OP: 「FEARLESS HERO」 by 水樹奈々 (Mizuki Nana)
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「勇者見参!」 (Yuusha Kenzan!)
“The Hero has Arrived”
Here we are again, in this land of nekomimis and inumimis….
It probably shouldn’t even need to be stated, but I’m boring that way: Dogs Days‘ is a sequel to the 2011 series Dog Days. (What is it with Japan and inane habit of differentiating their sequels with obscure punctuations?) The original Dog Days was a show initially hyped up to be the second coming of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, and with all the right names attached too. We had Seven Arcs onboard along with scriptwriter Tsuzuki Masaki, who was credited with the conception of both shows and has been on nearly every single Nanoha project. Furthermore, taking charge of the show was director Kusakawa Keizou, who helmed many of the later Nanoha projects. Undoubtedly, expectations were had.
What we ended up with was a show that averted these expectations and instead gave us a uniquely lighthearted take on the harem fantasy genre. It’s hard to argue that its “war as an athletic game” premise was lacking in wacky creativity, but outside of that Dog Days was as derivative as they come, a show without any kind of consequence or direction, not just in its whimsical gameshow-styled premise but also in its unambitious plot that never seemed to provoke any kind of audience engagement. The bulk of my enjoyment can be attributed to the characters, but while bizarrely cute to watch in their respective stereotypes they never could seem to break past their two-dimensional characterizations. Asides from their unique animalistic features, most characters ended up being about as memorable as a brick. By its midpoint, it became clear that Dog Days was the quintessential summer throwaway: A unpretentious fluff piece that was enjoyable enough during its run to keep me spending that 20 minutes week after week, but ultimately forgettable once I was over and done with it.
So I’m not going to try and avoid the likely fact: If you’re watching this show, you’ve probably already enjoyed the first season of Dog Days and you’re not expecting the sequel to do anything groundbreaking but to keep delivering that very same guilty pleasure. I say so, because that’s exactly what this first episode of Dog Days’ served up. It’s hard to call this opening anything but a fanservice-fueled retread of season 1’s introduction, as we kick off yet again with another war between the countries of Biscotte and Galette to commemorate the return of the hero. (This is probably the only show I can think of with wars as celebratory events.) But a retread also means that one of the best selling points of the original Dog Days, the amazing all-star cast from the first season, make its return here in glorious form, with Miyano Mamoru (Star Driver, Steins;Gate) once again doing his best plucky shounen voice as leading hero Izumi Cinque, alongside notable industry names like Horie Yui (Firianno Biscotti Millhiore), Koshimizu Ami (Galette des Rois Leonmitchelli), Asumi Kana (Panettone Yukikaze) and Hana Kanazawa (Vinocacao Noir). Mizuki Nana of Nanoha fame is also pulling double duty this season and voicing Cinque’s childhood friend Takatsuki Nanami in addition to her standing role as Elmar Ricotta.
The downside is that there is very little to differentiate this sequel from what we’ve seen before, and what’s new is few in number. We have both of Cinque’s childhood friends Nanami and Anderson “Becky” Rebecca (Takahashi Mikako) joining him proper in the land of Flonyard this time, and also as the prospective Nanoha-esque heroes of Galette and new country Pastillage respectively. Headlining this new third faction is squirrel girl Princess Couver E. Pastillage (Yuki Aoi), who also seems to have close ties with Milhiore and Leo.
It speaks volumes about Dog Days’ when the only new thing about the show that caught my interest was a singular staff member change: Director Kusakawa Keizou bows out for Nishimura Junji to take charge of the sequel. Nishimura’s record is a mixed bag, but he has been credited with two series that stood out in particular to me, True Tears and Ranma ½. True Tears was a seemingly derivative take on the romance genre that flipped my expectations upside down when it showed it could deeply explore the subtleties of its characters, and ended up featuring one of the most brilliantly developed characters I’ve seen in Noe. Of the two, Ranma ½ is the show with a greater parallel to Dog Days in that it’s also a rom-com fluff piece, but interspersed between its standard comedic fare were some brilliantly introspective episodes. Nishimura has shown before that he can explore the nuances of seemingly two-dimensional characters, and I’m curious if he can somehow bring this same edge out in Dog Days’.
Otherwise, this introductory episode to Dog Days’ is as predictable as they come. But hey, if you’re looking for more head-patting, tail-wagging and war-lympics, come on and step right into the world of Flonyard once again. (Trust the Nanoha team to also hint at some yuri tensions! …No, don’t judge me.)
ED: 「夏の約束」 (Natsu no Yakusoku) by 堀江由衣 (Horie Yui)
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