Izetta: The Last Witch and the Death of a Fairytale

Izetta the Last Witch is a fairytale. Now the anime is filled with many of the trappings of a modern story: the story always attempts to provide a logical justification for an action in the world, the visuals adhere to an extreme fidelity to actual WWII equipment, and the anime attempts to subvert and deconstruct its very nature as a fairytale. This form contrasts with a fairytale that has much older conventions, and those modern trappings on an older story form is what I believe causes most of the problems the anime suffers. However, with analyzing this story as a fairytale helps to find what this anime is actually about.

 

Understanding this anime requires a broader understanding of myths and fairytales. To quote Joseph Campbell, the preeminent authority on myths and fairytales, “Modern literature is devoted, in great measure, to a courageous, open-eyed observation of the sickeningly broken figurations that abound before us, around us, and within.” To contrast, a fairytale serves a much more basic and transcendent truth. While modern literature works by wallowing in the tragedy of mankind, the fairytale works by transcending the universal tragedy of man. This issue facing Izetta: The Last Witch is that a postmodern world has nothing for a person to transcend to. Faced with no place to go, the anime’s only option is to deconstruct a fairytale and see what pieces remain.

 

Myths and fairytales also carry certain story conventions that run contrary to more modern conventions. The prime example in Izetta are the characters. In a contemporary story a character grows and develops. You see how their various trials and adventures shapes them into the person they’ll eventually become. A fairytale or myth does not concern itself with growth and development, and instead has the journey be about the character learning what they always were. Izetta was always a hero who was gifted with tremendous magical power. The Duchess Fine was always fair and just ruler and shows what a just king is. The Emperor Otto was always a tyrant who corrupts and destroys everything he touches. The story ends with the characters suffering a fate in line with the role they played and the actions they took while in their role. It is through observing this that Izetta the Last Witch communicates its message.

 

The most important character to understand the anime was also easily the worst handled character; the original White Witch, Sophie. She is in the story because her character completes the themes and message, but the creators wrote an extremely convoluted and asinine reason for why it was logical for her to be in the story. The idea that she’s a clone from a demented science project and was able to regain her memories and personality by biting Izetta’s lip and drinking her blood is extremely hokey and ridiculously convenient. This convoluted backstory makes even less sense when the anime had already established that magic exists and it can allow a teenage girl to fly around on an anti-material rifle and toss Panzer IV tanks around like rag dolls. There was no need to have science assume the role of magic because the anime had the misplaced desire to appear more believable and realistic. While this is a bad mark on the anime, it does not mean there isn’t anything interesting learn from it.

 

Notwithstanding how poorly Sophie’s character was handled, she is a very interesting character to analyze. Conceptually, she is one of the most interesting characters I have seen in anime. The myth of the White Witch served as powerful force within the story. The myth served as a unifying story for the people of Eylstadt and a source of hope in their most dire times. The power of the myth was such that that the main characters did what they could to recreate the story with Izetta as the White Witch. They used Hollywood knowhow, outright deception, and even murder to maintain the myth for as long as possible. They knew the power of myths and fairytales and attempted to use that power to save their country. For as powerful as Izetta was, she was never as powerful as Izetta the White Witch.

 

Once this new myth around Izetta is established the story does what it can to destroy it, and the main vehicle for that destruction is Sophie. In the story she is clearly a monster. She is a world destroy force more akin to a god than to a human, but her tragic past provides some justification for why she became a monster. The anime first reveals that the real history involved Sophie being betrayed by the Queen once the King was dead. This serves the dual function of showing that Eylstadt is capable of committing evil like any of the other countries, and to provide Sophie with a just reason for her anger and desire for revenge. The fact the anime doesn’t stop here is why Sophie is such a great character conceptually. The big reveal as the end was that Sophie was always a monster, even while she was the White Witch. The anime hinted at this fact by showing her complete disregard for the wellbeing of the soldiers on her own side, but it was not confirmed until her own admission. She may recognize all the killing she did in the past was wrong, but that didn’t stop her then and it didn’t stop her now. As with the other characters, her being a monster wasn’t something she became but something she always was. She desecrated the laws of the witches and used her power to achieve what she wanted. The ultimate reason for her prince betraying her was because her loyalties were so selfish. She had no loyalty or love to Eylstadt, only to her prince and he knew that with his death there will be nothing to keep her chained. Her destruction was just as Machiavellian a decision as was using her to preserve the kingdom in the first place. The irony is that she the fact she was remembered as an angel couldn’t hide the fact she was more like a demon.

