More friends all the time.
Some personal background: Dog Days is a series that Moomba has been telling me to for years (along with Strike Witches … I’ll get to the second season soon, Mooms!), and it took doing this season’s preview to get me to finally start it. I thought, probably like most people, that it was “High Fantasy with a kemonomimi fetish”, and while a show like that would be fun, it wouldn’t be high on my priority list.
Boy, was I wrong. Fast forward to now, and while I’m behind on most of the good winter shows, I watched three seasons of Dog Days. I feel like that was a good use of my time.
What I love most about Dog Days is its uplifting attitude, and the sports-style combat where anybody can win. It reminds me of the tournament arcs I loved so much while reading Negima, where you’re never sure who will win because, in a non-life threatening struggle, the protagonists are allowed to lose. (This is something all sports anime share, and one of the many reasons they can be so good.) That, combined with some solid fanservice and plenty of enjoyable, fuwa-fuwa slice-of-life episodes, and it becomes a reliably enjoyable show.
This third season ranks as either the second best or the best season. The first was easily top tier, with some actual plot tied into all the fluffy sports-war shenanigans. The second wasn’t as good, as, while the addition of new characters (especially Nanami and Rebecca becoming heroes, + Adel-sama!) was great, I can’t for the life of me remember any real plot … and I watched it only a few weeks ago. This season was a return to form, with three solid plot-filled arcs and new characters that enhance an already stellar cast.
The Sharu (Uesaka Sumire) arc was a surprise when the series started—actual action with serious consequences? Gasp! Surprising and appreciated, since I was worried we’d be back to season two’s all-slice-of-life-all-the-time shenanigans. Not that the middle didn’t have some of that, nor are they bad—they’re actually one of Dog Days’s strengths. They’re just best when cut with some plot. Perhaps my favorite episode was Leo-sama’s marriage battle and the introduction of Leaf (Orikasa Fumiko), if only because I’m a shipping junkie. Leaf x Leo-sama 4 ever! I didn’t think the Hero Party flashback was as strong—too much tell instead of show, even though I like the characters—but the Aria (Ogura Yui) arc was a strong (and very Dog Days) finisher, complete with happy optimistic feelings and a welcome focus on Gaul. And more shipping … Gaul x Aria, woo!
Maybe this season would have been better if there was an overarching plot, like there was during season one. Yet the first season’s conflict was all predicated on Leo-sama getting in her own way rather than just talking to Millhi like she should have, and I tend to frown on plots that require a normally competent character to hold the idiot ball (trope!). This season didn’t have as strong of a thread running through it (other than “demons are bad”), but the characters and friendships were all stronger than ever, and each of the arcs was a lot of fun. For my taste, season three was probably the best, but I wouldn’t argue too much if you disagree.
The three new characters were all good additions as well: Sharu, who starts out overly serious but learns to ask for help; Leaf, who’s determined and honorable, while remaining youthfully naive in ways he absolutely should; and Aria, the fragile maiden who, while the weakest character of the three, was never someone I begrudged of her screen time.
If you’ve been watching all three seasons of Dog Days as they aired, me coming here now and going “Wow, this is good!” is a bit of a “No shit, Sherlock” moment. For everyone else, three seasons is a pretty big time commitment when there are so many good shows coming up in spring, but I encourage taking the plunge. Just watch one episode—the first episode of the first season is a good example of what comes after. Dog Days is light and optimistic, a show that’s uplifting in a world of too many grimdark dramas that forget the reason most of us watch anime at all—to have fun. Fun can come in many stripes—even those grimdark dramas can be fun—but a story that leaves you feeling like the world is a better place and people are essentially awesome is a welcome treat.
tl;dr Moomba was right. I totally loved Dog Days. It’s a great series. Dog days are great days, and I hope we get more of them soon.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now available in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel short story. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: Sheet music, Wage Slave Rebellion is officially in print, From LEGO to author, and RIP Sir Terry.