Back when the season first started, I was actually really intent on wanting to talk about this on a weekly basis just because I was so surprised at the change in artstyles being seemingly for the better. If you go back to my weekly updates, you can see my enthusiasm die down for the series at the appropriate moments when it really dawned on me that this adaptation was going to be as flawed as the other seasons after the first.
Simply put, all the budget went into the opening. It was so impressive that I wanted to talk about it immediately and even consider covering it weekly like I used to but thanks to hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t because you’d end up with me moping around saying the exact same expectations and phrases for 12 weeks instead of just saying it once here. Back to the opening though, it’s really well animated, and I think it highlights the best parts of the production team shift from IMS and J.C Staff to the current Geek Toys. The few stills look great and the fights are actually animated really well, and if you think that it’s weird that I’m pointing out good animation in an anime opening, then there’s two things I want to say. 1) The opening for Season 3 was like 80% stills so it was really nice that we actually have animation for an opening, and some action scenes no less. 2) The animation quality of the opening was so high it set expectations way too high and I think that’s what made this sting that much more. Even the ending looked wonderful with visuals that had way more going for them than the endings for the previous seasons had.
One thing to acknowledge is that Date A Live’s first season aired way back in 2013, damn year a decade ago. To put this into perspective, the anime adaptation for DAL is only a year younger than the animation project for Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. This is one of the rare examples of any light novel series getting adapted beyond a Season 2 or 3, and a legendary 4th season. Naturally, light novels like these end up building up an entire cast of characters which naturally means an upkeep of having characters on-screen. Even the source material has always suffered in this respect as the sheer amount of girls to focus on had it difficult to distribute attention evenly. Season 3 suffered the worst from this even just scenes of characters talking as a group looked poor in quality. So for what little props I can give to Season 4, GeekToys still had its hiccups but they made the all the conversation scenes at the very least pleasing to the eye.
Season 4 adapts four volumes picking up after the horrendous single episode adaptation of Volume 12. Volume 13 covers Nia, Volumes 14-15 cover Mukuro, and Volume 16 is Kurumi’s. Like any adaptation, even ones like DAL had some of its scenes cut down to make time for more important stuff and I am way past the point of caring if this is a faithful adaptation or not four seasons in. What I had initially feared from watching the stellar opening and ending was that it heavily featured Kurumi which meant that instead of taking their time in fully adapting Volumes 13-15 in good quality, they were going to fit Kurumi’s volume into it as well. Much to my fear and surprise, Kurumi definitely did get her arc animated but what’s even crazier is that Season 5 is an actual thing. That’s right, I don’t need to waste two lines talking about how the questionable sales and potential fixes from the Blurays will fuel a Season 5, they just flat out announced it at the end of the final episode.
So half my fears were unfounded, where they would butcher Kurumi’s arc but they’ve gone and split the first half of her arc as the final arc of Season 4 and will conclude it as the first arc of Season 5. I guess it could have gone worse, Kurumi is the series’ premier money maker with multiple new figure basically announced every couple months and the Chinese mobile game for the series is still alive due to the series’ incredible popular in China.
So the dialogue scenes are fine, for the most part. It’s definitely not easy constantly having at least 8-10 girls for every big discussion scene given the series’ longevity but the action scenes reach a completely new low. Now it’s not even a matter of horrendous action scene quality but awkward 3DCG that just looks so out of place. It was probably a sign when Nia’s final episode had some non-existent animations for its fight scenes. Even Mukuro’s introduction in space was using 3DCG and it just hurt to look at. Easily one of the worst parts of the viewing experience was sitting through these terrible action sequences. Any positives I have left to say about it of course just goes towards the voice acting the source material progression. Kurumi finally gets her arc which explains her actions and enters the final phases of being conquered like the other Spirits and finally seeing her act genuine was pretty nice. Sanada Asami’s Kurumi voice sounding concerned and even crying was a nice change of pace compared to how she usually is in-character.
So what is really new this time from DAL though? I’ve always said that any season past the first one is going to have piss-poor action that’s just embarrassing to look at. The visuals aside from the fighting are at least tolerable, but if such a low bar can’t be cleared then what’s the point? At this point, Season 5 is already under production so my recommendation holds little weight because if you’ve already watched four seasons of this, chances are you’re going to watch the 5th like me out of obligation at this point. If someone truly wants a better experience, just go read it, you’re already 4-5 seasons deep, so reading the source material surely couldn’t be a big hurdle. The worry that Season 5’s action continuing this awful 3DCG trend is already a foregone conclusion, what I am worried about is how the final arc is going to be handled because it’s a five volume ordeal that I simply stopped reading and caring about.