Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Gate Keepers 21

Genre: Sci-Fi / Action / Mecha
Parental Guidance Recommended
2002 Hiroshi Yamaguchi. (Original story and concept.) Kadokawa Shoten.

Gate Keepers DVDs
Everything Gate Keepers

Cover Description:
Old enemies return... Ayane Isuzu, a high school student, also works as an invader hunter for the AEGIS Network run by the mysterious tycoon, Reiji Kageyama. Ayane attempts to recruit her classmate Miyu, but once Miyu discovers that the Invaders are humans, she tries to go back to living a normal life... Meanwhile, relentless attack by the invaders lead by the mysterious Ghost Girl and the revived Kaiser Kikai continues... Why is Ayane reluctant to use her gate- a legacy of her father, Shun Ukiya?

(6 episodes)

Not your pare -- er, older brother/sister's Gatekeepers >>> by MarkPoa
First of all, I'd like to start by saying I'm a Gatekeepers fan. I loved the character designs and lighthearted and fun tone of the series. I loved the story and character developments. I even liked the mecha... no matter how, until this day, the idea of a giant piano for the GateRobot "made especially for this kind of situation" still has me rolling my eyes every time I see that episode.

News of Gatekeepers 21 had me anticipating a great series. I wanted to know what happened to the Gatekeepers cast. Are they still fighting the Invaders? Did Ruriko and Shun ever hook up? (Like, duh?) Was Megumi punished for her betrayal? (And no, I'm not thinking of something perverted here...) What happened to Reiko, Fei, and Kaoru? What about Bancho?

If you're like me and you're expecting to know more about what happened to the characters by catching Gatekeepers 21 ...

...you're probably better off reading a fanfic.

Contrary to expectations, Gatekeepers 21 does not continue directly from where the first series left off. You will not get to see Megumi, Fei, Reiko, Kaoru, Bancho... and even Ruriko. If you're expecting a direct sequel with the same characters, like I said, you're better off reading a fanfic because you won't find them here.

What Gatekeepers 21 does give you is a darker, more serious story with new characters and a few familiar faces. The story follows high school student Ayane Isuzu, an Invader Hunter, who can access the power of the Gates using cellphones. Ayane is also a natural Gatekeeper, with a gate that fans of the original will immediately find familiar.

Ayane immediately recruits Miyu Manadrazu on orders from her AEGIS contact, Nazu (a shadowy yet familiar figure). Throughout the series they fight the ever familiar invaders and even some familiar generals. The pair are joined in the fourth episode by Satoka, a Gatekeeper with a big-ass sword. The series itself reaches a peak in the fifth and sixth episode, culminating in a final fight with the Phantom Girl.

The first two episodes clearly illustrate how this world differs from the world we were familiar with. Ayane, who harbors a strange resentment to her father, is loner, preferring to fight the Invaders alone. Gatekeepers are rare, but gate powers can be accessed through laptops and cellphones (which is usually how Ayane accesses them). A.E.G.I.S. is non-existent, the only remnants of it are the high school and the ruins of the base beneath the school. A mysterious person, Nazu, provides Ayane with money for every Invader crystal she brings from the Invaders she destroys. The city of Tokyo depicted here is dark, dirty, and gloomy.

While the overall tone of the series is darker, the character designs are still easy on the eyes. Familiar faces like the mysterious Yukino and certain Ukiya family members are pleasant surprises for fans of the original and the mysterious Nazu is liable to turn into a fan favorite for his cool "returned from the dead" origin. To avoid spoiling it, I'm not going to go into detail into Ayane's parentage, but I initially thought she was the daughter of Megumi. She certainly acted a lot like Megumi...

Visually, Gatekeepers 21 packs a punch. The smooth OAV-quality animation and special effects are astounding. Plus, the Invaders' visual presence has been upgraded. Their onscreen persona are actually more intimidating this time around.

Sound-wise, I don't have cause to complain. The soundtrack is sufficiently moody and the background music during action sequences are appropriate without being too loud. I liked how the opening sequence presents a hopeful picture, despite the somber series. I'll go into this later.

Gatekeepers 21 's story is gripping. Of course, one way it grips you and compels you to watch is the way it slowly peels the story and reveals the characters' backgrounds slowly... Oh, how agonizingly slow! You also tend to pay attention because, while sparse and few, specific scenes fill in the blanks on what happened between the first series and this one.

I know some people might whine and complain that this was not in the spirit of the original series, but I liked this darker edge to the Gatekeepers story. And I'd like to rebut anyone who says it doesn't capture the original's spirit. The original Gatekeepers, despite the threat of Invaders, was a fairly lighthearted story. Gatekeepers 21 takes the story to another level with its somber mood, dark story, and great visuals. But beneath that dark exterior, 21 has an underlying message of hope that runs through the entire series. This is best exemplified by Miyu, the Gatekeeper whom Ayane recruits. Miyu's gate is the Gate of Jump that gives her the ability to... well, jump. (Shades of Card Captor Sakura anyone?) As an Invader Hunter, she slowly learns the truth about the Invaders they hunt. But, despite all that she saw and experienced--and how much Ayane puts her down--Miyu continues to put on a smiling front and remain true to her friends... which is why, as I said earlier, I found the opening sequence likable and not out of place.

I loved this series. I only wished there were more episodes of it. Six episodes is much too short. Watching the credits roll on the sixth episode, I felt that I wanted to find the animators and threaten them with rabid weasels if they didn't make more! MORE! MORE! *Starts to froth in the mouth*

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 8; Story 7; Characters 9; Sounds 8

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