In a world devastated by mysterious Spatial Quakes, Shido isn’t what you’d expect in a hero. He’s an average Joe who gets bossed around by his adorable little sister and mocked by the popular girls at his school. You’d definitely pick him last for dodge ball, but when it comes to saving the planet from imminent destruction, Shido’s got one thing going for him: intergalactic hotties can’t keep their hands off him! When the secret to stopping the Spatial Quakes turns out to be romancing the extraterrestrial Spirits responsible for all the chaos, Shido the loveable loser becomes the hero of all humanity. For every Spirit he makes out with, mankind breathes a little bit easier. Kiss the girls – save the world. That name of the game is driving the space babes crazy, and nobody does it better than Shido!
Have you guys ever wondered what it would be like if real-life relationships with gals could be handled like dating simulation games? It would be so easy what you say to them next could be chosen from a menu of three, wouldn’t it? Well…factor in having to be careful to not cause said girls to trigger massive amounts of property damage, and things are not so easy. This is the situation that new high school student Shido Itsuka finds himself in in the light-novel-based anime Date A Live.
After thinking that it’s going to be an average first day of the school year—starting with his cute panty-flashing younger foster sister Kotori waking him up by jumping foot-first into his sleeping gut—a Spatial Quake alarm goes off, which results in everybody hitting the elaborate shelters because they know that things are gonna go down. That is, except for Shido, because he had promised to meet Kotori at “Danny’s” restaurant later, and his GPS shows that she’s there. It is here that he witnesses a Spatial Quake for the first time. The first and biggest one of these happened thirty years ago and caused millions of deaths, so the people of Eurasia are understandably trying their hardest to prevent that devastation from happening again. The one that Shido encounters is much, much smaller in scale, but still quite powerful, and he sees a being from a different dimension called a Spirit at the center of it. It looks like an attractive and strikingly-dressed young woman wielding a sword (an “Angel” named Sandalphon) who uses it to destroy a building in the background and hold Shido at bay. Her first words to him are, “So you’re here to kill me, too?” Enter a Strike Witches-type group of girls (albeit showing more skin) flying through the sky firing missiles at them, seeking to kill her and all other Spirits. Time for her to raise shields—and Shido to wonder why Origami Tobiichi, the good-looking and popular but soft-spoken girl who’s sitting next to him in homeroom, is at the front of this group and especially gung-ho to attack. Shido notices that, while this Spirit girl is strong and dangerous, and is giving as good as she gets to the aforementioned AST (Anti-Spirit Team), she also looks very sad at times. When it looks like the battle has reached its peak and poor Shido is going to get killed for just trying to find a member of his family, he wakes up in a weird airship called Fraxinus, which is staffed by an organization named Ratatoskr. Their commander is…his sister Kotori, whose personality is noticeably different from earlier. Like the AST, they are very interested in the Spirits, but their approach is totally different. Their secret weapon in their battle is…a modified version of the dating sim game that Shido’s friend Hiroto plays on his cell phone. The crew is a bunch of men and women with assorted…interesting issues about love who have to offer support to a lad who will get to know the Spirits personally, earn their trust and favour and get them to fall in love with him so they will kiss him, which turns out to seal their Spirit powers. Go ahead—guess who the nominee for this important duty is.
The crew of the Fraxinus have to keep an eye in Shido to help him along, communicating with him through an earpiece, especially when menus pop up to help them determine what to get him to say next to keep a spirit’s Happiness gauge high. This results in some great banter between them, albeit uncomfortable for Shido, since he’s keeping the Spirit girl waiting for his critical next words. After some comical bits of training with both his unwitting homeroom teacher and Origami, he’s thrust into that battlefield called love. “Princess,” who he first encountered, is his first case. Since he wasn’t trying to kill her when they first met, he’s at least off to a nice start. With help from Ratatoskr, in the ruins of a wing of their school, he and the Spirit manage to hit it off; when she reveals that she doesn’t have an actual name, he gives her one: Tohka. Despite an AST attack with additional interruption and destruction by Origami, this is it, people—Tohka says she wants to learn more about this world, so they make plans for a date. Her comical level of enthusiasm, ravenous appetite for all the food she’s never tried before and rather…let’s just say detrimental effect on arcade video games demand the efforts of Ratatoskr’s ground crew to clean up and keep from bankrupting the poor lad. Origami and the AST also strike again, which complicates things (to put it lightly). It all pays off, though: The two of them grow closer, she plants one on his mouth and her power is now under control. All’s well that ends well? Nope. Things are only getting started.
