Days Series Review

Overview:

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? I reviewed this week to week if you want to check out those thoughts.

Review:

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. Something about hard work overcoming all difficulties or some such nonsense that writers seem to think 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.

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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, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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. Fortunately season 2 has already been announced and this one I’ll be continuing because as much as this review probably seems needlessly critical, this show made me smile and made me care about whether the ball went into the net at least for twenty minutes each week.

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Tuesday’s Top 5: Female Characters from 2016

2016 was a great year for anime and while I don’t really ever intend just to do a list of top 5 characters ever I kind of feel I can pick a favourite from a single year. Much like my reflections post, this one is entirely my own opinion so feel free to add your favourite females from 2016 in the comments below.

So how did I choose my top 5 female characters? Pretty much they played a significant role in their anime, were entertaining to watch, and, for whatever reason, memorable. They also had to be in an anime that aired at some point during 2016 (either continuing on from 2015, completely in 2016, or at least started before the end of 2016).

Please Note – There will be spoilers below.

Honourable mentions go to: Izetta (Izetta: The Last Witch) and Manami Okuda (Assassination Classroom Season 2).

Number 5: Ubukata Chikako (Days)

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And before you ask ‘who’ she’s the female manager in Days who comes on board after first trying to convince Tsukamoto that it’s hopeless and he should just give up. While her screen time is fairly limited and she plays very much the angry girl (a lot), she’s actually a pivotal character for Tsukamoto when he’s at his lowest and is also the one who quietly assists when Kazuma and Tsukamoto have their near falling out. It’s what I like about her character. She’s there is most episodes doing what she needs to do and she doesn’t intrude on screen time for the same of it. Plus I like how we see her change from angry with the world and fairly pessimistic, to grudgingly accepting that hard work will work out for some, to genuinely hopeful even as she still holds on to her basic cynicism. I also love her ongoing relationship with Tsukamoto. She kind of takes on the tough older sister role and it works really well.

Number 4: Edna (Tales of Zestiria the X)

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Even before this character ever made an appearance, fans of the game were going on and on about her. It kind of made me think she couldn’t possibly live up to that hype and then we met her. Admittedly her screen time in the anime is low but she was certainly one of the more interesting characters. Okay, I just love sarcasm and Edna nails a good sarcastic comment. She’s also one of the more interesting characters in the previews at the ends of episodes. All and all, definitely a fun character to watch and one I think Sorey needed given Alicia and Mikleo don’t exactly push him out of his comfort zone.

Number 3: Shirayuki (Snow White with the Red Hair Season 2)

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This one should have been an obvious choice. I was already in love with this character after season 1 and season 2 just continued to show how amazing she is. Unlike season 1, Shirayuki faces some real danger in season 2 and she really manages to hold it together even while they show us her inner turmoil. Throw in progress in her friendship with Raj, her romance with Zen, and a bit of back story with her father and season 2 really helps round out her character and the world.

Number 2: Tomoe Hotaru (Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3)

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It was hard narrowing down which of the Sailor Moon Crystal cast really left the largest impression. It came down to Chibi-Usa and Hotaru and when all is said and done Hotaru was the more interesting character. The tragic and frail girl that is befriended by Chibi-Usa we see a genuine friendship form between the pair before Hotaru’s body is forcibly overtaken. If that wasn’t enough, turns out she’s also Sailor Saturn and may very well destroy the world so the Outer Guardians are aiming to kill her before she gets the chance. A very memorable character and an awesomely powered one as well. Would have loved more of her in the series.

Number 1: Igsem Yatorishino (Alderamin on the Sky)

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Fiery red haired beauty dual wielding swords on a battle field and able to keep a hopeless womanizer in check? Yatorishino is all kinds of impressive and the fact that she also has a personality and isn’t just a stoic yes-man soldier girl (though she can certainly play that role when needed) just makes her even more interesting. The best parts of Alderamin on the Sky came when Ikta and Yatori were on screen together as they perfectly complement each other and yet each of these characters has a personality by themselves. Besides, none of Ikta’s plans would have ever worked without her skill. He could do what he did because he knew that Yatori would have his back and he knew just how dangerous she could be.

That’s my list of top 5 female characters from 2016. Who were yours?

Days Episode 24

Review:

Well, if you made it this far through Days you won’t come across anything surprising in this final episode of season 1 (let’s all say thank-you that season 2 has already been confirmed or this would be a very different review about a lack of resolution). Basically if you have enjoyed the ride to here you will smile, reflect, remember the journey the characters have been on and generally just be happy to be a part of the Seiseki experience. There’s no added depth here, no surprises, no last minute twists in the story. Days, as it always has been, played this last episode straight focussing on the characters we’ve come to love and then it left us wanting to see how they go in this final game and whether they go to Nationals. Thanks. I’ll do a final review of season 1 of this soon.

