I hope that by the time we get to volume…20 or so in the adaptation, we don’t end up just going through every conceivable animation studio to make this thing.
Find the spirit, date the girl, make her fall in love, seal the deal with a kiss. Like its predecessors, Date A Live III continues the story of Itsuka Shido and the crew of the Ratatoskr as this strange boy capable of sealing the mysterious spirits finds and helps the girls, both old and new, while starting to uncover the mystery of the spirits and their origin.
Covering roughly volumes 8-12 of the light novel, DAL III arrives at roughly the point where I regard the story as expanding on the narrative and the mystery of the series by tying up a few loose ends and introducing a few new ones to further fill in the blanks. It’s by far the most interesting (and convoluted) part of the series thus far and deserves praise for just throwing itself out there despite its copy/pasted plot, which to the show’s credit is a lot less ‘Date A Live’ than normal given there are a lot less dates, Shido’s typical ‘harem protagonist’ reactions are well warranted given the absurdity of particular situations that occur around him, it’s not ALL about the girls falling in love with him since their stories take more precedence, and the plot is (usually) more serious overall, especially in the latter half.
Of course inherent flaws with the series are still existent: Shido despite being more of an active protagonist doesn’t feel all that important in the long run, the series is still about the girls so the one in the spotlight takes the forefront of everything despite anything else that happens, and tonal/pacing breaks are still jarring at times with instances of the series feeling rushed or too slow depending on what’s going on due to how much material is being condensed in a small timeframe. It’s the last point that particularly irks me because not enough of the plot seems to sink in enough for the audience to process what’s going on before we’re thrown into a dramatic fight scene without properly understanding who or what is participating at any given time.
Another troublesome point is the last episode. I don’t know why they decided to squeeze the entire plot of volume 12 into episode 12. It takes at least 2-3 episodes to get through one volume, and all of this season’s issues become crystal clear here where nothing feels coherent because missing context, details, and reasons to give a damn are all but non-existent.
Overall, DAL III is a decent narrative improvement over what we were presented in previous seasons due to the length and severity of arcs given more time than usual, Shido seems to continue having agency over his actions now we’re post-Miku, and the overall narrative of the series is more explored with a decent enough time dedicated to expanding on the mystery of the spirits that’s yet to really be revealed. However because of inherent series problems as well as production and time issues on J.C.’s side with pacing issues rushing on parts so much of the series that really needed time to sink in, a lot of what could’ve been good just isn’t.
Shido this time seems to stay on-character with his growth and determination to save the various spirit girls that come into his life, fervently trying his best to convince the girls at hand that he will take on their burden as cliched as that sounds. But a lot of it feels really hollow in comparison to what we ended up with in Season 2. Most of the time this season it feels like he’s just screaming out the words without any merit behind them. I partly blame this on the adaptation’s pacing because it feels like we’re skipping over A LOT of important scenes to merit Shido giving the spiel to the girls that they don’t have to continue being a terror on society, which really is a shame considering one of the girls this time is someone who’s been around since the BEGINNING and to have that feel less impactful makes me feel a little cheated.
Since the series this time primarily covers the material from Natsumi Search to Tobiichi Devil, the featured girls this time is the 7th spirit, Natsumi, and Origami, which thanks to poster arts and several promotional material, arrives (finally) as the 8th spirit.
Nicknamed ‘Witch’, Natsumi continues the chain of ‘unconventional’ captures where her story and involvement of the series mixes up the formula due to her aloof qualities and conflicting nature, sporting a confident facade that masks how little she thinks of herself, which really shows how this series can portray these personal issues of the girls and put them in a good limelight. If they get the time that is. Because pacing is such a major issue this season, Natsumi’s issues don’t feel as fleshed out over the course of the time she’s given and ultimately feels contrived in the end because her arc ended up being a lot shorter than I expected, especially with the whole climax of it seemingly coming out of fucking nowhere since not enough time was devoted to really showing off what’s happening in the background.
Instead, most of the season’s runtime is devoted to Origami, who has quite possibly the most expansive and interesting arc the series has had thus far. Becoming the things she hates, learning the truth of the death of her parents, Shido’s resolve to save his stalker, all culminating in a final scene where everyone bands together to cull the sadness and loneliness from this girl’s life? Origami honestly just feels like she’s going through the motions of her story without BEING her story. It’s the disconnect of character vs. plot that makes what’s happening to her feel a lot less genuine than I expected. Now that’s not to say it’s all bad, as the latter half of her arc definitely lived up to some of my expectations, but the way it started felt so rocky and half baked that I actually wondered if I was even watching the same series because it just didn’t click in the way I wanted it to.
