Manga Review: Gate – Where the JSDF Fought

The above trailer is for the anime. This review is for the manga.

Details: Currently ongoing. Also known as GATE – Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri and ゲート 自衛隊彼の地にて、斯く戦えり.

Score: 7/10

Gate – Where the JSDF Fought is interesting in that it combines the tropes of a fantasy isekai story with those of a military/gun fanatic story.

The story starts off in modern Japan. A magical gate has appeared in Shibuya and an army seemingly from a fantasy world shows up and starts killing people. The Japanese Defense force shows up and repels the invading army back into the gate. Fearing what else will come out of the gate, the Japanese Defense Force is ordered to enter the gate and deal with whatever threats they find inside the gate.

The first story arc is simply military supremacy. The enemy is medieval and the Japanese Defense Force has guns. It’s a one sided slaughter. The story gets more interesting as the plot tries to tell a sort of realistic story about how Japan would try to establish diplomatic relations with a medieval society in a fantasy world. There are tons of new threats for the Japanese government to deal with like new natural resources on the other side that need to be negotiated for, nations that could be easily destroyed but are negotiated with for the sake of peace, new natural disasters like the presence of dragons that can survive bombs and machine guns, and a whole bunch of fantasy world problems that will be dealt with modern diplomacy and weaponry.

The other main part of the story is a harem story. The main character is a Japanese special forces soldier who is also an otaku or nerd. He loves manga and anime and all the other stuff that comes with it. Over the course of the story, he meets all sorts of classic, fetishized female tropes that you normally see in anime and they become of the core group of characters. It’s very harem-esque. There is much fan service. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of glorifying the Japanese military while also showing off scantily clad, well endowed anime girls.

Personally, I found the otaku tropes generic and overdone, but I really enjoyed the military and political aspects of the story, even though they are a bit oversimplified and glorify Japanese integrity quite a bit. Some people might find the pro Japanese military stuff objectionable, but I didn’t mind it at all. Every country that produces entertainment also produces stuff that makes that country look good. I’ve read quite a bit of Korean Manhwa and they never hesitate to include some Japanese characters as the bad guys. American media often casts bad guys as Russians or Nazis. The Chinese government doesn’t even allow their entertainment industry to touch upon politics unless it is a blatant attempt to make China look good and foreigners bad. Every country does this sort of thing and I found the presence of this in this manga to be minor and not take away too much from my enjoyment of this story.

The art is fine.

Overall, I enjoyed this manga. It’s something unique in that I can’t recall seeing a story that combined classic anime tropes with military glorification. It’s definitely something new to me and new is often more than enough to keep me entertained.

Manhwa Review: Mercenary Enrollment

Details: Currently ongoing. Also known as 입학용병

Score: 7/10

Mercenary Enrollment is a web comic about a mercenary who starts going to school in South Korea. I’ve only read a few issues, but I’m getting a lot of John Wick vibes… just in a Korean high school setting.

Mercenary Enrollment is part of a newer offshoot of the isekai genre. You could argue that it is its own genre as established by anime like Full Metal Panic! Either way, stories in this genre generally follow a military veteran (usually high school aged) being transported to a civilian setting, usually high school. The protagonist, teenaged, military veteran then uses the skills they acquired in combat in the civilian setting. While Full Metal Panic! explored this dynamic through comedy, most of the Korean web comics use this for action and drama. Mercenary Enrollment goes the dramatic route and ends up coming off as a John Wick-esque revenge story… at least so far. As said above, I’ve only read a few issues.

The story is about a young Korean who lost his parents in a plane crash. The kid somehow ends up in a war torn part of the world and grows up to be a top, teenage mercenary (yes, I know how stupid that sounds). Somehow, the kids reunites with his family and decides to live a quiet life with his family. As he attends school for the first time, he learns that some kids are viciously bullying other students, especially his sister. Now, this teenage mercenary is prepared to use all his military skills to do whatever is necessary to protect his family.

I’ve only read through the first story arc and it’s a classic revenge plot. People keep threatening him and his sister so he goes around beating the crap out of all the jerks threatening her. Like any good revenge story, this comic does a great job portraying the bullies as bad guys. You really want to see these bad guys get their comeuppance as they commit extremely petty, vicious acts against the protagonist’s sister. And when he finally does get revenge, it is very satisfying to watch the bad guys get it.

The art is also very good.

Overall, I enjoy the story so far and I’m interest in seeing where it goes. The only issue I have is that I hope it doesn’t turn into a generic genre story. God of Blackfield is another story with a similar premise and I hope Mercenary Enrollment deviates from that kind of generic plot and tries to tell its own story.