Black Gate Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Kitty Media
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 60
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Black Gate

Black Gate Vol. #1

By Chris Beveridge     October 18, 2005
Release Date: September 27, 2005

Black Gate Vol. #1
© Kitty Media

What They Say
As an average student, Kosaka always wondered what it would be like for girls to fight over him. But now his girlfriend Shizuka and his friend Kasumi are fighting over him...with swords. His school has a secret, a black gate that can only be opened by Shizuka and Kasumi, who each have a tattoo over one of their breasts. When Shizuka opens the gate and makes a deal with the evil creatures on the other side, Kosaka and all the other girls at his school are thrown into a deadly fight against evil.

The Review!
When the Gate that they defend is betrayed by one of their own, the safety of two worlds are threatened.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The series has a fairly standard stereo mix where the dialogue is very much center channel based with little really filling the stereo channels while the music and ambient sound effects are the ones that work those channels nicely. There's a lot of dialogue in this show so the center channel gets a good workout. Dialogue is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally released in 2004, the transfer for this OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen but is not enhanced for anamorphic playback. The materials for this look good as Milky releases typically do with some good clean colors and a fairly solid set for the most part. There's a lot of black involved in this show and it maintains a solid look throughout while also maintaining a good black level and not dipping into the grays. The show does have a bit of aliasing to it with the style of character designs used and the way its animated but it's fairly minimal and non-intrusive. While not a stand out vibrant show it looks good here and is essentially problem free.

The cover art for this release is like a lot of recent adult titles in that it's pretty slick looking and pretty in general. It provides for the duality of the show with a split image of sorts with the background showing the Gate across two worlds while the two lead women, the twin sisters no less, are almost back to back as their outfits are torn and coming away. The designs are attractive, there's a lot of detail and it has a good teasing look to it. The back cover goes with the obvious idea of using the Gate as the center piece with images ringed around it while the basic summary is in the center. The production information makes up the rest of the cover alongside the technical grid that covers things clearly, though the aspect ratio is right in being 1.33:1 but could be more detailed in what's really there. No insert is included in this release.

The layout for the menu takes the character elements from the front cover and plays around with them a bit by turning one upside down for some reason but otherwise it looks decent enough since the character artwork is just plain appealing. The background itself is a mix of reds and blacks almost like marble streaks with the title and selections lined down the center as a brief bit of the vocal song plays along. Access times are nice and fast and the disc did not read our players language presets correctly as the first subtitle track is sign/song and not the full track.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Black Gate is one of the latest dark storyline based shows that would be something you could see on a regular series if not for the inclusion of actual sex scenes in it. While there are your usual plot holes that you can drive battle cruisers through and characters are definitely oversexed in general, this kind of show has a good appeal to it and the first two episodes start off the story nicely, if a bit chaotically at times.

There is a sizeable cast to this show but its main focus comes down to the male lead Narufumi and the twin sisters of Shizuka and Kasumi. Shizuka's his girlfriend and we get to see their first time together when she entices him into one of the classrooms at school late in the day when few people are around as it's time to set up for the culture festival. Narufumi's surprised by what she's offering and he is actually a bit hesitant throughout it but he's also male so he doesn't turn away a chance at his first time. Shizuka's a bit strange during part of it but it's her post-coital talk that really makes you wonder as she asks him what he would do if he had the power to change the world. Not that such a thing actually exists she says but it's a basic what if question that's always fun.

While they don't get caught, Shizuka's twin sister Kasumi comes across them afterwards and hurries them to the classroom where their café is being set up for the festival. Shizuka heads off for her own thing but Kasumi keeps Narufumi working until she can steal him away herself and make a pass at him which confuses him a lot. At the time this is going on, we see Shizuka working up a bit of magic herself and her personality starts to seem a bit darker as she strolls out into the yard where she's summoned the Gate, a portal to another world. This bit of magic seems to draw most of the girls' attention and they all race off to find out what happened as Kasumi catches her before she crosses over. Narufumi catches a look at what's going on from the side and starts to piece things together as one of the teachers is there as well.

As it turns out, the Gate is something that's been protected for generations by members of Kasumi and Shizuka's family as beyond it is a world that was destroyed ages ago by the discovery of some incredible power. They don't know specifically what the power is but they've kept access to that world limited so that it wouldn't be unearthed and brought to this world. With the split in the sisters, Kasumi is now determined to go across with the rest of those who defend the Gate and stop Shizuka. Naturally, Narufumi's involvement causes a problem and everyone gets sucked across to the other side, along with the school, and their problems only start to grow from there as they have to deal with Shizuka and her growing powers and new companions.

The show has a lot of questions asked during the first episode as it brings everyone over to the other side and Narufumi finds himself being offered real power there as well while separated from everyone else. The second episode goes pretty far in answering a lot of the basic questions and letting both sides have some screen time so you can see what they're up to and trying to accomplish. One of the nice aspects of a show like this where it's not a real franchise or trying to sell a ton of merchandise is that there's a lot less guarantee as to who will survive or what will happen to them along the way and this is hinted at a few times during these opening episodes.

With the letterbox nature of the show, it definitely takes on a more interesting look as is heightened by the character designs being more standard in their nature rather than highly glossy digital versions that we see in other series. While its budget doesn't have it on the level of a good mainstream show, the plot and nature of the series is one that wouldn't be surprising to see used anywhere else. The character designs, which are heavily female in nature due to the group of defenders, is nicely varied but outside of a couple of them we really don't know much yet because they don't get much dialogue or screen time. But it's early in the series yet and they're likely to have some uses as it goes on.

In Summary:
While Black Gate feels a little chaotic in a few places and the first episode pushes the sex scenes over plot in order to entice the viewer, the overall release is definitely interesting if you like plot based adult series and one that's nicely dark in its nature. There are plenty of questions raised throughout here that provide for a good plot and the character designs are very appealing. Even nicer, the dub script doesn't stray far like some other Kitty series do at times so you get a pretty faithful adaptation there as well. While Black Gate won't take the fan community by storm, it's shaping up to be a solid entry in the genre that could have some good legs to it.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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