GATE – 24 (Fin)

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Rescuing Pina and the Emperor from Zolzal felt like a couple of loose ends to tie up, since there was never any doubt about Itami, reunited with his original Recon Team and his girls, were going to be successful. This, the final episode, seems to understand this, and doesn’t draw out the rescue needlessly, but has fun with the relative ease of the operation.

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Basically, Itami has Rory, Lelei, Tuka, Yao, and his team, which makes him all but invincible. All he has to do is talk when they enter the throne room. Zolzal sics a particularly ill-fated ogre on them, but Rory and Lelei dispatch it with ease—did Zolzal forget these guys brought down a Fire Dragon? 

His meager guards, who don’t particularly want to mistreat Pina or fight Rory the Reaper, are absolutely no match. Zolzal doesn’t try going out in a blaze of glory—he’s too much of a coward. Itami plays with his fear by adding paranoia to his problems: pointing a sniper at him, telling him he’ll be watched from now on.

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The conditions Itami gives him for not getting a bullet in the head are simple and non-negotiable: Pina goes with him; the emperor too; and Lelei’s assassins are called off. All Zolzal can do is accept, bitter as he is, he’s powerless here, and it’s particularly satisfying to watch (though I was kinda hoping he’d resist a little more so Kuribayashi could have at him).

After that, all Itami & Co. have to do is get out of the palace and city walls before they’re all closed, and this too proves not very difficult, thanks to the speed of their vehicles and a helping hand from a friend with a LAV, a bazooka, and a mined entrance that blows behind them, taking out all horsebound pursuers. Mission Complete.

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Pina, who clearly likes her shining knight Itami but isn’t too overt about it (note how she got self-conscious about her skimpy burlap shift when he showed up), but she also has bigger matters than romance. Her father wakes up, not the worse for wear, and declares her crown princess, giving her the mandate to steer the empire where she will, whether towards peace or to civil war with her brother.

It would have been nice if Itami’s crew had, you know, captured the leader of a potential resistance against the legitimate government, but they leave Zolzal alone, which was the one problem I had with the operation, considering how easily they could have taken him into custody/killed him.

But that’s no big deal; whatever he scrounges up won’t be any more of a match against the SDF-backed pro-peace faction than the Special Region ever was against the might of the modern Japanese military.

As for Tyuule, we see she’s not crazy after all; just unfulfilled. She suffered and schemed so mightily and actually got the empire to fracture, and yet tears fall from her face. I guess it wasn’t quite worth it.

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With that, we have a nice little crowning ceremony for Pina, after which all of the various guys show off their new girlfriends / lovers / caretakers / fiancees, to Kuribayashi’s shock and Shandy’s envy.

Itami doesn’t attend that ceremony, because he’s done enough, and now he just wants to go to the doujinshi convention in Tokyo, putting his hobby ahead of his work as usual. I like how he places equal importance on his affairs in otakudom than he did with all the various adventures in the Special Region.

But it isn’t long before his three girls track him down, all with their own Tokyo plans for him. The masses notice these idols and crowd around them in adoration, and a cop sneaks them off in his squad car, even though Itami doesn’t want to leave the convention.

And there you have it, a usually lush and diverting story of our world connected to another one, where the JSDF fought, and fought well.

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GATE – 23

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The last couple of weeks of foot-shuffling was almost worth the wait: this was an adrenaline-pumping powerhouse packed with some proper SDF domination over the Special Region’s painfully outmatched military, and I daresay it’s the best presentation of pure righteous spectacle since the showdown with the Fire Dragon, which feels like ages ago.

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What added to the satisfaction of what was really just a rescue op for the civilians and doves was the intense preparation and precision involved. The SDF officers men have trained for all of this, and now they finally get to show their stuff.

This is less about who’s going to win (obviously, it’s the JSDF in a rout on every single front), and more about the deep pride the SDF shows in everything they do, no matter how pathetic the foe, they exercise the utmost professionalism and efficiency in their work.

The comprehensiveness and abruptness of the SDF’s assault throws Zolzal off balance, but Tyuule is always right behind him to say—in not so many words as to tip him off as to her true goal—he’s dug his grave and now he has to lie in it. She makes sure he understands no matter what happens, he can’t leave this place, or the Empire will fall.

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Itami & Co. are in transit, and miss the big show, but the other forces get the job done, quickly routing the army beseiging the Jade Palace and rescuing the civvies, doves, and Rose Knights without any trouble.

Their swift and forceful efforts have left Zolzal looking weak and kept the possibility of peace alive, all before Zolzal even knows where to send his men (also sending the royal palace guards, leaving himself mighty exposed should Tyuule get stabby).