The rest of the cast from all of the other girls to all of the side characters more or less fall to the wayside as the structure of DAL is NOT kind to anyone that isn’t Shido or the 10 or so girls he’s got attached to his hip. A shame too considering this is supposed to really be the point where antagonistic motivation starts arising from the depths, and we don’t really get enough of that beyond one or two instances that happens in the middle of the series. I was honestly expecting it to happen a few more times, but…I guess that’s happening in DAL IV. If that’s even happening.
Going from AIC+ to Production IMS, DAL now finds its new home in J.C. Staff (since everyone else basically crashed and burned) which compared to the other two looks the worst out of the three! While the series still has the feel of Tsunako’s original artstyle, the colors this time are a LOT more dull and don’t have enough of light in any aspect of the color scheme to compare to what was achieved from the other two seasons. This issue also extends to the way the characters are drawn as model irregularities are semi-common and there’s apparent stiffness with the characters as they literally stand in place with a few mouth flaps to ensure the characters are talking rather than anything natural to make them seem more in tune with the environment, which is made even more apparent with models of the cast in distance shots appearing a lot worse than previous seasons.
In addition to that, the overall quality of the animation feels like it suffered a lot due to how little movement or any kind of dynamic fighting that occurs this season, much less enough particle effects to make the series really stand out since there aren’t as many ‘spirit’ effects, flashy sword slashes, or what have you to fill in the action requirement of the show.
Thankfully though, there is one consistent factor that stays with DAL, hopefully till the day the adaptation dies because they’re probably contractually obligated to do so since two of their members are VAs for the show. Once again, the OP “I Swear” is sung by Sweet Arms, and is quite possibly my favorite of all three of the OPs (four if you count the movie) that they’ve done. The tone and energy of the song resonates well with the tone of the series, which is made even better when the lyrics literally spell out what happens in the second half better than what what we see happen in the second half. Conversely Erii Yamazaki’s “Last Promise” just isn’t as good in comparison. Compared to “Day to Story” in Season 2, this ED just doesn’t really do it for me, which is a shame because I really wanted to know how they were gonna top that amazing ED.
Thankfully the show still has the same OST as it had back in DAL II, so for that I’m also thankful considering just how good that OST is and how well it actually increases the severity of any situation despite whatever’s happening not seeming all that dire.
J.C. staff is like that communal trash can that the industry seems to be defaulting to whenever a series license is begging to get made but no one else is willing to take the dive. (Happened to High Score Girl too.) I have been waiting years, years for this season to come out because we were finally, FINALLY getting to the start of the ‘endgame’ where the series would start focusing on more serious narratives, and the stories of the girls would start to getting more interesting and in a sense, completely shave off the ‘Date’ part of the series’s title. As DAL is quite possibly my favorite series, I am ultimately very disappointed with what J.C. Staff ended up doing to season 3.
It doesn’t feel like very much effort was put into this adaptation. Natsumi and Origami seemed to really have their arcs sped through for the sake of ‘getting it done’, Shido feels like he had the potential to be a much better protagonist than he ultimately ended up becoming, and why in the hell did you people think that producing ‘Itsuka Disaster’ alongside some of the largest arcs in the entire story of the light novel up to this point was a great idea?! Seriously, that shit was so sped up I feel like even one more episode could’ve made that entire thing so much better. J.C. Staff’s track record has always been pretty spotty, so seeing DAL essentially lose the coin flip was extremely disheartening, made even worse now that since AIC+ and Production IMS are bankrupt and basically no longer exist, J.C. Staff will most likely be the permanent home of this series, and if this season is any indication, I am NOT looking forward to the future.
Honestly, even for DAL fans, I don’t particularly think that this adaptation is even worth watching. Season 2 is starting to seem like the cutting point where the adaptation is worth watching, and the rest of the series should just be experienced in the original source material. Koushi Tachibana certainly isn’t an amazing LN author given some of the questionable material that’s present in DAL, but experiencing the series as it was originally shown is definitely an upgrade to J.C. Staff’s half baked attempt at adapting it.