「だから僕はこれからも走るよ風間くん」 (Dakara boku wa korekara mo hashiru yo Kazama-kun)
“That’s Why I Will Keep on Running, Kazama-kun”
Wait DAYS. Are you…are you telling me that Tsukamoto is awesome? I had no clue.
DAYS’s fifth installment biggest issue is one which afflicts the show as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, the episode was plenty entertaining, but it cuts itself short of its own potential. The first couple of minutes promised a narrative which focused on Kasahara-senpai, as he diligently trains to make the cut for what would be his last high school tournament. It’s heart-wrenching because you see his failure coming from a mile away. It seemed the focus would be the strife and inner-agony that would ensue—at the realization that no matter how hard you work, it sometimes just isn’t good enough. I was looking forward to a story line which addressed this facet of the sport—of life in general. I mean, it’s a theme we’ve seen a couple times already in sports anime, but it seemed rife for a really emotionally pungent narrative.
But almost immediately in, the focus is ripped away from Kasahara and once again placed directly on Tsukamoto, who is once again praised for being just oh so spectacular. Now to give credit where credit is due, this episode does a particularly better job of executing this message than previous episodes do, but it nevertheless robs Kasahara of the limelight, and thus refuses to tell us any really rich or insightful message about loss and the bleak reality of sports. The complete one-eighty in narrative focus is jarring and awkward—an unnatural and inorganic shift. The episode’s pacing suffers thusly, and feels like two separate storylines clumsily mashed into twenty-three minutes.
Furthermore, I don’t know how I feel about Tsukamoto suddenly stepping into such a larger role. I thought that one of the show’s strengths down the line would be the utter satisfaction of seeing Tsukamoto finally earn a roster spot after training for so long and getting gradually better—a series-long worth of payoff. However, offering him a spot on the squad now just kind of feels cheap and unmerited. There’s no way in hell the worst player on the team gets a position on a team—I don’t care how much moral support and heart he gets out of his team members. At least let him grow gradually more in skill to the level of basic competence before letting him play on the field in a freakin’ inter-high match.
Additionally, something I love about sports anime is the kind of spectacle they provide. Whether they be races, matches, duels, or whatever, these events prove for some of the best action and excitement in the biz. Few things can get you more hyped. However, I’m becoming more and more unsure if DAYS will provide this kind of exhibition. In the only games we’ve seen, there’s been little to no emphasis on action—only feel-good vibes from Tsukamoto’s successes (and that certainly never gets old…). A sports anime can certainly be fine without high-flying action, but DAYS will surely turn out for the worse without it—there isn’t enough quality character drama to compensate. I’m still holding out hope that the spectacle is yet to come, but the future seems bleaker and bleaker every week.
Don’t get me wrong—despite my preceding comments I’m actually relatively enjoying DAYS. The only thing really keeping me along though is the hope that the show will ascend to greater levels as it goes on. I can think of a couple other sports anime that took a couple episodes to really get off the ground running, and at twenty-four episodes, I’m thinking DAYS will have a bit of time to hit that mark.