The Day I Became a God – Anime Review
Synopsis: Yota Narukami had a life to live—or at least he did until he meets young Hina, who declares the world will end in 30 days. Scorning her prophecy, he refutes her prediction but questions himself after seeing her abilities in action. Moving in, they find a common bond most unexpected. Is it true, is it really the end? More importantly, why did she pick him to spend their final moments together? (Official Funimation Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Linny: I would like to start this review by stating that if you are a fan of Jun Maeda, you can stop reading after this sentence because The Day I Became a God is yet another classic Jun Maeda production, likely to enamor you just as much as any of his other works have. For those unfamiliar with, or on the fence about his works, read on. The Day I Became a God starts strong, with top tier comedic chops. It’s such a fantastic, goofy start that those unfamiliar with Jun Maeda’s previous works might think they’re settling in for a solid comedy series. The top notch voice acting brilliantly presents and supports the humour in the show as we watch our protagonist, Yota, tackle all sorts of situations, from the ordinary; like having a typical childhood crush, to the insane; such as entering a televised Mahjong competition without ever having played the game. No matter what the issue at hand, Yota is aided, sometimes cajoled, or even threatened by Hina, our manic-pixie-esque loli, into approaching these sudden obstacles with over the top bombastic expressions and actions, developing into some truly hilarious hijinks. All this comes together in the first few episodes to make it seem like the show boasts tight writing, lovable characters and more. Unfortunately, that doesn’t hold up as the show continues on, and we delve into the tragic content that Jun Maeda is so fond of and well known for.
Tom: Before we start to get into the nitty gritty, I think it’s of note that The Day I Became a God is another strong, visual offering this Winter season. I don’t know if it’s extra production time from a number of titles ending up delayed earlier this year or what, but The Day I Become a God is another anime that never suffers a drop in visual quality. The animation is a treat the whole way through, regardless of how Jun Maeda’s writing holds up. This consistent quality keeps Hina as a lively spark of a character, someone who charms her way into our hearts with her rambunctious and over confident personality. Yota’s reactions to her turning his life upside down also ingratiate us to his character, particularly when coupled with the incredible voice work Linny mentioned. There’s also the music, which works double time once the series turns toward drama, doing everything it can to try and make a lackluster script work at worming its way into our hearts. Basically, everything around The Day I Became a God’s eventual turn towards drama is to die for, and it’s a true shame that at its core The Day I Became a God is a very flawed effort at telling an otherwise powerful story.
Linny: As much as I loved the early episodes and the characters presented in those more one-off stories, my appreciation basically ends there, especially as we shift into the ultra dramatic content (There’s hints of it in an earlier episode, but the show truly starts to shifts gears in Episode 8.) In true Jun Maeda style, it isn’t long before we are buried under an avalanche of tragic backstory and reveals. This is where it becomes borderline impossible to talk about what’s wrong with The Day I Become a God, without spoiling the whole thing. So, here’s your warning. Skip ahead if you’re still on the fence.
[Warning: Full Spoilers to Follow]
From physically abusive parents who beat their kid when he refuses to perform illegal activities for them, a parent abandoning their terminally ill child because caring for her is simply too painful, to a painful reunion with a friend who has lost not only their health and sanity but even their memories of you. These events are ripe with overwhelming emotions, all likely to produce a tear, especially if you’ve experienced something similar. However, the show simply doesn’t have the logic or realism to actually sell these stories to a more uninvolved or disengaged viewer. The characters in the show often argue or explain things in such an unusual manner or perspective that it can feel hard to swallow, especially if you tend to be a more rational person. Jun Maeda likes to really pile on the drama, often to the point of crafting contrived and hokey reasoning, and that’s something this show starts to suffer from to an ever increasing degree.
Tom: The Day I Become a God can almost be split into two tonally opposite shows, with only the thinnest of plot strands connecting the two. When The Day I Become a God is a full on comedy its cast is bundles of fun. Yota himself is a mix of the classic straight-man, with an otherwise easily excitable persona that is prone to explosive reactions. Hina herself strays into manic-pixie territory, but otherwise remains a fun, quirky, and adorable lead, who perfectly bounces off Yota’s personality, creating a wealth of charming and amusing interactions. The Day I Become a God also boasts a decently fun cast of side characters who pop in and out at the narrative’s convenience. None are terribly deep, but bring their own brand of comedy that helps keep every episode, up till 8, fresh. However, this lovable, fun cast gets hit with the Jun Maeda stick of tragedy, and completely falls away in favor of the story’s dramatic turn of events that shifts everything around. Hina ends up losing her spunky personality; as it turns out she suffers from a disease that robs her of her higher mental functions, without the aid of a bio-super-computer chip her grandfather installed in her prior to the series. When the government takes this highly experimental mini-super computer chip back, this leaves Hina right back where she started life. Losing Hina’s bubbly personality is already a big blow, but necessary for a narrative shift as drastic as this. Trouble stems from Yota’s characterization, which goes down the crapper. A once likable lead turns sour in his quest to reconnect with Hina, who can hardly respond to his presence at all, let alone remember him. Yota becomes insufferable to watch as he continually reaches out to a now mentally-challenged Hina, without ever learning his lesson in how to approach and interact with her. He makes the same mistakes over and over, in a series of events clearly meant to be tragic, and pull at the audiences heart-strings, but you’re more likely to grow annoyed with Yota, frustrated over his inability to adjust to Hina’s new needs and ever actually learn a true lesson. Heck, the show ultimately rewards him for his rigid, inept efforts.
