Gatekeepers 21 Anime Review
US Release By
Hopelessly cliched Eva/Akira Ripoff
6 30-minute episodes
2002-04-24 - 2003-01-08
Miyu Menazure is a normal girl in Tokyo who has three friends and blah blah and there's this weird girl in her class named Ayane Izuzu and then evil monsters attack and Miyu finds out she can fly. And Ayane can shoot fire and so forth, using some power called "Gates." They're part of the "Aegis Network," a group who protects humanity from the evil Invaders. Yawn.
I disliked The Soul Taker, and I was glad when the TechTV advertisement screen that they used to replace the ending song dawned on its final episode. Unfortunately, what popped up the next day was Gatekeepers 21.
Have you seen Akira? Have you seen Eva? And lastly, have you seen any number of mid-'90s shows whose ranks include Blue Seed, Silent Mobius, and 3x3 Eyes? (ain't mid-'90s; ain't the point). Well, imagine what would happen if some five-year-old saw and loved all of those things and thought, "Hey, that would be sweet if there was a combination of Akira, Eva, and Blue Seed/Silent Mobius/3x3 Eyes!" Then imagine his father was a rich anime producer and actually made the show, down to every detail his son cited. Then you would end up with Gatekeepers 21. Oh yeah, and pretend his son liked to look up the skirts of girls ten years older than him.
The animation is magnificent. But any idiot with a million dollar budget cultivated from thirty years of cashing in on Gundam can get that. The one thing he can't get is a time machine to go back and stop a certain company called Gainax from coming out of nowhere and thinking of that one magical show whose name starts with an "E" and ends with a "va." So instead, he decides to pump out as many idiotic ripoffs as possible using slightly different sides of the show every time and ripping off aspects of other anime for a little variety. This show begins with the old trick of some normal person being let in on a secret battle with evil who would smite our world for the sake of their ambitions, because this person happens to have magical powers. Yes, that was cool. The first time.
Let me get down to the point for you: Gatekeepers 21 is not worth your money. Actually, there might be one case where it is worth your money: you want a little fanservice. If that's what you're after, you lucky dog, this show will not disappoint. Every magical power Miyu performs blows a mysterious wind from nowhere, causing her skirt to slip up just a little too far. Thanks to the right camera angles, every position she sits in can be, with a little imagination, twisted into something erotic. I made up a proverb (I do that a lot) that goes like this: There's an art to everything. There is, indeed, an art to fanservice as well. The Soul Taker is a kitsch in this department, blatantly shoving The Dress-Up Doll (TM)'s scantily-clothed bits in front of the camera all the time. Betterman dabbled into this about as much as an amateur abstract sculptor. Gatekeepers 21, however, is the fanservice equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. The subtlety is not to be matched.
But for those of you who don't care about that, what else is there? Well, the plot was supposed to be convoluted, but it was actually unbelievably transparent. It also tried to involve love, danger, excitement, sacrifice, and social commentary. But it failed miserably, because the social commentary is blatant and seemed shoved in on the side, and you don't come off caring enough about most of the characters for the rest to be much good. Which leads me to the characterization.
Remember Priss S. Asagiri? Wow, was she bad-ass! She had a tortured soul and hated life, and she wasn't about to let us forget it! She kicked the ass of anything and everything that crossed her path! Even when she was down, she always got up! And when her friends were down, she helped them back up! Well, remember all those OTHER Priss S. Asagiris? Yeah, their souls were even more tortured, they hated life even more, and they kicked even more ass. The problem is, we'd already seen Priss S. Asagiri (is that getting annoying yet?). Well now, is there room for ANOTHER Priss S. Asagiri? Apparently the creators of Gatekeepers 21 thought so, because they created heroine Ayane Izuzu, also known as Ayane Ukiya. Ayane Ukiya hates her late father, loathes the city, and can't stand Miyu. In fact, she hates them all so much that she spends all her time sitting on the side of the street looking tough and unapproachable and typing on her laptop! But when the time comes to fight, Ayane has got her bad ass raincoat and her cell phone, and she's ready to kick the ass of anything that crosses her path!
Hasn't anyone gotten sick of this character archetype yet? I've had it with these characters. At least the original Priss was a little human, and at least she was the first. It's possible for a character to be a good fighter without hating life, you know! Just look at Vash in Trigun and Kenshin in Rurouni Kenshin. Both of these characters have worse pasts than the little trivialities suffered by Ayane, but neither of them sits on the streets brooding and thinking how disgustingly stupid this or that person looks.
