GATE is Terrible Imperialist Propaganda

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We’re about at the point of GATE where I stopped reading the manga— the stupid elf girl arc. God I hate her. This show has the most pathetic understanding of human psychology imaginable— her dad is eaten by a dragon, she decides her dad is still alive and he’s actually a foreigner of a different race who speaks a different language, and the only way to convince her her father is dead is to make her kill the dragon herself with a rocket launcher. Ok. For sure, most anime have all this stupid shit about memory loss but none take it to this level.

But anyway, I wanted to talk about one specific aspect of the show that tons of people are attacking it for— how it functions as imperialist propaganda glorifying the Japanese military. There’s no denying it— it certainly does that. But here’s the thing: as propaganda, it’s laughably ineffective. It almost approaches parody of propaganda, as if it were written by an anti-imperialist critic. It has the invaders admitting (quite smugly, in fact!) that the main reason behind their conquest is so that they can dig up oil. Even Donald Rumsfeld wouldn’t openly admit that. It also shows the glorious Japanese military murdering thousands of people armed with nothing but swords. Woot woot JSDF Banzai!!! Taste the might of the glorious Japanese army!! Add to this the fact that it portrays the Chinese and Americans as evil imperialists because they want to do the exact same thing the Japanese are already doing and so far it’s not making the greatest case for the glory of the Japanese empire.

The part where it is a bit more effective as propaganda is on a slightly more subtle level— how it shows how life in the JSDF is so much fun with lots of cute girls (come on, is anyone dumb enough to buy that?), and how the JSDF is filled with people who just want to help everyone. But again, it’s not entirely making a good argument for the JSDF here either since they usually have to break their orders to help the natives.

In my opinion, the most effective aspect of the propaganda is how they compare the Japanese to the natives. For example, the scene where the animal people think they’ll be kicked out of town since the bunny girl murdered someone; or how they have to rely on the Japanese’ superior knowledge of earthquakes; or how the Japanese care about all their citizens unlike those barbaric foreigners; or how everything Japan does is justified by the attack on Tokyo (which is quite reminiscent of 9/11); or how the Japanese don’t want conquest like the brutal empire they’re “not” conquering. Again, this last point is undermined by how they nod and wink and settle for friendship and nothing but mineral rights and “free” trade. Regardless, Maoyuu Yuusha was infinitely more effective propaganda for this sort of cultural imperialism.

So, I guess my point is, everyone is up in arms about GATE, but this isn’t anything new. GATE is just laughably incompetent as far as propaganda goes. Even fucking MAHOUKA made a (slightly) more convincing argument for killing all the Chinese. And then we have many much more effective shows, like Maoyuu Yuusha, Gunbuster, Outbreak Company, Muv Luv, Gasaraki, Gigantic Formula, etc., etc.

Then again, take all this with a grain of salt, I thought the propaganda justifying the Iraq war was equally laughable so what do I know.

22 thoughts on “GATE is Terrible Imperialist Propaganda

  1. I completely agree—as propaganda, GATE is basically a parody. It’s so overwrought and so completely unsubtle that it’s obvious what it’s trying to do.

    However (and this is the kicker), there are people who understand and see this, and, frankly, it doesn’t seem like they care. GATE doesn’t have to be good propaganda to work, because there’s already a willing audience for it. It speaks their language, and they’re going to eat it up.

    1. I eat it up too, but I think there’s a difference between enjoying a show and actually being convinced by its message.

      That said, I always tend to underestimate human stupidity.

  2. Do you think the scene with the people thinking they would be expelled was a good one? For me, by far, is the worse because it’s just plain unbelievable.

    It goes something like: “So you knew she was a spy and did nothing? Don’t told anyone? And now said spy tried to kill two people, so you are rightly frightened that you may be banned – to say the least. Nah, it’s all good! You can stay living here and we will not even bother to interrogate you to know if you know other spies and threats alike!”.

    1. You know, you’re totally right. I was thinking those people didn’t know she was a spy, but they totally did. So it was just stupid.

  3. I am curious as to why you put Gunbuster amongst these series. I mean, I understand it’s definitely a military-centred show, and as such portrays the military in a far more sympathetic view than another would. But that in itself doesn’t make it necessarily “propaganda” – I don’t see it so strictly centred on promoting ONE political reality over another. It’s a humanity-vs-nature story at its core, more similar to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann in this (in TTGL the Antispiral wasn’t strictly speaking “natural”, but it was such an established and immense power it might as well have been a natural force by then). If we’re talking about it being centred on Japanese personnel which inevitably is more competent/effective than any other country’s… then yeah, but basically every anime ever does that anyway. It feels more like the consequence of a need for relatable characters (why can’t Japanese viewers ever relate to foreigners at all is anyone’s guess).

  4. As is usually the case with right-wing military fantasy, the writer doesn’t seem to much care how the military actually works. Not only is Itami an unapologetic war criminal, he gets away with ridiculous amounts of insubordination and doesn’t really seem to give a shit about anyone outside his bizarre harem. The show just can’t decide if it’s pro or anti-war; one minute someone is horrified by the carnage of mechanized warfare, the next the show is back to marveling over the SDF troops remorselessly mowing down people with spears and swords.

    US propaganda is just as ridiculous, but at least it tries to sell the viewer on the idea that the “other” is a credible threat. This show would be so much more interesting if it were just shown from the fantasy people’s perspective.

      1. LOL out of context cherrypicking. I am no fan of the JSDF imperialism in Gate, but all those JSDF pictures were after open hostilities occurred– kidnapping, slaughter, etc. The Gate world empire had it coming with obvious hostile intent.

        1. They definitely had it coming, but given their overwhelming comparative power… they probably went a bit overboard.

          1. The empire chose not to surrender….and im sorry but warfare isnt meant to be fair…so why wouldnt you annihilate them before they reached you? I as a commander ..would much prefer killing them then playing fair and letting them get in close and potentially kill some of my men….even though it was them that kidnapped and killed hundreds of civilians in a terrorist attack.

      2. Lol. To be fair I’m sure the actual JSDF isn’t as bad as the one in this anime. I mean… they can’t be… right?

    1. Eh, US right-wing novels have their fair share of “how is the other side even a threat to begin with?” shenanigans

    2. Exactly. There’s no credible threat here. So when it attempts to make them out to look like heroes for mowing down a bunch of spearmen with artillery it just makes them look all the more pathetic.

    3. care to explain how..he is a war criminal? and what in your opinion is the last military campaign that you would describe as “legal”/not a war crime
      also
      legally they are not war criminals because the Empire didnt sign the hague agreement, also they like the US dont recognize the world court. So actions against are under different rules…plus the special region is not considered part of earth

      thank you.

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