Japanese Reactions to the Gate Anime
Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There was bound to be controversial anime. Not only is the author of the original Gate web novel, Takumi Yanai, a former member of the JSDF, the JSDF uses Gate characters on their recruitment posters. It is no surprise that from its very first episode, Gate has attracted criticism for its right-wing and nationalistic overtones. Even The Diplomat Magazine weighed in on the issue, describing Gate as one of many recent “military moe” series to use cute girls to sell JSDF propaganda. 
I found it surprising that Gate’s politics would garner so much debate on places like Reddit. It’s nice to see that so many Western anime fans are familiar with the debates around Japan’s wartime atrocities. On the other hand, Japanese perspectives on the anime are being ignored here, which is ironic considering that the whole point of these discussions is to shed light on the Japanese cultural and political context.
I wrote this post in an attempt to address the imbalance somewhat. This isn’t a rigorous study or anything, nor should you consider the excerpts I’ve translated a representative sample, but it should give you an idea of how some online commentators have been approaching the issues. I also decided to include some Korean perspectives as well, simply because a good deal of the Japanese commentary on Gate has been in reaction to what foreigners (mainly Koreans) have said. However, bear in mind that I can’t read Korean, so I am really just reporting on the Korean reactions that have been translated into Japanese.
tldr; 2ch users angrily insist that Gate is “just an anime” and that Koreans and leftists should stop being offended. Blog reactions have been more varied and nuanced.
Firstly, a note about net-uyo
Net-uyo (ネトウヨ) is a colloquialism used to refer to Japan’s internet right-wingers. These online denizens are typified by their extreme nationalistic views. They are often highly cynical and negative, especially towards Chinese and Koreans. However, unlike establishment conservatives, net-uyo are young – often in their twenties and thirties. They are also typically male. Despite their strong views, the majority of them are not politically active offline. Their “activism” is mainly restricted to posting inflammatory things on 2ch and piling comments on Yahoo news articles, which gives the misleading impression that their views are more widely accepted than they actually are.
This brand of politics may sound familiar to anyone who has ever interacted with angry nerds on the internet. Yes, the net-uyo are the loudest voices in the room, but they are extremely unpopular outside their echo chambers. Their voices are amplified because many popular blogs copy-and-paste the most controversial 2ch threads in order to get that juicy clickbait money. Outrage culture is very much a thing on the Japanese web as well.
As a result, it is very difficult for an outsider like me to provide a fair and balanced representation of online opinion. I can’t ignore the net-uyo, but I want to stress that this is not how the majority thinks. At the same time, it’s hard to determine exactly what the majority thinks, because not all sites espousing different views have an equal amount of traction. For the sake of thoroughness, I’ll start with what the net-uyo have to say, and then spend the rest of the post on alternate opinions.
For the net-uyo, the Gate anime provides yet another excuse to hate Koreans
The Japanese web is littered with “foreign reaction” blogs, which seem to be curated by web owners who cherry-pick the most ignorant and inflammatory things to translate. Naturally, the people who comment on these blogs latch onto every opportunity to espouse the usual “us versus them” rhetoric.
Kankokunohannou.org has a thread dedicated to Korean reactions to the Gate anime.  Here are some of the Korean reactions:
When Code Geass was airing to popular acclaim, I remember getting annoyed when people around me said it was good lol.
(Hating on Code Geass? Unforgivable.)
The glorification of the military in Japanese anime is terrible.
Since military anime is popular overseas, those cunning Japs can brainwash foreigners into thinking that this heinous military loved its citizens, protects women and never created comfort women brothels. The number of Wapanese (people who are otaku about Japan) will increase and feel compelled to visit Japan. The wokou reap all the benefits.
Wokou refers to the pirates that used to raid the Chinese, Korean and Japanese coastlines.
Naturally, the Japanese commenters were not impressed by the insinuations.
Just what you’d expect from a country that learns all its history from TV dramas and films lol.
These idiots can’t tell the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Such a Korean thing to say.
They’re jealous that we’re more popular with foreigners. A case of hwabyeong.
They’re so off-base it’s kimchi-warui.
Hwabyeong is known within Korea as a mental condition that is roughly comparable to depression. Outside of Korea, it is stereotyped as merely having a short temper. Also, kimchi-warui is a play on words with kimochi warui, which means ‘disgusting’ in Japanese.
