there’s a perception that in the United States the only real audience for Yuri is women who are romantically or sexually attracted to women. Straight women, the theory runs, will buy male/male romance, but female/female romance isn’t what straight men want.
So the inclusion of not one, but two female/female romantic pairs in the cast of Gate is an example of inclusion. Among all these hetrosexual attractions, there are dropped a couple of girls who are attracted to girls… and no one makes a big deal about it. It’s just a thing that happens. It feels to me like this is social acceptance, an acknowledgement that there are girls who happen to be that way, and it’s just the way things are.
Nor is Gate the only series in which I’ve noticed this. In Amagami, an anime based on a dating sim, the character Rihoko is in the school’s tea club. Her senior students are two girls who are always together, and are depicted as still being inseparable in a flash-forward which is set years later. While they are never explicitly referenced as a couple, those with eyes will see.
You’ll have to decide for yourself if this kind of casual inclusion is truly culturally significant; if it really represents the beginnings of wider acceptance of female/female couples. To me, it feels as if it does, precisely because no great fuss is made over Tuka’s attraction to Mari. It’s not played for the male gaze, there are no steamy kisses or awkward fumblings… it’s just a thing which happens. A local falls for a soldier, as has happened in every conflict throughout history, including my own parents.
Even if you don’t feel that casual inclusion is significant, however, Gate is an enjoyable series. More depth is given to developing characters than you might expect… even characters with silly names. If you like fantasy series that don’t involve high school students, this one is right up your alley. One word of warning, however: in one episode, there is a fairly explicit scene in which the Imperial Prince Zorzal sexually abuses his captive, the Bunny princess Tyuule. The scene is not gratuitous; it serves an important purpose in establishing Zorzal’s character and Tyuule’s motivation. None the less, if such abuse is a trigger for you, you should avoid the episode.
Art – 7
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 2
Service – 5
Overall – 7
Jennifer Linsky is currently seeking a literary agent for her Yuri science fiction novel Flowers of Luna. More of her writing can be found on her sporadically updated blog.
E Here: Thank you again, Jennifer, it’s good to have you back. ^_^ Although I’m going to say that these don’t read as couples at all to me, just pretty standard Yuri-service included for people who enjoy that kind of thing.