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However, as Tyuule remarks after Zolzal’s underlings give a very sobering report on their defeat, they still have a significant trump card, and that’s Princess Pina. Bozes knows she’s being imprisoned there, and races off to try to rescue her single-handedly, a highly questionable course of action that exposes Bozes’ lack of experience in this kind of thing.

Luckily for her, Beefeater followed her, and when Bozes’ horse takes an arrow, Beefeater carries her on hers as they flee the charging army. They’re spotted by one of the SDF unit commanders (who is sticking around until the officially sanctioned end of the operation, just in case), who take out all of their pursuers and bring them aboard their helicopters.

Now everyone is safe but Pina, who doesn’t seem to have been sexually assaulted by anyone, but is still not used to being imprisoned, and is starting to panic over the fact she may have been left in that cell to die. Of course, she’s still very much alive for the moment, as Itami, the only man who can save her approaches the capital.

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GATE – 22

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This week everything inches incrementally toward some kind of final confrontation in the capital, where it’s quickly becoming clear to everyone interested in peace that Zolzal can’t be allowed to rule much longer. The Rose Knights continue to fight for his bedridden father, against men who don’t at all want to slaughter the women they respect, who were allies until today. But it’s either the Roses or their families.

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As for Lelei, the assassination attempts continue as she attempts to make a presentation for her promotion to master; a cat-woman under the apparent influence of the Pied Piper. This time, the attack is foiled by Lelei’s fellow mages, watching her back and prompting Itami to wish the JSDF had magic.

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Of course, it’s good old-fashioned dagger in the chest by someone unexpected that seems to get Lelei, as the opportunity for Shandy to strike presents itself, and she takes it.

Meanwhile, as the low-morale Imperial soldiers continue to be beaten back by the knights, Tyuule tells the Oprichnina leader to either gather more men and get the job done, or kiss his own position and life goodbye. All the while, the SDF awaits official orders to intervene in the Jade Palace siege.

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Speaking of inching along, Pina is a “free captive” for all of a day or so before Zolzal’s henchmen clap her in irons and a burlap shift and toss her roughly in a cell, dispensing with her status as a member of the royal family.

Tyuule takes great pleasure in seeing Pina wearing the same shift she wore, occupying the same cell she once spent an inordinate amount of time…perhaps enough time to drive her to her crazy, power and revenge-hungry state.

The thing is, she hasn’t referred to Zolzal as her ultimate enemy in some time; all she seems to be doing is doing his bidding, perhaps all in the name of bringing down the empire. Right now her priority seems to be remaining in power and taking sadistic pleasure in throwing her new-found weight around.

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Shandy, it turns out, was not under the Piper’s spell, but heard that Pina was in mortal danger and believed the only way to save her would be to bring Zolzal Lelei’s head. This is an incredibly naive and shortsighted strategy, so I’m glad she was foiled. But at least she’s able to relay the fact Pina is in a very, very bad way, and needs rescue before something terrible happens to her.

Fortunately, the SDF gets their orders, and a paratrooper unit is quickly mobilized for an operation to save the Japanese citizens and pro-peace asylum seekers. At the same time, Itami and his gang races to the Imperial Palace to free Pina.

Everyone still in play is moving into position, and hopefully their efforts will bear fruit in terms of stopping Zolzal/Tyuule’s reign of terror, which is benefiting no one.

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GATE – 21

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Pina’s Rose Knights fight, bleed and die, but ultimately prevail against the initial force of Gimlet’s cleaners, seeing as how the latter aren’t equipped with plate armor and aren’t exactly great fighters. Sherry, wasting no time demonstrating what a badass she is, stands and watches with unblinking eyes the violence and death she knows is of her making (though I wish she and Sugawara had retrieted within the Palace, lest, say, a stray arrow find one of them).

The knights managed to keep Oprichnina at bay and protect the embassy this time, but a bigger, tougher force will show up eventually, and they’re going to be woefully outnumbered. This leads the officials responsible for the diplomats’ safety to beseech a minister for authorization to rescue them, along with the pro-peace refugees.

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The civilian politician is, well, like pretty much every civilian politician in GATE: a weak weeny who is waffling about doing the right thing because he’s too concerned about his own career and upcoming elections.

He has reason to worry: Alnus is full of press and military officials from all over, and he doesn’t want to look weak. As if the waffling politician weren’t enough, we also have a self-important journalist who has a low opinion of the noble SDF, and makes no bones about his journalism not being totally objective, since at the end of the day it’s a business.

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Meanwhile in Rondel, assassins make another attempt on the lives of Lelei & Co., only they are foiled by Itami’s stuffed beds and a flash grenade. The assassins are far from pros, but they are representative of the M.O. of someone called the “Pied Piper”, who exploits those who are easy to convince of huge plots and conspiracies and lies; in this case, young inn employees were told Lelei & Co. were impostors and murderers.

