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Date A Live First Season Essentials Edition Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read
It’s a great piece of escapist fantasy and fun that delights for pretty much the entire run.

Sometimes it pays not to date.

What They Say:
In a world devastated by mysterious Spatial Quakes, Shidoh isn’t what you’d expect in a hero. He’s an average Joe who gets bossed around by his adorable little sister and mocked by the popular girls at his school. You’d definitely pick him last for dodge ball, but when it comes to saving the planet from imminent destruction, Shidoh’s got one thing going for him: intergalactic hotties can’t keep their hands off him!

When the secret to stopping the Spatial Quakes turns out to be romancing the extraterrestrial Spirits responsible for all the chaos, Shidoh the loveable loser becomes the hero of all humanity. For every Spirit he makes out with, mankind breathes a little bit easier. Kiss the girls – save the world. That name of the game is driving the space babes crazy, and nobody does it better than Shidoh!

Contains episodes 1-12 plus the OVA “Date to Date.”

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release is pretty straightforward as we get the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English adaptation is in 5.1, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The tracks are locked with their subtitles so you can’t change on the fly to sample things. The series works a pretty good mix here, which is accented more in the English track from the limited sampling we did, as there’s a good bit of dialogue throughout it in standard “date” fare but also a lot of action. And the action does go big, noticeably enough in the original stereo track but with a bit more oomph in the English mix. There’s a good working of the dialogue since a lot of it is done through the earpiece and with a variety of characters throughout the show so we get some decent placement and depth with various scenes. The action works it all a bit more since it has some good destruction sequences and other attacks which utilize the full soundstage even more. The series is definitely using the sound design well and it translates in a clean, clear, and crisp form here without any problems.

Originally airing in 2013, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The thirteen episodes are spread across two discs with nine on the first and four on the second. Animated by AIC+, the series has a great look to it that combines the great kind of fanservice that you’d expect from them with the detail and fluidity of the action that really sells it all the more. The show has a lot of detail in both characters and backgrounds and some strong animation across the board that it’s one of those shows that really feels like it’s the full package. Designs are great, colors are solid, detail holds up very well and there’s nothing of significant note to really complain about overall. It’s very easy to get drawn into this release and just enjoy the visual quality of it all.

After bringing out the limited edition released back in 2014, we’re now getting a new Essentials edition, which pares things down a good deal in terms of packaging but with a welcome change. The standard-sized Blu-ray case holds the two Blu-ray discs inside as no DVDs were included. While the previous box set and I think some prior editions used the main cast visual that was used to promote the show early on, this edition ejects that in favor of a beautiful single character shot with a really interesting perspective and design as it provides for the action amid the ruins and a good intensity to it, but also the softness that comes from some of the costume design. It’s very eye-catching, especially after the familiarity of the other set. The back cover is fairly traditional as we get a clean soft lavender-ish background and a good selection of larger shots from key visual pieces that focus on all the girls. The “kiss the girls” tagline is made here as well and we get a good breakdown of the extras and a really brief summary of the premise. The remainder is standard with the digital copy details and a look at the technical grid with how the set was put together.

The menu design for this release is decent overall as it plays to some aspects of the color design but for the most part is fairly traditional for FUNimation. We get a decent purple shaded strip along the bottom with the navigation which has the standard selections that all load quickly and easily, both during the main menu and during playback as a pop-up menu. The logo sits through the middle in a clean way with it done all white while various clips play throughout it, as well as just some flash of blue early on that helps to sell the logo for it. The menu isn’t one that will surprise anyone or blow them away, but it hits all the right notes and works well.

The release is a bit slim on extras as we get a couple of fun English language cast commentary tracks for a few episodes and the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Koshi Tachibana and illustrated by Tsunako, Date A Live is a twelve-episode TV series and OVA that’s animated by AIC+. The light novel series was doing well at the time and wrapped up just this year with twenty-two volumes. We’ve had two other seasons since then and a couple of movie projects as well so there’s plenty for fans to dig into and more to come, which makes bringing out a priced-down first season set a good move so that it’s more accessible and easier to tempt fans with.

The series takes place in a world where thirty years prior, there was a massive spatial quake that killed a whole lot of people and spiraled out of control into other spatial quakes around the world for a duration. But over the following twenty-five years, there were hardly any of them and the world kind of went back to an uneasy but comfortable view of things. Five years ago though, they started up again and were largely centered on Japan. The quakes cause a whole lot of damage as it’s basically a spot tornado that comes out of the blue and destroys everything and kills a lot of people. With that as the backdrop, you can envision a good bit of tension among many since you never know when things will go south. And no matter how prepared you are and how good the warnings are for getting to shelters, you can never be certain.

