If you want to watch the movie without any spoilers, I’d suggest not reading my review since I talk about specific events that happen in the movie. There are spoilers in this review, so be warned if you want to be a blank slate going in.
Though I would consider myself an elitist when it comes to anime, generally only choosing anime that are actually good to call “favorites,” everyone has a guilty pleasure or two, and one of mine is Date a Live. It’s embarrassing because I usually berate the crap out of harem/ecchi anime and give them very low scores and yet I’ve been importing the light novels and have watched anything related to it. When the first season of Date a Live came out, I was actually in Japan. Just judging from the description I dismissed it as just another harem/ecchi just being more blatantly obvious with the “harem” part. I didn’t actually decide to watch it until I accidentally won a figure of the main heroine, Yatogami Tohka, at a crane machine. After that, I decided I might as well give it a shot since I usually watch crap anime anyway. And then… well, I actually liked it. While watching it I knew it was not a good anime, but I found it so enjoyable that I ended up watching the second season when it came out as well. Not too soon after that ended, I found myself wanting more and ended up buying the light novels as well. So at this point, yes, I would consider myself as a fan of the series, but not for a second do I think that it’s a good series nor one that would be enjoyed by everyone.
When I heard that there would be a movie version of Date a Live, I thought it might be a recap, but it turned out to be an original story that was basically unrelated to the events in the light novel. Well, the track record of anime movies that try to have an original story that deviates from the source material isn’t that amazing, but since Date a Live is already pretty generic and falls back to usual developments and patterns, I thought the movie might do the same and be at the same quality as the anime. Unfortunately, it seems that this notion I had along with a lot of other assumptions fell flat on their face. The Date a Live movie was actually a lot worse than I thought it’d be and I already walked into it with fairly low expectations.
Putting the “Live” in Date A Live.
The movie starts out with a golden sphere of something falling from the sky onto a monochrome Tenguu city. The sphere falls in the middle of a crosswalk and splashes as if it was a drop of rain and transforms into a flower that blooms into a girl. The girl and Shidou who’s walking past her are the only ones in color, but it seems that no one, not even Shidou notices the girl. The narration starts soon after that which transitions into a live concert put on by Miku. The live itself s actually one of the things I can praise this movie for. Despite being less explosive and visually astounding like Macross or even something as shitty as Symphogear to a certain degree, it was still very energetic and just as enjoyable as watching a real live concert. There’s also the fact that this is probably one of the best animated scenes in the movie. There are a lot of small details that they put into the scene that serve as not only fan service to the fans of the series, but also as a tool to immerse the viewer into the live concert as if they were there with the main characters.
Putting the “Date” back in “Date A Live”
If you thought that Date a Live’s second season didn’t have enough dates, rest assured that there are six full dates packed into this movie. Each date is enjoyable in its own right because it shows off each character’s unique personalities in the context of a date. Of course, you’ll enjoy these scenes more if you have a favorite girl (that’s not Kurumi or Origami). The dates are different than the ones that happened in the anime series and feel fresh, because Shidou actually never really had a second date with any of the spirits except for Tohka. Watching each of the dates unfold was very enjoyable for me, mostly because I actually like the characters, but if you don’t care for any of them, you’re gonna have a bad time because this is most of the movie.
But where are my other side characters at?
While the Date A Live movie fit in the majority of the cast, they left out some key characters like Kurumi, Kurumi, Kurumi, Kurumi, and Origami from actually having too much screen time. Despite having a fairly big role in the actual series, the amount of lines that these characters have in this movie can basically be counted on my hands. This is more a personal gripe than an actual criticism of the movie.
The real criticism is that the main character of the movie, Mayuri, is barely in the movie. For 2/3rds of the movie, she is actually just looking at Shidou and then disappearing when he notices her. By the end of the movie when she finally talks and ultimately disappears, it’s impossible to sympathize with her or even relate to her. I hardly even recognize her as a character despite her name being part of the title for this movie. She felt more like an after thought than a main character or even a side character which is very pathetic for a movie that is trying to focus around her.
