As much GATE is obvious and per se a nationalistic fantasy about Japanese’s superiority in terms of its ability to leverage the SDF in a fantasy edge(?) case involving dealing with a barbaric & backward group of people (if they can be called that), it still deserves some observation and confirmation that this is the case.
First of all, the SDF is constantly shown to have a high moral ground not only compared to the ruthless and backwards civilizations they are dealing with, but also there’s a lot of posturing of the SDF as the good guys even when pitched as a faction in a larger geopolitical and domestic picture. The Japanese parliament has different factions and there are some political voices that GATE mentions and shortly slant against, most notably during the inquiry of Rory. There are other snippets from the anime that we see elsewhere, including the onsen showdown between different wetworks teams of various nations. Those are obvious and stick out like sore thumbs.
Well, the question I want to ask is more that does glorifying the SDF per se puts GATE in a place along the lines of other pro-military and pro-right wing stories, and just how so? If you recall JP’s comment here, one wrinkle I have is just how “right” is, say, Muvluv’s Total Eclipse? Yeah, it is very racist, sure, and is conservative with its themes and outlooks, but how does racism equal right-wing? Just like how is GATE right-wing? It’s easier to establish a counter for a pro-SDF stance (as far as fantasy escapism goes) as a liberal work, perhaps. And you could argue that the individuals from GATE’s fantasy world are treated like normal human beings, and not, say, Terra Formar’s roaches. The world beyond the GATE is fanciful (to the degree that exploitation is definitely a motivation for various parties) but what is stopping “bad things” from happening? Is it not the SDF’s own sense of justice in terms of what it (and more importantly, its employees and officers, and arguably not just the SDF but also other officials of the Japanese government who are “boots on the ground”) deems as proper behavior? Is there a time and place to abridge agency of an occupied group? Is not GATE largely positing this hypo for the sake of showing us what happens as result? Where does dutiful intervention of foreign states stop and imperialism begin? Aren’t these questions that Japanese right-wingers wish they get to answer as real policy talk?
Of course, we don’t really expect GATE to really look into that grey area because it is a dose of reality that probably don’t resonate well in some aspects (although the series did remind me how Americans bribed Afghani chieftans with Viagara is, as far as stories go during the post-9/11 incursions), but it did go as far as to make the issue table stakes, to make it seem like an interesting tangent. Maybe someone who’s read the novel can comment.
And it’s really about how someone who isn’t getting a hard-on by all of this would answer the same questions.
To answer my not-as-rhetorical-as-it-may-seem question though, I think for every question GATE posits, it’s easy to think about how another country or political faction or outlook could answer them in a different way. It’s not quite like how, in romcom anime, the protagonist often slips when s/he is in the bathroom with a romantic interest, but there are certainly a number of valid and quality scenarios in which slipping and running into compromising situations are not in the writing. By the same token, is the massacre or show of force always required in dealing with fictional barbarians? It might be a really enjoyable thought exercise, but from the eyes of this American, is that an appropriate response? Or rather, wouldn’t slaughtering a bunch of fictional characters be the place to do it, rather than review what sort of slaughtering that has happened with Japanese soldiers on the right side of a rifle?
[There is a kind of insulting corollary to this, and it is that this sort of escape fantasy is precisely the thing Japan needs for its nationalism as an escape valve of its nationalist instincts? Like how lolicon manga is an escape valve for(ry. Not saying I believe or endorse this view (or many of my other statements in this post), just stating the argument here.]
There’s also a bigger picture issue here. I think the moment you elevate GATE from a fun fantasy exercise into a parallel to real worlds, the arguments against GATE as anything but a right-wing fantasy falls away. As a corollary, this is an inherent issue with a non-Japanese take of the story if we were to come into the story, say, as a member of another nation’s armed forces. How would Americans, or Canadians, or one of the EU countries, or Russia or China, etc… I don’t know, but that could be a good way to highlight just what’s both good and bad about GATE’s choices. I would think many of us, taken on a white-label view of GATE’s politics, will inflect our own politics on to it, and associate its high-handed treatment of the SDF with our own notion of whatever military organization we most closely associate with. And that’s not a bad thing. It also kind of makes it a right-wing thing, though.
Maybe we all can enjoy GATE innatively as what it is, and put ourselves in the protagonist’s starched uniforms. But I think soon some of us would rather make different decisions than he does. Maybe.
And I think that’s the crux of a good story about these kinds of things, harem or not. For the most part we can either enjoy or ignore that aspect of GATE, and maybe that’s enough.