The key, then, to stopping these attempts on Lelei’s life is to figure out who this Pied Piper is and take him out. At the same time, Rondel has learned through recent messenger of Team Itami’s exploits with the Fire Dragon. In particular, Lelei is lauded as the one who finished it off, furthering the Imperial position that a human and Imperial citizen get the lion’s share of credit for the feat, which doesn’t sit right with Lelei (her word for it is “nasty”).

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Because the Jade Palace-protecting Rose Knights are under Pina’s command, it isn’t long before Zolzal “kindly requests” that she order them to stand down, promising no harm will come to the diplomats (but making no such promises for Casel or Sherry). Naturally, Pina refuses, and attempts to set off for the Palace to see what’s what, but then, in the least surprising move yet by the Acting Emperor, he places Pina under arrest. Frankly, Pina should have sneaked out of the Capital ages ago.

With a force of Imperial regular army—the Rose Knights’ own comrades—over one thousand strong at the Palace gates, the situation is about to explode. So it’s a relief that the civilian minister finally gives the go-ahead for a rescue mission.

Like Sugawara last week, his professional training gives way to his humanity, and he makes the better of two bad choices. There were going to be consequences either way, but at least this way he won’t be sitting back and twiddling his thumbs while his diplomats are slaughtered, along with what’s left of the pro-peace movement.

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GATE – 20

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I often groan at GATE episodes that mostly or wholly omit the core gang of Itami & Co., but that’s a bit unfair, knowing that GATE is about more than just one man or one group’s adventures, but about an entire sprawling world of multiple races, political affiliations, and ideologies.

This week may have felt more like a Sherry & Casel spin-off than the GATE I typically like, but it was nonetheless a strong and surprisingly moving episode that gave the current political troubles and Japan’s involvement (or lack of same) a smaller, human scale.

Under Tyuule’s manipulation, Prince Zolzal has passed extraordinary laws and raised a paramilitary force called “Oprichnina” to oppress all pro-peace actors in the Empire. Among those is Senator Casel, who hoped to find safety with Sherry’s family, but are soon set upon by Orpichnina “Cleaners” led by the sniveling Gimlet.

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Sherry leads Casel out of the house, and her parents proceed to burn it down, presumably dying in the process but covering the escape of both their family’s and country’s futures. Of course, Tyuule is on the scene and aware of Sherry and Casel’s movements, and uses her porcine assistant to get the two to “dance for her.” Not sure why Tyuule is micromanaging things to this extent, but I do know her evil smirking is getting old.

Sherry, despite being only twelve years old, doesn’t show her fear as she finds herself out in the world with people after her and an adult senator to protect. She haggles with a villager for food and secures a room at the inn, but the only way they’ll both be safe is if they can reach and gain asylum at the Jade Palace, a territory that is technically Japanese soil by treaty.

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They get to the boundary of the de facto embassy easily enough, but are met by Princess Pina’s knights, who relay the Japanese diplomats are unwilling to harbor political dissidents at this time, thanks to a hard line from the ministry back home that doesn’t want to look weak or further embolden Zolzal by harboring doves. Even Sugawara, whom Sherry is in love with and truly believes she’ll marry someday, won’t let his personal feelings interfere with his diplomatic duties.

The Japanese refusal to accept Casel means as soon as Gimlet arrives with his Cleaners, they arrest the senator and prepare to take Sherry into custody too. It’s hard to watch her come so far, with so much childish faith in her shining Japanese hero, only to be turned away right before the finish line, and into the jaws of those who have already destroyed her family and likely have nothing good planned for her.

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At the same time, while I despised Sugawara as much as he probably despised himself when he refused to act, I also appreciated his duty to his country. People can’t just disobey orders all the time. I thought this would all come to a heartbreaking end, with Gimlet’s grubby mitts all over an increasingly pathetic Sherry screaming for Sugawara’s help.

Turns out, Sugawara couldn’t abandon Sherry to a horrible fate. He orders her brought over to the Japanese side. This obviously led to the desirable outcome of Sherry being safe (in exchange for Sugawara promising to marry her after all when she comes of age), but GATE doesn’t pretend such an action wouldn’t have messy consequences.

There are knots and kinks in this particular fairy tale: Just as Sherry’s parents gave up their lives to get her out, Sugawara may have sacrificed his career and complicated Japan’s position to a potentially disastrous extent to save her. He did something he didn’t have the authority to do. Zolzal and Tyuule wanted nothing more than to stir the shit with Japan, and Sugawara’s heroism did just that.

The Vice Minister, who previously respected his decision as a diplomat while loathing him as a man, is forced to reverse both positions: condemn his actions as a diplomat, but laud him for being a decent man who couldn’t let the screams of a child go unheard.

