Friday, April 29, 2016

Divine Gate Review

Divine Gate Review

Warning: The following review may contain spoilers of the show Divine Gate. If you wish not to know some plot details, or simply don't wish to find out what happens in the series, please exit the tab, and join me once you've watched the show. Or you know, you can continue to read, since you don't care about spoilers.

Anyways, with that said, thank you, and onto the review:

Like I mentioned before in my Winter season wrap-up, this was the first show that I became apparent of that was airing that season. I was immediately intrigued by it, mainly because the main characters were users of elements. I really like seeing this in show and books because I think the idea has a lot of potential, and it's something I'm pretty familiar with (W.I.T.C.H. comes to mind).

Let's just say my excitement for this series was pretty high. Though this series wasn't getting the best reviews when it started airing, I was still hoping for an entertaining watch and one that would linger in my mind as a great anime series. Also, I was really looking forward to a particular character.

So after pushing it back for a bit, I got into watching this show. It even went faster thanks to some downtime during preparation for my school's spring musical, since I worked backstage for it. So, how it'd go?


If that didn't show enough to you, here's a GIF to further explain it:

Wizard Barristers also used the elements too. Oh, and even though a lot of reviewers weren't really found of that show, I actually ended up really liking it.

This show on the other hand...... *slow exhale* Oh, where do I even begin?

Despite having some really nice animation, a solid score, and some promise of good elements hinted throughout, Divine Gate let me down, and it let me down HARD. The story and the characters as a whole were an absolute mess, and much like Dance with Devils, they were the main targets as to why this show fell apart.

Add this with the annoying narrator who adds such lovely unneeded poetry to this series, the writers trying to make this show as dark and edgy as it possibly could, and some really bad drama that could rival Prince of Stride and Uta Pri, except it's done WAY worse.

I swear, 80% of the reason why I ended up finishing this was because of Loki alone. I mean, seriously, he was so interesting! GAH! I LOVED HIM!


The other 20% was for plot reasons, seeing as I really wanted to see where the story would go (I'd typically drop this show, but like I said, hype). And that went swell, as you can see.

Fasten your seatbelts, guys. This is going to be a bumpy ride.

Let's digest this horses**t of a story, shall we?


Some time ago, a gate was opened that is now referred to as the Divine Gate. After it was opened, the worlds of the living, the heavens, and the underworld were all connected, which threw the world into a barrage of chaos. When the World Council was formed, peace and order began to return, while the Divine Gate lurks in the background, becoming an urban legend that some kids believeand others don't. Everyone has seemed to live in harmony.

It's been about a good decade since the Gate was opened, and the world is at the state it once was. An academy was opened, helping to harness the element based abilities of kids known as Adapters. One in particular, named Aoto, defeats a man who held part of a train hostage, and gains the attention of Akane and Midori, two other Adapters with the abilities of fire and air. But that's not all. He seems to have also gotten the attention of the academy's principal named Arthur, who's been wanting Aoto to attend the academy for some time now, along with a mysterious spirit boy named K, who seems to know Aoto's feelings inside and out. 

After some convincing (and mind you, it doesn't take long at all), Aoto decides to attend the academy. It also doesn't begin to take long when our 3 leads' pasts are brought up to us. All of them seem to have a wish they want to grant, and what better way to do that than go to the Gate? After all, going to the Divine Gate will allow one person's wish to be granted (or is it everyone who reaches the Gate? It seems to flip back and forth). Or that's what the rumors say.

But it turns out Arthur is interested to go to the Gate as well so he can destroy it and bring peace upon the world. His servants, called the Knights of Round, join up too, along with the other 3 Adapter students named Ginji, Hikari, and Yukari. Let's not forget Loki and Oz from the sidelines!

Akane's wish is to see if his father is really alive or not, Midori's wish is to see if her old friend, Elena, is still alive so that they can repair their old friendship, and Aoto's wish is to reconnect with his brother Ariton, who went rouge one day after killing their parents and seems to be called Aoto as well. One thing's for sure, this isn't going to be a pleasant ride. Will the trio have their wishes granted? And what other plots are cooking up under the surface?

I feel like whenever I think of this anime's plot, my brain becomes this:

To say this story is cluttered is an understatement. This story is an absolute hot mess. It's bathed in super glue at every corner, constantly trapping various plot threads that go unanswered, are brushed off, or are just simply forgotten. It's like Dance with Devils, but if you dropped the reverse harem aspect and you replaced it with sci fi. But I think this storytelling is worse, considering that it affects the entire series.