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Days is available on Crunchyroll.

Days Episode 23

Review:

So Days continues to surprise me as it makes me care time and again about the outcome of the game even if it feels this week like it was a foregone conclusion. The ride getting to that final goal was definitely exciting. Of course, once again, we spent the entire episode watching the game and in honesty I didn’t much care for the other team and those characters so those moments were a little less than satisfying. Looking forward to next week and how this season concludes.

Days is available on Crunchyroll.

Days Episode 22

Review:

After two full episodes the game still isn’t over and I must point out that the animation definitely took a downward turn again this episode. Normally that doesn’t bother me but the sheer number of still images this week, plus some really terrible faces on background characters, kind of ruined the overall tension of whether or not they’d win this game. I like how the benched players are still being kept involved in the game and are offering their thoughts as we go. I like that most of the players on the team, even those that usually take background roles, have all been involved. However, this week offered a lot more on field bickering for both teams than what we’ve been used to in Days and it was a welcome relief when Usui (as acting Captain) got Seiseki back on track.

Days is available on Crunchyroll.

Days Episode 21

Review:

The game from last week continues and we see both sides make some mistakes and we also get to see the team’s first years struggle to deal with the pressure of suddenly being forced into a high pressure game. At the centre though is Tsukamoto who has finally genuinely found a love of the game and not just of being included as part of the team. For once we see him playing with a smile on his face and not crumbling under the pressure or fear of letting the team down. This is a fantastic step forward for his character and it was great fun to watch. I also liked the commentary from the characters who’ve been sidelined in this match. All and all, a fun episode in this series but nothing really amazing. Of course ending the episode with a ball flying toward the goal but not knowing if it lands or not is just kind of annoying. We’re 21 episodes in, we don’t need bait to come back next week.

Days is available on Crunchyroll.

Days Episode 20

Review:

Days continues into the tournament and we injure yet more players before the semi-finals. Of course, we only make it into the first couple of minutes of that game before it is episode over.

So what did we do for the rest of the episode? Well, we spent a lot of it with the team they are facing in the semi-finals and I still haven’t figured out the point of that choice. Either they are about to win and knock Seiseki out, in which case that’s the end of the road for Seiseki. Or they are about to lose, in which case we won’t really see these guys again so why do we care about them starting up a soccer club?

So yeah, I didn’t see the point of a lot of this episode but generally I’m still enjoying Days and I’m looking forward to the last few episodes this season.

Days is available on Crunchyroll.

Autumn 2016 Week 7

At the end of week 7 of Autumn 2016 and the anime are really working hard now to either keep our attention or just ensure they don’t fall apart toward the end. For the shorter shows we’re about to hit the final sprint to the finish. That said there are plenty of shows going beyond that this time so it will be interesting to see what the next few weeks bring us but the real winner this week was Yuri on Ice.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the season below.

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I Must Keep Watching

  • Yuri on Ice (Ep 7)
  • Natsume Yuujinchou Go (Ep 6)
  • March Comes in Like a Lion (Ep 6)
  • Bungo Stray Dogs (Ep 19)

Yuri on Ice finally managed to break through any reservations I still had about the show and proved it wasn’t just cute guys ice skating with some BL fan-bait. Episode 7 literally took my breath away and I did an instant rewatch of the episode. That said, everything in episode 7 was built on the previous six episodes so this is a series that is really bringing everything together and doing it with style and sparkly costumes. There’s still some flaws but right now if I had to pick a best show of the season, Yuri has taken that spot.

March Comes in Like a Lion continues to be an excellent character piece. It does feel like there is plot progression but it is fairly slow and for the most part inconsequential to the character journey. It will be interesting to see whether this continues to be as engaging as it has been.

Bungo Stray Dogs is starting a downward slide now that we’re back with the old crew. It isn’t that it is bad, it is just that I never found them that compelling. Interesting enough but without that flash back that ran for four episodes this show would pretty much have stayed in the On My Radar category which is where it will go back to soon if it doesn’t pick up.

Natsume gave us a special this week rather than an episode so no movement on that one (other than Yuri knocking it out of first place).

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Still On My Radar

  • Days (Ep 19)
  • Iron Blooded Orphans (Ep 31)
  • Flip Flappers (Ep 7)
  • Lostorage Incited WIXOSS (Ep 6)
  • Izetta: the Last Witch (Ep 7)

Days moved us from the camp to the next tournament and continued to help the characters find ways to get better. This show just keeps rolling along with occasional sparks of amazing followed by pleasant nothingness.

Not much new to report with Iron Blooded Orphans. If you’ve made it through 30 episodes then you already know exactly what to expect. This show has been pretty even in its delivery right from the word go. There are some issues but mostly its a stable and enjoyable anime.