Short and not so sweet
When I started watching Date a Live: Mayuri Judgment, I was confused when I saw that it was only about 70 minutes long. I thought that there must be some kind of mistake because that’s way too short for a movie, but it was indeed 70 minutes long and it suffered because of that time constraint. 2/3rds of the movie isn’t even devoted to setup, it’s just fan service with a faint hint at something. When the anime finally does get its climax, it just feels so underwhelming that it’s almost impossible to take it seriously. The basic premise is that Mayuri is a spirit who has descended on this world to judge whether or not Shidou is a worthy vessel to hold all the powers of the spirits. Her angel creates a huge invisible sphere that only Shidou (and Kurumi) can see that is a reflection of the feelings the other Spirits are feeling for Shidou. The crew on the Fraxinus determine that the only way to get rid of the sphere is to have Shidou go on dates with every one of the Spirits who he’s sealed in order to stabilize their emotions because apparently they’re all feeling jealous of each other. Already, this is an incredibly ridiculous solution. If they’re all jealous of each other, then how does having Shidou go on a date with each of them make any of them feel less jealous? If anything, I’d think it’d make them feel even more jealous and yet they watch the dates happen and just sit there and smile. If they’re already this content with Shidou being with other girls, then why the heck do they need to go on dates in the first place?
The majority of the movie is just Shidou going on dates with each one of the Spirits he’s sealed and that’s enjoyable in its own right (unless you’re a Kurumi fan). The entire time they’re on their dates though, Mayuri’s watching Shidou, trying to see if he’s a good guy or not otherwise her Angel will activate and all hell will break loose in an attempt to remedy the situation. Fortunately, she finds out that he’s a pretty good guy, but since she’s born out of the feelings from the other Spirits, she falls for Shidou herself and ends up activating her Angel because her feelings are unstable. My problem with this is that, isn’t this bound to happen? If she’s born out of the feelings of the spirits who have been sealed, wouldn’t she basically be bound to fall in love with them? They’ve only really expressed two ways to seal spirits. One of them is Shidou’s way, which is kissing them. The other is found out in the 13th volume of Date a Live, and that’s extracting the crystal from within them. But either way, there’d be some kind of emotional instability that would inevitably transfer to her, thus activating her doomsday Angel. This Angel is fundamentally flawed and the fact that the movie was building up to it is ridiculous.
What’s even more ridiculous is that the audience is supposed to feel bad for this character, Mayuri, when she disappears in Shidou’s arms. We’ve known this character for a total of like 20 or less minutes and half of that time she didn’t even talk. Why should we feel anything for her? Hell, why should Shidou be crying his eyes out over her when he didn’t even know her? This goes back to the fact that this movie is only 70 minutes long, so it had a very short time to do anything at all. It was like the movie was procrastinating on doing actual story development and then finally did it in the last 20 or so minutes. Overall, it felt more like a really cheap OVA than a movie version of Date A Live.
You can do better than that
For a movie, it had pretty crappy animation. It was a step up from the anime, but there were a lot of poor camera directions, character designs, as well as just overall quality of some scenes. This was only made worse by the fact that there were some shining moments in its animation. Parts of the fights were very well done, the live concert looked pretty nice, and some of the dates and character movements were movie level worthy. However, these moments were fewer than many and I found myself questioning the time and effort put into this project because the quality was just so inconsistent and overall shoddy. It’s frustrating because first, it’s a movie. If you were producing something on a weekly basis, it’s a little more understandable why the quality might suffer, but if you’re doing a movie, you better make sure that it’s at least average in quality. Second, there were signs that they had the talent to make it scenes more consistently better animated yet they weren’t.
Same old song and dance
To some people this might be a bad thing while to others it might be welcome, but the BGMs were the same from the original series with the addition of a few new and remixed ones. I personally found it to be fine because the BGMs used were character specific and there’s no point in changing a character’s BGM just for a movie. Additionally, each BGM that was used in the anime gave off a nostalgic vibe that made me smile, remembering the “good times.”
The new songs are actually probably one of the best things about the movie. The new song by Miku, the new BGMs for the new character and the final battle– all of these were above the usually mediocre standard for Date A Live. Each one actually evoked the correct emotion that the producers wanted to elicit from the respective scenes that they were used in. So honestly, if there’s anything I can praise the Date A Live movie for, it’s for its music. Even though a lot of the songs were the same as before, the new content was definitely nothing to sneeze at.
MY(yuri) Judgment (See what I did there?)
If you’re a fan of the series, I think you might consider watching it just for getting your fix of an animated version of Date A Live. If you’re not a fan, forget about it. This movie’s plot has more holes than swiss cheese, the animation is typically below what should be acceptable for a movie, and it gets nothing done in its 70 minutes. Spare yourself the time and do something else with the 70 minutes you might have spent on this movie. I’m sure there are a multitude of more productive things that you could be doing. I give Date A Live: Mayuri Judgment a 4/10 and the promise that I’ll never watch it again.