Linny: Doubling back a moment, Yota’s character isn’t the only to get pseudo-assassinated in the show’s quest for emotional developments. After Hina’s traumatic abduction by the government, Yota’s friends don’t suffer even one ounce of grief, but instead all are back to their normal chirpy, perky selves, complete with over the top comedic flailing, even though its clear that no more than a few weeks to months have passed since the incident. Yota’s friends act as if Hina’s abduction never even happened, or perhaps as if she never even existed in their lives…. until they do. As if someone flicked a light switch, Yota’s friends and family all abruptly begin to feel like characters who were severely affected by Hina’s disappearance. Yet. you can’t expect viewers to accept this level of piss-poor characterization, where our heroes switch between these two characterizations whenever convenient. This jarring switch around in the show’s final episodes isn’t its first brush with conflicting tones and hard shifts in personality either. Earlier, we meet Izanami’s, Yota’s childhood crush, father, a widower who goes from being a reclusive, depressed loner for 10 years to behaving like a rabid, frothing at the mouth foodie the second he steps into a shopping district lined with restaurants. It’s these wildly contrasting tones and personality switches that make the drama in the show hard to swallow. How truly tragic or convincing is something if the characters can switch into a hyper cheerful or silly mood at the drop of a hat?
Tom: It’s frustrating just how much Jun Maeda doesn’t understand the need to properly balance comedy and drama. It’s not as if the two can’t go hand in hand, but by forcing characters to behave unnaturally, with the same bombastic abandon they display when everything is going great, nothing ends up feeling earnest. It doesn’t help that while the comedy, when utilized properly, can be on point, the tragedy never is. Even when Jun Maeda is playing with an idea that speaks to the heart, like a daughter and father continuing to struggle with the loss of the mother of the family, he manages to find a way to work through those emotions in the most unnatural manner possible. Hina and Yota conspire to help Izanami and her father come to a kind of emotional catharsis, yet do so by impersonating Izanami’s mother over the phone; as if, realistically, that wouldn’t make Izanami feel mocked and hurt. But because this is a story constructed by Jun Maeda it of course works when it should otherwise fail and tarnish a life-long friendship. That’s nothing to be said of a message the mother actually does leave behind, urging her family members to forget about her completely while brandishing a warm smile across her face. The heart of the story is sound, but the execution is all kinds of wrong.
Linny: One of the bonuses of containing eccentric and extremely silly comedy is that it often makes it easy to forgive or ignore the equally over the top story elements. In the first half, The Day I Became a God is set in a world where people can win Mahjong competitions by making up completely unheard of moves and rules on the spot, so when the clearly adult aged, successful businesswomen/organizer of the competition starts to display an extreme interest in our high school aged hero, even going so far as to show up in his personal life, you assume it’s meant to be part of the absurd humour. Yes, it’s skeezy, questionable and highly unlikely but you assume it’s there for the ‘lols’. But when you then switch to drama and try to get serious, these ‘out there’ elements start to stick out like a sore thumb. If we are meant to take this serious, then isn’t it seriously concerning that this adult woman is showing up at a teenager’s house wanting to spend time with him for clearly non professional reasons?
[End of Spoilers]
Tom: The Day I Become a God starts strong as a comedy, but falls apart whenever we step away from more silly shenanigans for what is meant to be heart-felt drama and tragedy. Truly this is the progression of just about any of Jun Maeda’s work, and like most of his projects there’s just so much suspension of disbelief required in the way details unfold that I can’t help but feel audiences really need to have very narrow life experience to become emotionally involved in his work. The Day I Become a God’s tragedy is contrived, ham-fisted, and poorly conceived. What honesty it could’ve held is stunted by Jun Maeda’s need to force in sci-fi trappings that do little more than justify an ending the show never really earns. Couple that with turning its lead from a fun, bombastic individual, into someone who aggravatingly never learns a lesson, and it’s hard see any value in recommending this series as a title that should be remembered past its final airdate.
Linny: As someone who prefers their dramatic developments based in even a minimal level of realism, especially when it comes to rational character logic and reasoning, it should surprise no one when I say I have never been a huge fan of Jun Maeda’s brand of storytelling. His constant need to mix drama with extreme fantasty or sci-fi elements and then shove the drama at the audience with some heavy handed, under explained ‘message’ is one that has never been entertaining or engaging to me. That said, if you do like your drama to be laid on thick and you are more interested in ‘feeling all the feels’ over grounded logic and reasoning, you might be the intended audience for The Day I Became a God. But if that’s not you or you still feel somewhat apprehensive of the show, this should be an easy skip.