Date A Live (2013)

Episode 01 – 13

Kiss the Girls. Save the World.

Now, there’s a tagline I wish echoed true! Date A Live is the anime adaptation of the Japanese light novel series written by Kōshi Tachibana and illustrated by Tsunako. With producer Chiaki Kurakane at its helm, Date A Live tells the story of 16-year-old Shido Itsuka, a run-of-the-mill, Raizen High School student, who, one day finds himself in a bizarre situation. Generally mocked by the popular girls at school, and bossed around by his 14-year-old kid sister, Kotori Itsuka, Shido isn’t what one would expect from a soon-to-be hero. To give a bit of context, thirty years earlier, the world presented in Date A Live had been struck by a strange phenomenon known as ‘spacequakes,’ devastating the centre of Shido’s city, Eurasia, and claiming the lives of at least 150 million people. Living in Eurasia, Shido, along with the many townsfolk, had become accustom to smaller quakes, which now assaulted the globe on an irregular basis.

Warrior Princess!
Warrior Princess!

On the final day of his Spring break, Shido finds himself face-to-face with a mysterious armored girl — whom he eventually names Tohka — at ground zero of a shattering spacequake. Baffled by his discovery, things only become more bewildering for Shido once he learns from his sister, Kotori, that this strange girl is, in fact, a Special Disastrous Designated Creature, or Spirit, and the real cause behind the spacequakes, as these anomalies only occur when Spirits manifest themselves in our world. Kotori goes on to reveal that she is the commander of an organization called Ratatoskr, who deal with Spirits, and is the leader of the airship, Fraxinus. She further informs her brother, Shido — who now appears only to be related to Kotori by adoption — that her job isn’t to kill Spirits, but rather save them through conversation, by pacifying their destructive powers. To his surprise, Shido is recruited by Ratatoskr to make use of his unexplained ability, somehow enabling him seal a Spirit’s power. In spite of this, there’s one catch to the gig, in order to seal a Spirit’s damaging force, Shido must first make the Spirit fall in love with him and, in due course, kiss him — however, this will only work if the Spirit holds enough trust or affection toward Shido.

Directed by Keitaro Motonaga, School Days (2007), this harem, science-fiction rom-com is predominantly made up of four story arcs, where we meet four distinctively dissimilar Spirits. First up, we have the uniquely looking Tohka — whose Spirit name is Princess — with her dark-purple hair and peculiar violet, pink and pale yellow pupils; Tohka, was initially wary of humans, as she was constantly being attacked by Ratatoskr’s rival organization, the AST — the Anti-Spirit Team, a military squad whose job involves eliminating Spirits — before eventually developing feelings for Shido, after he seals her powers away. As Tohka is new to actually living in the world, she has a very cheerful and child-like personality — making her somewhat naïve — as she is emotional, energetic, and gullible. On the flip side, with her new fondness for the blue-haired Shido, Tohka is now more hostile than before, and will utilize unrestrained force in order to eliminate her foes.

If I could turn back time ...
If I could turn back time …

In episode 4, we are introduced to Yoshino, who from the outset appears to be a lost 13-year-old child wandering aimlessly in the rain. We shortly discover that Yoshino is also a Spirit, who is first seen clad in a large green raincoat, along with a bunny-ear hood, and constantly carries around — in her left hand — an eye-patch-wearing, rabbit hand puppet, named Yoshinon. Yoshino possesses two personalities; her own, rather passive, kind, child-like persona and that of her hand puppet Yoshinon — created to help Yoshino bear the hardships of constantly being hunted by the AST — who she voices through ventriloquism. Yoshino ends up living in an apartment complex next to Shido’s home, once he nullifies her cataclysmic powers, and sees Shido as a bit of a big brother figure in her reformed life.

Next up we have the show’s most iconic, most dangerous Spirit, my personal favorite, Kurumi Tokisaki, nicknamed Nightmare, a teenage girl with astonishing beauty. Kurumi uses unorthodox methods to transfer into Raizen High School and holds her own hidden agenda; befriending Shido with secret plans of stealing the Spirit mana he has sealed away. Although originally appearing to be well mannered and polite, Kurumi is a psychotic force not to be reckoned with, as she regards human life as nothing other than a food source to restore time, and thus, a disposable commodity. Clad with crimson red and black frills, long dark hair and a gold, inorganic clock face in her left eye — which is covered by bangs and is only revealed when she transforms into Spirit mode — Kurumi, in her Spirit form, is the most visually identifiable character of Date A Live, whilst her ability to summon shadow clones of herself, from other time lines, makes for the show’s most impressive battle sequence.

Wet 'n' Wild
Wet ‘n’ Wild

The last Spirit is eventually uncovered through the anime’s final arc, which centers on Shido’s 16-year-old classmate, Origami Tobiichi, who joined the AST — a special unit within the military land-based, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) — five years prior to the start of the anime, after a mysterious Spirit of Fire, Efreet, killed her parents. Usually suited up in an AST Combat Wiring Suit, this silvery-white haired beauty possesses an intense hatred and hostility towards all Spirits, due to her devastating past. Origami, in due course, comes to attain footage, which exposes the true identity of the fiery Spirit responsible for her parent’s deaths; hence, the Spirit of the Flame is, at long last, revealed.

The feisty twin-tailed, red-haired Kotori Itsuka, pretty much runs the show as the commander of the secret organization, Ratatoskr, where the crew give Shido orders from their invisible airship, by means of choosing dating options for him to follow, similar to that of a real life dating sim. Kotori’s design employs some subtle but clever touches, mainly with the color of her hair ribbons changing according to her disposition; white is for her weaker persona, the fragile little sister figure, and black, when she is strictly, and cynically, giving orders from her hovering aircraft. Nonetheless, there’s more to this red-eyed cutie than what’s initially laid out, especially as her enigmatic past comes to light towards the series close. Let’s not forget about 28-year-old, Vice Commander, Kyouhei Kannazuki, who has a perverted obsession with Kotori and is a bit of an idiot given his rank and position, providing much of the comical relief from high up in the airship.

'Who says blondes have all the fun?'
‘Who says blondes have all the fun?’

Despite being light on specifics — a lot is left unexplained — the narrative of Date A Live feels like nothing other than a straightforward formality, simply paving the pretext for the harem component to prevail, solely focusing on Shido — who finds himself the object of quite a bit of rapt female attention — and the girls surrounding him. In any case, this anime does offer something for everyone; romance, by means of Shido and his many passionate conquests; action, as the Spirits ferociously battle it out amongst one another and the AST; and goofy comedy, particularly in a stand-out episode revolving around a trip to the hot springs. Likewise, the animation — keeping true to Tsunako’s original artwork from the light novels — is vibrant, detailed and energetic, with intricate character designs, outfits, mecha and corset wearing beauties scattered throughout. Consistency and care have clearly been taken with each player; even protagonist Shido and his real-life sister, Mana Takamiya — who audiences meet when the siblings eventually become reacquainted — both have blue locks and similar facial features. Ultimately, it’s the terrific artistry of Date A Live that truly elevates the series above mediocrity.

Anyone who’s ever seen a harem-type anime probably knows exactly what to expect when dabbling into Date A Live, as this supposedly post-apocalyptic show doesn’t seem to care a great deal about its apocalypse, being much more interested in the women who eventually become part of Shido’s harem. Given its promised small-scale thrills, Date A Live, without a doubt, delivers the bouncy goods.

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Date A Live is released through Madman Entertainment Australia