First off, this story flat out fails at trying to make itself feel deep and symbolic. Of course, that isn't really helped by the narrator.

Oh good lord.

In case you haven't heard about it, there's a narrator who gives further explanation to characters, their motives, events that are going to go down or have happened, or just plain random stuff that really doesn't fit into this story at all. It's also written in this incredibly dramatic tone that makes you "feel" things aside from trying to be A Separate Peace in how serious you need to take things.

The narrator is quite hilarious. No, wait, scratch that, that's a understatement. They are downright hysterical. How many times the narrator tried to make me feel anything regarding this show either had me doing this:

Or this:

It's either super funny or just VERY AGGRAVATING!  Like, pick one please?

Here are some character examples:

I'll go into some detail later about how these 3 characters are significant in the story (which, spoiler alert, they're absolutely not). But if you want a way to give some background to a character, or perhaps hint at their unexplained backstory, this is perhaps the worst place to do it. I don't care if we haven't gotten a proper introduction beforehand, but why don't you just do it when they are first introduced?

And now, some event narration:

Mhmm, good to know. That's super important to the plot right now. No, screw it. Why should I care about this again?

So basically, the narrator really plays no impact on the show, and is better to have probably been scrapped out entirely. It's like Togainu no Chi with its narrator at the beginning of every episode I didn't care about (funny thing is the person on series composition for TNC also was on that for this show. I wasn't particularly happy when I found that out). But at least there, it wasn't as problematic.

And then there's the actual show itself. It's at various points during this series where it seems like the writers are basically trying to scream in your face the sorrow that is supposed to be conveyed by a particular scene, despite the fact that me (and probably others) couldn't feel it.

Look! Aoto's brother killed his parents in cold blood and disappeared before completing various other crimes. Doesn't that make you feel scared about what he's going to do next?

Hey! There was this Defier girl that Akane met that had to be killed. Doesn't that make you weep? That even though we only knew her for 10 minutes how she can play that big of a role in the plot?

OMG! All of Arthur's comrades of the Knights of Round were killed by the Scandinavian gods (all expect one) while trying to get to the Divine Gate. Doesn't that horrify you, with how much we knew about them and their loyalty to Arthur?



Yeah. you tried Divine Gate. You really tried. Instead, I'm probably going to be over here either stewing in rage or bursting out laughing so hard that my sides are probably going to start hurting.

Wait, hold on. I just thought of something!

This is basically Beyoncé's Formation in anime form! The Formation of anime if you will.

So no Divine Gate, you do not slay. I feel flattered that you would want me to come and eat at Red Lobster after some steamy times, but let's be real. I'd only go to Red Lobster if I can eat some popcorn shrimp and those iconic biscuits.

The plot also suffers from a writing standpoint beyond the godawful narration and poor dramatic content. It's clear from watching the anime that the writers were either unfamiliar with the source material or had absolutely no idea where to take the story next. Reintegrating my "hot mess" standpoint into the fold, it's the story ideas that are introduced that could be rather interesting, but instead, either suffer from being dropped entirely or for not having as much emotional impact considering that some events had really no build-up.

We also have some plot holes, the biggest one regarding the Divine Gate itself. In some episodes, it is clearly stated that only one person can be able to open the Gate to grant their wish. But in other cases, it is said that any person, even in a group, is able to open it.

So, which one is it? I honestly have no clue.

There's also the semi open ending this show deals out, and is it seriously needed? I wouldn't go and say it's as petty as that horrendous cliffhanger from Dance with Devils, but it does cut a bit close. There are so many unanswered questions that aren't even answered, and it feels like a cheap ending, complete with an anticlimactic climax in the battle to save Arthur. Which I'll be honest, I don't give two f**ks about.

In the end, Divine Gate really only has its potential and Loki to stand on. This aspect flies over mountain, meadow, and green (to quote Cinderella's Ten Minutes Ago from the musical):

While the more interesting parts to this story are thrown into an abyss, presumably to rot in a big black pit of despair:

*sighs* This story could have been so much better, like, you know, Formation.

But we can't always get what we want, can we?

The characters really aren't much better. Speaking of:


I'm going to start off by saying the backstories to our leads are essentially stereotypical Lifetime movie bait. We have Akane, with his presumably dead father. Aoto, with his psychotic little brother (who the show tries to build up to be the main villain, before switching that role to Loki instead) and taking the fall for all of his crimes because why the heck not? And then we have Midori, who used to be friends with a girl named Elena before Elena got jealous of Midori making other friends when she wanted her to be "the one and only."

