In the story, a boy named Itsuka Shidou meets a spirit girl who has been rejected by a devastated world. The girl, who Shidou names "Tooka," happens to have wiped out much of humanity 30 years ago, and now she is back. The only way to stop her is to date her.
This is my first review, so I hope it you can take it as an idea of how this novel ranks!
Originally I got into the Date A Live series starting with the Dubbed Anime release in 2013 when Funimation released the DVD set. Since then because of curiously I wanted to keep up with the story from reading the Novel.
It should be noted that there are 11 Volumes in this series with more coming in the future, however if you wish to watch the anime, know that...
Volumes 1-4 Cover the first season
Volumes 5-7 Cover the second season
Volumes 8-9 and 10-11 cover unique arcs, however
the novel is still on-going and is not yet complete with a volume 12 announced at the end of Volume 11.
The main summary of the plot involves a boy named Shido Itsuka, a 16 year old high schooler living in a city named Tenguu in Japan. There are "natural" disasters called spacial quakes that have destroyed certain parts of the world. These are caused by creatures known as Spirits, beings that do not belong to the human world.
It is later found out that Shido will meet a Spirit which he names, Tokha Yatogami. Through his interactions with this girl, he learns from his adoptive sister that works for a private company that helps to save the world from spirits that Shido can seal their powers by making them fall in love with him.
Before you ask, yes, I was skeptical at first, but this is where Date A Live shows it's uniqueness when it comes to other novels or mangas in its genre.
First of all the writing is decent for an English translation, only Volumes 1-4 have been localised. There will be some grammar issues if you choose to use a third party.
The story is what one of the two reasons that makes Date A Live enjoyable for me and potentially for other readers. The story starts off as a borderline harem, with a lot of adult themes. Shido will get himself into situations not deemed normal by modern standards, however it is incredibly enjoyable at the same time. Later volumes after 4 began to become more serious adding themes like gore and blood into the mix. The result is a story that tries to fit in a lot different themes and at the end it succeeds in adding them making the reader curious about what is to happen in the next page of the next volume.
The characters are the second reason why Date A Live is enjoyable for me as well. Before I get into this, I have an idea of how these characters look because of the anime, the novels do not showcase much art since it is not a manga, however the art shown looks stunning and only gets better in quality as the series progresses. The Astral Dresses, spirit armours, look incredible and only serves for more beautiful imagery.
Shido Itsuka as the main character starts off a defence-less child as he is only human against trying to help the spirits, and relies on Tohka for help. Later volumes only improve this as the sealed powers of the spirits allow for light access to his powers, for example he can wield a sword like Tokha, or heal gouges and wounds thanks to other spirit powers he has sealed. Further volumes show his courage that he is one that will always protect his friends and people he cares about while wishing that spirits and humans can live peacefully.
Tohka Yatogami is the main female character, she is the first spirit shown in the novel and is known for wielding a sword, she can easily be referenced as Saber from the Fate series. She adores Shido to point of where she'll sacrifice her life to save his, since he gave her a change to live in the human world with him. Aside from being a spirit, as a human, she enjoys food a lot and has a more jealous personality to anyone who tries to hit on Shido. Overall as a female protagonist she fits her role very well.
Kurumi Tokisaki is the unique character of the Date a Live series and is to me one of the best characters of all time. She is considered to be the worst of the spirits known to have killed over 10,000 people. She is both a gun wielder and can manipulate time to heal herself and revive clones of herself from her past. She is unique because of her dual personality, she first appears to be a girl with long black hair and is known for wearing a black dress that shows her innocent looks, however deep down she is a cold-blooded killer. Similar to Light Yamato from Death Note, her power to absorb the life energy (time) from humans allowed her to play the role of a justice bringer as she has killed criminals, animal abusers and rapists. However she became an evil spirit with the lack of positive response. It cannot be confirmed whether she is a protagonist or antagonist. However during the events with Shido protecting her from death, she is obliged like Tokha to protect Shido. She will constantly tease him when she is around him and at one point she wanted to marry him. Kurumi is one of my favourite characters of all time and given the events at the end of volume 11 I can only hope for the best for her.
There are other spirits that Shido encounters but that is where reading the novel helps.
Overall, this was a series I was unsure I was going to enjoy, I felt is would be a typical harem, however this novel has shown me that first impressions may not be the most reliable aspect. It is an excellent read provided you purchase the localisations, read a third party translation (like I have) or can understand Japanese text. Out of all the light novels and mangas, this ranks in my top 10. If you want a series that covers a wide range of genres but does so successfully I recommend this!
Tsunako is a pretty good character designer.
Tachibana is a pretty awful writer.
I wonder what the hook was. Every passing volume, I wonder what this series could've been if it was written by someone competent, with the same premise and all. That's a pleasant thought.
After deciding to catch up to the most recent volume, I can pretty much guarantee that the series isn't going to get better. This is a pretty odd series in that it presents itself as a parody of a typical harem genre formula, yet it strives to be one at the same time. At first this seemed like a very
subtle form of self parody, but no- It's literally just a generic harem. It had the potential to be not one, but that has been thrown out of the window a while ago.
