So a while back I had this idea to re-watch the worst anime I have ever seen, Divine Gate. A few years ago I tried watching it and only made it to episode 5 before dropping it – making it my only dropped anime to this day. And instead of suffering alone, I thought it’d be fun to make a collab out of this: watching a bad anime and commenting on it.
Something like that at least. Naturally I had to ask our resident edgy expert EdgyAnimeTeen if he was interested, because Divine Gate takes edge to it’s absolute extremes.
And that’s what led to this collab!
We will be commenting on Divine Gate in blocks of three episodes, starting with this post covering episodes 1-3.
Yomu – “How’s this for the synopsis? Sad boy catches magic schools attention on train. Sad boy talks to ghost kid and is bullied in regular school. Sad boy joins magic school. We learn that his name is Aoto. And here we are.”
EAT (EdgyAnimeTeen) – “No exposition terrorist 😥 . But as a general thing, that’s about all that’s happened in these episodes.”
EAT – “I think I dropped Divine Gate after the first five minutes. Sure, it was bad, but it didn’t leave much of a lasting impression. I was surprised that Yomu thought it was the worst anime he’s ever seen…
And while I can’t say I feel the same level of animosity, just starting up the first episode was enough to show me what I was getting myself into. Rain, monologuing, and CG trains. I initially thought it was an odd and pointless scene at first, one that could be removed without any consequence… But in retrospect, it’s actually a perfect representation of everything that this show has to offer! Dull, ugly, unaffecting edge!”
Yomu – “Maybe I’ve just been lucky with the anime that I’ve chosen to watch. So far no one has agreed with me that Divine Gate is the worst anime! Now that I’ve gone back and watched the first three episodes, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing at the edgy and cringe worthy moments. It’s just as bad as I remembered. Nothing like opening up an anime with: ‘While the water may fill up the holes on the road, it will never fill up the hole of one’s heart’. Just amazing.”
EAT – “I find myself defending a lot of cringe worthy dialogue and pretentious ranting. I for one love stuff like Stay/Night’s ‘People die when they are killed‘… But even I, a self-proclaimed edgy anime loving teenager, think that this dialogue is too pretentious!”
It feels like the writer is begging for support, like the show is always asking, ‘I’m smart, right? I did symbolism, so I’m smart, right? My characters all have defined motives, so I’m smart right?’ And that’s really infuriating. It spends so much time analyzing itself… which only makes it more obvious how shallow the themes and characters really are!”
Yomu – “It’s hilarious how hard the show tries to be edgy like that. A perfect example is the man you mentioned and aptly named earlier – exposition terrorist. The guy is holding up a train for no real reason, and decides ‘this is the perfect time for some exposition!’ and then he proceeds to scream at some scared nearby girl about how the world works.”
EAT – “It’s like the show is so busy trying to analyze itself, that it forgot that it was supposed to be a story. All of the characters have motivations that would normally be interesting, but because of the formulaic introductions, bad pacing, monologues, et cetera, the characters are emotionally unengaging. Things happen, but over the course of the three episodes I watched, I was never interested in anything beyond the setting! That’s why the show just feels, in a word, hollow.”
Yomu – “Very true. The setting is probably the only thing Divine Gate has going for it. I’m normally a sucker for fantasy / high school types, and somehow this one manages to do such an awful job at everything BUT the setting, so much so that that the entire anime is just not enjoyable. Or maybe it is if you watch it as a comedy.
So let’s just go right into it with two of the edgiest entities around: the narrator and ghost kid.”
Narrator + Ghost Kid
EAT – “See, I actually thought that the show might be going with something a little smart with the kid. Only Aoto can see him… and then looking at Aoto’s messed up childhood, I really thought that it would be at least a little clever to have the kid actually be a delusion. An image representative of resentment towards his wasted childhood. A manifestation of his self-criticism… But that does not appear to be the case.”
Yomu – “I feel like I could write his lines: ‘EdgyAnimeTeen, you are edgy, but you aren’t.’ It feels like he is speaking in riddles for the sake of appearing edgy and smart. But it just gets annoying, especially when he almost says the same things over and over. How many times does someone need to tell Aoto that ‘his heart has been pierced’ and that ‘he is cold, but he isn’t’? Ghost kid, step up your game man!”
EAT – “Seriously! I feel like this kid is the writer trying to feel like Shakespeare! ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, ya know? If it was done once, maybe I’d accept the kid as being taunting – but after over a dozen times, I’m just getting annoyed! The kid is clearly just an agent of the plot, content to be filler until the plot needs him.”
Yomu – “There had better be some crazy twist with the ghost kid, or else I’ll be disappointed. I’d be fine if they killed him off somehow too.