 

Sophie also serves the critical role as a foil for Izetta. If Izetta as a character cannot grow, then contrasting her with another is the best way to understand who she is. In the last fight, Sophie proves herself to be a demon, while Izetta proves herself to be an angel. However, the problem with such an idea can be seen in one image.izetta-spirit-bombs In the eyes of a mortal, there is no difference between the power of an angel and the power of a demon. In a theological sense, angels and demons (assuming they are fallen angels) are the same kind of being, with their choices providing the only distinction. Such a comparison works quite well for Izetta and Sophie. It is impossible to tell who is the good guy or bad guy in this image. Both are wielding massive spirit bombs which look to contain world ending power. Even their more conventional fighting is barely distinguishable. Sophie does show some subtle cruelty in her actions, but that can’t hide the fact that Izetta’s fighting is also extremely brutal. Izetta easily killed hundreds of people in the anime; possibly thousands. Her power is entirely destructive and all the help she can give is through destructive means. It is Sophie’s presence that we see how difficult or even impossible it is to tell how good a person is if all we see are destructive actions.

 

A major lesson of the story is that such power is never good no matter the context. This fact was known from the beginning, but both Sophie and Izetta were determined to prove it. Both were taught to never use their magic for such personal reasons, and both were taught never to use the magic stone. Both disregarded all those teachings when they felt strongly enough about an issue. What is striking is how little either achieved using their power, regardless of their intentions for using it. The areas they were able to succeed were quickly countered by personal tragedy. Sophie protected Eylstadt, but couldn’t prevent her prince from dying a natural death nor prevent herself from burning at the stake. Izetta did save Fine twice, but she couldn’t prevent Eylstadt from falling and it is unlikely she achieved her desire for everlasting peace. Izetta’s presence actually allowed Germania to gain magic capabilities themselves that caused even more death, and had the potential for even greater tragedy to come. The actions of Izetta and Sophie resulted in magic being forever destroyed, and Izetta was maimed in process while Sophie died a second death. In the end, it wasn’t even magic that defeated Germania, but as Emperor Otto said, “blood and iron.”

 

However, I stated that the anime was a fairytale so that means there is a transcendent truth. The challenge with Izetta the Last Witch is this truth is achieved through deconstruction. The story works by taking apart and subverting all the aspects of a fairytale. It denies the fanciful and replaces it with cynical reality. It destroys magic and replaces it with science. In a myth or fairytale, the hero transcends the world. In Izetta: The Last Witch the world consumes and destroys the hero, only leaving a maimed girl. The final line of the anime concludes that at the very end, the appearance of Izetta as the White Witch left an undefined something in the hearts of everyone.

 

I see this this undefined something as a vague concept of fate. A central theme in Izetta: The Last Witch is that there is some kind of cosmic justice. Every character has a role, and every character’s fate is directly caused by the actions they take while in their role. Fine’s counselor, Sieg Muller, is killed by a Germainian soldier who looked just like the Eylstadt soldier he killed earlier to keep Izetta’s secret safe. Emperor Otto dies by his own hands after bringing his empire to ruin. The Germainian ace Basler remains loyal till the end and flies off alone on a mission with no hope for success. Even though the cunning Germainian officer Berkmann survived the war, he lost his eye in the process. The lines Fine is speaking at the time the anime shows the fate of Berkmann makes it clear that he is still well within the cycle of war and is most likely unable to escape from it, though it is doubtful he wants to. The anime asserts that there is some intelligible justice in an unintelligible world.

