Resides in Austin, TX (USA). Long time connoisseur of anime and manga - I'm an art director, media critic and eccentric. I love to write, draw and travel.
If you’ve been hesitant about jumping into a sports anime series, then I highly recommend DAYS to be your introduction to the genre. With great pacing, deep character development, and beautiful animation, DAYS is a perfect storm of sports action. Read on and by the end, I promise you’ll want to give it a chance.
DAYS is not your average ‘sports’ anime fare. While it does share the roots of most shonen anime, the series allows you to grow with not only the hero, but the rest of the cast. DAYS follows the no-talent first year named Tsukamoto on his journey to prove himself as a member of his high school soccer team. It’s not all action, however. Smart comedy and compelling drama build a smooth narrative from Episode 1 to Episode 24.
You may have been introduced to a series by friends who said, ‘It starts slow, but if you give it a chance it gets really good.’ DAYS doesn’t suffers from slowness. From Episode 1 the story draws you in and gets you involved not only with the main hero, Tsukamoto, but the friends and enemies he makes along the way. DAYS is an exploration of friendship above al, and while Tsukamoto may be the protagonist, the series would be nothing were it not for his friend Kazama Jin who we meet in episode 1.
The story is set in motion after Kazama reaches out to the class ‘loser’ Tsukamoto in an effort to fill a slot on an impromptu futsal match. Whether it’s due to a lack of friendships or a genuine interest for the sport of soccer, Tsukamoto makes it his mission to play soccer with Kazama for as long as he can. Throughout the series, Tsukamoto faces many challenges and must work slowly to prove himself to his team. Kazama quickly sees Tsukamoto’s potential, not only as an athlete but as a strong-spirited individual.
DAYS doesn’t rely on the audience to project themselves onto Tsukamoto’s character. The series accomplishes its narrative by exploring each character’s backstory (and there are A LOT of characters) forcing indirectly the audience to actually CARE about what happens to them. Even the most disliked characters are given strong personal stories – this breaks the typical shonen ‘BIGGER BAD’ convention and forces the audience to view each match from multiple perspectives.
The series can be broken into 3 arcs. Tsukamoto’s training, the summer Camp, and the Nationals. The training saga follows Tsukamoto as he proves himself to his team. The summer camp arc shows Seiseki at their lowest and provides the most background for the side characters. The climactic national tournament sees Tsukamoto and the rest of Seiseki’s Soccer Club take everything they’ve learned and apply it. The pacing is solid and only slows down just so the audience can catch their breath.
When you decide to watch DAYS, keep an eye on Tsukamoto and Kazama’s relationship throughout the series. It’s truly the highlight of the show and each new development adds a new depth to the adventure.
If you’re just interested in the sports action, Season 2 is the most action packed. DAYS covers a lot of ground in only 24 episodes and the final episode is sure to leave the viewer wanting more.
The art in DAYS is absolutely fantastic. We’re seeing a lot of CGI come into play in many popular series these days. In some series it’s ghastly, but DAYS meshes it sufficiently well with the traditional scenes. There are a few moments that stood out as ‘THIS IS CGI’, but part of this is due to the amount of players on the field and the technical impossibilities. The CGI enhances the action, as it allows us to view entire teams playing at once – instead of just a few players.
There aren’t any terribly drawn frames in the series. If you loved Yuri!!! on ICE, you’ll recall the skating scenes where the characters become potato faces. DAYS stays consistent with its art style, and part of that is accomplished by making the heavy action scenes CGI. I’m still not 100% sold on CGI in anime series, but DAYS goes a long way in making it seem like a good idea.
The traditional animation is beautiful and while the style isn’t the most detailed, it stays true to the original manga designs.
Another thing that has to be mentioned is the sound design. A lot of people may take for granted good sound design, but it’s absolutely essential for proper immersion. Each step, ball kick and audience reaction matches with the animation and the music builds upon the energy of the plot elements.
DAYS also tries some experimental art. Several scenes are somewhat psychedelic. This could be jarring to some, but I think that they were tastefully executed. The scene that stands out the most to me is at the end of Episode 23. You’ll know it when you see it.
DAYS is the traditional hero’s journey told in three parts, a football version of the Odyssey, as played out as that analogy can be. In order to save himself, Tsukamoto must face a series of challenges both alone and with his crew. Obstacles block the way and the return home in Part 2 makes Tsukamoto unsure of who he is. In Part 3, he must venture back out with newfound strength and trust himself and his ‘crew’ as he finally finds what he was actually looking for. (It turns out to be completely different from what he thought).
Culturally, DAYS utilizes many traditional Japanese high school tropes. These aren’t overdone, but they make the setting seem familiar. The unique aspect of the series is that almost any culture can connect with it. Soccer is loved worldwide, and the rules are the same no matter where it’s played.
Look, I get it. It’s hard to understand the allure of sports anime. But this is THE season for getting into the genre. DAYS and Yuri!!! on ICE are proof that sports anime can be exciting. I was like you once, putting aside sports anime in favor of fantasy and action anime. Honestly, if it weren’t for DAYS, I’d probably still be watching what was used to. I’m glad I had a chance to mix it up and I know you won’t regret sliding into this series. Just for me, watch the first episode. Report back to me and let me know what you thought. If you hated it, I’ll concede the point – but something tells me you’ll love it. ^^