The first thing to discuss is art- Possibly the only positive trait in the entire series and the only reason people were compelled to read this series. Tsunako is a pretty good character designer (outside of her tendency to draw incredibly similar faces), so the character designs in this series definitely stand out compared to the others in the market. In fact, Tsunako is probably one of the biggest reasons why this series even got popular in the first place after Neptunia's relative success in the niche market. Unfortunately, her art isn't complemented very well because Tachibana can't write.
The premise is as silly as the title- Shidou, the MC, must date Spirits (basically aliens from another dimension with mostly uncontrollable supernatural powers) to prevent them from killing a bunch of people. I had difficulty taking this premise seriously because the latter sounds awfully grim while the former sounds incredibly silly. Fortunately, (or unfortunately) I'm not the only one who's confused by this weird premise because the author is clearly just as confused.
See, Tachibana is pretty good at setting things up- This includes things like making the premise, introducing the characters, introducing a plot arc, but then he always somehow manages to fuck things up, and completely shits on what could've been above standard. This is incredibly annoying because this series does have a potential to be pretty decent, but it's in the hands of a writer who just doesn't know what he's doing.
To get into more detail, let's discuss about the major characters in this series. There will be some minor spoilers, so proceed with some caution.
Shidou, the main protagonist, is just a very, very average protagonist. He's that boring, nice guy who almost always does the right thing. While he is clearly inferior to a protagonist like Keima in terms of having a personality, he isn't actively an annoying excuse of a comic relief like Issei from DxD. It'd be great if he got any actual character development, but 11 volumes into the series, and Shidou still manages to be incredibly boring- His personality never changes, so he stays a static character for all 11 volumes. What a great guy. But you see, there's a reason for that, but more on that later.
Tohka is one of the worst things in this series- Her introduction was pretty decent, though. She's initially very distrusting of everyone, but then in a span of a single chapter, she degenerates into a stupid moeblob who becomes incredibly clingy and manages to be annoying in every scene she's in. There's no character development here- All she needed was a little talk with Shidou and she's suddenly a completely different character. The only real development she goes through the entirety of 7 volumes is her being slightly less clingy so that Shidou can actually progress the plot without her being a complete nuisance, but really- It's a terrible idea to have the main heroine be a complete imbecile. One could also argue that Tohka isn't stupid, but just naive- However, she never actually learns anything and stays stupid, making her mostly a comic relief until she's relevant again so she can help Shidou pull off something he normally can't. Terrible execution of a potentially decent character.
Origami is a prime example of author not knowing what he wants to do with his characters: She's a good comic relief character, and is presented as a character who is supposed to do both comedy and drama. She can't do the latter because she's hilariously incompetent like the rest of her AST (Anti-Spirit Team) squad, despite supposedly being one of the best in her group. She keeps getting involved in multiple plot points, but she herself never manages to actually be a relevant character for the majority of them. Her motivation is also an antithesis to Shidou's in that she constantly goes after Spirits to kill them as opposed to Shidou's peaceful method, but due to her incompetence, this becomes irrelevant like the rest of her character. Another terrible execution. Furthermore, there is a very obvious, sad excuse of a plot twist later in the series that was seen from miles away who bothered to check the characters' names. Not only is the plot twist completely unsuccessful in making her a better written character, but it also manages to take away what relevant trait she had as a character- Meaning, she's completely empty as a character now. Must be a mandatory thing for harem.
Kurumi is one unique character that had the potential to be good. Unfortunately that did not work out very well because the author couldn't decide whether to use this character for pandering or to use her in the original intended purpose. He decided to do both and added another contrived thing in the mix by making her a deus ex machina to resolve yet another contrived plot element later in the series. Despite her overwhelming popularity, no one actually likes this character aside from very shallow reasons like her gothic lolita design and the personality trait she's constantly attributed with (ie yandere) although she's really not one. Apparently fans' interpretation of an insane character who wants to cannibalize a character means they are crazily in love or something. I don't think that's how love works. But I guess those self-insert fans needed something to justify liking this character aside from her character design.
Here's the thing about this particular character: She gets built up as this legitimately creepy character who kills people for a hobby, but the worst she does is killing a bunch of fodders. And they're not even regular fodders- They're unlikeable fodders so people can justify that her actions are totally good when they're not based on her profile. If you're trying to make the character seem dangerous, at least make them actively do something actually evil for a change. The dangerous nature behind her character is only in the profile, not her actions- Yes, she actually even attempted to do something legitimately threatening, but it was just immediately stopped. Can't cross that line, oh no! That would be too spooky! At her introduction, she was the only legitimate malevolent spirit, which could've been a cool way to tell a story by having a spirit that's not "misunderstood" for once. But now due to fan popularity, she seems to be heading towards the whole "totally good guy all along with extreme motives" which is just setting flags for her to be yet another empty harem fodder because there clearly needed more. It also eliminates any and all possibility of a spirit possibly being actually genuinenly evil for once and making all possible future spirits and their characterizations to be incredibly predictable. Honestly, despite the direction this is going, Kurumi is really the only decent character trapped in this shitty series. Send help before it's too late. Someone.
