Director: Keitaro Motonaga
Writer (of original novel): Koushi Tachibana
Animation Studios: AIC PLUS+ (Season 1), Production IMS (Season 2)
Version Watched: Subbed
Date A Live is a bit of an enigma for me. I’ve never seen a show that has been both propped up and let down by its concept, while at the same time featuring characters that are both a major strength and a major weakness. It went from interesting to enjoyable to disappointing and then all the way back round to enjoyable again and for the most part I have no idea why (which isn’t the best state to be in while writing a review!). In any case, the conclusion I’ve come to is that Date A Live is worth your time despite its failings, because after two seasons I’m very much looking forward to the third.
For the past thirty years Earth has been plagued by massively destructive phenomena known as space quakes. These disasters destroy everything in their path, which means Itsuka Shido is a little surprised to discover an armor-clad girl in the centre of one of their craters. Shido quickly learns that she is known as a Spirit whose travel to Earth is what causes the quakes, and that two major tactics have been developed to stop the damage they deal. The AST aims to use sophisticated combat technology to eradicate every spirit that appears, while Ratatoskr, a more passive group, aims to win them over to Earth’s side and seal their powers. The catch? In order to do that, Shido will need to make each spirit fall in love with him. It’s okay though, because he’s got the support of dating-sim experts, led by his very own sister. Hopefully he’ll be able to avoid being killed in the process.
Date A Live features that odd mixture between comedy and plot that many series struggle to balance, and I’m sure you can see that in the summary above. In some cases the mix is done very well, with comedy giving way to more serious matters and the concept as a whole being represented relatively tastefully. In others, however, jokes try to muscle their way into situations that could really do with a bit more tact, which can ruin whatever atmosphere the episode may have built to that point. On that same note Date A Live also includes a number of the tropes and rom-com situations I’ve gotten used to seeing in just about every anime ever, and while I’m not willing to assert that they negatively affect the experience, they don’t do a huge amount to improve it either. Having said that, the show had me smiling and laughing regularly, so you could say that it did what it set out to do.
I’ve already mentioned that I enjoyed Date A Live overall. There’s a bit of a caveat to that, though. This is simply not a series that makes sense – if you try to nit-pick everything that happens for inconsistencies you’re going to get a headache (and a whole bunch of nits). For example: Why do the AST exist when they’ve never succeeded at killing a spirit and there is a far more acceptable alternative? Of course, that question is answered later on in the story but for the entire first season that was something that nagged at me repeatedly, and you’ll find many similar questions if you go looking for them. If you can look past those issues, however, you will find yourself with a very enjoyable series.
And here we come to the show’s greatest asset. Date A Live has some absolutely fantastic character designs, both visually and personality-wise. Yes, there are exceptions (here’s looking at you, gross girl), but overall the characterization is incredibly solid; I gave a damn about most of the characters involved and that’s impressive. The problem this then leads to becomes apparent as more spirits are introduced and the cast starts to grow. There’s only so much screen time available and all of those great characters start to get pushed out of the spotlight – Date A Live has some real trouble including all of its characters in its story and letting the audience get to know them. Some of them, and the stories behind them, are seemingly forgotten in later episodes. Similarly, many of the concepts involved in the background of the plot aren’t explored as well as they could be, and because of those two issues I think the series could benefit from having a beefed-up episode count.
As far as visuals go Date A Live is a mixed bag. While it all looks good and the quality of animation is consistent, the production studio was changed for the second season with a noticeable lowering in the quality of the animation. The style stays the same, and it’s still quite good, but there is a difference so I thought it was worth mentioning. The sound track is enjoyable with some nice insert songs making their way into the second season though neither the BGM nor OP and ED sequences are going to win any awards. As usual, the voice acting is great and I really need to come up with more to discuss in these sections.
Summary – While it may have ups and downs Date A Live is an entertaining anime that is probably worth your time. If you think you can’t handle another damned water park or onsen episode, or a lack of logic will make you tear your hair out, then I would still give it a chance, at least. The interesting characters more than cover for any deficits in the rest of the plot and make the series what it is. At the end of it all I cared about all of the characters and was looking forward to a continuation of the story, so that should speak for itself.
Score: 8/10 – Good