GATE: Ecology of the Otherworld

Two years ago I took a course in mathematical modelling. This was different from the kinds of boring math classes most of you people remember from high school, as we actually got to do some cool shit. In one of our projects we had to model a simple predator-prey ecosystem using Lotka-Volterra equations. We first received a list of fictional species and how they relate to each other. Some of them were carnivorous, others were herbivores feeding on an unlimited supply of plants. Most of the species had natural enemies and sought to prey upon others, with only one of them standing atop of the food chain. Our task was to find growth and mortality parameters for each species in order to stabilize the ecosystem. In other words, define these species in such a way that they wouldn’t hunt each other to extinction, but rather have them coexist in equilibrium.

Nom nom.

The latest GATE episode features the fight between Itami’s harem and the Fire Dragon. By the combined powers of sacrificial Dark Elves, Rory’s War God magic, Lelei’s Gate of Babylon, and a touch of C-4 plastic explosives, after some struggle the team managed to defeat the beast. Just near the end of the episode we are introduced to Rory’s acquaintance Gizelle, an Apostle of the god Hardy, who claims responsibility for waking up the dragon from its decades-long hibernation and taming its offspring to do her bidding. Before the battle, Itami raised a question regarding the dragon’s food supply. Lelei explained that the hibernation period it was in was supposed to last longer, leaving enough room for the food supply to replenish. Gizelle woke up the beast fifty years too early, upsetting the natural balance of things. Upon hearing that, the Dark Elf Yao clenched her teeth, frustrated over the fact that in the grand scheme of things her sorrow and anger meant nothing.

Yao realized that all the Dark Elves and all other people that died in the wake of the desolation were just food from a dragon’s perspective. After all, before the arrival of the JSDF what were the inhabitants of the Otherworld supposed to do against it? The Fire Dragon itself reminded me of Smaug from Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit. “I kill when I wish,” said the Great Worm, declaring he has free reign over life that crosses his path. Much like Godzilla and other monsters of stupendous scale, the Fire Dragon was supposed to be feared as a force of nature. Almost impossible to counteract against, but most likely a necessary component of the Otherworld’s ecosystem.

Going back to my modelling class, I had a few really smart guys on the team, so the task we got didn’t seem like much of a challenge. To our surprise though, the assistant was impressed over the amount of results we managed to produce. Suffice to say our seniors from previous years weren’t as successful. Despite endless solutions just waiting to be discovered, it turns out coming up with the right parameters for species to coexist in harmony isn’t that trivial. A small change in parameters or an introduction of a new predator can throw the whole system into chaos.

Enter the JSDF, slaying the dragon and its offspring with relative ease and minimal casualties. Tuka got her revenge, good for her! But here’s the reality: that dragon would have eventually woken up even without Gizelle’s help, just fifty years later. Calamity was upon the people from the Otherworld, whether they liked it or not. Fire Dragon waking up every so often and killing a bunch of people sounds scary and sad and all, but it’s probably not that much worse compared to the population crisis and all the consequences humanity is facing right now. When forest fires occur, sure, animals die, trees burn, some houses get caught in the flame, and generally the cleanup operation is a pain, but we know that the trees will eventually spring roots again, the birds will fly back and people will once more feel confident to rebuild. We accept that forest fires are a natural occurrence, to a degree even a necessity.

The news will spread and the inhabitants of the Otherworld may rejoice over the Fire Dragon’s death. Though I wonder how many will start dreaming nightmares of green instead of red. After all, the Empire demonstrably poked a beast potentially far more devastating than the Red Worm.


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