Season aired: Winter 2019
Number of episodes: 12
Genres: Romance, Harem
Thoughts: I went into Date a Live III with high hopes. I had enjoyed the first two seasons, despite some of their problems, and was pleasantly surprised when, out of nowhere, J.C. Staff revived a series that had been dead for 5 years. At the same time, I can’t say I knew what to expect. Speaking as someone who never read the original light novels, I was hoping for something better than the disappointment that was Date a Live II. That season had ended on an unfulfilling note, but also seemed to foreshadow some really interesting storylines. And, based on the first two episodes of Date a Live III, I got excited. I was ready for the situational humor, misunderstandings, and fight scenes that characterized the first two seasons, but I was also hopeful the show would turn more serious and capitalize on all the groundwork it had laid.
Yet, after finishing this season, I don’t know if my expectations were met, shattered, or stomped on.
Story: Taking place sometime after the events of Date a Live II, the story focuses on Shido Itsuka, an ordinary high school boy tasked with assembling a harem in the name of saving the world (pretty sweet gig, right?). He builds a harem to prevent “spatial quakes,” massive explosion-like distortions in space capable of killing millions of people. These quakes are caused by “spirits,” female beings with immense magical power. A spirit’s magical power is tied to her emotions, so, while you could just kill them, if you can make one fall in love with you, you can seal their abilities, effectively rendering them normal humans.
When it comes to introducing a new girl, Date a Live has a consistent storyline: introduce the girl, have Shido come up with ways to win her heart (and have them all fail), and make her fall in love after some climatic event. The first girl introduced is Natsumi, a spirit with some pretty rough self-esteem issues. She started the season off pretty strong and got my hopes up for the rest of the season. Of the three story arcs this season covered, I think Natsumi’s was handled very nicely. She gets solid, albeit slightly cliche, development and the plot of this arc is really gripping. This arc also did a good job reintroducing the villain from last season, the sinister DEM corporation, and had some great foreshadowing. The last season only teased DEM’s significance, and Natsumi’s arc got me excited to see what would happen between Shido and these new villains.
Which is why the rest of the season is so disappointing. If Date a Live III had continued with the set up in Natsumi’s arc, a lot of the show’s problems would’ve been solved. However, all of that set up vanishes by the second arc and all that’s left feels little more than filler.
The second girl “introduced” is Origami, a recurring character from the previous two seasons. Series veterans know what she’s all about and the show’s second arc focuses mainly on her and her fierce hatred of spirits. This arc was supposed to develop Origami more as a character, and to some degree, it did, but not in a very satisfying way. It starts off as promising by diving deeper into her backstory, but it falls flat with its less than ideal resolution. Ironically, Origami has the longest story arc in the season at 6 episodes, but that was not nearly enough to flesh her out and resolve her problems in a satisfying way.
The last arc involves Shido himself. I had heard about this arc before even starting the season and it seemed like the most interesting one. Rather than have Shido save everyone, putting him in danger seemed like a good way to develop the rest of the cast and let the audience get to know them better. However, this is easily the weakest arc. It’s compressed into one episode and rushes to its conclusion (keep in mind that Natsumi and Origami got about 5 episodes each, which, in Origami’s case, was barely enough). It was an arc with so much potential and one I was really looking forward to, but it failed to live up to my expectations.
The Characters: The characters of Date a Live are static. By now, returning fans more or less understand who each of the characters is. Outside of Origami, there was some, but overall very little, development for each of them. That wouldn’t be much of an issue if not for the fact that the show hinted at more development than it actually gave. It placed obstacles to test some of its characters, but nothing actually got tested. You might learn a little more about a character through some exposition, but then that new information never gets brought up again. This is especially noticeable with Origami’s arc. It tried to give her some character development, but failed to achieve any meaningful gains; I felt Origami fundamentally remained the same character before and after, despite the show trying to claim otherwise. Any changes she received might have affected the plot, but not who she was as a character. Shido’s arc straight up abandoned any attempts at further development, when it could’ve explored his relationship with the rest of the cast. I felt cheated. Had Date a Live III given its last two arcs more time, it might have been able to give its characters growth. Real growth.
Music/Soundtrack: The soundtrack of Date a Live is one of its strongest points and helps it to stand out from its harem brethren. Music adds a lot to a show’s overall tone, and returning composer Go Sakaba makes Date a Live sound, well, different. “Hurricane” and “Gabriel Rondo,” which make a return from Date a Live II, are just two examples of tracks that really shouldn’t be in a harem show because harems aren’t supposed to be serious. They’re for comic relief, but I take Date a Live more seriously because the soundtrack is just so good.
However, one of Date a Live’s strongest points, and part of the reason why I started watching the first season all those years ago was, by far, its opening. Most harem anime openings are light-hearted, fun, or otherwise, happy. These types of anime aren’t meant to be taken all that seriously, after all. But since season one, Date a Live has started its episodes in an explosive fashion. Its openings are fantastic, combining wholesome lyrics about romance with a dramatic melody. Falling in love never sounded so cool. This season’s intro, “I Swear,” performed by Sweet Arms (who worked on the past two seasons), is a banger. I never skipped the intro.
Final thoughts: Honestly, Date a Live III wasn’t anything impressive, innovative, or unique. But it wasn’t trying to be. This season made it pretty clear it is trying to appeal to its fanbase. That said, it could’ve, well, tapped into it better. Fundamentally, Date a Live III is still the same Date a Live that fans know and love, so anyone who saw and enjoyed the first two seasons would like this one as well. However, poor pacing and a lack of meaningful resolutions to its plot points prevent this season from reaching its full potential. It’s not bad, by any means. But it is not without its flaws.
And one note about voice acting: Alexis Tipton’s Kurumi is best Kurumi.
– Consistent style. If you liked what you got in the first two seasons, you know what to expect in this one
– Really strong start
– Pacing issues
– Lack of meaningful character development