 

The real tragedy of this anime is how it can’t really find an answer to the hard questions it asks. Izetta: The Last Witch directly confronts the horrors of wars, but what answers it provides are extremely lacking. An undefined something in people’s hearts is almost no answer at all. Even a vague notion of fate is a pretty poor answer, yet Izetta: The Last Witch provides the answers that our contemporary world is able to give.

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Thoughts on Nationalism and Militarism in GATE

The following was handwritten in a notebook of mine. I don’t think this idea is complete yet, but I wanted it out here to get some feedback. My goal is to turn this into a video script.

 

Up to this point, what little discourse there has been on the anime GATE: Thus the Japan Self-Defense Force Fought There has focused on the nationalism present in it. I’m no different and I even wrote how the anime depicted an idealistic nationalistic Japan. Well over a year later, I find such an answer unsatisfying. My misgivings can be seen when you ask a few questions. Who are the good guys? More specifically, is it Japan, or is it the JSDF. Who are the bad guys? Is it the Empire within the GATE, or is it whoever moves against the JSDF. And this is the most important question, do the Japanese people even matter in GATE?

 

GATE is about the JSDF, its in the name for Pete’s sake. However, I no longer agree with the idea that just because the anime is for the JSDF means that it is nationalistic. Nationalism is an ideology that unifies a group of people with shared culture, history and often ethnicity into a nation. Often, each nation forms its own recognized government in the nation-state. Historically, a more unified country is a more powerful country because it is able to synchronize more aspects of the society to achieve the state’s goals. However, GATE shows there is no need or desire to mobilize the society to achieve the state’s, or more specifically the militaries, goals. It is for this reason I now argue GATE is contains post-modern militarism.

 

Before I can move on to prove my point, I need to define my terms. Because it’s the easiest, I’ll start with militarism. Militarism means pretty much what it sounds like; it is the belief or desire of a government or a people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests. I think it is safe to say that this definition fits GATE.

 

Postmodern is a much more difficult idea to define. Postmodernism contains many ideas within it, with their unifying feature being the skepticism or departure from modernism. To keep things simple, I’ll focus on one of the most prominent ideas in Postmodernism, which is the rejection of the Grand Narrative. To understand Grand Narratives I’ll quote from Hiroki Azuma’s book, Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals. “From the end of the eighteenth century to the mid-twentieth century in modern countries, various systems were consolidated for the purpose of organizing members of society into a unified whole; this movement was a precondition for the management of society. These systems became expressed, for instance, intellectually as the ideas of humanity and reason, politically as the nation-state and revolutionary ideologies, and economically as the primacy of production. Grand Narrative is a general term for these systems.” To clarify the point nationalism, with its goal to unify a group of people into a single national identity, is a Grand Narrative. Azuma makes a further claim that Japan is currently a post-modern society.

 

An important feature of GATE is that the author is committed to realism within the story. The GATE contains many fantasy elements and the story clearly establishes a world in line with the creator’s wishes, but those wishes can never take the world too far from reality. A fidelity to realism sacrifices aspects of the authors ideals, and how the story reconciles those two opposing forces can provide telling insight into the post-modernism militarism.

 

A feature of a Liberal Democratic Government is civilian control of the military, and Japan is a Liberal Democratic country. The JSDF is subordinate to the Prime Minister, who is the Commander-in-Chief, and the Minister of Defense. The prominence of these positions means they will naturally be characters in GATE. However, GATE looks at civilian leadership in a generally negative light. The favorability of civilian government officials coincides with how much they agree with the JSDF, and most civilian officials are not completely on board with the JSDF. The tension stems from the fact that the government and the military view problems differently. The JSDF has a bias towards bold and aggressive actions where overwhelming force is applied at a critical point to resolve the problem in the quickest and most decisive way possible. This attitude has proven to be the most effective on the battlefield and is ingrained in the minds of the JSDF officers and soldiers. The government has a bias towards consensus building and avoiding negative publicity. A successful politician is one who is able to manage their image in the eyes of their constituents with the goal of doing positive actions when they’re most visible and negative ones when they’re not. Their inclined to ensure there is broad support for a measure before they act towards it, and there is a tendency to avoid action in tricky situations if that is a viable option. In reality, there are tangible benefits and costs to both approaches and one is not clearly better than the other. In GATE military action is always better. A noteworthy example occurred in the hot springs episode. The United States wanted control of some people from beyond the Gate and were willing to use any means necessary to achieve it. One tactic was the blackmail the Prime Minister with compromising information. In order to preserve the military objective of preventing those people from being captured, the Prime Minister resigned.

