Years later Date a Live still has earned a very special place in my heart. While it encapsulates every traditional aspect of the harem anime genre, which you would think would leave it as a run of the mill seasonal harem you'd likely forget, it really stands out for a number of reasons.
The show's gimmick acts like a dating sim game. You have a protagonist who has to answer choices through a series of prompts - but instead of him picking it's a crew of folks led by his sister help him pick. Sometime they're right, but fairly often they also go wrong - and it's both pretty funny and refreshing to watch. It's boring to watch every protagonist be a instantly "lucky" character that gets everything right, so seeing things twist and turn made it so much more interesting and fun to watch. While this could've potentially been boring if the protagonist was a bland puppet, fortunately he's not and his awareness and snarky personality really give this show so much of it's color.
I cannot state enough of how much I liked the MC (Shido) as a protagonist. He's both a snarky and sarcastic character yet has empathy and logical thinking to make him feel and act like a real person. He isn't flat in personality and feels like his own character - and more importantly he's an extremely enjoyable one. Most harem protags barely have a personality so that they can be more of a projection for the audience to cipher themselves onto instead - but Shido isn't one, thank goodness. He's not a default "get lucky with no help" like 99% of other harem protags, nor is he stupidly dense as he follows along and can pick up that the girls either like or don't like him based on general social skills. Shido is honestly an extremely undervalued character that carries a lot of this show on his back, and he's earned his away onto the list of the best harem protagonists of all time.
The main cast was pretty well done all around and the screen time was dished out to each pretty balanced. Their development was also pretty decent for a first season and it sets up well for the next. For a harem anime these girls had a lot more life, personality and effort breathed into them. They weren't just mindless horny sex dolls walking around mindlessly on screen like a lot of harems tend to be.
Even if you aren't a fan of DAL, chances are you've probably heard it's music or OP's somewhere across the anime community. Date a Live is known for it's standout OPs, and season 1 was where it started. It's definitely one that you might rewatch a few times instead being a generic one and done. The background tracks were very fitting and well done, I have several of DAL's tracks saved into my playlist because of how good they are. And even with how much the music improves more with the next 2 seasons, season 1 still stacks up.
Animation was pretty good. The sci-fi fight scenes and other elements meshed well and it looked great. While I could've prefered less panty and butt shots that this season really has a excessive tendency for (and fortunately the next 2 seasons they tone this down a good bit) it wasn't a dealbreaker nor uncomfortable - bar the first episode where the opening scene is the main character's little loli sister jumping up and down on his bed with her panties in plain view.
Now there are certainly things that could've been better. I've already mentioned the panty shot obession is something we could with much less of, and the little sister with the brother complex that we could've gone without - but has become all too common in the modern age of anime and light novels. Other than a cheesy ending and a pretty meh ED, I don't have much other notable negative criticism to give to the first season of DAL.
DAL really stood out as a harem anime and quickly engrossed my attention as I watched. While it certainly has it's flaws and it's not going to change the mind of folks out there who hate the classic tropes of the genre, if you are an anime all-rounder or a harem lover then I would definitely reccomend this. It is personally the best harem anime I've ever watched and has earned a special place in my heart.