What’s it about ?
Adaptation of a light novel series about Japan being attacked by heroic-fantasy forces coming from another dimension, and fighting back.
Look, I can see why the show concentrates on setting up the core premise instead of developing the actual cast. Selling the high concept is important, after all. It may go a bit too far in overstating the novelty of it, especially with this amazingly tepid “cliffhanger” revealing that the access point between the two dimensions is called “the GATE”. Never would have guessed that.
And we do have an actual protagonist. Itami, off-duty lowly JSDF soldier who was at the right enough place during the initial attack to provide vital direction to the first responders and prepare the way for the actual defense forces. As a result, he gets a promotion, medals and much publicity he doesn’t really care for, as well as being part of the first serious wave being sent through the Gate and to try and occupy the neighbouring dimension.
For maximum audience identification, he’s also a massive otaku (who missed Comiket because of this). And he’s also having random visions of girls of assorted fantasy races who are probably going to be future love interests. The pandering, it hurts. And that’s the core problem with Itami as a character : he never feels like a coherent whole, but instead like a collection of traits the audience should like. He doesn’t feel like an actual person, you see ?
It doesn’t help that everyone else in this episode is amazingly one-note and forgettable. There’s some fuss about the Prime Minister driving much of Japan’s reaction dying before they get to the “invade the other world” part, but we’re given little reason to care about why that would matter. Please focus a random crying orphan girl instead !
Nice enough ; you can always count on A1-Pictures to produce competent animation that’s not very flashy but does the job. And hey, the very generic designs for the heroic-fantasy armies may be part of the point.
I’m sure there are many people ready to pounce upon the “JDSF, fuck yeah !” jingoism that constitutes the backbone of this show. And on some level, it is indeed a bit problematic. But that really wouldn’t matter if the series made a much better effort at making me care. Featuring some actual characters instead of paper-thing cutouts would help. As would a bit of world-building beyond the obvious.
But this first episode leaves me with very little confidence that it can deliver anything on that front. Everything here was by-the-numbers and obvious. There’s no twist (aside from the JSDF actually winning a fight for a change), no particular insight, the “enemy” have no depth whatsoever, and the blatant emotional manipulation showing up here and there gives me little hope on the plot suddenly becoming more even-handed between the various factions.
I just don’t care. Pass !