 

The most prominent confrontation between the JSDF and the government occurred when the Diet, Japan’s national legislature, ordered a hearing on the JSDF’s actions within the Gate. This scene is easily the most egregious instance of propagandizing that occurred in the anime, but also showed how palpable the distain was in the military to the civilians that lead them. The female legislature was a complete strawman who was hunting for any reason to hurt the JSDF and used the weakest arguments possible to attempt to make her points. She was soundly handled by Rori Mucury who spoke with eloquence that wasn’t seen beforehand, nor really seen since. What is enlightening here isn’t the points that were made, but the sheer contempt the author showed to the Diet. Now a hearing to the Diet is a very reasonable action. The people have a right to know what their military is doing, especially if there are concerns of improper actions. Yet you see the idea of a Diet hearing as something terrible from the JSDF members. Not only does GATE show that members of the Diet have a strong dislike of the JSDF, the members even lack the most rudimentary understanding of military matters. I don’t know the reality about the relationship between the actual JSDF and the Diet, but it is clear the militaristic view sees it as negative and antagonistic. My knowledge on the American military-civilian relationship leads to me to easily except the idea that the details of military matters are not well understood in the Diet, though I’m lead to believe whatever antagonism found is more philosophical and political rather than personal.

 

What I find the most fascinating aspect of GATE is how a postmodern society interacts with a military, namely it doesn’t. The Gate itself in the anime is a physical and metaphorical representation of war and violence. It’s appearance directly resulted in the deaths of thousands of Japanese civilians. Within the same episode, it has been covered up. The 24 episodes of the anime is full of war, violence, intrigue, adventure, horror and even love, yet the average Japanese citizen isn’t aware of any of it. While the anime does show that the Japanese people are interested in the world within the Gate, it is an abstract curiosity that doesn’t prevent them from living their normal lives. The JSDF’s mission is to push the non-postmodern idea of war outside of the postmodern world. The war then takes place is some other world that isn’t here and doesn’t effect here at all. This requires the military to adopt ideas and practices not in line with the world they are trying to defend in order to defend that world.

 

The anime intuitively recognizes that the calls to nationalism will no longer be heard and acted upon by the people. It shows that the concerns of individuals do not extend beyond what is personal. Society has gained the luxury of indulging in the reality that it wants, and in doing so makes itself ignorant of the actions of others. GATE shows that military matters have been delegated to those who practice the profession of arms. It also shows that the actions needed for military success will not easily be understood by society at large, so the goal is to act covertly and independently to provide results that will satisfy the people.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and Revolution

Iron-Blooded Orphans 1 Organized violence in pursuit of a political aim often becomes a very messy affair. That is not to say that war doesn’t work, but it almost always costs more than anticipated. A great example in living memory would be the 2003 War in Iraq led by the United States. The overall success and failure of the war and subsequent occupation is still hotly debated, but what isn’t is that Iraq cost significantly more in manpower, time, treasure and prestige than the experts predicted. Revolutionary and Civil Wars tend to be even more messy because there often isn’t a way to negotiate peace. The War in Syria began in 2011, and it took almost five years before any real talks occurred to end the war. During that time, hundreds of thousands of people have died, and over ten million people have become displaced. It is unknown at the time of this writing if this effort will lead to an end of the violence.

