G A T E  K E E P E R S
Reviewed in April, 2001 by Mark Vallen, Jeannine Thorpe, and John Lentini . Screen shots generously provided by John Lentini.

(Comments by Jeannine Thorpe) Set in an alternative 1969 Japan, a special group of teenagers has been gathered together under a secret government operation known as Aegis, to fight an enemy trying to take over the earth... called simply, "Invader". The Invader can turn ordinary citizens into zombies under their control, and only the Aegis agents, called the Gate Keepers, have the special ability to open the "Gate" separating the Invader's dimension and our own, and be able to eradicate them. The show opens with ordinary high school student Ukiya Shun witnessing an Invader attack, and quickly realizing that he is one of those with special power, is indoctrinated into Aegis. Each agent has a different ability and method of attack, everything from magic arrows to hallucinogenic piano music! Also crucial to story is young Ruriko, pictured above.... an experienced member of Aegis who has to work hard to prove her worth after the obviously powerful Shun joins the team. To make matters worse, the two had gone to grade school together, where Shun had always teased "Ruripe" for being clumsy and having a runny nose all the time..... unbeknownst to him that she had had a secret crush him.

I was lucky enough to have first caught this series live off WOWOW cable tv while I was in Japan in 2000... and as soon as I saw it I knew that this series was destined to be a hit with anime fans here in the West. What first amazed me was the animation... the CGI animation is expertly blended with the cel animation like nothing I'd seen before. Particularly amazing is how the character's eyes swirl like liquid metal when they sense the presence of an Invader. Now, having viewed more of the series, I can appreciate it also for its unique combination of humor, romantic angst, and sci-fi plot. The Aegis operation and need for young talented fighters is very much like NERV of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame.... yet overall Gate Keepers has a lighter tone than EVA ever did. The music and constant action and joking keep the show always upbeat and dynamic. And when Ruriko whips out her bow and arrow and goes on the attack, it almost seems like a magical girl series! Definitely an interesting mix which I predict will thrill legions of fans in the West, and make it an instant classic. Gate.... Open!

(Comments by Mark Vallen) O.K., now we're talking! This show is the perfect mix of traditional hand painted cel animation with computer generated effects. This is the future of anime... you can tell everyone you read it here first. Gate Keepers breaks new ground stylistically with its dazzling computer animation, but it does so in terms of content as well. Studio Gonzo produced this comedic gem, which draws its inspiration from several different traditions in Japanese animation.

There are Magical Girls, secret government institutions, bizarre mecha, and the most outrageous villains since the heyday of Bishoujo Senshi Sailormoon. There are even references to American science fiction classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, They Live, and Night of the Living Dead to be found in this show. When the Invader launches an attack in a given area all the people present fall under a spell that makes them mindless automatons... pretty chilling stuff.

With all this serious stuff going on Gate Keepers still manages to maintain its comedic energy, sometimes at breakneck speed. I mentioned a similarity with Sailormoon only because Gate Keepers shares with that show a penchant for bad guys that imbue common objects with negative power, and so common place objects morph into the most outrageous creations. One episode I viewed had the Invader seize control of someone's home stereo system, turning it into a nightmare on legs complete with volume dials for eyes! This is one bent show... I highly recommend it!

(Comments by John Lentini) If this series reminds you of Evangelion or Dual, it shouldn't. All right, so you do have a young fellow as the main character with unusual powers, surrounded by lots of young girls with similar powers, but that's where the similarities will probably stop. Because in Gate Keepers, the characters' powers are all their own, no oversized clumsy mecha running around here. Once you get over Studio Gonzo's CGI format (who did an excellent job with Blue Submarine Number Six), you can really appreciate this evolving Art style. It may take you an episode or two to get used to, but you'll find that Gonzo has a very unique and excellent approach to anime. The story itself is well written to the point that you will find a wide variety of characters, lots of action and of course don't forget a little relationship for a couple in the group on the side. Overall, Gate Keepers is a great show, and worthy of the buzz it has generated over the past year. Just be warned if you happen to be out on the town and you see several men in black, there may be a Gate Keeper near by as well.

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