Ever seen Tenchi Muyo? Remember Mihoshi? She sure was stupid! She fell down all the time, and she really made life Hell for her partner Kiyone, huh? Well, remember those OTHER Mihoshis? Now we have a NEW Mihoshi! Her name is Miyu Menazure! Welcome to the Ditz to The Max Club, Miyu! Have a drink! Wanna talk over Idiot Exploits (TM)?! What about that time you tried to fly and hit your face on a roadsign, eh? THAT was pretty @!#$% stupid!
Lastly, ever read X-Men? Remember Wolverine? He sure was a hothead, wasn't he? Remember all those OTHER Wolverines? They sure made trouble for their respective Cyclops, didn't they? Well, now we have a new one! Her name is Tachikawa! She has the same voice as Shion Uzuki in Xenosaga! But she's not like Shion, because she likes to kill for money!
This is basically my take on the characterization in Gatekeepers 21: Been there, done that. We've all had our fair share of tortured ass kickers, charmingly stupid airheads, and hotheads. There were a few more tried-and-true character models in the show too, but I think that's enough to go on. Well, what about the fights? Were they cool? No, not really. They mostly relied on the same cel-saving giant flash explosions that have been in use since Dragon Ball Z, save for a few admittedly pretty cool sword massacres courtesy of our hothead, Tachikawa, and her gunblade-influenced sword. Unfortunately, I've grown to a point where not even a good massacre can rouse me from the deep stupor I fall into while watching anything this trite. Maybe if Tachikawa had to actually fight someone instead of just massacring them.
The animation was beautiful and the music was average, so I'm not going into them. The one technical thing I will go into is the character designs. But I'm only going to tick off a list. Ayane is ugly and somehow reminds me of pickles, Tachikawa looks like a bishounen (a girlish man), and see next paragraph for my opinion of Miyu. Sorry to sound so superficial, but I'm in a bad mood.
Gatekeepers 21 is the kind of show that makes you want to hang it all up and become a fan of turn-of-the-century opera instead of anime. Yes, I really would rather watch a fat lady in a Viking hat sing in German than Gatekeepers 21. One thing I have to admit is that I think Miyu is cute. There, I said it, I liked her, despite the stereotype behind her character, and I liked the bits of poetry she spouted off that one time about flying to the moon. I also would have enjoyed the fanservice if they hadn't kept up such a ridiculously constant barrage of it (Look, I'm not above admitting my flaws once in a while). But that still wouldn't have made me raise the show's rating, it just would have made me secretly look for suckers who actually made a site for this show so I could print up all their pictures of Miyu. I just wish Miyu were in a show I could truly appreciate so I wouldn't have to suffer through all the footage of the ugly Ayane and mannish Tachikawa to see her. How about making Sugar: A Little Snow Faerie The Return, with Miyu Menazure, a cute girl who lives in a small Japanese town and is one day visited by the adorable teenaged season faerie Sugar. It turns out that Miyu has the same incredible flight ability as the faeries themselves! Soon, Miyu and Sugar are soaring far and wide searching for the "Shiny" that teenage season faeries have to find to cure their faerie acne, which makes any magic they do have large red welts on it. Hey, it would be better than Gatekeepers 21. Which is akin to saying it would be better than trying to fly and hitting your face on a roadsign.
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Notes and Trivia
This is a sort-of-sequel to the original Gatekeepers TV series, set 30-some years later.
The point five is for Miyu. A more pathetic human being might say, "It's not much, but it's all I can give to you! Will you marry me?" (Oh, by the way Miyu, will you marry me? Please!) Also, though I reproach the Gundam makers hardest, I don't think Gatekeepers 21 was actually made by Sunrise.
US DVD Review
The two DVDs feature 5.1 English and Japanese soundtracks, a creditless opening, and reversible covers.
13-up; If you're pretty liberal, ten and up could probably watch.
Violence: 2 - There's no blood when the Invaders die, because they're crappy robots.
Nudity: 2 - There's no actual nudity in the fanservice, only intent. Will go over kids' heads.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - There was actually quite a bit of totally random sexual stuff.
Language: 0 - I'd like to give this a 2 as well, but it was watered down to "darn."
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
Ayane Izuzu/Ukiya: Riva West
Miyu Menazure (who should have been first!): Kay Jenson
Reiji Kagayawa: Ron Allen
Chinami Watanabe: Ruby Marlowe
Naoko Ito: Michelle Ruff
Yukino Hojo: Lia Sargent
Ghost Girl: Lynn Fisher
Satoka Tachikawa: Lia Sargent