If there is one that has remained true about the anime industry, it is that cheap entertainment and low-risk adaptations prevail. AIC’s “Date A Live” is yet another addition to this tired trend- doing nothing interesting or even particularly well. It expects the audience to willfully ignore its poor writing, because hey– there are cute girls to gawk at!
Drawing inspiration from the 2008 manga “Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai”, Date A Live presents itself as a pseudo-parody of otaku culture. After our protagonist Shidou conveniently encounters two busty ladies fighting one another, he finds himself waking in the headquarters of an anti-Spirit organization, which (surprise!) is led by his bipolar younger sister. Kirino– sorry, Kotori, proposes her master plan to Shidou: prevent the Spirits’ destruction by making them fall in love with him. How is he meant to achieve this? By studying dating sims, of course.
Funnily enough, this ridiculous premise is actually one of Date A Live’s few redeeming points. It is self-aware and (usually) does not attempt to be anything more than silly fun. Some of the best moments are when Shidou attempts to swoon the girls with cliched eroge lines, only to be met by awkward silence and/or violent threats. It is a show that prides itself in absurdity. Mostly. At other times it is just woefully stupid.
And that is the problem. Date A Live, in all of its wisdom, also tries to push a semi-serious ‘plot’ amidst its comedy. A plot so riddled with lazy writing and insufferable cliches that the anime becomes the very thing that is parodying. Transfer students, toast-in-mouth, and the beloved walk-in-on-clearly-occupied-bathroom cliche? Check. Girls falling in love with Shidou for no conceivable reason except to increase the size of his harem? You bet. Deus ex machina? The third episode contains two within minutes of each other. There is even a scene in the anime where the Anti-Spirit Team– which for some inexplicable reason is comprised entirely of busty, half-naked high school girls– gets tentacle raped by ramen. Yes, ramen. Full stop. I will leave that to your consideration.
Shidou himself does not do the writing any favours. If there is a problem, he will preach it away- almost always with a few jejune words about self-sacrifice or how his victim simply isn’t happy enough. If he is hurt, he will be magically healed through some convenient plot device. He doesn’t need to fight or do anything remotely intelligent, because why the hell would he? He has plot armour to save the day. Date A Live is not concerned about petty notions such as ‘sense’.
Writing aside, you will indubitably gain some enjoyment from the ‘cute girls’ appeal. And cute they are. Tsunako’s character designs (most easily recognized through her work on the Hyperdimension Neptunia franchise) adds a level of appeal uncommon to most harem anime. Kurumi’s design, for example, is one of the most attractive in anime or manga- no hyperbole intended. Their personalities are also equally adorable (though often limited to archetypes) with characters like Tohka frequently finding ways to get your heart racing. If Date A Live was to be judged solely by the cuteness of its female cast, it would be a work of art. But it is not.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given the designs, but Date A Live’s artwork is for the most part high-quality. Characters are rendered in a consistent manner and the colourful art design tends to make up for any imperfections that the animation occasionally has. It is certainly a step down from the original light novel illustrations, though.
The sound also does not disappoint. It’s almost a little saddening, even, knowing that such quality was expended on a show of this calibre. The background tracks are excellent, as is the cast of seiyuu (who do a skillful job of delivering personality to each girl) while even the catchy opening and ending sequences manage to stand out. It should be noted though that the ending sequences are supremely lazy from an animation standpoint, usually containing a single image that is panned over continuously until the song ends. Surely more effort could have been put there.
All in all, Date A Live is an absolute mess of a story– but a disturbingly entertaining one. It is something to be watched– maybe enjoyed– and then immediately forgotten (assuming the writing does not give you an aneurysm). It represents precisely why an anime cannot survive on cuteness alone. Tohka does come close to saving the show, though. Almost.
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