Our lead character in Days, Tsukishi Tsukamoto, doesn’t really have friends and doesn’t really have much going on but he’s a nice guy. One day, after starting high school, Kazama invites him on a whim to play and soon after Tsukamoto decides he wants to join the Seiseki Soccer team.
Problem is, they are a really good team and Tsukamoto has never played before. Can raw enthusiasm and determination really help him overcome his weaknesses and allow him to become part of the team?
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I’d be lying if I said the story of Days isn’t trite and overly generic drivel that’s been the basis of about a million stories before. I’m not even a fan of sports movies and shows and even I know the one about the loser who becomes the star player of the team.
Sports anime like to focus on hard work overcoming all difficulties though they do throw in a few cautions about talent. Maybe the writers think it is inspiring. Not that some people don’t have their hard work rewarded but there are plenty of others who will put in the time and effort and still get a big fat nothing for their efforts.
Despite this set up which sounds like it should make me want to roll my eyes right outside of my skull, and a main character who normally I would call a pathetic doormat and find truly irritating (though I guess he’s a ‘nice guy protagonist‘ just not a particularly interesting one), and being based on a sport I could not care less about, I really enjoyed watching Days.
I found it genuinely charming and at times vaguely inspirational until my usual cynical self kicked in. That didn’t stop me wanting to call out with Tsukamoto as he cheered on his team mates and it didn’t stop me smiling when he finally intercepted the ball or realised what he should be doing on the field and it didn’t stop me nearly crying when he failed and felt the utter and complete devastation of that failure.
It also didn’t stop that big cheesy grin spreading over my face when he got right back up again and continued to try his hardest.
It would be great if I could say that there was a single concrete reason for this show working for me and yet that would also be a lie. There are pacing issues, animation issues, at times characterization is an issue as someone we barely know is suddenly important and you’re left rummaging through your head for any information you remember about them (large cast of soccer players from main team and competitors).
From any objective standpoint this show is average at best. Not terrible or broken. Just average.
But maybe that’s enough. It’s a story we all know so they don’t waste time trying to be clever about the premise. There are no real unexpected twists and turns in the story and while there is a large cast this works in the show’s favour as we never really get sick of any one character and even those with obnoxious personalities aren’t around long enough to bring down the overall show.
Besides, there are some fun characters in this show. Mizuki (the Captain), the other first year players, Kimishita, the manager, and many of the opponents really shine in their moments before fading back into the background. This is Tsukamoto’s story and we are seldom allowed to forget that but that doesn’t stop us learning about these characters and falling in love with them as Tsukamoto really wants to be included in their world.
The animation isn’t amazing but were we tuning in to watch animated soccer or were we watching Tsukamoto and how he develops as a character. There’s a clear correlation between his improvement on the field and his mental state and yet even at the end he is riddled with insecurities about whether he ‘deserves’ to be part of the team.
Probably my real criticism of this show would be Kazama. He is the one who leads Tsukamoto into the world of soccer and at times it looks like his journey should be significant as well but we get so few glances at this other side of the story. Kazama is talented and confident but has some real issues with trusting a team. He’s the opposite of Tsukamoto and giving their stories equal time so the moments where they intersect and help each other could have had more meaning.
Instead Kazama ends up almost like a fairy god-mother hovering around the edges of the story and giving Tsukamoto the tiniest of pushes when needed. The one moment of conflict between the two was resolved almost instantly. This is probably the weakest part of the series in my opinion.
So if you want to watch a trite (wondrous) journey of a wimpy (driven) character going from nothing to vaguely competent but still developing this first season of Days will probably be a fun watch. It’s full of warmth and heart and by the end you really will support this team in their push for Nationals – which of course we still need season 2 to find out what happens next.
Yep, season 1 leaves us without even knowing if they got to Nationals. I expected them to qualify and then if we got another season to see the Nationals but instead we still have the finals to qualify to go before we get there.
And then of course no season 2. There are apparently three episodes of an OVA that I’ve never seen but regardless, I’m guessing we’re just going to have to celebrate the victories we get during this season and be happy for the time we had.
Images from: Days. Dir. K Uda. MAPPA. 2016
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