Very few comments talk about the anime itself. The Gate anime is simply another front upon which both sides wage their cultural war. 
“Is the JSDF anime Gate right-wing? They smite their enemies with weapons and get the good-looking girls”
This is the title of a widely-read article that was first published a few weeks after the anime’s first season started airing. It was reposted on multiple sites and is among the first articles to appear if you search for anything related to Gate’s politics on Google.
The article takes the form of a conversation between the writer/editor Ichishi Iida and the sci-fi literary critic Naoya Fujita. While praising the story and characters of Gate, they also discuss some of its political context.
Fujita: The anime adaptation was probably planned because of the current debates around the right to collective self-defense.
Iida: No, plans for the anime adaptation were probably underway three or four years ago, and while the Abe administration was talking about Abenomics back then, they were barely saying anything about reforming the right to collective self-defense in the Constitution, so I think it was a coincidence. The airing schedule wasn’t decided right until the very last moment.
On a fundamental level, I don’t think Gate has a net uyo-ish message. Even in the web novel, the protagonist Itami, a JSDF official, was non-political. He declared that he had never been to Yasukuni Shrine.
Fujita: By the way, the first Abe cabinet (2006) revised the bill to establish Japan’s Defense Agency, paving way for a people’s vote to revise the Constitution. 
Iida: During Abe’s first cabinet, the novel hadn’t even been published in tankobon format yet.
Fujita: The web novel is a product of its time, and at the time of the first Abe administration, it was evident that Abe was trying to push reforms in the Constitution that were related to the JSDF. There are parts in the web novel that definitely resonate with the time it was made. In 2007, the Abe cabinet was declaring reform on the Constitution.
Iida: I suspect the anime staff would not be pleased if people thought they were connected to the Abe administration. But then again, they probably want to avoid criticism just for including the JSDF. No matter how you handle the subject, you’d be criticised by both the left and the right.
Fujita: My judgement is that the creators must have known that depicting the JSDF at this time would have created a certain impression for those watching it, so they must have been been prepared.
Iida: The other day, I had the chance to interview Takumi Yanai, the original author, and since the anime staff was nearby at the time, I asked, “Doing the series at this time will definitely be taken a certain way, right?” and he said, “No it’s just simple entertainment; I never thought about it at all.” It was just something he said while we were chatting, though. That the series doesn’t have a political motive.
Fujita: What a load of bullshit lol. You can’t say it has no political element or that you can ignore it all just because it’s “simple entertainment.”
The two of them go on to discuss other things after that, but naturally this was the part of the article that attracted the most discussion on blogs and forums. The commenters on the highly popular otaku blog Yaraon had a few things to say:
Is this bothersome topic the only thing people think about when it comes to this series?
“The right to collective self-defense is politically loaded these days,” he says.
So far, Gate has had nothing to do with the right to collective self-defense.
It’s a busayo. Say cheese!
Busayo is a derogatory word for a left-winger. It comes from combining the word busaiku (clumsy) with sayoku (left-wing). Think of it as a Japanese version of “SJW”…
This Fujita guy is entrenched in his viewpoint.
He said that there has to be a political motive for Gate air at this time.
He completely ignored the other guy when he pointed out that the series was being planned two or three years ago and therefore has nothing to do with it.
Even when the author said that he had no political motive, Fujita just laughs it off calling it bullshit and goes on espousing his opinions.
While most of the responses bashed Fujita, some of them thought he at least had a point.
It’s nice to see the JSDF doing something, but when I see all this “Japan’s technology is so sugoi! Our food is so oishii! Japanese people are so yasashii! Our web novels are so sugoi!” it’s kind of embarrassing lol.
It’s true that the JSDF occupied the hill, set up bases and drove off the enemy attacking them, but the phrase “trampling over a technologically inferior country” is one-sided and makes only Japan sound bad.
Some self-identified otaku actively criticise Gate for the cultural imperialism in its subtext
At around the same time, the blogger namotama wrote a post called Otaku Culture and War – Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There and Cultural Imperialism. The blogger sums up the discourse around the subject as follows:
While Gate has been caught in a maelstrom for its extreme political focus, it was predicted long before the anime started airing that it would cause a lot of partisan bickering. And, just as predicted, people are starting to post “outrageous” statements and criticisms online (mostly from leftists), as well poking fun of them on Matome sites and blogs.
