Days – Mid Series Review
Original Air Dates: July 2nd, 2016 – ???
Synopsis: Tsukushi Tsukamoto has just entered high school. The poor boy has no real talent for anything, and even makes an embarrassment of himself during class introductions. However, Tsukushi’s destiny changes when one Jin Kazama invites Tsukushi to a friendly Soccer Match outside of school. There Tsukushi discovers his passion for Soccer and Jin starts to notice the endless potential and passion awaiting inside him.
Mid Series (12 Episodes) Review (Warning: Some Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Days remains a visual feast with colors that give a real visual pop to everything and make it a joy to watch week to week. But as we get further in the visual fidelity of the animation, it doesn’t always hold up. Stilted movements barely hidden by close ups on characters, an over reliance on static imagery to depict the crazy mechanics of the on field play, CGI for wider shots that doesn’t hold up for lengthy sequences and becomes more obvious the more frequently it’s been used. If not for the vibrant colors these problems would threaten to undermine the visual quality of the series, but it’s thanks to that visual pop that these issues don’t entirely detract from the experience.
Linny: You can tell the show was made on a tight budget when the camera is zoomed out and the characters’s faces turn into human shaped blobs with no real features and movements become all jelly like and basic. All the movements involved in playing and animating a sports anime really just end up highlighting how poor the animation can get in this show.
Tom: Tsukamoto, our ever hardworking lead, remains incredibly endearing as he pushes himself and works hard to rise from a complete newbie. Thanks to his continual efforts, the series has a ‘feel good’ nature to it that could perhaps inspire younger viewers when they’re met with struggle in their own lives. It’s that unwillingness to back down however that could lead older viewers to feel Tsukamoto is less realistic a character, as this ‘never say die’ attitude is indeed very shonen, aimed at a younger, more naive and idealistic audience. All that said, Tsukamoto, particularly mid season, does start to experience outright failure, and the way in which he handles that, or more accurately fails to, helps to humanize Tsukamoto and bring his character into a more grounded position. The same can be said for Kazama, our ace from birth character, who’s never really been met with failure. He’s less annoying that similar protagonists across other series, and more likable than the lead of, say, Battery, another sports anime this season, who’s a character very much in Kazama’s style. When Kazama finally meets with failure the show goes to great lengths to show how much that hits him, stripping away the ‘undefeatable star player’ stereotype.
Linny: What is surprising is how Kazama receives less airtime than one would have assumed from the first few episodes and how it felt like he would be a lot more directly involved with Tsukamoto’s journey towards becoming a better player. It isn’t a criticism, but rather speaks to the show’s tendency to distribute the focus among several of the team members. There’s no doubt that Tsukamoto is the central character, but for anyone who doesn’t take to him, there’s a chance that you might take to some of the other personalities in the show with the only caveat being that it takes a couple of episodes to get to their stories.
Tom: There’s a host of other characters on the team, and while none get quite as much focus as either Tsukamoto, Days tends to center around one or two of them from time to time. Like Captain Mizuki, or some of the other star Seiseki players. By the mid series you’ve got a pretty good sense of the team, and while a few players may ultimately escape your notice and familiarity, you’ve got a decent sense of everyone else taking the field. It helps to make the world feel more real, and less like Tsukamoto and Kazama just play the game with a bunch of moving, lifeless, nameless mannequins.
Linny: The team captain, Mizuki is revealed to be someone who might understand Tsukamoto the most and thus, becomes endearing to the viewers as one comes to realize that he got to his current position as captain through dedication and hard work. On the other hand, we also get an antagonist of sorts in the form of Kimishita, who is shown to have a certain resentment towards Tsukamoto for getting picked for the main team, despite his lack of skills. This is a shonen, so Kimishita’s attitude does undergo development but it still makes for a complex relationship and another hurdle for our hero to overcome.
Tom: It’s our antagonists where Days tends to really stumble. Once we hit the Mid Series, and Tsukamoto takes part in his first big match, we’re introduced to a rival team, whose dialogue, at times, extends into the “oh so evil realm” talking of enjoying seeing spirits crushed and hope lost. It damages the otherwise realistic and emotional vibe. And much of that dialogue doesn’t really sit in line with these characters anyway, who are often portrayed as kinder souls simply focused on winning.
Linny: Another issue that plagues the series is how it feels like yet another generic shonen with a lot of its characters falling into classic shonen stereotypes. It’s not show ruining but the lack of originality might turn away those who craved more variety and innovation in the cast.
