The Summer of Love II: Date A Live III Episodes 1-5: Natsumi Search and Natsumi Change

Alright, let’s get this out of the way right now.

Date A Live III, the third and (as of now) final season in the series is, in terms of animation. A noticeable downgrade from its predecessors. Like a considerable  downgrade. This is because, the original studio set to produce the third season: Production IMS, went into bankruptcy and shuttered before production could really begin. The series was then picked up by J.C Staff, who worked hard to complete the series on schedule.

Now I am not an animation snob. I don’t care if the show looks ‘bad’ as long as the characters and story are good. While I do have my limits (My Sister, My Writer), I am not one to flake out on a series because animation is never consistent. Date A Live is considered almost a cursed series among the fandom, as each season has been produced by a different studio, with the previous two now having completely collapsed, and with a four season coming, god only knows what will happen to J.C staff.

I bring this up, because I am not going to be talking about the animation for this third season. I think it is important to address it, but I don’t want, and frankly it isn’t bad enough, to color my impression of the season. However I wouldn’t be doing my due diligence if I ignored what is, at the end of the day, a very noticeable animation downgrade.

Now with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the first arc of the third season: Natsumi Search and Natsumi Change, after the cut!

Date A Live 3 Poster
The crime isn’t the animation, it’s spoiling the big reveal of the second half of the season in the poster.

Date A Live III is the season I’ve least familiar with, having only watched it the one time during it’s original airing. So coming back to it now, with expectations adjusted, I was surprised on how much I really liked this story arc. Like with Mayuri Judgement previous;y, Natsumi Search/Change is a simple ‘back to basics’ story that shows Date A Live at the top of its game. Normally this is the point in a story, especially an anime that likes to throw a wrench into the work, to up-end the status quo, and shake things up. Yet while the season eventually gets to that point, laying groundwork here, most of Natsumi Search/Change is a contained story.

Yet again there is another angel, another threat to the city and once again Shido and his band of girls have to solve it. This time however instead of the selfish and egoistical Miku, the new character is the bratty, and self loathing Natsumi. When the initial attempts to woo her go awry, Shido finds himself caught up in trying to find a needle in a haystack as he works to unravel just who, and where Natsumi is. Along the way, hijinks are had, battles are fought, and the creeping sense of unease arrives as Origami is pushed further into a dark corner.

Origami 1
Origami’s journey to the Sasuke side of the anime spectrum is almost complete, but she’s still funny as fuck.

The new character to the cast Natsumi, is again a breath of fresh air to the story. While I feared she might be too much like Miku and her man-hating, selfish nature, Natsumi is actually quite different. Her main issue is self-loathing, having zero confidence in herself and body, and steadfastly refusing to accept any attempt at praise. It is a real issue that many girls go through, and Natsumi plays it well. She is also a devious little brat and the games and tricks she plays on poor Shido had me chuckling more than once during the arc. As one of the younger cast members, she slides into a niche that was unoccupied before, giving more depth than the quiet Yoshino and archetypal Kotori. When the girls give her a new makeover, Natsumi’s initial reaction isn’t to be happy, but freak out and run away from the problem. She trusts no one, and constantly is trying to make Shido and the other girls reveal their true feelings to her.  And while Shido does eventually win her over, I was happy to see that Natsumi’s character growth wasn’t an instant fix.

Natsumi 1
Natsumi’s self loathing and lack of confidence is something many girls can probably attest to, and it works here.

Even better is that the rest of the harem get a bit of time in the spotlight as well. The most notable is Yuzuru who gets a little moment with Shido where she explains her feelings and thoughts that she and her sister have towards him. It was surprising to see how enjoyable it was, especially from Yuzuru whose odd manner of speaking could get annoying. It never did though, and that quiet moment remains one of the seasons’ best. Miku, now calmer and more at peace with herself also gets a few funny moments, and it was good to see her more at peace and happy with the rest of the cast. Tohka continues to be adorable, and Yoshino cute as a button, and then of course there are not words to describe how amazing Kaguya looks in that black hat with the cat ears. If anyone is out of the loop, it is once again Origami, but thankfully much of the back half of the arc is finally putting her into the position for the next arc, which is all about her. Even still, her scene in the theater with Shido is one of her funniest.

Kaguya Cat Ears
Meow…

Natsumi Search and Natsumi Change fill the same niche that the first arc of High School DxD Hero did. It’s a solid, vanilla story that re-introduces the cast and gets them and viewers back to place they are comfortable. If you skipped out on the movie, then this is a great ‘back to basics’ story arc that shows Date A Live at its strengths. As it is my second time through, I was really shocked at just how much I enjoyed watching it, and it was probably the arc I’ve enjoyed the most aside from the first. That should bode well as we enter the final stretch in two weeks, where the series again tries to go for the big story. Regardless Date A Live III starts out on a strong note, and I look forward to seeing where we go next.

Before that though, we have another character dive to do, so next week The Summer of Love II will be taking a look at the series most infamous and beloved character: Kurumi!

Additional Observations

  • Natsumi’s pranks are pretty damn funny, especially when she turns all the girls into loli’s or in Yoshino’s case, even lolier. I love that Origami goes full hog into acting like Shido and hers daughter. Girl is thirsty.
  • Ellen, the lackey of DEM doesn’t let the same thing happen to her though. Even when she’s turned into a kid, she can still fight. The scene where she cuts Natsumi, who freaks out is a great one. Shows that Natsumi still has the mind of the child, and shit got real.
  • Shido proving Kotori wasn’t Natsumi by just removing her hair ribbons was brilliant. Guy knows his little sister.
  • Tohka’s scene at the restaurant, where she is afraid her eating will ‘turn off’ Shido was adorable. Shido knows to let his main girl stuff her face.
  • Doubly so for the fact that Shido tricks her into thinking ‘Natsumi’ means “I love you,’ which only leads Tohka to start saying it. God she’s adorkable.
  • The fact that Shido’s ‘date’ with the only other guy character, his classmate happened off screen just tells me that the romance was too hot for TV.
  • Ai, Mai and Mii continue to be hilarious, and it’s amazing how much mileage they’ve gotten out of the ‘that’s so lame’ joke.
  • The fact that DEM drops not one, but TWO satellites and a fucking missile to try and fuck over Westcott only shows their determination. Also having all the suits in slings was pretty fucking funny.
  • Still can’t get over how fucking adorable Kaguya is in those cat ears. Like damn I want that figurine.

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