Anime has this willingness to address subjects we in America will not touch, out of fear that we will offend someone or out of obscurity. For example, dating simulators are very popular in Japan, but not so much in America. And, of course, Anime will capitalize on Japanese pop culture. As far as I know, there have been two popular animes that use dating simulators as plot devices. Today, we’re looking at one of those animes: Date A Live.
Story: 30 years ago, a strange occurrence known as a “spatial quake” obliterated most of Eurasia, killing hundreds of millions. Since then, they have occurred with less intensity but higher frequency. Five years ago, a spatial quake forced Shido Istuka and his sister, Kotori, to relocate to a new home, yet the quakes seem to follow, occurring only a few miles away. One day, after being caught outside in the middle of a spatial quake (literally), he finds an oddly dressed girl at the center of the destruction. All at once, Shido is recruited by a secret organization called Ratatoskr dedicated to fighting the causes of spatial quakes: beings called Spirits, whose manifestation in this world creates the quakes the world has come to fear. However, there are two ways to deal with spirits. You can kill them, or date them, make them fall in love with you, and kiss them. And hilarity ensues.
Just from reading the premise, it’s pretty obvious that Date A Live is a harem. At its core, this is a harem show, but it incorporates aspects of its plot from other types of anime. Alongside all the girls fawning over Shido, there are fights that look like something out of Dragon Ball Z, and murders straight out of horror anime. This keeps Date A Live fresh and unique among harems.
However, Date a Live is short. The first season’s only 12 episodes long, and that does make pacing an issue. I would’ve scored this show lower if it ended at the first season only due to how incomplete it is. Fortunately, though, Date a Live got a second season, even shorter at 10 episodes long. I would say that it strengthened the first season and, to a certain extent, it did, but the second season left a lot of questions unanswered, like it’s gearing up for a third season. There are plans to make a movie, so it’s entirely possible the movie will pick up the slack, but as of now, Date a Live still feels incomplete.
The Characters: Date a Live relies heavily on its female cast for its jokes. Like A Certain Magical Index, the show features heavy fanservice at these girls’ expenses, thought it is to keep the show light-hearted. None of these characters have fully fleshed-out backstories, but they are developed well. I’m especially impressed by their ability to feature each girl relatively equally (i.e give them all reasonable amounts of screen time).
Shido Itsuka: Male protagonists in harems tend to be blank slates; this is so that the girls in his harem can be highlighted in some way. In other words, while Shido is the main protagonist, his appeal lies in his relationships with the girls around him. He highlights them, and becomes interesting as a result.
Tohka Yatogami: Tohka’s the girl Shido finds at the heart of the spatial quake. She is a Spirit, the first Shido has to date. I find Tohka a very interesting character in that, personality-wise, she’s all over the place. One moment, she’ll be cute and sweet, and the next, she’s swinging a sword around, and both personalities will fit her. Early on, she becomes very attached to Shido, thus making her the main female lead. Out of all the female characters in this show, she gets highlighted the most, and it pays off. While she’s not as heavily featured as main female leads are (see above), that doesn’t diminish her that much as a character.
Kotori Itsuka: They tried with Kotori, but she’s not as great of a character as Tohka. She spends her time giving Shido orders on how to deal with different spirits. Her crowning moment was at the end of season one, when she gets one fight scene. Kotori’s important to the plot, but doesn’t appear to be as involved with it. By season two, you only ever see her giving Shido orders. Failing to highlight Kotori more was a shortcoming of Date a Live.
Origami Tobiichi: Origami’s just weird. She’s Tohka’s main rival in their quest to win Shido’s heart and thus is part of many a joke in the show. Origami gets most of the fight scenes, making her quite the badass, but you rarely ever see her outside of the battlefield. When you do, she’s making amorous moves on Shido. Origami lacks the balance Tohka has between being a badass and a normal human, and thus falls short.
Final Verdict: I watched this anime because I had heard great things about it and wanted to formulate my own opinion. Date a Live, for its length, delivered very well. It put a fresh spin on the harem genre and, while it is unfinished, is a very solid piece of work.