The Summer of Love II continues! While we will be wrapping up our look at Season 2 next week, part of this months long look into Date A Live involves examining a few of the key characters. We have about three on the docket this time around, and I think it is best to start off with our main lead. So join me after the cut as I dive into the main character of Date A Live: Shido Itsuka.
I have been around the bend a few times when it comes to harem anime, which means I think I know a little about about the main leads. Throughout my time I have come to grade a harem anime’s main male character on what I call the Issei-Ichika Scale. Named for the two extremes of the archetype. Male harem leads that are actually well developed and contribute actively to the plot are scaled closer to the Issei (High School DxD) side. While males who are just doormats, are barely developed, and just serve as a plot device fall towards the Ichika (Infinite Stratos) side of the scale.
Shido Itsuka, the nominal male lead of Date A Live can probably be placed straight in the middle of this scale, maybe leaning slightly to the Ichika side if we are being honest. If there is anything I’ve had to realize after my in depth look at High School DxD, was that I couldn’t expect other harem and ecchi to maintain that level of quality. Shido himself is no Issei, not by a long-shot, but he is also far, FAR better than Ichika. Like I said, he can be placed comfortably in the middle, and being in the show that he is in, Shido does his job remarkably well. I’ll be honest, he isn’t the most interesting male lead I’ve seen, and like most of his archetype, he is often overshadowed by the girls, but Shido has something going for him that somehow just works.
Shido, like all harem leads is at a heart, a nice guy. He is the neutral observer meant to draw the girls together and give them a reason to butt heads. However instead of just being a nice guy, Shido is something more, he is also a good man and a strong role model and guiding figure to each of the girls. While he does have his moments and reactions to the frankly absurd premise of Date A Live, Shido actually adjusts quite quickly to the situation and takes his work quite seriously. While he is still a teenager, there is no real sense of horniness or desire to get laid that characters like Issei or Diablo feel. He is still a man with normal male needs and desires, but he is able to keep them at bay and focus at the task at hand. Furthermore, there is also evidence of the obliviousness or enforced ignorance that so many harem anime often feel their males need to have. Unlike Ichika who has NO idea that the girls are in love with him, Shido seems to show some awareness of the situation with Tohka and the others, knowing that they are fond of him, and that if he wanted, he could peruse a relationship. Shido is not an idiot, but he is also not dominated by his sexual drive either, which strikes a good balance.
However, the most important thing about Shido, and what makes him work, is what I said above: he is a good man. Throughout all three seasons of Date A Live, Shido acts as a kind, warmhearted, understanding and loving role-model to each of the spirits he comes in contact with. With Tohka, he shows her that the world of humans is not a scary place. For Kotori, it is a big brother who will always protect her. For Origami it is a safety net where she can be human. With Yoshino, he welcomes her into a world of kindness and trust. With the Yamai sisters, it is the ability to pick a ‘third option’ that allows them to be together. With Miku it is the chance to be loved unconditionally, and for Natsumi it is the chance to be loved for who you are. For all of these girls, throughout three whole seasons, Shido is the friend, the protector, the role model, the brother, the father, the shoulder to cry on and the hero. He is not a man trying to get laid, or unaware that he’s the object of all their affections. He is a good man trying to save these girls from being hunted to death, to try and give them a true life, and he takes his duty seriously, even if it is a glorified dating sim made in real life.
Shido Itsuka is not the most interesting harem lead to grace the screen. His story isn’t about a young boy trying to become a man, or to prove himself, or to stick his dick in something. He doesn’t have Issei’s spirit, Yamato’s chill, Diablo’s cowardice, Basara’s sexual drive, or even Keiki’s ‘are you kidding me’ expressions. But he also doesn’t have Ichika’s ignorance, Touya’s seeming ambivalence, or Catarina’s stupidity. He is a character that could be better in a lot of ways, but he could also be far, FAR worse than he ends up being. Shido serves Date A Live’s plot well, and thankfully the story is able to make use of him and his connection to the spirits in later light novels to tie him ever closer to the overall story. He is the best of the bland, the king of vanilla, and sometimes that good truly is good enough.
Also Josh Grelle is still the king.