I think what one takes out of Days is largely going to depend on what they bring into it.
I felt like I knew what to expect from Days, based on the soccer manga by Tsuyoshi Yasuda. Yasuda writes sports manga that are about sports more than shipping. But he also has a subtly offbeat sense of humor, as was in evidence in Over Drive – one of the very few series about competitive cycling. The director here is Uda Kounosuke, who did miraculously good work with Ginga e Kickoff, and the studio is MAPPA – a new group of old veterans who know their way around shounen of any type and deliver outstanding production values.
So when I say Days was exactly what I thought it would be, that’s definitely a compliment. I don’t anything think there’s going to be that much here for those not fans of sports anime, or those who are fans mostly of the new wave variety like Kurobas and Haikyuu!. Days is a traditional and quietly quirky series about a kid who starts at the bottom of the soccer world and works his way up through hard work and grit, expertly crafted and presented. For someone like me, who loves sports, soccer and this sort of hero, the fit is perfect. But that won’t be the case for everybody.
The kid in question is Tsukamoto Tsukushi (Yoshinaga Takuto), who fits the part to a “T”. He’s undersized and not especially socially skilled, so when the bishounen jock Kazana Jin (Matsuoka Yoshitsugu) needs a last-minute sub for his futsal match, the awkward Tsukushi seems like an easy mark. Which he is, fooling himself into thinking he’s been asked because he and Jin are now friends. But surprises are in the air for everyone once Tsukushi arrives at the field. Jin’s teammates are a group of chain-smoking salarymen, and Tsukushi – while every bit as hapless as expected – is a tireless worker. He’ll do anything to earn his keep and impress, including play the entire second half in a bloodied soccer shoe after his toenail comes off.
There are definitely echoes of Over Drive in this scenario, especially when Tsukushi’s protective childhood friend Sayuri Tachibana (Sakura Ayane) is factored into the equation. But as sports manga setups go this is as classic as it gets, so execution is going to be everything. And given the personnel involved, it’s every bit as solid as you’d expect. And given the nature of the role, getting an actual kid to play Tsukushi really helps. Yoshinaga (who starred in the theatrical Welcome to the Space Show and Nerawareta Gakuen) is 16, and doesn’t need to put on the vocal intonations and mannerisms of the part – they come naturally to him, and that makes a big difference in terms of authenticity.
Days is a soccer story, so the other members of the high school team Tsukushi decides to try out for after his foray into futsal are going to be important. We know the captain is played by Namikawa Daisuke in a role that’s very much in his comfort zone for this sort of series, and several more big-name sports anime regulars will be joining the cast in coming weeks. We’re looking at two cours for now, and we’ll see after that, but I’m looking forward to seeing the story develop even if the anime never finishes it. We need good, solid sports series just like we need good comedies – every season is better with then, and they’re nowhere near as common as they should be.