Running Simulator: DAYS Review

Do you like sports anime? Do you like the feeling of camaraderie ? To be a part of a bigger group and work towards a common goal together? “Days” is a sports/shounen anime series about a prestigious high school soccer team that gains some interesting new freshmen. I was quite intrigued when I saw this enter the lineup for Summer 2016. I had gotten into other sports anime like “Ace of the Diamond”, “Kuroko no Basket”, and “Haikyuu!!”, so I definitely wanted to give this one a shot. My general expectations were minimal, but hopeful. I know close to nothing about soccer but I figured that by watching this anime I might learn a little about the sport.

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Days follows a young boy by the name of Tsukushi Tsukamoto (try saying that three times fast). He’s a rather plain fellow with no good traits who one day gets invited to play soccer with a classmate, Jin Kazama. Tsukushi, being a complete beginner and possessing no athleticism to speak of, tries his best to keep up. He actually tries so hard to catch the ball that it hits him in the crotch, then in the body, then one more time in the face, followed by a couple of trips and falls. By the end of the first half, they find out Tsukushi has injured his foot, but being the main protagonist he refuses to sit out the second half. After hearing that this is the final game for one of his teammates, Tsukushi finds the resolve to not let his team down. Play after play, Tsukushi tries his absolute best to keep up and somehow it’s different than the first half. He actually gets to the ball to block a goal, and that’s when Kazama goes to make a play to end the game, but he gets tripped up by a defender and the ball goes loose. Guess who made it back to the other end of the field already? That’s right, Tsukushi dashes ahead and dives head first to make the goal for the team. Shortly afterwards back at school, Tsukushi and Kazama join the soccer club and  Tsukushi’s life takes a unexpected turn.

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As I mentioned in the opening, Seiseki’s soccer team is known nationwide and considered to be in the top 4 strongest school teams in Japan. Tsukushi had no knowledge of this prior to joining and just thought it would be fun to play soccer again with Kazama. As you can imagine, Tsukushi had difficulty during the tryouts and almost didn’t make it but after talking with the captain he got the chance to prove himself. Seiseki isn’t a top 4 team for nothing, the captain and the rest the of 3rd years are forces to be reckoned with but don’t count out the rest of the lineup. Their roster has many players to work with but the lineup only consists of 17 players, 11 to start and 6 on the bench for substitutes. A great shock occurs across the team as Tsukushi is announced as the final member of the roster. Everyone knows he’s got no knack for the game as of yet, and most of the team, including Tsukushi, was expecting another 3rd year. Soon after comes the first match of the Inter High preliminaries, a tournament that features high schools from all around the region. Avoiding as much spoilers as I can, I’ll conclude with my final thoughts about DAYS.

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Seiseki is a team whose players ooze confidence, minus Tsukushi and probably a few of the other first years. The team is so large that everyone is always striving towards a spot as a starter. This promotes rivalries within the ranks. Everyone might not always get along outside the game but on the field, the team’s cohesion is alive. Respect comes with the feeling of rivalry and that cements the essence of Seiseki. I said before that the anime focuses on Tsukushi and his evolution as a person and player. Without saying too much, he becomes a crucial member of the team and the respect he receives from everyone is inspiring. It becomes a real give and take system, you’ll see what I mean when you experience it. This is a 25 episode series and I recommend a 5 episode test to see if it’s worth your while. I was on board after 4 and episode 5 sealed the deal. A word of warning, there is a real bromance brewing between Tsukushi and Kazama. I really had to power through those moments and then eventually they didn’t phase me anymore. What I enjoyed the most was the games they played. Seems kind of obvious with this being a sports anime but that’s where all the “meat” is for me. Don’t get me wrong I did enjoy everything else. There is very good character development for the team and I think that’s essential for you to get sucked into the games where it gets really stressful to watch. I’m not sure I would recommend this to soccer fans, though if you’re a sports anime fan, sure give it a shot. Remember I said I expected to learn about the game while watching this anime? I didn’t learn a thing. It was strange to me considering there a was a complete noob on the team and there wasn’t an “educational” episode for him. In some ways I found it better for the story line they had going compared to other sports anime that might give you bits and pieces every now and then. DAYS holds up with the other sports anime but it doesn’t shine as brightly. It is enjoyable though and there will be a second season on it’s way. Hopefully they’ll take it up a notch and learn from the first season.

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