REVIEW: ‘Date A Live,’ Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Date A Live Volume 1

Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka is published in English by Yen Press and written by Koushi Tachibana, with illustrations by Tsunako and translation by Jocelyne Allen. The light novel follows Shido Itsuka, a second-year high school student living in a world where anomalies known as “spacequakes” can appear at random, causing massive destruction wherever they appear. Unbeknownst to most of the world, these spacequakes are actually caused by the appearance of beautiful, incredibly powerful girls known as Spirits, and there’s only one way for Shido to stop them: by dating them.

If you’ve been an anime fan in the last ten or so years, chances are you’ve at least heard of Date A Live. The series’ anime adaptation released in 2011 and took the otaku world by storm, though the series was never able to catch my attention in its heyday. With the release of Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka, the first official English translation of the original light novel series, the time finally felt right to dive into the Date A Live universe and see what all the excitement was about.

In an afterword at the end of the novel, Tachibana notes that the idea for the novel came from the absurd thought of a military team incredibly seriously playing a dating sim. While this premise might sound absurd at first, it actually makes for a good light novel, especially if you are already a fan of dating sims or romance/harem anime.

Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka was first published in Japan in 2011, and you can really feel that while reading. The bulk of the light novel feels like a semi-generic harem anime from that era, something I’ve seen/read a million times before. Shido is an unremarkable protagonist, every girl in his life seems to be somehow attracted to him, there are tons of “accidents” that leave the girls in revealing poses… it’s all pretty typical harem stuff.

This doesn’t mean Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka is bad, however. In fact, Tachibana seems to know exactly what he is doing, using these tropes to his advantage. Just about every time one of these tropes appears in the light novel, Tachibana brings attention to the absurdity of the situation in generally funny ways. While most of the light novel is by no means exceptional, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have me laughing.

There’s more to Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka than comedy and ecchi, however. The core mystery of the series (that being the nature of the spacequakes/Spirits) is genuinely enthralling. The first chapter of the light novel features some truly intense moments, drawing readers in quickly. Even with the discovery that the spacequakes are caused by the Spirits, the first volume still begs answers to many questions that will hopefully be addressed within subsequent volumes. 

Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka’s illustrations by Tsunako are beautiful. The few colored illustrations found at the beginning of the light novel give a great tease of what is to come, and the black and white illustrations scattered throughout the rest of the 160-or-so pages feel like a treat whenever they appear.

While Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka won’t be blowing anyone away (unless this is somehow your first harem series), it is a ton of fun to read. Filled with funny moments and introducing enthralling mysteries, this first volume sets up a great series; now Tachibana just has to keep it up for the next 21 volumes.

Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka is available now wherever books are sold.

Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka
3.5

TL;DR

While Date A Live Volume 1: Dead-End Tohka won’t be blowing anyone away (unless this is somehow your first harem series), it is a ton of fun to read. Filled with funny moments and introducing enthralling mysteries, this first volume sets up a great series; now Tachibana just has to keep it up for the next 21 volumes.