Gate Episode 21: The Empire Strikes Back
In Deadline, the 21st episode of Gate, Sherry Tyueli and Kōji Sugawara come to terms with their decision from last week. Tyuule, though her patsy Zorzal El Caesar, tightens the noose around the Jade Palace. And all the while, Tarō Kanō, the Defense Minister, lobbies to send the Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF) to aid their diplomats in that palace.
The Oprichnina launch their attack against Pina Co Lada’s knights defending the Jade Palace. The knights repel the attack, but they are concerned about what effect the attack will have on Pina and her position at the palace. Meanwhile, Kanō struggles to convince Prime Minister (PM) Morita to let him send troops. The PM, concerned about how the other nations’ representatives and media who in the Special Region will perceive any military action, declines for now.
Sugawara suggests Sherry hide in the palace. She declines, saying that her decision led to this battle and she feels that the least she can do is watch the knights fight and, perhaps, die. Her stance helps him understand that he, too, bears responsibility for this battle. The knights rescued Marquis Casel, and he agreed that the two of them had done the right thing.
Noriko Mochizuki is escorting one of the media around Alnus Hill. Seeing the troops laying in their gear, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice, he declares that they are lazy and that it’s his job to report on their waste of taxpayer resources. He also makes it clear that he’ll consider any evidence favorable to the JSDF to have been manufactured.
Yōji Itami brings his team back to Rondel so Lelei La Lalena can finish her dissertation. Rory Mercury and Tuka Luna Marceau agree that avoiding the assassins won’t work forever, so they might as well face the problem now. That night, they put dummies in the beds and watch. Three dwarfs who work for the inn come in and attack the dummies. Itami uses a flash-bang to disable them so Rory can knock them out.
To their surprise, Itami and his team realize that the would-be assassins were employees of the inn. The innkeeper is aghast; he cannot understand why the people he trusted tried to kill their guests. They protest that they had been told that Itami and his team were imposters bent on killing the other guests. Grey Co Aldo observes this is the modus operandi of the Pied Piper, and assassin who sometimes appears as a human man, a female elf, or a dwarf. The Pied Piper manipulates people’s hearts and gets them to do the dirty work.
Learning that his people were victims of the Pied Piper’s trickery, the innkeeper begs for mercy. Rory forgives them and urges the innkeeper to train them to be more resistant to that trick in the future. Lelei goes one step farther: she says they’d like to continue staying in the same inn. Her reasoning, as she explains when they get to their rooms, is that she expects the Pied Piper to try again with the same workers, and they’ll be easier to watch now.
The next morning, they discover that the bridges had been repaired, and now people are lining up to see the team who had killed the fire dragon. They discover that the story had been altered to emphasize Lelei’s role. Further, Itami deduces that the bridges had all been destroyed, so something’s going on in the capital, and they don’t know what it is.
Zorzal learns that the Oprichnina failed to overrun the knights guarding the Jade Palace. Under Tyuule’s influence, he places Pina under house arrest so she can’t go help her knights. He then assigns regular troops to the attack the Jade Palace.
Kanō convinces Morita that the situation at the Jade Palace is degrading too quickly and that they can’t hold out. Morita finally gives Kanō the authority to launch a rescue. The JSDF receives the order to begin the operation.
What I Liked
Sherry continues to impress me. Rather than hide safely in the palace, she insisted on watching the knights who were fighting and dying to keep her safe. I thought that was regal in the positive sense.
Casel said that he was Sherry’s guardian, so he’s technically Sugawara’s future father in law. That was funny! But he also said something that I thought was wise. He told both of them that they really only had two choices: try to avoid conflict with the Oprichnina and accept humiliation, or accept both later for not dealing with the situation now. I’m impressed by the number of wise folks on the other side of the Gate. Almost gives me hope for humanity!
The journalist came out and said that he wasn’t paid to be fair. Instead, he was paid to represent the corporate interests of his employer. At first, I chalked that up to the show’s general bias in favor of the JSDF. But then I asked myself: when’s the last time I saw a news outlet really stand up for neutrality? I grew up respecting the journalists of the mid to late 1970s, and their work set my expectations for what the media should be. Fast forward to today, and I have to admit that my ideal of journalism is not only dead: its grave has been lost and is only a matter of legend now. So as much as I hate it, I have to concede that this episode’s characterization of journalists is not inaccurate.
My hope? The movement of citizen journalists expressing themselves through mediums like Twitter will restore integrity to the profession. But that’s beyond the scope of Gate!
Itami and Rory showed impeccable team work. I really enjoy seeing them work together. He’s a superior soldier; she’s a demigoddess. I think they make a great couple.
Tuka continues to call Itami “dad.” It’s cute in and of itself, but it also adds a chaste dynamic to what otherwise could be seen as just another harem. Using “dad” speaks of trust and intimacy without physicality. That’s not only reassuring; I think it’s a realistic aspect of mature relationships that is seldom portrayed.
The innkeeper didn’t try to sell out his people, even though the evidence was overwhelming. I’m a sucker for loyalty, especially when it’s a leader for his or her followers.
The would-be assassins had cried so much that they were sitting in a puddle of tears. At least, I think it was tears…
Gimlet was executed for his failure at the Jade Palace. I can’t say I’m sorry to see him out of the way; his cruelty and enjoyment at bullying marked him as a target for me.
Kanō doesn’t thrown his people under the bus for granting asylum to Sherry and Casel. In fact, he turned that decision around to make it seem like it’s his responsibility to clean up after decisions like that. I like leaders who support their folks, as you might have guessed.
What I Liked Less
I could have done without the mucus dripping from the would-be assassins’ noses. Though it did drive home the point that they were remorseful.
I noticed that Pina’s knights were mostly young women and older men. I didn’t think much of it, but Theron Martin, in his review of this episode in Anime News Network, suggested that perhaps Pina could only choose her knights from among those who were considered unsuitable for the imperial army. We saw hints of that in the emperor’s condescending attitude when she founded the order, and more hints with Grey who said he wasn’t of noble birth and couldn’t advance anymore outside of Rose-Order of Knights. I like this theory. I think it gives Pina’s
knights a morale authority — perhaps even a more imperative — and it makes me root for them even more.
Pina is too honest for her own good. She shouldn’t have so obviously thrown her resolve in Zorzal’s face. An egotist like him could only react one way: imprison her. Of course, her honest is one of the reasons I root for her. I just wish she would be a little more politically savvy.
It looks like next week may be a blood-bath. I hope they find another way to end the conflict at the Jade Palace. I’d hate to see the paratroopers drop in and massacre the imperial troops. Most of them were only obeying orders; they have no idea of the wider issues. I think it’d also be an important gesture to demonstrate diplomacy as a tool of state, backed by force if necessary, yet independent and desirable without violence.
Reviews of Other Season 2 Episodes
- Episode 13: The Banquet Begins
- Episode 14: The Imperial Capital Quake
- Episode 15: Tuka Luna Marceau
- Episode 16: The Dragon, Once More
- Episode 17: The Dragon’s Nest
- Episode 18: The Magic City of Rondel
- Episode 19: Dangerous Sisters
- Episode 20: Lover
- Episode 22: The Empress in Slave’s Clothing
- Episode 23: Paradrop
- Episode 24: Thus They Fought