OP: 「Wake We Up」 by (HOWL BE QUIET)
「それだけで僕はどこまでも走れる气がするんだ」 (Sore dake de boku wa doko made mo hashireru Ga suru ndesu)
“With Just That, I Feel Like I Could On Running Forever”
PUT YOUR PASSION WHERE I CAN SEE IT.
DAYS is the most recent candidate for the contemporary sports anime renaissance hall-of-fame (copyright 2017). Generally speaking, the most important qualities of the genre (in its most successful form) come down to the spectacle of the matches, as well as the likeability and depth of the characters. So how well does DAYS’ debut episode make its case?
Pretty well actually. DAYS follows bumbling high school freshman Tsukamoto Tsukishi(Yoshinaga Takuto), a clumsy, nervous, insecure lad. One day he is suddenly recruited by soccer prodigy Kazama Jin (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) to fill an empty spot in his local soccer league. Oh by the way I’ll be referring to the sport as “soccer” for the duration of the post. I’m American. Sorry.
From there, Tsukishi discovers his intense love of the sport, exerting every fiber of his being—enduring every and any injury—in order to get the W. A bond is cemented between the two, despite their disparity in skill, one which is deepened further once Tsukishi slaves away at night to compensate his abysmal showcase during practice.
Right off the bat, all of these characters come off as nothing but likeable. Tsukishi initially comes off as just a dash too much nervous and naïve, but the rest of the episode makes clear that the kid’s determination, perseverance, and just sheer guts deserve our admiration. The kid’s got mad hustle. He’s cute, excitable, and kindhearted which leaves the path open for plenty of growing up and maturing to do over the course of the series.
Kazama also comes off as a really likable guy. He seems to have nothing but love and concern for this random guy he just met, demonstrated when he ponders his regrets and next course of action regarding Tsukishi’s early troubles.
And perhaps that’s the only real issue with DAYS first impression: it provides very little depth to these characters. There’s nothing really said of their motivations or internal conflict. We get the impression that Tsukishi is a kid who just wants some friends, yes, but very little is explored in at least this first episode aside from a brief implication here and there. For Kazama, the show just barely hinted at the potential of parental issues, or lack thereof. No significant conflict or general tension is established, besides the fact that Tsukishi really really likes soccer. And Kazama, apparently. These characters come off as just sort of vague and insubstantive, despite their charm and appeal.
However, maybe this is all the show’s beginning installment really needs. I can think of plenty of other phenomenal sports anime which started out in the same vein. DAYS does plenty to establish its tone and premise—light, fun, and occasionally dramatic. Sure plenty of other sports debuts have done it better and with more insight, but this first episode sufficiently provides the potential for some great material. There’s plenty more time for more in-depth characterization.
The only other significant disappointment is that we don’t get a substantial taste at how the matches will play (HA) out. Sure, we got glimpses in the opening hook and in the local match, but I think it’s safe to assume that the actual matches will be unrecognizably fast-paced, intense, and dramatic. Again, not needed for a debut—Yowamushi Pedal first couple of episodes didn’t even come close to showcasing the kind of ultra-intense, hyper-adrenaline induced races that would catapult the show’s worth.
That being said, the show looks exceptional. Animation is fluid—every kick and run cycle is relayed naturally and convincingly. Colors are bright, cheery, and eye-catching—perfectly complementing the fun vibe of the show. Voice acting is on point, and the music delivers on all the right emotional and dramatic beats. These are all definitely the right ingredients for some possibly breathtaking action and drama down the line.
Overall, DAYS does a great job of conveying the great potential the series holds, but not much more. Characters are introduced as mere impressions, and not with any noteworthy depth of internal conflict. Plus, not much can be said about how the show’s soccer matches will turn out.
However, this is all okay. This debut provides all the right clues and hints of the show’s potential quality. Maybe I’m unfairly giving DAYS a pass because it’s a sports show, but plenty other in the same genre have started off in the same way only to turn out absolutely fantastic as episodes go on. It’ll be a slow grind for sure, especially considering the practically nonexistent skill level of the protagonist. For now, DAYS’ first entry provides a fun, pleasant romp through what the show has to offer.
ED: 「EVERLASTING DAYS」 by (Seiseki High School Soccer Club)