But honestly, they only really care about Matome sites and blogs; they couldn’t care less about forming an actual “citizen’s group” or exerting real-life political influence. You never hear them taking up a position in the Diet somewhere, or about some protest happening, or anything like that. They just stick to posting an individual person’s off-the-cuff statements; basically, the partisan debate surrounding Gate is close to the echo chamber of today’s otaku world.
Matome (“summary” in Japanese) sites collect 2ch threads and tweets and archive them on the web.
Despite their cynicism about the discourse surrounding the Gate anime, the blogger goes on to say:
Even so, despite (no, because) I’m an otaku, I’ve decided to tread this ground: how can we interrogate otaku culture and war? This will be long, so I’ll begin more-or-less with the conclusion: I think that this series is built around “cultural imperialism” and aggression.
The rest of the blogger’s argument sounds quite similar to what various English-language bloggers have written (e.g. Passersby on Random Curiosity).
Another blogger, going by the name of Gaius_Petronius, professes to be a big fan of Gate, but also talks about some of his unease with the subtext:
As much as I love this type of story on a subjective level and experience a great catharsis through watching it, when I look at it from your typical cool-headed and critical perspective, how can I ignore what goes on?!?! It’s based in this Nippon Banzai! attitude, other countries’ perspectives are explained in a distorted manner, everything is explained in a way that is convenient for Japan, and the other land’s perspective is full of holes. It always weighs on me.
He goes on to ramble about Pocahontas and a bunch of other things, but basically he argues that Gate explores imperialistic impulses of the likes you see in Chinese and American media but which is rarely ever present in Japanese media because the subject is so taboo. For that reason, he found it cathartic.
Reactions to the latest controversy (SPOILERS for episode 21)
I’ll finish off this post by noting that the depiction of UNETHICAL JOURNALISTS in episode 21 caught attention from bloggers and commentators.
— 如月凛 (@Rin_Kisaragi86) 2016年3月4日
Translation: The journalist who appeared in today’s episode of Gate said the exact same thing as a certain chairman of a news program…
He said that there’s no such thing as an impartial journalist… and here I thought that a just media would endeavour to objectively and fairly report on matters without too much bias…
Numerous commentators pointed out that Gate was basing its depiction off the Asahi Shinbun in particular. The newspaper is well known for its left-wing and pro-pacifist editorial stance. Asahi journalists have a negative reputation for putting their own spin on their reporting.
On Yaraon, the commenters couldn’t take the caricature seriously. Some of them seem to jokingly agree that the media is full of asshole journalists, but I can’t tell whether they seriously hold that opinion. One commenter quipped, rather hilariously, “This was definitely true about the SMAP breakup incident.”
That said, the commenters on this article definitely appear to agree that the mass media cannot be trusted. A common joke is to refer to the masukomi (mass media) as masugomi (mass garbage). It is not surprising that social media users would take issue with the mass media.
Others took issue with the anime’s one-sided portrayal. A blogger named Takumura said that the caricaturising was dumb and that the series is poorly-written overall. They also added: “I get it. A left-winger can’t read into this deeply. The light novel is impossible to get into if you don’t share the author’s ideological framework. Even though it’s an easy read on the surface because of the idiotic setting, putting the story into perspective poses problems.”
Nevertheless, it seems that most of the people who were upset with Gate’s politics have dropped the series by now, because most of the reactions on Twitter and forums have been positive. Episode 22 is airing tonight and everyone on Twitter is excited about it.
Personally speaking, I think that the Gate anime makes for rather dull viewing and that the political elements in it are so ridiculous that I can’t take them seriously. But it’s not up to me to decide what people can and can’t take issue with. In any case, I’ve found that other people’s reactions to the show have been much more engaging than the show itself.
What do you think of it?
 John Oliver had a hilarious segment about this on Last Week Tonight.
 Technically, it’s about Korean reactions to Western reactions to the Gate anime. Yes, this post is written by a Westerner discussing Japanese reactions to Korean reactions to Western reactions. It comes full circle!
 For further reading on this subject, check out Rumi Sakamoto’s analysis of net-uyo and nationalism on the Asia-Pacific Journal.
 In 2006, the National Diet passed a law to change the status of the Defense Agency to a Cabinet-level Defense Ministry, referred to as the Ministry of Defense. This change now allows defense officials to have greater influence over national policy-making and budget decisions.