Tom: Another complaint I have is how underutilized Days’ few female characters are. We’re introduced to a couple early on, Tsukamoto’s mother, Chikako, the stand offish girl who becomes the team’s manager, and Sayuri, Tsukamoto’s childhood friend. Yet, these women disappear for long stretches of time, and outside of a few fleeting moments (and Chikako’s all important emotional moment with Tsukamoto in episode twelve) they appear to have little effect on the series otherwise. It’s disappointing to see women who are potentially such important parts of Tsukamoto’s day to day life left to wither on the sidelines of the series and go virtually unseen week to week. Days is of course a sports series, and it’s unsurprising that it’s such a male centric show, but the series introduced these female characters and then does near nothing with them. Why even bother to include them if they generally have no impact outside of a handful of sequences?
Linny: Then there’s the fact that Tsukamoto seems to be able to win people over sooner rather than later with most obstacles solved quickly and easily. Thankfully, he isn’t being turned into a sports genius overnight and the tone of the show suggests Days only works as long as Tsukamoto remains no better than ‘average’ at best. For those who were hoping to watch Tsukamoto have to claw and fight for every small victory while facing huge obstacles, the truth is that the show’s message is more along the lines that Tsukamoto is a ray of sunshine and hope for all of the better players on his team. It’s a sweet theme but definitely not one that will please someone hoping for a more brutal and ‘honest’ tone.
Tom: Despite Tsukamoto’s unyielding nature, Days has made sure to introduce obstacles Tsukamoto does not easily overcome, and in fact even faces loss at times. It makes Tsukamoto’s journey much more relatable compared to other Shonen heroes who never face significant defeat. He’s inspiring for younger audiences, a character who pushes through even against the hardest of obstacles, or learns to stand again when he inevitably falls.
Linny: The comedy Days is on the silly and quirky side with exaggerated reactions and gags that can leave you a little puzzled. There are however no super chibi like avatars and reactions. Days uses its eye catch scenes in an adorable manner, providing bios on its various characters with entries that will crack you up. Early on, the show felt like it might be telling a dark story often hinting at a dark and mysterious past for Kazama . But as the story progresses, Kazama is often used as a comic relief of sorts when he is off the field and his dark past doesn’t seem so dark after all.
Tom: Days’ comedy gets more absurd and awkward as the series goes on, perhaps even taking some of its odd humor a bit too far, or dropping gags at the wrong time. Usually the show is on point, but at other times you might find yourself pulled right out of events by an ill-paced/poorly executed drop of the pants.
Linny: The major football match that takes up several episodes close to the middle of the season made things a bit more serious for those of you who wanted a show that was more focused on the intensity of the game. However, if you are planning to marathon Days, know there’s a super long recap in the second episode covering the match so feel free to skip those parts.
Tom: One final thing Days does very well is making matches feel both serious and inspiring, giving audiences a gripping back and forth match up between two teams, but at the same time making the plays on the field feel like more than just a game of soccer. It keeps things feeling fun, even when it gets heated.
Linny: Days does make some effort to humanize the members of the opposing team but then reverts to the classic trope of opponents being ‘pure evil’ all too quickly. Even though Indou, the captain of the opposing team, seems to be on somewhat friendly terms with Mizuki, and even acknowledges Tsukamoto’s potential, during the match, the ace of the opposing team, Narukami Shuuki spouts cringe-worthy lines like wanting to see the tears of his opponents as Tom mentioned above. It’s disappointing how ready Days is to undermine it’s efforts.
Tom: Overall, despite a few flaws, Days remains a solid sports based anime that offers more than the average. It’s leads are likable, strong, and inspirational for younger audiences while feeling real thanks to how poorly they handle failure and struggle. It sadly can’t maintain it’s high visual quality from early on, but even the static imagery can look quite impressive, and contains enough detail to offset the lack of animated sequences. Even the CGI is forgivable thanks to everything else Days gets right.
Linny: Days has solidified its feel-good and classic shonen vibe by this point in its run. There’s no denying that you won’t be seeing anything groundbreaking. However, its characters are likable in true shonen style, unless you’re tired of cliches, and seeing the team struggle and face defeats brings a sense of realism and empathy. If you aren’t into sports anime, Days won’t change your mind. But fans of classic shonen tropes and sports anime will most likely find Days a satisfactory and enjoyable watch.
Days is available for streaming via Crunchyroll.com