The summer 2016 Anime lineup kicks off with Days, a Soccer anime. From the first episode it reminds me very much of Haikyuu!!, with the smaller player being the main character, in this case it’s Tsukushi Tsukamoto.
He has rosy red cheeks and a black mop, setting him either up to be a Uke, or a shy character. The pre-OP scene showed Tsukushi dominating the field, but in all reality he has never played soccer or ‘futsal’ as the subtitles say.
He is invited by the ‘hot, stoic, delinquent type character, Kazama Jin, to play soccer because his team is down one man. Its unclear if Kazama is a nice character or a bully, as he shifts from both roles. He gives Tsukushi his old cleats but later scoffs him for pretending to be passionate about soccer, because the cleats did not look like they had practice wear. Towards the end Kazama is inspired by Tsukushis determination, so I think he will be a friend of Tsukushis.
True to shy, underdog character form, Tsukushi really sucks at soccer. Like really sucks, a montage of tripping happened. But as a sports anime trope, the ‘weak’ player is stupidly naive to his own skill or lack of skill and shows an immense amount of dedication. Maybe not Dying Will dedication but pushing through a torn toenail is pretty dedicated.
In the beginning Tsukushi is shown pushing his mother(?) while in a wheelchair, adding to his shy, underdog character type.
The animation was clean, with nice lighting and shadows especially in the soccer dome where there are bright overhead lights. Realistic, outline-less background objects were done nicely. Textures such as cigarette smoke and light bruises were used nicely. Background characters all had their own appearances, and the focus from background to foreground was transitioned well. There were a couple scenes that utilized different techniques, either as a stand-alone frame or as a filter or lens over the existing frames. They added to the overall mood of that specific moment.
The music consisted a lot of string instruments in mildly intensive scenes, while background/crowd noises were used most other times. The music was a key part in adding to the hype when Tsukushi was showing his determination. The sound rose and drew you in. Heavy breathing effects were added and fit nicely.
Overall I think the most positive aspects so far are the different types of animation styles used to evoke emotion, as well as the music used to evoke emotion. Sports animes, for me at least, are very emotional, and cunning. Sports terms will come in later on in the series, but building the characters so you are invested in their struggle and their success, without playing on tragic backstories is one of the positives about the sports genre in general. We get to see the character’s struggle in ‘real time’.
The negatives of the episode are the cliché roles. The characters are a tad weak. The childhood friend of Tsukushi is almost non-existent, Kazama flip-flops all over the place, and Tsukushi is a classic underdog character-SO FAR.
Overall, the anime thrilled me with the hype, so maintaining that level of intense music and scenes will be essential, as well as balancing them with the emotional ‘connect to the character’ moments. I am looking forwards to next week.