Episode 04 – “To Unknown Lands”
The geopolitical intrigue that has been floating above GATE since the beginning of the series receives a little bit of a exploration this episode. The question of “why only in Japan?” is addressed within GATE itself, and the answer is not as easy as simply “well, because this is an anime.” While there isn’t exactly a definitive answer as to “why?”, interesting conflicts are rising on the geopolitical level, posing questions concerning Japan’s place as a potential power due to their newfound resource in the Special Region beyond the gate.
With this, we have not one but two political struggles occurring on two different fronts and unraveling in two completely different ways. In the Special Region, the Empire is using the war against Japan to create a stronger grasp over the country, while the real world nations are reacting in a very real world way, concerning themselves with resource abundance serving as an indicator for a nation’s power and potential threat. This is honestly a much more complicated scenario than I was expecting for an anime series like this, and that makes me happy because while there are a number of machinations at work here, we mustn’t forget that the main character is a 33 year-old otaku lieutenant. It’s this mix of engaging plot and self-aware incredulity that I love in anime.
While our refugees don’t travel to the real world, they do assimilate themselves among the ranks of the JDSF at their base of operations, and it’s here where we finally see how they interact with each other and they carry themselves after the encounter with the Fire Dragon. Rory is as mysterious as ever, while Lelei’s wizard curiosity shines even through the thick hazmat suit.
Perhaps most interesting is Chuka, who has had the most traumatic time considering all of the recent events. We learn that her home village was ravaged by the Fire Dragon, and the last thing she remembers is that her father hid her in the well, where eventually she is found by Itami. She believes that her father is still alive, and this isn’t entirely out of the question considering that the flashback never explicitly shows him dying.
Only four episodes in and we are already on a great start to this 2-cour series. The emperor’s daughter Pinya catches wind of her father’s dastardly tactics and is en route to the same town as Itami’s detachment. Will the two groups find common ground in fighting against the emperor’s inhumanity? Or will Pinya’s fealty win out in the end? I’m excited to find out.
“Is the Special Region worth turning half the world against us?” ~ Akira Yanagida