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.
We have hit the mid-season finale of DAYS. It’s been quite the journey with Tsukamoto and his teammates, this summer season. It feels like I’ve become their team manager: I know the players’ strengths, weaknesses, quirks and hobbies. I know their enemies, I know their training routine and their favorite food (ramen, of course). This has been a long summer, but an unforgettable one. While I normally summarize a majority of the episodes, I don’t want to ruin too much about the mid-season finale. Instead, I’ll briefly discuss this episode, before going over some thematic highlights.
The Inter High tournament ends. The team is seen cheering in an apartment as they wait for Mizuki. In typical Mizuki fashion, he arrives late and is in a full suit, carrying flowers. Mizuki knocks on the door and as it is burst open, he is smacked square in the forehead. Kasahara talks to Mizuki outside the apartment. They discuss his leg and how it was potentially a joke at this point. Mizuki asks if Kasahara will keep playing soccer after he moves, probably… but never competitively again.
After the party, Mizuki offers to see Kasahara off to the train station. It’s a big day, if you recall, as he has to move to take care of his grandmother. They discuss Tsukamoto and the choices the team has made. Kasahara has practiced a lot of shooting over the season, but has not run anywhere close as hard and well as Tsukamoto. As Kasahara boards his train, Mizuki calls his name – but says nevermind. The always beaming Kasahara begins to cry as the train speeds away. Mizuki makes a promise to himself as he walks away.
We’ve learned a lot about Kazama this season. He’s Tsukamoto’s best friend and by far one of the better players on Seiseki. He has a bit of a past though and we only have been privileged to look int what shaped him to be the player he is, whenever Kazama has a bit of internal frustration. This episode explores Kazama’s ego and his battle with actually liking a team he’s a part of. More insight into Kazama’s past is explored, his history of being a solo player with a huge ego – himself against the world. After a pickup Futsol match, Kazama sits down with his old friend, Eiji (from episode o1) for dinner. Eiji suggests that perhaps Kazama’s feeling stems from finally finding a place he belongs.
Kazama finds Seiseki moronic and full of confusion. He wanders around the town and ends up at the practice field. He’s surprised not to find anyone out training and pokes fun at how dirty the clubhouse is. He attempts to clean the strategy board, but some ‘idiotic’ team member wrote on the board with sharpie. As he struggles to clean the board, he breaks out in tears. He’s forced to admit to himself that finally feels like he belongs somewhere. He can no longer be a lone wolf.
At the conclusion of the last episode, Tsukamoto tells us a story. It’s the story of a cat he had. The cat died and shortly after, his father passed away. At the time, Tsukamoto thought that was just how life was – but ever since his fateful encounter with Kazama Jin, Tsukamoto has begun to change his thinking. Tsukamoto now believes that life is about increasing the things that are important. As last week’s episode ended – Tsukamoto was wide open to take a shot on goal.
Tsukamoto runs. He’s been running for two days straight. Running is what Tsukamoto can do best. He has to train hard for his team.
Ubukata catches him and demands he comes into a cafe to talk to her. She tells him her life story and Tsukamoto cries.
Themes, Themes, Themes
This season has been about growth. Not just Tsukamoto’s growth, but the growth of everyone he’s met and the influence he’s had on their own experiences. Mizuki has grown as a captain. Kazama has grown as a player. Ubukata has seen the benefits of moronic positivity. Seiseki has grown as a cohesive unit and their team has never been stronger. Tsukamoto has an incredible effect upon everyone he encounters.
Throughout the season, there have been many failures and successes. The entire point of DAYS is simple, but endearing. You can never win, be it at soccer or in live, if you don’t try your best. Practice and train and be the best to yourself and those around you. Without dedication, there’s no point in doing anything – but there’s no point in being a nihilist either. You have the power to positively change the world around you. This is a powerful message. While the themes are explored around a soccer team, they can be applied to each viewer’s life. Everyone has experienced challenges and sometimes you have to rely on more than yourself to see it through. Toughen up, admit your faults and work with those who support you to build something great.
DAYS has spoken to me on a very personal level and even applies to situations I still deal will. Anime is a fun hobby and DAYS is entertaining, funny and energetic. It is also thoughtful and considerate. The recent trend this season in many series has been about self-improvement and I’m glad to see that anime, in lieu of just being entertaining, can also motivate positive changes for the audience.
Tsukamoto still has a lot of growing to do. We all do. I’m eager to see how the hard work and effort he put in during Part 1 will enable him to do great things in Part 2.
Episode 12 is an incredibly emotional episode and ties the first half of the season up perfectly. Make sure you watch through the credits for possibly one of the best scenes in the series.
See you all soon. Be great!