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GATE – 19

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With Mort out of the picture (he doesn’t seem to be dead, but he’s in no condition to rule), Zolzal takes over and wastes no time stoking anti-peace sentiment among both the armies and masses. Tyuule, who has had proper clothes for a while now (compared to a burlap shift anyway) is overjoyed by this development, because she’s certain Zolzal’s warmongering will lead to his downfall.

Using Zolzal as her pawn, Tyuule has bascially stolen a march on both Pina’s peace negotiations will now only serve as stalling as Zolzal approves unethical tactics in order to weaken the JSDF and its position in the special region. He and his advisors may be fools, but they at least realize a head-on fight won’t work.

Pina wants to try to slow Zolzal’s march to war, but her other brother Diabo flees the capital to round up a force of foreign countries to deal with Zolzal the only way he thinks they can: with the sword. And while I like Pina and appreciate her position as the only sensible member of the royal family, that doesn’t mean I find her character all that compelling.

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That’s why I was glad for the cut back to Rondel, where characters I frankly am far more invested in about are engaged in activities very much unrelated to the interminable palace intrigue of the capital: Lelei’s preparations to become a master. Her big sister Arpeggio comes more into focus as someone who’s always been in her genius little sister’s shadow.

There’s also an unexpected reunion between Rory and Mimoza, the two of whom last met 50 years ago. Rory’s advanced age and natural gregariousness owing to her demigod status, you never know who she’ll bump into next, and I like how Mimoza took her “homework” seriously, devoting years to studying the history and pre-history of the world to determine why there are so many races.

Her conclusions are fascinating: the Gate isn’t just something that connects to the Ginza; it’s a cyclical portal that has dormant periods like a volcano, and each time throughout the centuries, it has opened to a different realm. Beings from those realms would come through, fight, breed, and become a part of society in the world. Even more intriguing? Humans were almost certainly the newest race to come through.

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Other revelations include Arpeggio’s side-job copying books (underlining her pathos relative to her wondersis) and Lelei’s sneaky little pronouncement that Itami is not, in fact, single, since she and he spent three nights in the same room together. She also firmly contends Tuka’s nights didnt’ count because she was insane at the time and thought Itami was her dad. I’m inclined to agree.

But Arpeggio’s inability to snag Itami as a husband because Lelei got to him first is the last straw, and she’s forced to challenge her sister to a magic duel by way of inverted soup bowl (thankfully, not scalding). While Itami is appropriately lost and of the belief the sisters are taking things too far, everyone else carries on as if this was a regular occurrence … because his is the thirteenth such battle between them.

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Arpeggio was a whiny sad-sack for so much of the episode prior to the duel, it was good to see her in action, holding her own against an aggressive Lelei who unveils heretofore unseen abilities like witch-like flight. I also appreciated that the sisters’ distinctive styles match their personalities: Arpeggio grounded and practical, Lelei with her head in the clouds, dreaming big.

Despite its non-lethal nature, the duel is fast and loud and exciting. The girls eventually essentially tie when both their magical defenses are broken (though Arpy’s broke fist), but that’ when things almost do turn lethal – when a cloaked assassin very nearly puts a crossbow bolt between a defenseless Lelei’s eyes.

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His attempt is thwarted by Grey, who has just arrived with Hamilton to protect Lelei and escort her back to the capital, where she’s become an Imperial hero due to her actions in the fire dragon battle. I say her and only her because she’s the only human; as for being an Imperial citizen, Lelei takes exception to that classification, as she still considers herself a member of the Rurudo clan first and foremost.

Regardless, Zolzal no doubt wants to make her another tool in his upcoming war with the Greens. Tyuule is now trusted to meet with senators on his behalf to present them with new laws that will allow him to arrest and convict whomever he chooses – no doubt laws he deems necessary in times of war. As for Itami, he probably has the right idea: simply run for now, while staying appraised of the increasingly volatile political situation.

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GATE – 18

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For abandoning his original mission, Itami is stripped of his command and suspended for two weeks by his immediate superior (the chain is the chain), but he’s also awarded a number of commendations both from the MoD and the local powers who benefitted from the defeat of the Fire Dragon. He also apparently owns Yao Haa Dushi now, which is…interesting.

He’s also given orders to “investigate the Special Region’s resources”, which is basically carte blanche to do whatever the heck he wants (which isn’t all that different from how things have been up to this point). With this new/old power, he has Lelei practice her driving skills as they head to the academy city of Rondel.

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There, Lelei prepares to appeal to the academic authorities for a mastership, which means dressing the part. This requires interaction with the hyper Grand Master Mimoza, but Itami, Rory, Tuka and Yao also end up meeting Lelei’s sister, Arpeggio, with whom Lelei seems to have a strained relationship, at best.

