(Warning, the following article contains spoilers for DAYS. Read at your own responsibility)
I’ll just get it out of the way, I don’t like DAYS, and it isn’t from a lack of giving the show a fair chance. In fact I gave the show plenty of chances, as I watched the first 6 episodes. The problem is the show, at least to me, got worse with nearly every single episode.
A big issue I have with the show is that I can’t tell if I’m supposed to take it seriously at face value or not. This issue stems from pretty much one character though, and that character is Tsukushi Tsukamoto, the protagonist. I dislike everything about Tsukamoto, from the way he is written all the way down to his character design. Speaking of his character design...
Not only does he look like a little bitch, he behaves like one too. Now I’m no rookie to sports anime, so I know a common trope for a main character in a sports anime is for them to be inexperienced and meek looking, recent prime examples being Onada in Yowamushi Pedal and Hinata in Haikyuu!!, but Tsukamoto takes that trope way too far. His giant doe eyes and permanent blush stickers make him look like he walked in from off the set of a shoujo anime. His look clashes with nearly every damn character in the show. On top of that they made him suck too much.
Yes the main character in a sports anime needs to have flaws to overcome during their journey to become a better player, but they need to be able to participate in their sport in the first god damn place for them to be a believable character. In Ace of the Diamond, Sawamura has a wildly moving fastball that takes every opposing batter a couple of at bats to get used to, and on top of that the guy is somehow a bunting master to the point where he is giving tips on bunting to the best batters on the team. These make up for the fact that he otherwise can’t field or bat worth a damn. In Yowamushi Pedal, Onada needs to become a better racing cyclist, but already has the speed and endurance needed to do so after riding a gimped mommy bike back and forth between his house and Akihabara for years. In Haikyuu!!, Hinata has to just get better at volleyball period and especially learn how to overcome the physical limitations his height brings in a game filled with giants, but thankfully he has lightning fast agility and an insane vertical leap that justify him even being on the court.
Tsukamoto doesn’t have anything like that. You want to know how bad Tsukamoto sucks? He can’t even run properly, let alone receive passes or kick the ball in soccer. How the hell are you going to play soccer if you can’t freaking run?
It is from this sad sack of a protagonist that everything about DAYS just unravels. I can suspend my disbelief for a lot of things. People have a bunch of sentient weapons that become the limbs of a giant sentient mech? Cool. People have their minds and bodies connected via highly technological scars that allow them to share their pain and feelings? Bitching. This show, however, just breaks my ability to suspend disbelief. There are just too many illogical things happening in a show that is ostensibly set in a realistic world. So let’s run down the list shall we?
For starters, apparently Tsukamoto is actually a superhuman, or at least has a healing factor like Wolverine or Deadpool. I say this, because the dude is able to effortlessly shrug off injuries that would put people on the shelf. The first example of this is in the first episode where he ends up diving headfirst into a goalpost. Realistically speaking, the dude would have suffered some kind of spinal injury doing this with the worst case scenario being he’d be dead on the spot, and the best case scenario is probably a broken freaking neck or some ruptured discs in his spinal column.
Seeing him suffer an injury like that immediately made me call to mind the ultimately career ending injury Stone Cold Steve Austin suffered when he was hit with a botched sit-out Tombstone Piledriver from Owen Hart. Stone Cold was obviously in better overall physical shape than Tsukamoto was and yet he was briefly paralyzed as a result of his injury and then suffered constant neck issues for the rest of his career. The fact that Tsukamoto got up from that just fine practically killed my suspension of disbelief then and there.
The next example of Tsukamoto’s incredible healing factor is when he rolled his ankle while running laps around the school. He got back up and started running again like nothing had happened. You can try waving that whole, “Well adrenaline dulls your sense of pain” thing, but that’s a no go for me. For one, I suffered a similar ankle roll while at work one day, and I was definitely pumping adrenaline at the time and that pretty much ended my shift then and there. If that’s not convincing enough for why that’s bullshit, look at all the NBA players who suffer rolled ankles in the heat of the game and are immediately out of commission. Are you telling me this little bitch of a main character has a higher pain tolerance than freaking NBA players? Please.
It’s not just Tsukamoto’s amazing healing ability that killed my immersion in this show either. Remember how I said Tsukamoto couldn’t run? Well eventually he does get good at running, and by eventually I mean really damn quick. And by quick I mean by the time they went to their yearly training camp. He went from not being able to run at all to being able to not only run faster but outlast the players on literally every other team at the training camp in mere weeks, if not days, just from running laps around the school a lot.
