The Republic of Biscotti, a magical kingdom populated by dog-girls (and boys), is losing the war against the Kingdom of Galette's Leo Knights (who are cat-girls and boys, by the way). In order to turn the tide of the war, Princess Millhiore summons a "hero" from the outer world to aid Biscotti: Cinque, a junior high school boy living in Japan.
Have you ever wondered where failed children's shows go?
Pitch to me a show that has pink princesses, rival characters, fights where no-one gets hurt, wars fought over obstacle courses, colour-coded characters, war crimes punished with bops on the head, a socio-political structure ruled by the adorable and half the characters (and one of the kingdoms) with names derived from European food, specifically desserts, and I would point you in the direction of the Disney Channel and move onto the next pitch. Dog Days, in any other media, would be a children's show. It's bright, shiny and sweet enough to rot your teeth with a glance but this is anime and this show isn't for kids -- it's for men my age. If the superficial dark elements aren't the giveaway then the exploding clothes sure are, not to mention the tsundere.
I'm not someone who bemoans the state of anime nowadays. I don't view moe as a form of entertainment worth watching for its own sake and I don't look for it in what I watch but I'm not adverse to it. Shows can be as cute and as moe as they like as long as they have the story, characters and plot to match it (thank you, Denpa Onna to Seishun Otoko for your excellent example of moe done right) and ultimately that is how I will judge Dog Days. If you hate the perniciously sexualised cuteness of otaku bait series (with the more 'Lolita' characters being the main objects of this) as a matter of principle then stop reading now and look for another series, could I interest you in Planetes?
In any case, those of you still interested are in for a visual treat if you are a fan of unrelenting cuteness. Every single cat girl and dog girl is unfailingly adorable and even the one random bunny girl is as cute as a kitten in a crisp packet (ironically). The bright palette that dominates the backgrounds, along with the character designs, and also manages to be pleasing rather than garish. Many "cute" series either drown their worlds in ribbons or leave them bare to lavish more attention on their characters but Dog Days gets the balance just right. The music matches the aesthetic. The action also is pretty reasonable. It mixes up actual fighting with big old ki blasts and generally manages to keep me entertained (and that is quite reasonable praise from me, considering my normal aversion to action series). One thing of note is that the production values don't always keep up with aesthetic and that's particularly clear during the concert sections, which we receive in a shoddy CG animation that is almost as horrific as the fact that there are idol concerts in the middle of a fantasy series. Macross Frontier didn't convince me that they are a good idea so shockingly animated ones aren't going to have a chance.
In terms of story, Dog Days isn't pushing any envelopes. The routine "brought to magical world from real world" plays out completely straight though the reasons why the world is essentially harmless (for the most part) are quite interesting. To be honest, the background is pretty competent, the system of wars and the reason why no one gets hurt are a clever wink to the tropes themselves but they are simply adornments to an otherwise standard story of "help the princess, save the kingdom". It does play out well though and only feels a little aimless sometimes since the series feels slightly chopped up between plot events and "characterisation" scenes for a lack of a better term. This would be fine normally but I always found myself pining for another fight scene rather than the constant introduction of new characters that took up most of the first half of the series. All I can say is that I'm glad a second season is forthcoming because this series had far too many characters for a thirteen episode show.
The characters are a problem. The series really does have far more characters than it knows what to do with, and only Eclair, Cinque, Millhiore, Leo and perhaps Ricotta get anything close to minimal characterisation. Yes, there are glimpses of other characters like Eclair's brother and Cinque's rival, Gaul, but there are characters that get a sizeable amount of screen time without much personality at all like "The Genoise" (Gaul's henchgirls) who don't really seem to warrant inclusion in the series at all but can't seem to stay off the screen. Leaving that aside, even the main cast don't have enough depth to drown an ant. Eclair is tsundere, Cinque is the shounen hero and Millhiore is cute and earnest. Most of the characters can be quite fairly categorised like this and while they certainly aren't unpleasant examples of the archetypes, they certainly are clear examples of the archetypes with little deviation. Sadly, that is as deep as any of the character seems to get.
Ultimately, there is little more to be said. If you can overlook its unashamed pandering then you will find a reasonable little series that is about as average as you can get. Maybe it can push itself a little next season and use a little more of its vastly overinflated cast (MyAnimeList lists nineteen characters for a thirteen episode series!) and flesh out its main characters a little better but I won't be expecting much. So yes, it was good enough for me to check out the next season -- it's mostly brainless and the fanservice, which flashes out like a chronic tick, is a little off-putting considering the visual style but the show ultimately is pleasant, entertaining and quite appealing for us who don't mind watching a cat or dog-girl every now and then.
It's not a strong three stars but this is middle-of-the-road fare with a potential for mild entertainment and that is where it is pretty comfortable. Add one star if you can live on cuteness for cuteness' sake but just plain avoid if you cannot abide fanservice based around young-looking characters or are looking for a show that is more substantial than just sweet. — Aiden Foote
Recommended Audience: In terms of plot content, it would be fine for children for the most part but the fanservice content and some of the humour puts it squarely into the otaku bracket.
Version(s) Viewed: Digital source
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Dog Days © 2011 Aniplex / Seven Arts
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