Reviewed by Kevin Pezzano, © 2003
||Running on TechTVís Anime Unleashed bloc
||August 07, 2003
8/10 (What Is This?)
"That won't work on me, since I'm ALREADY DEAD!' -- the ghost girl Gatekeeper
mocks her attackers.
It seems that when sequels are good, it's often because they're more gloomy and
more depressing than the originals. 'Star Trek II', 'Empire Strikes Back', 'Batman
Returns', 'The Road Warrior', 'Godfather Part II', 'Phantasm II' (hey, *I* liked
it!), all surpassed their prequels by doing things different and darker. So, it's
no surprise that this OAV sequel to the rather lame 'Gatekeepers' TV series is
a heck of a lot more interesting, complex, and dramatic than the unimaginative
original. Even though 'Gatekeepers 21' is a direct sequel to the first 'Gatekeepers'
series, it's vastly different in tone and presentation. Whereas the original was
goofy and 60's-flavored and brightly colored, the sequel is disturbing, engrossing,
and just plain WEIRD. And it's very, very effective.
The main character is Ayane Isuzu, a high school girl with a really short skirt,
really big glasses, and a really cynical and bitter outlook on life. Needless
to say, I fell in love with her almost immediately. Ayane is the daughter of Shun
Ukiya, the main character of the original 'Gatekeepers' series, and that makes
her one of the most powerful gate summoners in existence. Even though it's been
more than thirty years since the events of the first series, the mysterious alien
beings known as Invaders still stalk the Earth, and Ayane's powers make her the
most vital operative AEGIS has in this new war against them. Ayane's immense ability
is also the source of her bitter angst, however: her gate was inherited from her
absent father, who she hates.
Ayane's refusal to use her gate power, though, doesn't limit her at all; instead
of her own personal gate, she uses 'Imitation Gates', artificial energy portals
summoned through cell phones (she's even got a jacket full of them, like a ripoff-Rolex
hustler in New York). But even the destructive and varied effects of her Nokia
magic aren't enough to stand against the newest breed of Invaders, so AEGIS has
helpfully recruited a few new gatekeepers: the ditzy girl-next-door Miyu, and
the firey sword-wielding Satoka. And it still may not be enough to stop the InvadersÖ
'Gatekeepers 21' is one of the darkest, creepiest, freakiest non-horror anime
I've ever seen. Even though it's a direct sequel to the original 'Gatekeepers',
it's almost the direct opposite of everything in that original series. The Invaders
are disturbing and alien, with lots of Cthulhoid tentacles underneath their fedoras
and sunglasses, instead of being goofy. The characters are underplayed and realistic,
instead of being over-the-top and cliched. The animation is a lot smoother, and
the color palette is a LOT darker.
This much darker look and feel works well for 'Gatekeepers 21', much more than
the flashy 60's feel worked for the original 'Gatekeepers', despite its promise.
The bitterly antisocial nature of the main character, Ayane, is particularly fascinating.
She's more mercenary than anything else, fighting Invaders for the cash it garners
her, and angrily rejecting her gatekeeper heritage. The subplot of her antagonistic
relationship with her father because she feels abandoned by him is filled with
tragic irony, since in the original 'Gatekeepers' Shun vowed never to abandon
his family because of what HIS father did to HIM. Making things even more depressing
is the bitter ghost gatekeeper, and the disturbing implication that the other
gatekeepers are doomed to the same terrible fate if they overuse their powers
to contend with, as well. This is not a happy anime.
Kenji Gotoh's character designs and direction really shine here, being a lot more
subdued than the way he usually does things, to match the more 'noir' tone of
this series. The dubbing is a little less impressive, but its still adequate to
bring the characters across to the audience (though Miyu's helium dub voice really
tends to ruin the dark atmosphere). At least TechTV left this mostly uncut, letting
all the horror of the characters' situations and the disturbing battles they fight
While 'Gatekeepers 21' may confuse a lot of viewers thanks to its sequel nature
and short run (it's just six episodes total), it's still worth seeing. Not only
does it have an absorbing story, interesting characters, and a dramatically dark
and depressing tone, it features a short-skirted schoolgirl in big glasses using
cell phones to battle tentacled horrors from beyond. That's worth a half-hour
or two of anyone's time!
|Anime Editor Kevin Pezzano wonders if summoning interdimensional power portals uses up regular minutes, or night and weekend minutes.|
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