Ah, Dog Days. A lot can be said about it.
I will tell my opinion:
Dog Days is the demonstration of 7arcs and Tsuzuki’s failings.
You, the NanoFate fanatics, needs to shut up, sit down and listen. Nanoha A’s is the zenith of the franchise as a whole, as well as 7Arcs. I talk about it in term of pacing, drama and storytelling. But this is also where the cracks in the building starts to appear. One of the common complaints about A’s is that the final boss, the one after Reinforce, is anti-climatic. I have not paid much mind when I watched it, paying more attention to the sum of all parts, and the sum looked good.
Then comes StrikerS. The general consensus is that it is the weakest of the three seasons. It have nothing to do with the fact that the lolis grew up. Kiseki Himura showed that you can tell a compelling story with them. The problem came from the apparent inability of the writer(s) to manage its substantial character cast, it tried to have load and load of characters like the robot shows it constantly referenced. And miserably failed. The few characters that received more focus than others were Nanoha, Fate and Teana. Erio and Caro had potential, if you wanted them to see their relationship to develop, but got shoved on the side of the road the instant Vivio appeared. Another problem, other than the questionable graphic and animation consistency, is abysmal pacing. A lot will tell you “TRAINING EPISODES” and they are right. Training episodes could have been nice if they served to substantially develop the characters, make them finding out strategies to use against the baddies. But nothing. Not only there were too much of them, and it did serve nothing in the bigger picture.
Finally, the last problem of StrikerS, other than poor character management and pacing, was the climax, or rather how the climax felt anti-climatic. And if anything, I gonna point to Tsuzuki and 7Arcs just skirting around what would have made something truly great. They lacks the craziness that one can witness when watching a work by Gainax, in its best days, they lacks the ability to have a vision and stick to it to make it great. They also lacks the ability to see beyond the horizon and go “Hey! What if we do that thing and take our franchise to horizons never seen before?”
Perhaps those are the words of a disappointed fan who have witnessed how the fandom have become “a self-sustaining circlejerking nest of yuri fanatics and mai waifu otakus”. But I think that, after years of disappointed hopes and clashes with people of different opinions on different matters, I have opened my eyes.
Which is why I wished for Dog Days to not be Nanoha. No beamspam, no Super Robot Wars shoutouts, no TVTropes whoring (because the whoring of Nanoha over TVTropes is just ridiculous).
And it aired, and it was Nanoha, in the way I’d rather not wanted it to be. It’s like they have taken what’s worse about StrikerS and cranked up to eleven. It took me six months to finish the stretch of StrikerS from episode 17 to episode 26. Dog Days did not take me that long, but it unfortunately felt as bad. Only a few characters were remotely interesting to me. Unfortunately, okay to good characters doesn’t singlehandedly salvage terrible series, as demonstrated earlier this year by Infinite Stratos, it only makes you wish that those good characters (Charlotte Dunois, Chifuyu, Leon Michelle) get their own spin-off or cast in better series. Or it makes you wish the series were given to more capable writers and studios. Of Tsuzuki, I have seen the tendency to dick around and tease you with potential powerful drama, only to fall flat and fail short, I have seen his tendency to solve crisis too fast and devote entire episodes to epilogues that should have been shorter, and his bad habit to show characters that have no incidence to the plot and we have no reason to care for. His writing generally felt all over the place and unfocused.
I am not too sure if it is 7Arcs, Tsuzuki or the both, but the fighting generally felt lazy and uninspired. It makes me think that they should really sit down and watch something like Seirei no Moribito, Sword of the Stranger or Jubei-chan or Grenadier. And don’t serve me the whole “But it is sword fights! It cannot compare with beam fights!!!111″. Bullshit. Watch again those fight scenes, and think how and why they feels dynamic. If you can name choregraphy and use of cinematography, you have a cookie. And just think of what the fighting in Dog Days is lacking?
And now my final gripe with Dog Days, and Tsuzuki’s writing in general. How it underachieve drama and gravitas. StrikerS is also remembered for “Vita is bleeding and will die… NOT.” He was served with potential for drama, something that could have turned his brainchild upside down, that would have made people think, shit playing with fire does burn! But no, he preferred to chicken out. Here in Dog Days, after episodes of silliness, we get a dark prophecy where supposedly Dog Princess and Cinque gets heavily wounded, if not fatally, you know with blood and all. Nothing much happened, we got “that” instead. By “that”, I mean some beast with a sob story and a cursed sword. What? You gotta be kidding me? Oh, and did I mention that that is solved fast? This is what I meant by “underachieving”. And all of you Dog Days apologists can never deny that. I am not expecting Berserk or Warhammer the Fantasy RPG, but fuck damn, can’t Tsuzuki have the balls to take Drama to the bitter end? And before you say “But Gen Urobochi ended Madoka with a happy end!!111oneleven”, I’d suggest you to remember a saying, “What matter is the journey, not the destination.” The Journey of Madoka can be compared to the Odyssey. Lots of shit happens to Odysseus, he suffers, Gods are dicks, but he still gets his happy end. The Journey in Dog Days feels like my walk in the french countryside from Limoges to that remote village to the way back to Limoge. Not particularly dangerous, there be rain, perhaps the occasional speeding car but in the end it is uneventful and nothing severe happened to me and pushed me to grow as a better or happier man. The characters were perhaps way too sympathetic, and they did not develop much at all. That is, in an attempt to make Shinku a hero who jump at the call, like Tsuzuki did it with Nanoha, he failed to give us something to care about Shinku. Not like Madoka was particularly compelling herself, but her suffering, her journey and the resulting development made her compelling and her journey felt rewarding. (I would also argue that Nanoha herself was not particularly interesting, compared to Fate, Hayate, Signum, Vita and Teana, but that’s something I’ll leave to fellows willing to discuss it with me).
All of that combined may explain why Dog Days felt lazy and soulless, even compared to something like Infinite Stratos (if you want to name another terrible series). Dog Days will unfavorably be compared to Utawarerumono, 12 Kingdoms and the better series of the fantasy genre. But even without comparing to those series, Dog Days feels like a bad jrpg adaptation. Excepted that it is an original. Which makes me feel all the more like Leon in the opening picture, “y u do dis?”
And while the series have left a big sequel hook, I can’t help but think that the sequel may be not greenlit. Because the series should have been interesting from the get go, instead of serving us lolwut with Takeshi Castle shenanigans.
Now excuse me while I nerd rage over Kyoto Animation wasting its potential over something like Nichijou.