I must say, the transition from the resolution of Tuka’s dilemma to Lelei’s arc seemed a bit…abrupt. It’s also a bit laughable how regularly Itami escapes punishment for breaking protocol. For a show that glorifies the JSDF, a force of thousands working as one, both GATE and the force are awfully forgiving to a single soldier who always acts on his own, simply because it always seems to work out.

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Anyway, that’s all we see of Itami & Co; the rest of the episode is spent with the crew in the capital, including Sugawara, who is being constantly hounded by the 12-year-old noble Sherry, who has fallen in love with him and is committed to being his future husband.

This would be annoying, except that Sherry exhibits wisdom beyond her years, understanding what needs to be done for Japan and the Special Region to achieve peace (though a senior diplomat is clearly concerned with Sugawara’s relationship with the girl). Meanwhile, Prince Zolzal is frustrated with the apparent progress in peace talks, while Tyuule, now allowed to wear more than a burlap shift, continues to barely restrain her contempt for the shitbag.

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The night Pina and Zolzal’s dad emperor Mort (quite the foreboding name) welcomes the Japanese diplomats bearing POWs from the initial attack on Ginza (people Zolzal knows by name), Tyuule’s latest scheme is set in motion. It’s a pretty simple scheme: she poisons the wine the emperor drinks to toast to peace.

With Mort dead, Crown Prince Zolzal is now emperor, and it’s pretty clear from what we’ve seen that he’s not at all up for the job. Of course, that’s just fine with Tyuule; he’ll press for an all-out war against Japan and the JSDF – a war he can’t possibly win – and in his foolhardiness and the arrgance she built up in him, he will hopefully destroy himself and his empire, giving Tyuule the revenge she’s sought all along.

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GATE – 17

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Last week was a little…weak,but that’s because it was only the somewhat tedious prologue to this: the titular decisive battle in the Fire Dragon Arc. Yao brings the remnants of her clan to meet Itami, and nine of them join them in the fight. This is more like it.

Itami giving them a crash course in RPG launchers before heading into the dragon’s lair deep within Mt. Duma. Forest elves? Alliances and fellowships of nine? Mt. Doom-a? It would be a Tolkienesque episode – were it not for the inclusion of modern weaponry, which actually works in GATE’s favor; as I’ve never seen a dragon slain in the particular manner we witness this week.

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Itami devises a plan in which they mine the dragon’s nest with buried C-4 explosive, but he/she returns before they finish, and Rory (who can’t/won’t go underground for some reason) isn’t able to stay in radio contact.

As a result, the assault teem has to improvise, which for a group of dark elves given only the most rudimentary training, means a lot of elf redshirts buy the farm in this battle. Indeed, so closely did all the female elves resemble each other that I incorrectly believed I’d witnessed Yao’s untimely demise…more than once.

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In fact, before the end of the battle, all eight of the elves who accompanied them will be lost, though they all die fiercely battling the dragon with everything they have, and buying time for Itami to finish the bomb, and also, for Lelei and Tuka to have a turn at the beast.

We really haven’t ever seen much of Lelei doing anything at all, so it’s immensely satisfying to see her test the hardness of the dragon’s skin with telekinetic swords. Once she gets the force level right, she cracks an uncharacteristic (but welcome) knowing smirk.

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Indeed, this is Lelei at her most emotional and badass, and it’s because like Tuka, her village and people were killed by this thing, and she wants revenge too. Her blizzard of swords propelled into the dragon from all directions doesn’t finish it, but it does mess it up.

Enter Tuka, who has been watching people fight and die around her, and finally decides to take a chance and use her power, even if it isn’t enough. She had been blaming herself for her father’s death, turning her frustration over the futility of defeating the dragon inward. But now she turns it outward, and it’s awesome to behold, as she summons a storm of dragon-roasting lightning.

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With all the metal in and around the dragon, it isn’t long until some of the electricity it all conducts touches the bomb fuse, and it’s BTOOOM! City. Bye-bye, Fire Dragon. The multi-angle explosion made for an excellent spectacle, all the more satisfying because it was a total team effort. The victory would not have been possible with everyone’s contributions, in addition to the elves’ sacrifice.

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And yet, even when the dragon is slain and Itami, Lelei, Tuka and Yao get back outside safely before the caverns cave in on them, they’re still not out of the woods, because Rory, who had remained outside the whole time, took all of Itami’s injuries and pain, and is in bad shape.

She’s also being harassed by Giselle, the very blue apostle of the goddess Hardy who isn’t a fan of fabric that covers the front of her chest. She’s come to capture Rory so Hardy can marry her. Out-of-left-field extra conflict, or a rich dessert at the end of a wonderful meal? Your mileage may vary, but I happen not to mind this development, because it’s interesting to see Rory actually worried about something for once.

