This series is the anime equivalent of The Bachelor. The Bachelor is a tv show where a guy dates a pool of women all vying for his affection. Throughout the show the girls often get jealous of one another and get into fights. By the end of a date or an episode the bachelor presents the lucky few with a rose, anyone who does not receive a rose is eliminated. Much like The Bachelor, Date A Live focuses around a high schooler named Shidou, who must date a collection of girls. The girls are humanoid beings called Spirits who come to Earth and in the process of doing so cause massive earthquakes than can destroy entire populations of people. In order to stop these tremors, Shidou must seal the powers of these Spirits by making them fall in love with him. Therefore instead of dating to become famous like in The Bachelor, or dating to get married in real life, the purpose of dating in Date A Live is to save the world. Yes, as corny and convoluted as that sounds this is essentially what the show is about.
One of the fundamental differences between The Bachelor and Date A Live, is that the concept of elimination through the process of a rose ceremony is lost in Date A Live. If Shidou stops dating or makes the girls upset, the girls will regain their powers thereby being a danger to society. The purpose of this review is not to question the morality of either show, but you have to admit that in real life most guys do not openly date multiple women at the same time unless they are polygamous mormons. The obvious reason for this is because people get jealous, jealous people get angry, anger causes discord in relationships thereby ruining them. The show addresses this in a serious manner at first but eventually becomes a running gag as though it was conveniently brushed aside. This unsolvable flaw is eventually address by a deus ex machina solution of having the girls believe that Shidou is “saving them” which makes everything all ok. However the issue still remains, if Shidou ever develops truly romantic feeling for one girl, the other girls will eventually get upset and unintentionally destroy the world.
But this is not real life, this is a god damn harem anime. There are 2 types of harem anime, the first type is where the protagonist eventually or will eventually choose a girl, the second type is when essentially all the girls are chosen, a harem ending. Part of the fun in a harem anime is rooting for your favourite girl or rooting for the harem ending. However in Date A Live because Shidou can’t ever choose a girl, the anime limits itself to the harem ending. Therefore upon reflection, I felt part of the fun to be lost due to the plot.
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is a theme that was brought up with particular emphasis in the second half of the season. I found this to be the most interesting and something I wished could have been explored further.
The characters in general are very cute and have their own little quirks. In a sense, this very fact is a double edged sword. The majority of the cast has been written to be very one dimensional in order draw a sense of endearment from the audience. For example, the first spirit Shidou encounters is a girl named Tooka. Tooka’s is written to be dumb, she constantly thinks about food, likes having her head scratched, acts like a child, naive to a point of believing anything that’s been said. Tooka encounters some heartbreaking moments where I really felt bad for her, however her reaction towards these events felt artificial, fake and contrived in order to keep with this kawaii persona.
The protagonist Shidou really bothered me. In the anime he constantly tells girls that he wants to save them, that they will be together forever, etc. However when one of the girls gets angry at him for dating or kissing someone else, there were many instances where Shidou looked baffled as though he couldn’t understand why these girls felt this way. One of the most basic facets of being human is the ability to relate to one another. Shidou seems to lack this, he never once looked at the situation from the girl’s point of view. This leads to a heartbreaking realization, every girl does fall in love with Shidou, however Shidou never truly loves them back at a romantic level.
A character I really enjoyed was the primary antagonist, Kurumi. Of the characters she is definitely the dark horse. Her actions are not just evil, they are downright demonic and at times terrifying. So much of the show is cute and happy that the audience forgets the weight of what is actually going on. People are dying and not in a honorable or romantic way, but instead in a most violent, bloody and painful manner. Kurumi’s presence brought a shocking realization of this fact that I found to be quite effective.
Art, Animation and Sound
Here is where the series truly shines. Each girl has their own colour palette and real thought was placed into their attire and appearances. The characters designs perfectly fit the personalities of the characters. However besides the main characters I did notice small lapses where for instance background characters all had the same face. The animators were smart in having what I call “moe” scenes, where the art style completely changes into a less detailed cute style allowing them to cut corners. The animation is fluid, there are some intense action sequences where I never noticed any dropped frames. My favourite piece of artwork from this series was the over the top view of the city, the city is covered with craters which showed where the attacks and earthquakes took place.
The music in this anime was beautiful and very fitting. Simply listen to the opening of the show to get an idea of what to expect. The battle music took advantage of string instruments like the violin, scenes filled with warmth were accompanied by uplifting piano arrangements, comedic scenes had appropriate effects to suit the mood. Besides the music I have to praise the voice actors for this show, I wouldn’t make any changes.
Date A Live is like your summer blockbuster movie, where a lot of money is put into production, you have a great time while watching the film however after seeing the movie you start to realize that many of the plot element didn’t make much sense. The reason why this happened is because the show tries it’s best to be lighthearted and cute but at the same time deals with dark themes and concepts. At the end of the season I still had many questions that were left unanswered, which I’m assuming was intentional because there is a sequel, Date A Live II. At this point some of you might be asking why the high score? Yes, I had many complaints about the show, but the bottom line is that this is a harem anime about dating multiple girls in order to save the world. People who enjoy harem anime will definitely enjoy this, I know I sure did. If there weren’t so many unanswered questions and unresolved conflicts I might actually give this show an 7.5/10 because I know harem fans will love it. Therefore have fun, enjoy the ride, but please do not think too hard about it. I know I did and my head is still ringing.