 

The Gundam franchise is well aware of the bloody nature of revolution, so the natural setting of many of their stories involve it. The Zeon Revolution that occurred in Mobile Suit Gundam killed half of humanity before the story in the anime began. Gundan Wing saw colonies seek a chance to gain freedom by creating the Gundams, and that effort snowballed into major conflict involving multiple parties attempting to grab power. Many people died as a result. The franchise always views war as wrong, but it is this view that causes an inherent hypocrisy. The message in Gundam is that war is bad, but the purpose of it is to sell model weapons. This has required the anime to glorify the violence and war that it repeatedly preaches is wrong.

 

This is the central reason why the first season of Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans feels so different than the previous Gundam series. The characters in both Tekkadan and Gjallarhorn fight because they understand violence is necessary to achieve their aims. The story is straightforward and taps into a primal aspect of humanity. It is no wonder that the first work of literature in Western Civilization, the Iliad, is a story of Achilles’ rage. Achilles is heroic because he can do great things, and he is remembered because his rage changed the course of history. Mikazuki is Iron-Blooded Orphans’ Achilles who is also able to do great things in his rage that change history. Why care about virtue when you can watch great champions use their terrible power?

 

Iron-Blooded Orphans also uses questionable methods to tell its story. Any fan of the Iliad would know that Prince Hector was the ideal man, with his only failing being unable to best Achilles. Iron-Blooded Orphans uses Marxists ideas to make the story compelling. For better or for worse, Marxists understanding has permeated throughout Western and Eastern Civilization. People see the world in terms of class, and generally view those above them working towards their own benefit at the expense of those bellow them. An issue with Marxists thought is that the problems of the world stem from a structural system that goes to the core of society, so society must be completely changed at its heart to achieve true justice for the members of society. There is a reason why Socialists put so much stock into revolution, and I have already made the case earlier that revolutions turn messy. Revolution is often viewed as necessary step, so that means violence is necessary to achieve true justice. There can be no compromise, because meeting halfway with evil is evil.

 

What makes a person or organization good or bad in Iron-Blooded Orphans is not due to their virtue, but whether or not they live in a privileged state. The children who formed Tekkadan gained their power through violence, even to the point of executing the second highest ranking person in their private security firm. The story plays this off as justified because the children were treated inhumanly and were set up as sacrifices in the previous battle. The ethics of their mutiny is never mentioned. Tekkadan become affiliated with the criminal organization known as Teiwaz. The show then quickly introduces the Pirate group called Brewers to show that there are worse criminals out there. We know the Brewers are evil because they’re slavers, and they even use slaves to fight. Though how the slaves remain so when they operate the majority of the military equipment is beyond me. We then see the workers in the colonies around Earth are oppressed by Gjallarhorn. Gjallarhorn is bad because they engineer a conflict by given the workers faulty equipment and faking an explosion to start the violence. It doesn’t matter that the workers were perfectly fine in killing to achieve their goals if only they had the means, or that marching on a government building with firearms and tanks would automatically justify a military response. Victims are given carte blanche to address their grievances in this anime.

 

It is this complete support to those who are disadvantage that makes the Iron-Blooded Orphans so troubling. The rebellion of the colony workers is the only event that is clearly a revolution, and the anime handles it in a completely biased way. The anime initially casts doubt on the workers by having Tekkadan unaware that they are transporting weapons and by having a firefight break out so quickly. The anime then humanizes the workers to make it clear they’re in the right, even though they are quick to violence. The only view of the company the workers work for is given by the introduction of Biscuit’s brother. The brother’s first actions are to betray Biscuit and to allow a little girl to be beaten, even when its known that she’s not the person they’re after. The revolution must be just because of what was seen from both sides, and the subsequent slaughter reinforces the idea.  The fighting is resolved by Kudelia Aina Bernstein informing the world of what was occurring in the colonies, and the dubious spark that started the bloodshed. Showing that the world will side with the workers if only they knew what was going on.