All of these stories are so cringe-worthy and boring. I could probably write better backstories in my sleep given the chance, so I can actually make them interesting.

Where should I start off? Let's go with Aoto:

Mr. Emo here secludes himself from society and shuts off his emotions. When he and his twin brother, Ariton, were growing up, they didn't have the best life. Their parents were often pretty abusive (most often their dad), and typically punished Ariton by tying him to a tree, often in the pouring rain. Getting sick of this, Aoto started to take the blame for any of Ariton's wrongdoings and purposely began to flunk tests tests. After one such wrongdoing, he is boarded up inside a storage room and given less fair treatment compared to Ariton.

Ariton mistook this though, and I'm not going to go into it because I honestly think it's bulls**t and really really stupid. Back to Aoto.

Despite Aoto having some subtle love shown from his mom (considering on the night she was killed, she inched his blanket up his body while he was sleeping and told him that things would eventually get better), Ariton still kills them and goes AWOL. Because of this, and the fact that he feels guilty that his brother became hurt, Aoto takes the fall for their parents, which earns him the nickname the Parent Killer.

After entering the academy though, Aoto begins to open up a little bit. He starts expressing more emotion, and even becomes a slightly stronger character. He decides to go to the Divine Gate in order to repair his relationship with his brother. There was one pretty funny moment during Episode 5 when the 6 element users went on a training mission (before the Defiler girl showed up), and during one of the stops, Akane and Palamedes engage in a wrestling match. While Midori remarks on how the two seem to be getting along. Aoto takes off his shirt, thinking that he will participate next. It's pretty awkward, especially for Midori, but it's still super adorable.

Also, he probably gave the best example of why so many people didn't like this anime, and we appreciate him for it.

Overall, Aoto wasn't too bad. Though he was far too angsty in the beginning, and often pretty boring, he does grow throughout the show. And though it's not by much, it's enough to make him semi-memorable in the least.

Akane's turn now:

When he was young, Akane had a very deep bond toward his father, who was a research member of the World Council, and also really cared about his son and wife. One day however, members of the World Council told his mom that his father had died due to an accident during one of his experiments. Refusing the fact that he would just screw up, as Akane knew his father was one of the top members, he wished to go to the Divine Gate in order to see what really happened.

Well, his father didn't die, as it's pretty much spoiled by the ending, and he makes a few small appearances here and there in a couple of scenes in Episodes 4, 6, and 8. Loki also knows about their connection, based on a comment he made in Episode 8. When their reunion happens (outside of the play) it is not met with the best reception from Akane, who basically yells at his father for a few minutes about disappearing and not coming back home. It is then after Akane's father half sacrifices himself in an attack against Surtr where he starts to get emotional, and asks why his father had to leave, this time officially, after meeting each other again.

So yeah. Akane goes from this:

To this:

All within the span of 5 minutes. This is great writing, am I right?

Besides these mood swings, Akane is a bit of a bland character for me. He's kind of a tsundere, however he's also not. In a way, I would say that he hides some of his emotions, and doesn't admit them outwardly due to reasons. Does he develop as the show goes on? Not really. He's one of the many characters of this show that don't even bother to grow. It's like the Defier girl didn't even make an impact on him, which is weird. I thought it would at least do something.

But whatever. He's voiced by Tetsuya Kakihara (he's voicing another fire person), and he got a little manservice. So that makes up for it...kind of.

Midori's the last out of our trio to talk about:

Midori acts very bubbly and cheerful, but she's hiding more underneath the surface. And that, my friends, is grief. When she was young, she used to have a friend named Elena who she was very close with. They bonded over the fact that the both of them want to go to the Gate one day. During school one year, Midori starts making more friends outside of Elena and becomes more isolated from her. Elena starts to get jealous of these new friendships, wanting to have Midori all to herself.

After an argument, Elena decides to go to the Divine Gate on her own during the town's annual summer festival. Midori decides to go after her, but doesn't seem to find her on the edge of town. Because she feels guilty for how the friendship fell apart, she wants to find Elena again (who has now been granted with powers of a Scandinavian God, and is referred to as Dorothy by Oz) so that she can repair their friendship.

Out of the leads, Midori is definitely the most bland. She never really seems to change as a character, less so than Akane. I felt that she never really got a chance to shine other than in her focused episode and bits here and there, and because of that, her character was really flat for me.