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It’s certainly convenient for Giselle to appear here out of nowhere at this particular time when Rory is by herself, not to mention Gisells just happened to be the one who bred the very fire dragon hatchlings whose shells were found in the nest. But also closing on Mt. Duma is a the SDF air and artillery attachments, sent to aid Itami at Yanagida’s request, but also happy for some action.

It certainly feels like very sugary dessert when, after Giselle exercises dominance over the situation for no more than a minute, she’s absolutely schooled by the display of JSDF force, and her baby dragons are wasted instantly. It’s almost too easy, but I did enjoy Rory’s gloating in the aftermath. She’ll be the one to decide who she marries, thank you very much.

That last skirmish also doesn’t undercut the fact that Tuka is no longer insane, but has gotten the revenge she needed to move forward…though she still intends to keep calling Itami “Dad” as her pet name for him.

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GATE – 16

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Considering how last week ended, one would think we’d be in store for some adventures with the party of Inami, Tuka, Rory, Lelei and Yao, right? Wrong. We only see them for less than five minutes this week. The rest of the episode somewhat disappointingly checks in numerous other plotlines, darting from one place to another for the apparent purpose of making GATE as complicated as possible.

We see more Yanagida than Itami this week, as he explains Itami’s actions to the General, then convinces another one (far easier than he expected) to mobilize a unit to support Itami. Then he meets with the old dude who gave Itami advice last week, who turns out to be a king, and negotiates a deal for tax-free non-currency mining rights. If this all sounds a bit dry, you’re not alone.

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Things get a little spicier when Yanagida’s various dealings intersect with Tyuule’s order for her spy in Arnus, Delilah, to assassinate Noriko, who has learned her family is missing and presumed dead and isn’t that upset when an assassin crawls out of the shadows.

Yanagida stops Delilah, but her being an extremely adept warrior, she’s able to dodge his bullets and plunge her knife into his side. He responds by emptying his clip into her. I suppose this is some kind of commentary on the combat prowess (or lack thereof) of “administrative” soldiers like Yanagida. In any case, Tyuule’s plot is foiled. I wonder what she’ll try next.

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I’ll admit, while it’s kinda random, I still enjoyed watching the pair of F-4 Phantoms messing around with the Fire Dragon, whom they intercept without much trouble, test its speed, maneuverability, and intelligence, then duck out before it barbecues them.

I know, Itami needs the dragon alive so he can show Tuka the thing that kill her father and hopefully snap her out of her psychosis, but wouldn’t it have been more prudent to simply fully arm those fighters, sortie a couple more, and take the big guy (or gal) out? I guess they’re not willing to risk losing a plane or a pilot on a dragon that, at the end of the day, isn’t threatening JSDF assets…yet.

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The five minutes of the core gang go by far too quickly, but they’re an exciting five minutes, as the dragon comes before them, Rory and Lelei do their thing to keep him busy, and Inami puts an RPG launcher in Tuka’s hands and tells her to fire. She misses, and the dragon skedaddles, but perhaps the experience will make her more lucid?

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GATE – 15

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My first thought as to why Tuka is crying? Why, because she and the other two main girls have barely been in this second season. And what we have seen – her wandering around, looking for her dead father – was troubling.

When Itami finally has time to visit the trio, he learns that Yao Haa Dushi told her the flat-out truth – that her father was killed by the fire dragon – and Tuka just couldn’t handle it. The result is a state of psychosis in which she searches the camp endlessly for her father, forgetting about food and sleep; it’s so bad Lelei has had to sedate her periodically.

When Tuka sees Itami after waking up from one such sedation, she sees him as her father and embraces him accordingly, much to everyone’s dismay.

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Yao freely admits to “breaking” Tuka, something she did to force the hand of Itami, someone she believes will be able to help her slay the fire dragon and avenge her people. Yao is as fanatical as Tuka in this desire, only she hasn’t succumbed to as deep a madness as Tuka has. It’s cruel manipulation of our blonde elf, but you can’t fault Yao, who had been refused by everyone else in the JSDF.

Now, as she sees it, in order for Tuka to be healed Itami must make sure she gets the same thing Yao wants: revenge. Only then can she accept her father’s death and move forward. Unfortunately, the only way to get that revenge is by slaying the fire dragon, a foe Itami isn’t keen on facing off against anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Pina informs Diabo that Zolzal has been named their father’s heir. I’m not sure if he’s on Zolzal’s side or Pina’s, but he lets Pina know Zolzal told him to pick a side, that he doesn’t think Zolzal’s reign will last long, and that he’ll bring everyone down with him if he can. If Pina wants peace with Japan, she may have to do something about Zolzal, which would mean defying her father.