 

The unfortunate reality is that no war can easily be stopped once it’s started. Like Pandora’s Box, it cannot be closed once it is opened. While the workers were able to reach an agreement to end the fighting, what deal could they make that was worth the lives of so many of their comrades? If the workers had means to resists then they would keep on resisting, but what most likely happened is that they were so thoroughly defeated that they would accept whatever deal was presented to them. The most radical workers would already be dead, and those who were still alive understood they had no way of winning through any conventional means.

 

Iron-Blooded Orphans’ creators at least recognized how pro-violence the story was so they introduced a tragic aspect to Biscuit’s brother. He knew that both Gjallarhorn and the workers were moving towards war and did everything in his power to prevent it, even allowing a little girl to be beaten. He was the only one who saw what the cost of the revolution would actually be. His message is subverted in two important ways. Kudelia, who has always been presented as the paragon of goodness in the anime, takes a very different lesson from the workers’ revolution. That incident, to include Fumitan’s death, made her resolved to the idea of having a revolution. Before, Kudelia only desired economic freedom for Mars, now she desires the complete upheaval of the system that keep the Martians and the Colonists oppressed. The second way the message subverted was how the story handled Biscuit. Biscuit received his brother’s suicide note and understood what he was trying to say. This led Biscuit into conflict with Orga. Biscuit has always been a voice of reason for Tekkadan, and now he is the only one questioning if the violence is worth it. Biscuit then comes around to Orga’s view and then dies. He shows that reason can side with Orga and violence, and then he exits the story so reason can never change its mind again.

 

Iron-Blooded Orphans creates another outlet shortly after to show that what Tekkadan is doing isn’t really good by turning the Teiwaz liaison, Merribit, into the sole voice of peace after the death of Biscuit. She alone was willing to voice that Tekkadan’s desire for revenge for Biscuit would take them down a dark road. She alone questioned the cost Orga was willing to pay to accomplish the mission. She alone was willing to say how wrong everything had become. Her pleas did nothing. The most concerning aspect was that the old mechanic who had been with Tekkadan from the beginning saw everything she did, but chose to do nothing. He knew the children were walking an evil path, but quietly continued to enable them.

 

The story of Iron-Blooded Orphans isn’t over, and there is the possibility that whatever tragedy that will be seen in the second season were directly caused by these actions in the first. The members of Tekkadan who died will never come back, and Mikazuki appears to be permanently handicapped from fighting with the Gundam. McGillis has gained tremendous power in Gjallarhorn and has eyes on purging the organization. Other organizations are trying to incite a revolution in hopes of gaining more power and wealth. There are also people who fully believe in the revolutionary cause, and may feel the deal Kudelia reached is not enough. Iron-Blooded Orphans has been extremely creative in its approach to storytelling, but it has left it up to the ending to define the entire series. The story feels like it will it will become another Calamity War between those who desire to change the world and those who desire to maintain it. Both sides will escalate the violence higher and higher until it can go no further. The real question is what the message at the end of the anime would be. As it stands now, Iron-Blooded Orphans contradicts the principles the Gundam franchise has had for decades. The fact Iron-Blooded Orphans appears to be so popular may also be a sign of a cultural change on what people believe justifies violence. It may be that a generations long peace that the much of the world has achieved have made people apathetic to the forces that created it. The injustices of the world are heightened by the stagnation, and the possibility of a better one is enticing. I just hope people understand what the costs of change are beforehand.

GATE and Eating the Menu

“Intellectualisation creates a gap or lack of rapport between you and your life. You think about things so much that you get into the state where you are eating the menu instead of the dinner, where you value money more than wealth, and are generally confusing the map with the territory.” – Alan Watts

 

GATE 1

Princess Pina ate the menu. In episode five of season one, she assumed the task to defend the city of Italica from a large band of marauders. Her personal guard, the untrained citizens of Italica and the JGSDF 3rd Reconnaissance Unit were the only forces she had immediately available. The rest of her Rose-Order Knights were a day’s march away, so her immediate objective was to hold the city until relief arrived. Her plan was to have the lightly manned 3rd Reconnaissance Unit hold a significant portion of the wall, and to entice the marauders to attack apparent weakness. The JGSDF would bear the brunt of the assault, and Pina’s knights would finish off the weakened enemy. The enemy did not cooperate with her plan, and the battle quickly turned into a disaster. Only the arrival of the JGSDF air assault unit prevented the fall of the city.