As for the rest of the Spirits I haven't mentioned yet- If the above was any indication, the same applies to the rest. Decent introduction, awful execution. Yoshino's a fragile girl who's emotionally damaged from being hunted down- Understandable premise behind the character. After her arc, her presence completely disappears and any further character interaction between her and Shidou is nowhere to be seen. Furthermore, her character arc is incredibly short and she isn't given much time to interact or develop with Shidou outside of more talking. All I got to know about this character from the entire arc was that she's a frail girl who gets scared a lot, which I already got from her character design. And there's no more to it. If your writing says less than a character design, then you have a problem with your characterizations.
Miku is surprisingly a pretty well-written character with fairly descriptive past that explains her trauma and her current personality, and she stays pretty consistent with her profile. She actually feels like a legitimate threat compared to the rest, where everything is resolved by people evacuating and Shidou talking to the spirit until they feel bored enough to let him kiss them to resolve the arc. But then she fawns over the MC after her arc and she stays that way. Her past trauma is never really brought up again, and Shidou is all she needs. The problem doesn't even seem legitimately solved- The idea behind the arc and the character was good, but why the half-assed conclusion? What's with the pacing?
And more importantly, why keep these characters around when they might as well not exist after their respective arcs? I get it from the pandering standpoint just to maintain the harem quota, but it really doesn't make sense to me from the writing standpoint. Wouldn't it be better to just have the MC fail at times so that the audience can't predict what will happen to the Spirits at the end of their arcs? The author just shows that he can't do actual drama, and always has to write an ending where everyone just lives happily ever after. I completely understand that this is half-comedy, but if you're trying to include drama in there, at least stick with it until the end. I'm not arguing that a character must die/disappear to make a drama good, but there is not even a single form of consequence/risk present here. Even in the 7th volume, when all seems completely hopeless, everything just sort of works out and everyone pretends as if nothing happened. No lasting impact whatsoever. 10th/11st volume, deus ex machina comes to save the day. Sure, the method had presented itself in previous volumes, but the character capable of using the said method never showed the intent (or even hinted at it) of using that particular method in that particular manner, especially considering the resources it takes for that character to make it happen in the first place.
Without any failures on MC's part (excluding Kurumi), there is completely no sense of accomplishment from Shidou succeeding his "missions" either. That being said, since Shidou always manages to succeed, he never really develops as a character- He remains the character he was in the first volume, and he will constantly repeat what he always did. In fact, there is not a single significant character development for Shidou eleven volumes in. This poor writing can all be attributed to the awful fanbase the author constantly tries to please via pandering. Right now, the only thing these supposed fans are looking forward to are "oh when will this new girl join the harem omg she's so qt i cant wait to self-insert! why isnt kurumi saved yet???" instead of actively wondering whether Shidou will succeed or not. Of course they wouldn't. He always succeeds. Good writing? What's that?
Overall, this series is a huge disappointment from start to end. The comedy is pretty decent, but it sometimes feels very inappropriate and out-of-place when some half-assed drama gets thrown in the mix. And the drama can't really be good either since Tachibana just can't write anything but a typical happy ending, so there's no anticipation. The author is trying to do both, yet fails to do both. Even the whole "choose your action/say something" comedy gimmick got old 3 volumes in, so that's yet another example for highly formulaic everything this series offers. While pandering doesn't bother me that much, when those get in the way of potentially decent plot and consistent character development, then it's actively annoying. It's like writing a fanfiction of a series (since the author is pandering to popularity based polls by fans), except that you have the authority to make it canon because it's your own. The proper way to handle it would be to just settle it with side stor- Oh, the author already does that but apparently it's not enough, so it gets shoved into the main plot anyways.
I had my doubts for this series- In fact, I thought that maybe this was all just a clever parody deep down, but then I realized that was giving this series way too much credit. The most disappointing thing, surely, is that it had the potential to be a clever parody- But then it fell on itself and became the exact thing it was supposed to be parodying, and in the most generic way possible. Furthermore, even if it's generic- It could've been good with some creative writing, but even that wasn't the case here.
A lot of people defend this series with some hilarious claims like "You're taking this way too seriously/You have really high expectations." But here's the thing: If a series presents a drama, how am I supposed to take it? Not seriously? Half-seriously? If I have to selectively ignore a series' shortcomings until I can get rid of all the flaws to finally conclude that a series is "good," then the series as a whole isn't good. This is no different. You can't cherry-pick only what you like and artificially lower your standards to come to an incomplete conclusion to justify a series. You're not defending it- You're just ignoring its flaws. It's not an argument, it's an excuse. The only time when that excuse would be viable is involving a series targeted for children, and this isn't one. Some people claim that you'd need to "turn off your brain" to enjoy a series, but would you really be considered enjoying it if you actually have to do that? Or is that considered just being willfully ignorant?
That being said, this series held a lot of promises- But that is no longer the case. The series devolved into what is possibly one of the most generic harem series I've ever read, and I can't really see it coming back from it. If you want a quality writing and/or actual comedy that doesn't rely on boring gags involving women's tit sizes and asses, look somewhere else and stay far, far away from this.