Finally, we see Tyuule’s true colors, as she’s been manipulating Zolzal into a pliable, unstable state of supreme arrogance, and is now confident he’ll do whatever she says, she tells an informant who sneaks in to make a delivery in exchange for being allowed to lick her leg. Tyuule hopes to incite a war that will destroy the empire, using Misako as the match to light the fire. Tyuule remains an interesting wild card; on no one’s side but her own, herself fueled by revenge.

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Itami is loath to carry out the plan Yao wants, because he wouldn’t be able to secure a large enough group to bring the dragon down (you’re probably talking about sustained air assault with gunships, rockets, and missiles, plus artillery to finish it off). He believes if he goes in with a small group, they’ll get wiped out, and the last thing he wants is to lose anyone in battle, especially for what is essentially a personal mission.

While he ponders the situation, he decides to go all in and pretend he’s Tuka’s father for the time being. Tuka is elated about this, and they hit the town on a father-daughter date, spending every moment of Itami’s R&R together (she even sleeps with him in bed, naked for some reason…)

While it’s nice to see Tuka so happy, it’s a false happiness that cannot be sustained. Eventually Itami will have to tell her the truth, and she’ll go right on denying it, or possibly plunge deeper into madness. Itami himself dealt with the loss of his father (if I’m reading the flashback correctly, his mother, herself mentally unbalanced, killed him and was committed for it, leaving Itami alone), so he can certainly relate to Tuka.

That new tidbit about Itami’s life makes us wonder if he’s ever actually fully processed that loss and moved forward, or if a part of him is still trapped in the past, if not to as extreme degree as Tuka.

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When Itami has to return to the capital to translate – this time a longer-term arrangement, he breaks it to Tuka as best he can, but the pain in her face is plain to see before she replaces it with an understanding smile.

He crosses paths with Yao once more, who reminds him playing house isn’t going to work forever (no shit Shirlock), and even Lelei and particularly Roroy also appear to be concerned about how long the charade should be allowed to go on.

Heck, posing as her father is messing Itami up, to which his comrade Yanagida suggests: why not just go on the damn mission and slay the dragon?

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That night, as he watches the moon to think about whether to do just that, he meets a wizened old man from the special region with an prosthetic arm and leg, things Japan brought that make it possible for him to continue living his normal life. This old man knows what’s eating Itami before he even sits down: he’s worried about the cost of action. His advice is to listen to his heart, which already knows the answer. Sometimes you gotta act even if it’s dangerous.

So on the dawn when he’s about to head back to the capital via helicopter, after saying his goodbyes he spots a tear on Tuka’s face the moment before the cargo door closes, and jumps out of the helicopter to stay with her. The old man gave him a nudge, but it was Itami who made the leap.

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, means Itami won’t be doing any dreary capital duty anytime soon. No, he’s going on an adventure with Tuka to find and destroy the Fire Dragon. Sure, she still thinks he’s her father, but he can sort that out later.

I don’t know why Itami thinks it will just be him and Tuka, but he’s quickly corrected when Rory makes her presence felt, bites his arm, and forms a contract whereby his soul his hers if he dies. Lelei and Yao also join the party.

At this point I was wondering why he didn’t ask his closer subbordinates with whom he’s been in so many scrapes to volunteer to join him; I’m sure they’d come along if offered the choice. But that’s okay. I’m happy with the five-person group, and looking forward to watching them hopefully kick some fire dragon ass.

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GATE – 14

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Here I thought the earthquake would be a major calamity for the Special Region, utterly unequipped to deal with a natural disaster that does plenty of harm even in modern Japan. But it’s “only a 4 or a 5”, by Itami’s reckoning, as he and Sugawara weather it calmly while Pina and her maid are shaking in their nighties.

The quake passes, but Pina knows she’s not the only one of her people who was scared shitless, so she rushes to the palace to meet with her father, bringing Itami and Sugawara along.

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Their coridal meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Prince Zolzal, who wastes no time at all confirming what a woman-hating creep his is by bringing in Noriko, a Japanese hostage from when their armies invaded the Ginza. Noriko looks as beaten-up and beaten-down as the bunny chief from last week, but Itami and Shino waste no time rescuing her from Zolzal’s clutchs and doling out swift punishment.

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When Zolzal orders his men to attack them back, Itami steps back and lets Shino take care of everything. She bayonets all approaching fighters, then guns down those with shields (the bullets go right through them and their primitive armor).

We’ve seen Shino-As-One-Girl-Wrecking-Crew before, but having her do her thing in the middle of the Imperial throne room sets a new high for audaciousness. It’s also never not fun to watch her go on a spree, even if, again, I’m not so sure SDF protocol is being followed here.

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But while it’s fun, and I’m glad Zolzal quickly gets his just desserts for all the shitty slimy stuff he’s done (and I’m sure he’s done much more we’re not privy to), and Shino’s fists carry with them all the manifest despair and loathing and suffering of Zolzal’s victims, being brought down upon him, it’s also a bit, well, easy. 

