The Unknown Gamer

War on Easy Mode

When a magical portal to another world suddenly opens, an invading military force consisting of mounted cavalry, dragon-riding knights, and conscripted orcs pours through an begins a surprise attack on the unwitting citizens of a peaceful city. It sounds like the plot of the original Warcraft, except the city being attacked is Tokyo. As the slaughter begins, viewers of GATE will start to ask themselves, "why doesn't the military show up and do something about this?" It is at about this time that the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (SDF) force actually shows up with guns, tanks, and helicopters. The invading army suddenly realizes that they have chosen the wrong world to attack.

For the Horde?

After completely decimating the invasion force, the Japanese Government fortifies the area around the gate and sends an expeditionary force to the other side. Essentially they find that the other world is a generic fantasy realm that seems to have come right out of a JRPG. Despite knowing that their invasion force was completely lost, the emperor of the realm decides to try to repel the SDF by sending tens of thousands of men to attack them. This goes about as well as expected, and the initial assault force is immediately incinerated. Rather than deciding that it would be best to run away from an enemy that can rain destruction from the sky, the commander of the assault decides to try a sneak attack at night, proving that even in fantasy-land, learning curves are for pussies.

Learning Curves are for Pussies!

After basically completely obliterating what appears to be a good chunk of this world's armed forces in less than a day, the SDF decides that it is time to send a small unit in to make peace with the locals. Lead by the main character, they end up earning the trust of some peasant villagers by blowing away a giant dragon with a missile launcher and impressing them by showing off their base (which has running water and WiFi). They end up picking up a young sorceress, an elf girl, and an insane goth-loli priestess of murder along the way. Aside from the sorceress (who inexplicably learns Japanese rather quickly and begins to act as a translator) these characters seem to be there primarily for the fan-service factor. Back the the real world, there are hints of what could be a more interesting political subplot in which the United States, China, and Russia are scheming as to how they can best gain access to the magical land and exploit its resources. Focusing on this might have made for a more intelligent story, despite the fact that the entire premise of this show is somewhat silly.

Honestly, this anime is ridiculous. Pitting a society whose greatest technological achievement is the printing press against a 21st. century military is basically War on Easy Mode. Even tough the fantasy world seems to have some magic users and dragons, they are utterly powerless to do anything but gaze upon modern machines of war in awe and terror as they are mowed down by gunfire. At the same time, there is a certain amount of morbid comedy to watch an overly smug, JRPG-style empire ignorantly try to deal with an enemy that has a 1000 year technological advantage against them. They are also pretty darn lucky that their magical gate opened up in Japan. One can only imagine how screwed this empire would be if they had tried to invade Russia.

Ultimately you can't feel too much sympathy for the empire. As it turns out, the emperor is basically a jerk who seems either ignorant or uncaring of the fact that the world he tried to invade could turn his entire nation into a crater with the push of a button. Even as his advisors and senate explain to him that they are utterly screwed, he displays unwavering confidence that his empire is eternal. Either he's crazy or has some sort of ace up his sleeve, though currently I'm betting on the former.

The emperor also seems to hate his princess-knight daughter, who he sends on a suicide recon mission to scout out the enemy. Circumstances force her to accept the help of the SDF against a bandit army which is laying siege against a city. During this battle, she realizes that the SDF could end the empire after she witnesses them send in air-support to deal with the scenario. The best she can do is try to negotiate some sort of peace treaty with Japan, though it is doubtful her father will end up going along with it. This siege also contains the most entertaining part of the show, in which the bandits can't even load their giant arbalests before a chopper wtfpwns them.

Get to 'da choppa!

No Need for 1990s Harem Anime!

Anyone who's been watching anime for a long time knows the drill: A male protagonist who, at first glance, appears to be an average guy (or often less-than-average) is suddenly visited upon by a miraculous series of events that result in him living together with a bunch of cute girls who compete for his affections. This time-tested (and generally over-used) formula is classically known as a harem anime. Popular shows from across the years include Love Hina, To ROVE-Ru, Ai Yori Aoshi, and Rosario + Vampire. Shows where the trope is inverted (female protagonist surrounded by hunky men) is known as a reverse harem and includes titles such as Fushigi Yuugi, Fruits Basket and Ouran High School Host Club. (Anime Fan Protip: Reverse harems actually tend to be better written!)

Of course, in the 1990s the whole formula didn't seem so cliche (at least to me since I was a teenager). Acquiring anime back in the mid-1990s was actually a major pain. What was officially licensed was very expensive ($20 for a single OAV episode on VHS was common), and what wasn't officially licensed was distributed in the forms of fansubs, which were often traded at college anime club meetings.

One of the first titles I had access to was Tenchi Muyou!, which can be considered one of the progenitors of the harem genre. The story, in adherence with the formula above, follows the life of Tenchi as he's visited upon by a bunch of beautiful alien girls who fawn over him. Of course, the show is also heavy with science fiction elements, and compared to many other harem protagonists, the main character turns out to be less of a wimpy loser than he might seem to be at first. Tenchi is a quarter-alien himself, is actually skilled at fighting, and possesses a lightsaber-like weapon. (He'd easily beat a Keiichi Morisato + Keitarou Urashima tag-team with both hands tied behind his back, even if they jumped him in a dark alley.)

Thanks to modern video streaming services, disgruntled Generation-X anime fans can now rewatch the original OAV series in all of its hand-painted, 4:3, SD glory. There's no longer a need to get ripped off by Suncoast in order to relive all the classic moments that we remember fondly from the early days:

  • Watching Tenchi nearly get blown up.
  • Watching Ayeka and Ryoko try to kill each other.
  • Wondering why they romanized Aeka as Ayeka anyway.
  • Realizing that there is a gratuitous amount of nudity and that 1990s anime wasn't nearly as tame as you remember. (My mom seriously let me watch this?)
  • Getting confused because the OAV is in a different continuity from the TV show and movies.
  • Digging the early 1990s synthesized music.

Honestly the show really isn't that good aside from the nostalgia factor. If you're looking for a well written harem-esque show, I recommend watching the anime adaptation of Clannad, or just about any well known reverse-harem released after 2000.

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