Then there’s the narrator, who probably shares notes with the ghost kid. The narrator is like that person who knows a secret, and can’t wait to share it with anyone who is willing to listen. We have the narrator dropping bombs regarding character’s motivations and secrets before we even learn their names!”
EAT – “…
On my list of things that could instantly make this show better, there’s one thing at the top of my list. One thing that could instantly make this show half as painful for me- Just remove this stinking narrator! Narrators are best used to hype up future conflicts, not spoil old backstories and motivations!”
Yomu – “And the narrator in Divine Gate sounds so snarky too. He obviously knows everything and is not hesitating to spill the beans on everyone… but he says it in such a condescending way. His attempts to speak in riddles give me the same feeling – that bastard is looking down on us! ‘Be grateful of my narration’ is the feeling I get from him.”
EAT – “And the worst part is that every one of the first three episodes starts off with that stupid narration! You could honestly just listen to the narration and skip the whole episode, cus that’s how much it spoils!
I’ve seen shows that spoil the events of the episode like this, but it’s especially atrocious here. There’s no enjoyment in watching the show slowly relay you the same information with boring animation, heavily shaded characters, cliches, and even pretentious ramblings you’ve seen dozens of times better!”
Yomu – “Would you consider the narrator for Divine Gate worse than when an anime opening contains spoilers?”
EAT – “Anime openings usually have a bit of tact to them, spoilers usually accompanied by a musical punch-
But the narration is the worst offender of ‘Show, don’t tell’ I have seen in awhile! Being straight up told what’s going to happen, rather than through symbolism, just ruins any possible enjoyment. That’s why the narrator is way worse than any spoiler opening! (And I’ve seen Chaos;Head’s OP)…”
After a few more minutes of ranting about the narrator (and ChäoS;HEAd’s opening), we decided to take a break. I didn’t want to risk a breakdown from EdgyAnimeTeen now that he had brought ChäoS;HEAd into the mix. Tactfully, I mentioned that I had some guests to attend to and errands to run, and that we would have to continue at a later date.
We resumed the next day, moving away from the narrator and onto our progatonist: Aoto.
Yomu – “And this brings us to the last character that we should probably discuss: Aoto. Aoto is a sad boy with a ‘dark past’ that probably would be interesting if the narrator wasn’t constantly bringing it up. He is sort of this mix between the edgy silent type, and a teenage boy always on the verge of tears. What’s your take on him?”
EAT – “I say that I like edge, but Divine Gate uses it in all the wrong ways. Aoto is defined entirely by his past, but the show decided to already reveal exactly how! Usually shows will drag out the explanation to provoke interest in a character, but Divine Gate couldn’t care less about intrigue. And by revealing it so early, we also suffer by being directly exposed to how one-note of a character Aoto is…
And while child abuse of Aoto’s level should typically be depressing, I was just depressingly bored!”
Yomu – “Not gonna lie, when I saw him putting ice into his ramen, I thought it was funny. ‘Oh no, poor Aoto can’t eat warm food’ I thought. The narrator actually took something that probably should have had a serious tone, and flipped it for me. The whole ‘rain cannot fill the holes in his heart‘ stuff just ruined his character.
One-note is definitely the best way to describe him – and I have a feeling Aoto won’t be the only victim of the narrator…”
EAT – “The thing about him being unable to eat warm food is just disgustingly bad writing! I feel like I lose brain cells thinking about it…
We may have Pavlovian tendencies, but our patterns of behavior as humans aren’t molded that definitively- And Divine Gate’s one dimensional exploration of Aoto’s trauma is superficial at best. If you’re keeping the hot food thing, then wouldn’t it be more interesting to see it with more nuance? Like imagine if this was in someway subtle? If the narrator didn’t straight say ‘because of his trauma, he can’t eat warm foods’, then I might praise it for being a novel little idea that demonstrates how his abuse has alienated him in small ways.
Of course, when it’s portrayed so bluntly, the idea becomes overwrought, melodramatic, and quite frankly- laughable.”
Yomu – “That’s not a bad suggestion! And it’s another situation where the anime would have benefited from removing the narrator completely.”
Noticing that EdgyAnimeTeen mentioned Pavlov, I knew it was only a matter of time before he brought Nietzsche into the conversation. Philosophy being a weakness of mine, I decided to change the subject to our favourite edgy and cringeworthy moments so far in the anime.
Edgy / Cringeworthy Moments
EAT – “I don’t like rain.”
Yomu – “‘While the water may fill up the holes on the road, it will never fill up the hole of one’s heart‘. Classic.
Gotta love that edgy antagonistic clown. He even has one of those moments where he is watching the protagonist from afar and says ‘things are getting interesting’ or something like that. A fine mix of edge and cliche.”
EAT – “Who approved these lines, honestly?
Speaking of bad lines, do you remember that fire in episode two with the crippled dad and his kid?