The Olympics are now underway, and with the Premier League kicking off next weekend, our current look at sports anime this week moves onto football, and a series that is currently airing.
DAYS began as a manga by Tsuyoshi Yasuda in 2013, and the anime adaptation of the series began this July. Readers of the past sporting anime columns will recognise the recurring elements common with these shows, such as the lead character being someone who is perhaps not that sporting on the surface taking centre stage, and you still can’t forget that suspiciously homoerotic fan base all these sports shows seem to have, particularly when the lead’s best friend has a slightly feminine appearance.
The story is set in Seiseki High School and follows rosy-cheeked Tsukushi Tsukamoto, a boy raised by his wheelchair-bound mother. He is introverted and often bullied, but he is helped by a long-haired blonde from his school year named Jin Kazama. Jin invites Tsukushi to play in a futsal match as they are a player short, and he agrees to take part. While Tsukushi seems rubbish at playing, he makes up for it by running a huge amount, even when he is missing a shoe – and even loses a toenail in the match. Despite his injury and lack of skill, he still manages to header the ball into the goal – and heads the goalpost in the process.
Following this, Tsukushi decides to join up with Jin and become a member of Seiseki’s football team. What he doesn’t know is that Seiseki’s team is one of the best school football teams in Japan, so he has to work extra hard to become a member of the squad, which is not easy for someone lacking in so much talent, in comparison to Jin and his natural ability. The main way Tsukushi trains is simply running constantly, in all weathers, and thus he is able to make it because of his stamina and motivation. Whether he is able to become a much more rounded player remains to be seen, but the team captain, Hisahito Mizuki, believes that in the future Tsukushi could become the team captain.
There are plenty of things to highlight in this series. For one thing, so far in this series there has been very little in the way of actual football. In fact, in the six episodes broadcast so far Tsukushi has played more futsal than football. He has only been in one proper football match. However, that doesn’t stop you from enjoying the show.
The main appeal is watching Tsukushi, whether it is when he is trying to put in extra training to become a better player, or he is just getting to nervous letting other people dominate him. He is an enjoyable character that you can get behind. While the team itself is not an underdog, Tsukushi on his own is.
Of course, while there is little football in it, this doesn’t stop the people watching it still making up their own ideas about the show. There are plenty of moments when the boys are not in their kit (e.g. there is a large bath scene). Mind you, it does swing the other way sometimes too. In the opening episode, when Tsukushi and Jin arrive at the place where their futsal match takes place, the first thing they see is some women who have just finished their match and are thus hot and sweaty – by which I mean it looks less like they just finished playing futsal, and more taking part in a wet T-shirt competition.
I recently just learned that there is a term to describe shows such as DAYS and other sports series, in which there is a large audience of women viewers who watch it because of the attractive guys in it: the Odagiri Effect. The name comes from actor Joe Odagiri, who starred in a live-action TV kids show, but it gained a large, secondary audience of women who watched because Odagiri was a very attractive man. This effect also occurs in shows like this, because of both the artwork and the relationships between the characters: something that is bound to happen when you are on a sports team, where you need to trust your fellow teammates.
DAYS has certainly all the elements to become a popular series, and will in my will certainly be one.
DAYS is streamed on Crunchyroll, with new episodes released on Saturdays at 20.30.