Add another piece to the puzzle.
I’m enjoying Days, largely because I enjoy what it represents. I like soccer, I like sports manga, I like everyman protagonists who aren’t gifted with great natural ability. Days is written by a very solid mangaka in Yasuda Tsuyoshi, one who knows this template very well indeed. Does he know it a little too well – is Days just a bit too familiar? I can see where a reasonable person might think that, and I suspect that’s a major reason why this series isn’t going to be a big crossover hit to viewers who aren’t, well, like me. But anime is still a big tent, for now at least, and there’s enough room in it for a show like Days (two cours of it anyway) and the viewers it’s made for.
In that light, the introduction of Ubukata Chikako (Ise Mariya – if you listen closely, you can hear just a bit of Killua in there) is more preaching to the choir. A traditional sports series in the classic vein is almost always going to have a female manager character, and that’s Ubukata’s to fill with Days. Now to be honest she’s not a character archetype I’m especially fond of – the snarky, selfish and imperious ogress – but in the case of Days, we’re talking about a show that can probably use a few more rough edges. In Over Drive Yasuda mostly provided it in the weirdness of the male lead and somewhat off-color humor (which we’ll see hints of in Days as well), but this is a series that plays those elements a little straighter, so that’s where Ubukata comes in.
It’s interesting to watch Ubukata’s attitude towards Tsukishi evolve over the course of the episode. Her disdain never totally leaves her, and let’s be honest – by conventional measures he is pretty much a loser. I think the essence of their relationship comes down to her observations about him – that he’s too straightforward, destined to always be “shafted” in life (and when it comes to cleaning duties, she’s the one doing it). In my experience this is pretty much true – people like Tsukishi always always do get shafted in life, because there are always more people willing to take advantage of others’ hard work than those willing to work hard enough to be taken advantage of.
The thing about Tsukishi, of course, is that he’s pretty much impossible to insult because whatever you say about him, it’s a pretty good bet he’s already thought worse of himself. So it’s kind of an important moment when his class takes up soccer in P.E., because even if his skills are the low rung on the ladder within the soccer club, they’ve improved enough to make him a force among the football muggles. Relentlessness is most definitely a skill, not least in soccer, and it’s the sort of game where those of modest size (49kg!) can punch above their weight.
So why does Ubukata end up as the manager of the soccer club? Maybe because she’s had a little experience at getting run over by life herself, maybe because she figures someone needs to keep an eye on a person as guileless as Tsukishi. Most likely she’s bored with coasting and decides she wants to try pedaling for a while. Maybe that’s a fanciful development, but I have seen first-hand that being around someone like Tsukishi can have that effect on other people – through some combination of shame, irritation and genuine admiration. I think the captain has figured that out too, which is why when the rosters for the inter-high are named, I expect #17 to be part of them.