Flip Flappers feels like its starting to get ready to reveal something and in terms of potential payoff I’m looking forward to how it all comes together. That said, it could just fall apart still. However, Cocona and Papika have been an interesting pair to follow around and that relationship continues to grow (even if the foundation of it is a little shaky) which is why I’ve moved Flip Flappers up the list this week. If it can bring things together it will become a must watch series.

Lostorage Incited WIXOSS continues to see just how mean you can be to two characters while still hasn’t revealed anything about its end game. And maybe that doesn’t matter as the story focus is very clearly on how these two characters are changed by events, not in whatever the grand scheme is. But until we know where it ends this one is just staying on my radar and isn’t a must watch. I may change my mind at seasons end.

Izetta picks up a bit this week with less down time and more focus on the war and recruiting allies, though a large chunk of the episode is devoted to a single battle. Overall, this series continues to have some really good moments but just isn’t consistent enough in its tone or pacing.

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Not Dropped But Not Sold On These

  • Trickster (Ep 7)
  • Kiss Him, Not Me (Ep 6)
  • Bloodivores (Ep 7)
  • Nazotokine (Ep 7)

Trickster I could watch or not at this point. It isn’t bad. It isn’t. The story rolls along nicely and the characters each play their part. I’m just not finding myself connecting with anything in it and find myself mildly interested in the episode but mostly just wanting to get on to the next thing. This week’s episode didn’t change that impression.

Kiss Him, Not Me is definitely consistent. If you like what you are getting than there is no reason to stop liking it. For those us who aren’t fussed but aren’t dropping it, we’re getting exactly what we expect when we rock up for an episode of this.

Bloodivores doesn’t seem like it will get worse and might even manage to improve if they actually start explaining things (but I’m not going to hold my breath). That said, IF we get something resembling an explanation that is satisfying it may make me re-evaluate the whole series.

Nazotokine is just being watched at this point because if I drop it I’ll have to catch up on another show and that seems like too much effort. It isn’t horrible, it’s just increbily dull and isn’t doing anything to change that.

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Watching and Will Review Occasionally

  • Cheating Craft (Ep 4)

Still didn’t watch the next episodes of this and it’s getting to a point where I will declare dropped if I don’t pick it back up soon.

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Dropped

  • Girlish Number (Ep 1 – Dropped)
  • Nanbaka (Ep 2 – Dropped)
  • Magical Girl Raising Project (Ep 2 – Dropped)
  • Matoi the Sacred Slayer (Ep 2 – Dropped)
  • Touken Ranbu – Hanmaru (Ep 1 – Dropped)
  • To Be Hero (Ep 1 – Dropped)
  • Occult;Nine (Ep 1 – Dropped)
  • Dream Festival (Ep 1 – Dropped)

Question this week: which character are you liking the most this season?

Days Episode 19

Review:

Days doesn’t do all that much this week and yet kind of does what it needs to. The summer camp ends (and amazingly Tsukamoto and Kazama are just over their conflict so that was a plot thread that went nowhere) and they are now in the preliminaries fighting for a spot at nationals. Events kind of blip past and we don’t spend a lot of time on the field but more watching how the players are getting read to deal with this new challenge. Of course we spend time watching Tsukamoto freak out and question his own abilities. We end the episode 1 game into the preliminaries with preparations for the next game but of course its pouring rain so there’s our new challenge ready to go. It isn’t that this wasn’t fun to watch but it is definitely a bridging episode so by itself doesn’t amount to much.

Though, if you ever want a lesson on how to have an awkward conversation with a parent, just ask Kazama. He’s nailed this as an art form.

Days is available on Crunchyroll.

Days Episode 18

Review:

My opinion about Days as a series is unchanged. There’s a number of issues with pacing and characterisation going on. This episode, however, I loved. From start to finish I was absolutely engrossed. It helped that the main focus of this episode were the characters on the team we’ve spent the most time with. It also helped that they continued their development as characters and players that was kicked off last episode. Kimishita and Tsukamoto particularly come out of this episode quite strong and even Kazama has an off-field revelation spurred on by the team manager, Ubukata. It’s a great way to finish off this two part game and it really feels like all of the episodes up to now have had some ort of purpose.

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I am starting to think that part of the problem with this team’s lack of consistency is that no-one really gets what the Captain is thinking because he’s a really poor communicator. Great soccer player or not he really isn’t a great leader and that leaves his players at loose ends far too often. That said, compared to some of the other Captains we’ve encountered in this series he isn’t too bad.

Lastly, I had to share this quote because when watching this scene I just felt like they had captured a feeling most people have at some point in their lives. This show may not be quite as deep as some others but every now and then they just nail the emotions.

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Days is available on Crunchyroll.