That’s not how that works! Yes you’ll get better at running from that, but you don’t suddenly become better than the people who have been in peak physical form and running around playing soccer for years. As a little side note, another brief issue I have with the show is I have no context for how much time has actually passed in the show, they literally just jump from major event to major event rather quickly.
But wait, there’s more! Tsukamoto is pretty much being gifted everything on the hopes that he’ll become the second coming of Jesus, I mean Mizuki, the team’s captain. You see, Mizuki was also a sorry sack of shit when he was a first year student. Couldn’t run, couldn’t play, but unlike Tsukamoto he wasn’t as diligent in his training at first, so the train of thought of Mizuki, and I am assuming the coach as well because he’s enabling a lot of this bullshit, is that Tsukamoto will become an even better player than Mizuki. See the problem is they are gambling their future on the hopes that they’ll capture lightning in the bottle twice by turning a shitty player into a world class player within three years.
It just doesn’t make sense, though. Especially when the coach has the balls to say with a straight face that the roster he made for the Inter High tournament is the best possible one he could make after examining all the possible scenarios. Said roster includes Tsukamoto’s sorry ass on it, over much better players. Players who can actually contribute to the team now, and not hypothetically in the future. Keep in mind, at this point in time Tsukamoto can only run, he can’t receive passes or even kick. He’s only good as a distraction, and effectively means the team is playing with 10 players on the pitch.
In a realistic setting, Tsukamoto would be a bench player for life, and that’s the best case scenario. More realistically, he’d be cut from any team he was on, let alone a team that is supposed to be as prestigious as Seiseki. Oh I forgot to mention, Tsukamoto’s school, Seiseki, is one of, if not the best school in the country when it comes to soccer. At the training camp every other team was crapping their pants when in the presence of Seiseki. This is a huge departure from most school based sports anime where the protagonist’s school is not the best there is and part of his goal is to see the school succeed. When you get down to it, Seiseki does not need Tsukamoto in any real capacity.
Then the show has the balls to try and justify his inclusion on the team, because in the first Inter High game the team plays in, the team sucks. Not enough to lose, mind you, but they also weren’t winning. The show tries to bullshit us by saying the players weren’t feeling it or whatever, something about them not being motivated. Which, you know, again is bullshit, because they are the best damn team in the country. I mean I can get them being overconfident and the other team punching them in the mouth for their hubris, but this is not that kind of situation.
The players genuinely were not mentally in the game, until the coach put the cheerleader, I mean Tsukamoto, into the game. Then suddenly everyone is playing like someone lit a fire up their ass. Then the show made a big deal out of Tsukamoto stopping the ball from going out of bounds. Like ok, it was an impressive play to be sure, but it is a common play as well, and the show made it to out be way too big of a deal.
Ultimately this is probably my biggest issue with Tsukamoto, he hasn’t actually earned any damn thing yet. The other characters and the show itself are just handing him everything. Which quite frankly is an insult to all the other sports anime protagonists who had to actually earn their progression and playing time.
Oh, and before I forget, the other characters in the show kinda suck, too. As in, after 6 episodes, I barely know a damn thing about anyone outside of Tsukamoto, except that currently most of them seem to be total dicks. Part of the problem is this show has too many damn characters just at Seiseki, so not even counting the rival schools. Yeah, yeah Ace of the Diamond also had an insanely large cast like this as well. Ace of the Diamond also had 126 freaking episodes to work with, while DAYS currently only has 24 planned episodes. Also, I don’t really know where else to put it, but it is another complaint I have, and that is that there honestly is no real tension in this show, because the very first scene of the first episode is in the near future during the Inter High tournament against Seiseki’s main rival school and Tsukamoto is actually playing pretty damn good in this brief scene, so...yeah.
All in all, I won’t begrudge you if you can manage to buy into DAYS. In fact, more power to you, as you clearly have a stronger suspension of disbelief than I do. For me, though, DAYS is one of the worst sports shows I’ve seen, and that’s a damn shame, as I had high hopes for this series going in. A soccer anime, from MAPPA? Sounded good on paper, and hell it still does sound good on paper. In fact there are many aspects about DAYS that I do like, such as the show’s secondary protagonist is Jin Kazama, a naturally talented sure to be world class player, and the fact that the show follows the top school is a nice change of perspective.
Unfortunately, DAYS just shows a general lack of knowledge of not only soccer as a sport, but how the human body even works in the first damn place. It shrugs off the brutal realities of one of the toughest sports to get good at for the sake of an “inspiring” tale of fantasy and in the process squanders an interesting set up by hamfisting a rookie protagonist into a dominating sports program. As a show, DAYS is more than worthy of a red card.
DAYS can be watched on the Crunchyroll streaming service. DAYS is based on an ongoing manga series by Tsuyoshi Yasuda.