Enter the high school brother and sister pair of Shido and Kotori. The two have a kind of typical anime relationship in that he’s the older sibling and dotes on her and she completely eats it up to her advantage, which to everyone else just looks a bit creepy. The two get their basics laid down nicely in the first episode, but it all goes south quickly when a spatial quake hits and Shido is hustling to get where they were going to meet since Kotori will obviously put herself in danger rather than get to safety in order to keep a promise to her brother. While she ends up missing in the midst of this quake, we get introduced to the cause of it. Namely, an attractive and busty young woman who quickly targets Shido, wondering if he’s going to try and kill her too. Apparently there’s a crack team of young women named AST’s that deal with these human causes of the spatial quakes by killing them, but they can’t really be killed as they end up sent back to where they came. Which is just some kind of void or something based on what little we get.

Where this takes a weird, amusing, and interesting turn is that Kotori is actually in charge of a secret organization that’s attempting to change the way these Spirits are handled. While the AST’s want to kill them, she wants to turn them more human by having Shido to start dating them, making them fall in love and easing what it is that causes the quakes for that particular person. Now, that is certainly odd to be sure, but there is a pretty decent in-show reason that he’s used which is explored towards the end. Especially since they have to explain why he can be killed himself and revived fairly quickly with no damage while not being a Spirit himself. But what Kotori does to this poor, confused, and befuddled young man named Shido is to put him in the position of turning these girls’ attentions his way.

And they do that through a hilarious command center group of some of the worst people to make dating decisions. Ever. When he starts interacting with the first girl, who is eventually named Tohka, a series of choices come up on the command screen and the team decides the best course of action for Shido to follow through with. Naturally, these are your basic visual novel choices in a lot of ways with some really, really bad end material that could follow if used. So the fun is in seeing them come up with the answers based on their own skewed and kind of poor to non-existent dating history and relaying that to Shido, who then has to pull it off with a girl who could kill him or cause massive amounts of destruction. And, he has to achieve the bigger goal of really getting them to fall in love with him. And that’s dangerous enough in itself.

The early focus on Tohka works well because she’s totally sold by what Shido is selling and that just makes it more complicated when he ends up dating one of the girls on the AST team named Orgami, enters into a friendly but complicated relationship with a Hermit type Spirit named Yoshino and then has a far more dangerous one with Kurumi, who is intent on eating him up alive and has a very different kind of engagement with him. Through it all, he ends up in various fights and dating situations – sometimes interchangeably – with the girls all while Kotori is in the background making suggestions based on the command group and their views and choices. You get a lot of the usual harem style behind their back situations going on, but since they’re legitimately trying to keep these Spirits separate and happy, since spatial quakes happen otherwise, there’s a good motivation for it. And it also turns pretty dark along the second half as Kurumi is after some real vengeance and Kotori herself has some issues that are desperately needed to be dealt with, which includes explaining the amusing reason why Shido is able to do what he does.

Being a harem action-comedy series, yes, there’s pool scenes. Yes, there’s fanservice. Yes, there’s an OVA epilogue episode that plays up the whole dating thing in a way that even involves some lingerie shopping and swimsuit competition moments. But what they do with it here, both with the beautiful character designs, top-notch animation, and excellent color choices is to really make it engaging in the visual realm. And it has a kind of interesting self-image that it works with that you know it’s taking it seriously, it’s not winking at the viewer, but it has a sense of fun about a lot of it. It’s easy to be dismissive of a series like this as just another tits comedy to delight the boys, but it actually works some very fun things into it when it comes to the dating aspect and the interactions between the characters. And it excels at some beautiful action sequences with some great detail. Easily dismissed at first, but man, it really comes into its own and it’s just a fun work that spreads itself across the twelve-episode main run rather than the by the rote introduction of new girls every episode.

In Summary:
While I had missed this during the simulcast when it first came out and I was at the time a bit apprehensive about it since it had gotten both a second season and a movie, Date A Live is definitely a very fun show. It doesn’t answer all questions here but instead feels like it’s working some of the foundations with a few trappings while not explaining everything away. Which makes sense since there’s quite a few novels to work with. The show doesn’t give us in-depth characters and there’s obviously a kind of weirdness about the situation as the Spirits start going to school and so forth, but there’s just such a fun infusion of energy in the show combined with beautiful animation and action sequences and the right kind of fanservice that doesn’t go too far (these days) that it’s easy to get caught up in it and enjoy. It’s not a world-changing show and it likely won’t be on a lot of people’s top ten lists. But it’s a great piece of escapist fantasy and fun that delights for pretty much the entire run.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Commentary Tracks, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: A-
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: A-
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: April 28th, 2020
MSRP: $29.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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