Imagination is central to both fiction and military planning. Both require an individual to create a world in their mind, establish rules for that world, clarify each player’s objectives and then draw results from the ensuing conflict. How well a person can create an imaginary world has a direct impact in how well a story is received or how well a plan is at dealing with its problem. It is because of these similarities that fiction proves to be a siren song to military planning, because you’re supposed to eat the menu in fiction but not in military planning.

 

In fiction such as GATE, the author creates a new world and its people. The world in GATE and its characters spring from the mind of Takumi Yanai. It is the author’s ability to dream of worlds and ideas that allow for the creation of the stories we enjoy (or not). A military commander operates in a similar manner by imagining Soldiers maneuvering around a battlespace. An enemy course of action is concocted, and a plan to counter that action is developed. Both the story and plan are a pretty little box in the creator’s mind. A box where the creator moves and arranges the pieces in the ways that they desire.

 

The pitfall with pretty little boxes for military planning can be summed up in one sentence, “There is no substitute for victory.” Wars and battles are won in reality, but sometimes commanders lose sight of reality by being consumed in their own personal fiction. A commander who tries to bend reality to fit their pretty little box is doomed to fail, just as a man who tries eats a menu to sate his hunger. The Battle of Little Bighorn, Operation Barbarossa, the Battle of Midway and many other historical examples show what happens when commanders set optimistic goals by rejecting the parts of reality they don’t like.

 

To be fair to Princess Pina, the defense of Italica appeared to be an unwinnable situation. The possibility of the city holding out for a day without relief was slim, but Pina’s poor planning and commanding insured that that wouldn’t happen. Her plan relied on too many assumptions, and was too inflexible to deal with a thinking enemy. Pina is prone to despondency or hysteria when faced with harsh reality.  She did nothing to try to stabilize the moral of her Soldiers and just watched her men die. Her hysteric reactions whenever she learns of the true power the JSDF possess is used for comedic effect, but it also shows a serious personal flaw that makes her a terrible leader. It is a shame Pina’s ability to train and organize an army does not translate to her success on the battlefield.

 

Zorzal provides a much clearer example of a person eating the menu. He is always far removed from the action. He orders his men to fight and die while he stays at the royal palace. As Head of State, it is not wrong that he avoids battlefields, but he never accepts the power advantage of the JSDF in spite of the clear evidence from the field. In the throne room, Zorzal knows he is the most powerful man in the Empire. He knows no enemy can stand up to his might. He knows he can win. It is only when reality literally busts in with the JGSDF that what he knows is proven to be fiction, and is forced to abandon the capital because of it.

 

From a meta perspective, GATE is problematic. The author Takumi Yanai falls into many of the traps that have resulted in the most disastrous campaigns in history. He over estimates the capabilities and behavior of his own people, the enemy never adapts, nothing in a plan ever goes wrong, his people never make mistakes, the local population will love his side, everything is simple, and I could go on and on. These traits are also a sign that the story is wish fulfilling, and point to its lack of quality. The danger of stories like GATE is that they lead to bad decisions when we believe them. The wish seems possible when you write a story that allows it.

 

It is extremely fortunate that GATE is fiction because there is no way reality would ever go that well. The lack of plausibility in GATE is a mark of the story’s overall poor quality. I’ve already mentioned in depth my views on the ideology behind GATE, but I feel the need to say GATE will not cause Japan to invade other countries. GATE is a fan-fiction that a publisher decided to publish and an anime studio decided to animate. It has the flaws that one would expect, but that doesn’t really matter. A work’s quality does not determine what effects it will have. GATE is compelling because it attempts to answer some serious questions, and it is troubling because of some of the conclusions it reaches. I loved watching GATE because it created a world I loved to think about. The new world being worth the cost of GATE’s problems is up to personal taste.