Now it's time to talk about the other 3 Adapters that make an appearance in the series: Ginji, who has a normal ability (the boy who loves nothingness), Hikari, who has the power of light, and Yukari, who has the power of darkness. Considering that they are on both key visuals for this series, you'd think they'd be featured a lot more and have set roles in the show's story. Like I said earlier, they really don't. While the writers try to give them more personality and depth, it ends up coming across as a lazy attempt to try and do so. Ginji is "the voice of reason" out of the 3, who thinks it's better to go to the World Council to see if they can help solve the mystery of Arthur disappearing (which they won't, because Loki is convincing enough) rather than go to the Gate. And as for Hikari and Yukari, well........

Both of them are basically just sock puppets, composed of one personality trait and one only. They really need all of the hands they can get (baa dum tss), and Ginji can supply that. And their "development" is also pretty yawn-inducing. Ginji is apparently the only human who can enter the Gate (probably without the Key of course), and Hikari and Yukari are apparently queens of Celestia and Hellista (Heaven and Hell symbolically). 

Yeah, should I remind this show that I basically don't give a s**t about most of these developments?

Let's move on from this pit of boredom and go to a more rage-inducing character. That's right, Arthur:

Arthur is the chairman of the academy where the Adapters attend, and has a keen interest in Aoto due to his abilities. He leads the group called The Knights of Round, and he is very well respected. However, he had a very bad childhood (we're only told this in the beginning of Episode 6) where he was lonely, OH SO LONELY! He was thrown into the Sky World at a very young age, and was found by Santa Clause, who became his very first friend and trusted comrade. Because of this, he wishes to destroy the Divine Gate once he gets to it so that Santa Clause's wishes can be spread throughout the worlds, and make the citizens happy.

Of course, this plan doesn't get accomplished, because he gets brainwashed by a sword that Loki brings to him, and is trapped in a tower until Santa is able to get to it and tries to rescue him, However, Arthur gives up on his plan for the time being. For what reason? Beats me, but let's just say he'll still be Loki's pawn for who knows how long?

Yeah, I was really hoping Arthur was going to be the villain of this series. Every single time he appears, he always has this big fat smirk on his face, and I felt like I need to punch it out because he always seems to be in deep planning mode. And once he is under Loki's control, he seems kind of invested in finding a way out. But then he gives up. And at this point, I'm rolling my eyes and shaking my head because apparently, I thought Arthur was supposed to be written as a badass who knew everything and was responsible in finding a problem to solutions. But nope! Guess not. Too bad, so sad. Must really suck for a character who thinks he's on the level of king (name puns!)

Can we move on to a better character, please?

YAY! We're good, guys! Because here is a reason why this show was better than it was. And that my friends, is Loki.

Loki is the Norse God of Mischief (much like the Loki from Kamigami no Asobi in a way), and is dressed quite flamboyantly and clown-like. He could be Amber from Next Top Doll's cousin with how he looks (considering they both have clown designs to them, though only part of Loki's face is clown-like, since he wears that half mask). He's a part of the World Council alongside with Arthur, and seems to be pretty supportive in some of Arthur's wishes. However, his true motives are always sketchy, and the God of Mischief title sure comes into play there.

Throughout the series, Loki seems to like interfering with various things, such as summoning Droids to cause chaos, or to quite simply, be a complete troll. While he wants Arthur to become ruler of the post Divine Gate world, he wants it under his conditions, and thus starts to arrange plans on how to mess with our main trio.

Loki is such a calculating bastard, and I couldn't help but adore every single minute with him. Sure, in another anime series, he'd be loads better than what he's portrayed as here, but he's still probably the most badass character out of the entire series because of how intriguing he is. He knows what he wants, goes to lengths to get it, and knows just when to make the best comments out of the entire series.

So besides my fulling love for Loki, did the other characters fit the bill? Well, not really. But I did like a few of them.

Other characters include the Knights of Round (some of them could be scrapped, and the show would lose nothing), Boy K, a mysterious boy who helps lead people who have felt enough despair to the Divine Gate, the 3 spirits (Ifrit, Undine, and Sylph) who are the guardians to the trio, Metabon, the mascot character, Santa Clause, the operation system throughout the city, Oz, a wizard who Arthur asks to watch over his journey, the Scandinavian Gods (who also could have some of them scrapped and lost nothing), William Shakespeare (no, I'm not joking), Akane's father Pavlov, Aoto's brother Ariton, Aoto's parents, Schrodinger, a scientist guy (who I like to call Silence of the Lambs), and the Defier girl.