I mean, of course this guy is a loathsome little shitstain, and of course when someone actually fight starts whaling on him, he crumbles into a crybaby.

But I’m going to call this scene exactly what it is—Tarantino-esque revenge porn—and while I considered Shino’s actions justified (if a little over-the-top), it would have been more satisfying if there was a little more moral ambiguity to the exchange. The stark black-and-whiteness sapped the scene some of its power.

Interestingly, it’s Tyuule the bunny chief who stands between the prince and Itami, begging the LT not to kill her abuser. I’m thinking perhaps she has her own plans for him, plans for which she’s endured much suffering, and they won’t work if he’s dead. I look forward to the time she can repay him for everything he’s done, but with her people’s safety to consider, she’s playing the long game.

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The Japanese government acts swiftly upon news of Japanese hostages in the Special Region – by bombing the Imperial Senate, sending the message that they’d better release the others if they don’t want to lose anymore buildings.

We learn of the existence of another brother of Pina and Zolzal’s—Diabo, which sounds kinda like “diablo”, only he seems like less of a devil than Zolly…though he may just be better at hiding it. Zolzal also calls his sister a traitor, opening up the possibility he takes her prisoner, stripping her down and beating her, as is his M.O. with captive women.

They have a little chat about how Zolly knows he’ll be named emperor over Diabo, even though his father won’t actually give up all his power. Tyuule’s presence by his side and in his bed is starting to make more sense if she is indeed plotting against him, it’s best to keep your enemies close. And as we know with that tan elf chick who hasn’t shown up yet (Ducy), the warriors of other races resolve to do whatever they can to protect their people.

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Mochizuki Noriko is brought back to base and her injuries are treated. You can feel the traumas she endured in her eyes and the sound of her voice (not sure who the seiyu is, but she does a fine job); but also her relief and joy at being free, something she probably gave up on when she was one of Zolzal’s sex slave. But her troubles aren’t over; it’s heavily implied her family was killed in a Special Region raid while they were distributing flyers about her disappearance. Talk about a rough hand to be dealt.

And speaking of those missing family, Tuka spends the entire episode looking for her father, though again we only see her for a couple of beats. Next week’s episode is titled “Tuka Luna Marceau”, which bodes well for getting her more involved in a show that for the last two weeks has seriously snubbed her, Rory and Lelei.

However, I see that it did that for a pretty good reason: to remind us quite unambiguously that the SG isn’t just some charmingly primitive fantasy land. It’s brutal, and cruel, and dark, and sometimes the only way to deal with it is by knocking out a couple of its teeth.

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GATE – 13

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After a brief stop at Princess Pina’s diplomatic banquet where she and Sugawara prepare to negotiate with various ambassadors and senators, in the episode’s first few minutes we’re subjected to her brother Zolzal having rough sex and slapping around a captive bunny warrior girl, who doesn’t seem that into it.

I know, the show wants to quickly and categorically establish that this guy is scum, but there’s this thing called subtlety. There’s also a thing called boredom, and it exudes from the shallow, evil-for-the-sake-of-evil bad guys like Zolzal.

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Finally meeting Pina’s awful brother makes me sympathize even more she has to be this guy’s sister, after all. As far as I can tell, she’s the only good member of the whole rotten imperial family. As for Zolzal liking the Japanese food and leaving the banquet as quickly as he arrived with a hefty supply in tow…what, was that meant to humanize this abuser of women?

I must say, if we have to deal with this guy on a regular basis, I’m not going to be happy. I can understand Pina’s reluctance to kinslay, but can’t someone accidentally blow him up with a mortar or something?

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Anyway, the JSDF is finally in the capital now, with a small presence in the red light district. They managed to blow away one of the largest gangs, apparently keeping the others away with intimidation, and are distributing health care, including birth control, to the prolific population of half-beast sex workers.

Some shows are slice-of-life; but it would be more appropriate to call GATE slice-of-society, in particular a coming together of two totally different ones. Most of the time, that’s enough to hold my interests.

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But still, with Itami on the periphery and the trio of Rory, Lelei and Tuka barely in this episode, the show put one a hell of a handicap on itself. The episode wasn’t well-served by any frames in which Zolzal appeared, nor any discussion involving the Emperor nor the goofy Japanese politicians back home (ok, we get it; civilian leaders are feckless cowards).

But I’ll admit there’s still much for the JSDF to accomplish, and their progress may be undermined by an impending major earthquake, forewarned by the beast-women who apparently have the same sixth sense that causes Earth animals panic just before a disaster.

Then again, it could also be an opportunity for the JSDF to shine—not as an unstoppable military juggernaut that no power in the special region can ever hope to defeat—but as a force for good.

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