Tohka moves into Shido and Kotori’s place as part of her post-sealing “aftercare,” and one of the many things she winds up learning about is new kinds of emotion, such as jealousy. This first manifests when is Origami seriously steps in between the new transfer student Tohka and Shido, but really takes off later when Shido encounters a very young, cute and bashful new Spirit code-named “Hermit,” who talks mostly through a smart-alecky hand puppet called Yoshinon. After some misunderstandings that cause Tohka to go off (and take back some of her original power), more meddling from the Flying Missile Girls, and the destructive power of the new Spirit’s Angel Zadkiel (which she only summons to help protect herself in the first place), Shido is eventually able to also save Yoshino. Don’t worry; this particular relationship doesn’t end up becoming the romantic kind. The good news is, after this, Tohka understands that Shido is trying to help other Spirits like he did with her and even starts assisting him. The bad news is that next in line is the certifiably bat-guano insane Kurumi Tokisaki, AKA “Nightmare,” who steps in to up the heaviness level sharply. How is Shido supposed to handle a Spirit whose powers are much more complex than what he’s encountered before, and who occasionally uses it to kill people? I leave that for you, the viewer, to find out. Let’s just say that inadvertently finding that he has to date Tohka, Origami and Kurumi separately all in the same stretch of time in one episode is only the beginning of his problems, as well as the last few yuks before everything goes pear-shaped. I will tell you that this season wraps up on a decent note but leaves a few loose ends. Fortunately, there’s a second season, and Funimation is streaming it, with a physical release to follow. Hopefully those will be tied up there.
Yes, Date A Live has some fun with the service (including the immediate effects of Shido kissing a Spirit), but not as often or as explicitly as other series of its ilk does; note that it’s rated TV-14. Even the Obligatory Hot Springs episode halfway through pays more attention to the AST’s shenanigans (and the attempts to stop them) than to lady lumps. The Date to Date OVA at the end skewers the expectations for added episodes in shows like this and chooses to poke a bit of fun at its premise instead. Shido can’t back out of a date with Origami, so Ratatoskr tries to help him shake her by giving him the worst choices of things to say to her, only to have them go wrong (or right, depending on where you stand) and fluster the poor actually-nice guy something awful, while she remains unflappable. By concentrating much more on the laughs than the lookit-those in this, it gives a nice counterbalance to the serious spike (with added bits of gore) near the end of this season.
The score by Go Sakabe (Gosick, SoniAni) underpins the series well, be it a quiet mood piece, churning orchestral music or gag-enhancing quirkiness. Opening theme “Date A Live” by sweet ARMS—yes, written specifically for the series—is a fitting piece of symphonic pop/rock. Who would have thought that the seiyuu for the main cast of Upotte! would branch out into other anime as well (including Maken-Ki! Two)? Ending themes “Save the World,” “SAVE MY HEART” and “Strawberry Kiss, all by Yoshino’s seiyuu Iori Nomizu, are three distinct styles of pop that go well with the three most prominent moods of the series. OVA closing theme “Hatsukoi Winding Road” by Kayoko Tsumita, Risako Murai and Midori Tsukimiya is a downright silly blend of flatly recited intro, pumping dance pop and 8-bit arrangements. In other words, just what the episode needs.
Episode 4 Commentary by Joel McDonald (ADR director), Tia Ballard (Yoshino/Yoshinon), Michelle Lee (Origami) and Michelle Rojas (Tohka); Episode 7 Commentary by McDonald, Josh Grelle (Shido), Bryn Apprill (Kotori) and Felecia Angelle (Mana Takimiya); Promotional Video; Season 2 Teaser; Clean Opening and Ending Songs; U.S. Trailer; Funimation Trailers.
While Date A Live isn’t really an Earth-shattering series (the real Earth, not the one in the series), it’s still pretty entertaining for bishoujo anime fans, and also helpful for those seeking fan service that’s not so in-your-face.
- Released By: Funimation Entertainment
- Available on BLU-RAY + DVD Combo Pack
- Running Time: 325 minutes
- Rating: TV – 14
- Release Date: 06/10/2014
- Reviewed By: Neil Ellard