by Lauren Orsini,
How would you rate episode 11 of
At long last, DAYS has given me the soccer I asked for. This episode offers sweeping aerial views of the field, complicated plays that extend far beyond kicking and passing, and discussion of offensive and defensive strategies. This is the kind of gameplay I asked for from this anime, but I'm not sure it's what I actually wanted, because the heart of this episode doesn't come from the (often sort of wrong) soccer rule tracking, it comes from the characters. Returning Tsukushi to his starring role makes this story leagues better than it's been for several weeks.
This episode packs a lot of soccer into one short half-hour. The first five minutes recap the last three episodes in such detail that you might mistake it for a recap episode if you don't keep watching. From there it's a rapid jump from play to play, centered mainly around dozens of unnamed characters setting up goal kicks for our considerably smaller cast of named characters. After a season of being unable to discern what's going on, this episode is generous with aerial views, showing where all 22 players are on the field and what they're doing.
But about halfway through, it becomes clear why DAYS has been especially cagey about disclosing this information about the game—viewers won't be able to stay immersed in the drama when they're worried about the rules. When we have no idea what's going on, we have to take the referee's calls as undeniable fact, regardless of what we know about how the game is played. Take Narukami's extremely close save right when Tsukushi is about to score a goal. There's no denying that this should count as an interference in play, but nobody calls it! The plot demands that Narukami make that save, regardless of whether it'd happen legally in a real soccer game. It's the same reason that Tsukushi got an unlikely yellow card earlier while the opposing team actually kicking Seiseki players on purpose didn't merit a yellow—or more likely red—card. Now, I'm used to suspending my disbelief in sports anime, but usually it's because the athletes are doing some extremely impossible moves, like when Akashi from Kuroko's Basketball controls people with his mind or when Tezuka from Prince of Tennis hits a ball so hard the dinosaurs go extinct. DAYS seems fairly based on reality, which is why the way it ignores real soccer rules is odd.
Whatever, this isn't a serious sports show, it's a cute one, and Tsukushi is doing a great job keeping the mood light. When he gets ready to hit the field, his pants fall down, revealing his underwear—complete with a slide whistle sound effect. Later he puts on his best Serious Face and stomps away from Narukami, only falling over once in the process. However, Tsukushi isn't just goofy, he's multidimensional, and the best scenes in DAYS have been when Tsukushi drops his adorkable nerd act to share something that manages to inspire even his most hardened critics. The cat story is beautifully executed—signaled early on in a discussion with Kazama and then dropped in as a calm note in the most climactic moment of the episode. “Maybe life isn't about counting all the things you've lost… [It's] about increasing the number of important things in it.” In a show where I've barely gotten to know anyone, Tsukushi is pulling more than his own weight by revealing new facets of his personality at pivotal points.
And then, we get to the conclusion's egregious cliffhanger, which just feels cheap. And next episode's title, “I Won't Let Anyone Be Disappointed Again,” doesn't sound like we're gearing for a win. That's fine, I'll stick with Tsukushi no matter what at this point, but after a confusing game that ignores inconvenient soccer rules, I just want to see how it ends.
DAYS is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about geek careers at Otaku Journalist
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