When it comes to ecchi anime, I really don't mind the content, as long as the story and characters are provided the same level of attention as the sexual references and/or nudity. In a sense, Date-A-Live is rather tame in contrast with shows like Cat Planet Cuties, however what could have proved to be a very entertaining show, is foiled time and time again by an inability to provide a decent storyline.
This is evident through many of the awkward, deranged conversations. In one instance, the lead character admits to breaking into a girl's locker to sniff her sweaty gym clothes, in which she replies by admitting she's done the same to him. Rather than bursting into a fit of hysterical laughter, I sat there perplexed, wondering how the writer's could have developed such a punchline.
Over the course of the series, Shido is the embodiment of what it means to be a geek. When it comes to girls, they are more likely to pick on him than ever attempt a relationship, and his foster sister Kotori is much the same. His best friend Hiroto on the other hand is infatuated with a 2D girl in a dating simulation, though occasionally his behavior in the real world suggests he may not be heterosexual at all. The same goes for some of the reactions exhibited by women, the implied homosexuality, although meant as a sexy insert into the story, being entirely unnecessary.
In the world of Date-A-Live, Spirits, beings from an alternate reality that is never developed, and for reasons that are never conveyed, travel to Earth. This is not as simple as it sounds, with colossal destruction accidentally occurring upon their arriving, which has inevitably resulted in thousands of deaths. Despite the sweet temperament of many of the Spirits (though some are truly horrible), humanity has conceived a unit specially designed to eliminate the Spirits, with Kotori, and Shido's classmate Origami, who has an unhealthy crush on him, involved.
Shido it seems is an alternate resolution to the crisis. By wooing the Spirits who arrive (inexplicably, all of them are women), and giving them a kiss soon afterwards, he is able to relieve them of their powers to ensure they are able to adopt Earth as their home. As with much of the series, this ability of Shido's is again, seldom explored. Strangely enough, despite this occurrence, the Anti-Spirit Team (AST) continue their relentless pursuit of the Spirits even after they have been subdued, which will lead the audience to question why an alternate solution to the problem was required if violence is always the answer. Not only this, the AST cause an equal amount of damage to society, if not even more so, and yet nobody ever seems to complain.
The fact each Spirit has their own unique powers certainly adds a degree of interest, as the viewer can never truly anticipate what will happen, although many of the abilities are just a carbon copy of what has been explored in other supernatural/science fiction oriented anime.
The women of the program are never fully developed, and although some are discussed as being intelligent and having other amazing qualities, they are only ever portrayed as desperate love seeking lunatics. This, although partially similar to other anime, where women inevitably pursue men, would not be so bad if not for Shido himself. Male protagonists in anime can often be interpreted as sweet, yet at the same time shy, and clueless to a woman's advances. Though Shido represents some of these traits, he is unable to see women as amazing individuals, whose time should be treasured and cherished, but as missions.
When hired to kiss gorgeous women, his initial reaction is to sigh and be discontent, which is largely the opposite of how I'd feel if given such an honor. But after wooing a Spirit, and having her fall for him, he fails to care for her feelings, or even acknowledge them, and simply moves onto the next woman and proceeds with his objective. The awkwardness this can cause is as predictable as it is obviously deliberate, however, despite his generally cheerful demeanor, I personally can't help but feel that Shido is not a smooth player as the series might have you believe, but an emotionally void ignoramus who fails to appreciate women or their feelings. This dilemma, coupled with his inability to navigate a conversation (on occasion requiring a room of people to relay potential sentences to him over a radio), only increases the addendum that largely, the lead character is generally unlikable.
The graphics are quite bright, and though some would argue that animation reserved for television is never nearly as fantastic as other varieties, Date-A-Live, although visually quite appealing, is not as spectacularly presented as other shows. This aside, the soundtrack, like with many anime, is very beautiful, the opening theme being especially entertaining. There are several tracks reserved for the concluding credits, but it is Save My Heart by Iori Nomizu that is the most captivating.
Perhaps I am being a little hard on Date-A-Live. Although I am an avid watcher of anime, and own a sizable collection that dwarfs some of the other film and television genres I quite enjoy, this particular series seems unable to peak my interest, despite there been some interesting twists I did not anticipate. If you prefer your women to be 2D, then maybe you'll find enjoyment in this product, but I personally prefer women who are a lot more realistic, intelligent, and who don't trip over themselves in an exaggerated fashion while chasing after love. If you love anime, especially the ecchi variety, you should probably pick up a copy of Date-A-Live, at the least to see if your opinion contradicts my own. If so, I'm glad you enjoyed it. As for me - I'm bummed I forked out $60 for this.