There's a couple of characters that I skipped over entirely, but they don't really add anything to the plot, so let's just move on!


The animation for this series was produced by Pierrot, who are also known for their work on series such as Tokyo Ghoul, Bleach, and Tokyo Mew Mew.

Some reviewers haven't really liked this animation, due to the fact that it, again, makes the show look more edgy than it should be, and comes across as forced. However, I actually didn't mind the animation for this series. I thought it looked pretty nice, the settings were all well done, and I liked how the colors on some of the characters managed to pop out from dull or bland scenery. I do think they could have gone without the dark edging that seemed to be around all the characters, but it didn't over power any of them.

Also, there's some CGI used, and it isn't too terrible. They don't try and make every fight scene in this series have it, though one in particular does (Episode 2). However, the fight scenes do drop a bit in some places in terms of animation, but that's mainly towards the end of the series. Other than that, they were pretty decent.

I wouldn't say it was as nice as Dance with Devils' animation was, but I still thought this show had some pretty solid work on it. I just hope they put an actual wound in Tristan's chest in Episode 7, because she just started bleeding out of nowhere.


The score for this series was composed by Takumi Ozawa, whose is also known for his work on series such as Aria the Scarlet Ammo (which I've been interested in watching for quite a while), and Okamikakushi - Masque of the Wolf.

Overall, the score for this anime was slightly forgettable, however it was pretty nice during some moments. I think the more melancholy tracks were the ones I remembered the most, especially one of them that reminded me of a piece from Umineko called Discolor (which is a very lovely piece in itself). It had a similar feel to it, and my mood improved when it would show up in the episode I was watching. Especially if it was really bad.

Much like in a lot of anime I see, the voice acting was pretty good. The Japanese cast has a couple of seiyuus that haven't been in a lot of shows I've seen, but most of them do a great job with what little their character has to offer. The series also gave me the grand return of Kanae Ito, who I have not heard in an show for a while now (The Ambition of Oda Nobuna was the last time I heard her, which was about a year and a half ago).

And the English dub that FUNimation produced for its Broadcast Dub lineup last anime season has some of the most spot-on casting I've seen in a FUNimation dub in the past few months. I've got to hand it to Clifford Chapin (who also is in the dub himself as Ariton), because this cast is very promising. I watched a bit of the first episode along with the second (just to see Loki because I have a problem XD), and though the dub does sound a little awkward at points, and Lancelot's lines (played by Ricco Fajardo) had a lower quality compared to the rest of the cast, it was still pretty solid. I'm not really planning on watching any more of it though, because the show isn't that good, but I'm glad I at least heard Loki though. Chuck Huber brings some great theatricality into his voice.

Highlights in the original Japanese are Tetsuya Kakihara, Soma Saito, Kanae Ito, Ayana Taketatsu, Hiroyuki Yoshino, Yuichi Nakamura, Ami Koshimizu, Kana Asumi, Mai Fuchigami, Rie Kugimiya, Kosuke Toriumi, Natsue Sasamoto, Ayumu Murase, Kenn, Yusuke Shirai (only as Percival), Azusa Tadokoro (as Bedivere and young Arthur), Arisa Kiyoto, Rie Suegara, Koji Yusa (best performance of the show, period), Akira Ishida, Natsuki Hanae, Aoi Yuki, Tomoyuki Shimura, Takahiro Sakurai, Inori Minase, Yukana, and Manami Tanaka.


Oh boy, was I disappointed in this anime. It did have some good factors to it, but much like Dance with Devils, the story and the characters easily weakened this show to the point where there was no saving it.

But at least compared to Dance with Devils, this show doesn't anger me as much. Was it better though? Not really. It's on the same level, and I wish I wasn't as underwhelmed with this show. But what can you do with a confusing story, the show itself trying to be deep and symbolic while at the same time making it as cheesy and melodramatic as some kids shows are nowadays, and with really weak characters?

However, at least there's Loki.

I WILL MISS YOU MY DARLING! Though I still wish you were in a different show.

So much like Dance with Devils, I'm not going to recommend this show to anyone. It'll probably just disappoint you.

Score: 5.5/10


Promising aspects to the main setup.

A few characters aren't that bad (especially Loki).

Animation is good (unexpected nice CGI as well).

Score is decent.

Voice acting is great.


Story is a mess.

When the show tries to be dramatic, it fails miserably.

The narrator.

Half open ending isn't needed.

Characters are all underdeveloped; if you removed some, you would lose nothing.

Wasted potential.

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