Back when I was younger, I believed that if a movie or a television series or a game didn’t end happily, then it wasn’t worth getting involved with. However, as I matured, I realized that there are titles that can be just as fulfilling to watch as the feel-good ones that choose to end in a cheery manner. This may be due to a “change of pace,” or something that intrigues me or others simply because it is different from what I or they are originally accustomed to. If one is to truly appreciate what they’ve come to enjoy, would they rather bask in that topic forever? Or perhaps explore other topics in order to see what would meet their interests the most? While opinions will always differ, one thing is certain: human beings aren’t play things. Emotions are what make a person who they are and constitute to what they believe in. But in some cases, these emotions can turn on oneself, if manipulated by an outside source.
Referring back to my opening statement, the decision to remain faithful is an important part of what School Days means to convey. School Days is an anime about high school, which is nothing short of truly original. However, School Days doesn’t follow the typical make up of what school-oriented romantic comedies tend to abide by. Instead, it decides to turn the best possible scenario into the worst possible scenario through the enflamed emotions of students in heat. A single action can have major implications for events to come.
School Days takes place in an unnamed rural town and is normally shown from typical settings in school themed anime. The train station, the classroom, the characters’ homes; places of that nature. It begins with our hero, Makoto, as he narrates about how he’s “taken an interest” in a quiet girl who rides the train with him everyday on his way to school. This quiet girl turns out to be Kotonoha, a fellow student of his school and an all-around gentle person. He proceeds to take a picture of this girl, while never speaking a word to her, because of an in-school rumor stating that if you take a picture of a someone you like on your cell phone and keep it a secret from everyone you know for a pre-determined time, you’ll eventually get together. It’s this action alone that shows that School Days began with what many would assume to be another typical high school romance. Unfortunately for Makoto, his myth is ruined when a female classmate named Sekai barges over and catches him gazing over the picture of Kotonoha on his phone. His luck turns when Sekai offers to help him get together with Kotonoha for absolutely no reason. Her efforts are successful and the two eventually get together, but at a cost.
A lot of the unprecedented attention towards this anime comes from the decisions Makoto makes throughout the entirety of the anime. After getting together with Kotonoha, he begins to behave differently from the all-too-familiar submissive main male lead that the anime industry has turned into a cultural norm. To this, I would suggest is because of experimentation. As any experienced anime viewer would know, not many anime titles feature a main male lead who has enough bravado to chase after his physical desires. While they may fantasize about it, fantasy and reality are two completely different experiences. The trouble with this is that Makoto becomes unlikable and unrelatable to those who choose to watch the anime. And because of this, the overall enjoyment of viewing this anime is likely to turn for the worst. One can only applaud the decision to take the road less traveled.
While Makoto is seen in a negative light, Kotonoha has a similarly opposite effect. The viewer genuinely feels bad for her, knowing that she doesn’t have the will to stand up for herself while at the same time she’s kind (or naive) enough to forgive Makoto for his actions. Not only this, but she’s later bullied by virtually everybody in the series through strings and misunderstandings about her relationship with Makoto that even she makes decisions she regrets. Kotonoha is the perfect sob story, while Makoto is the perfect villain. Everyone’s roles are established and they perform them well, if only for an instant.
In regards to the minor characters, they take part in the story by either making Kotonoha look better or Makoto look worse. It’s almost pitiful to see some characters disappear for a few episodes, only to have them return for a couple minutes in order to relegate themselves for the sake of the plot. What’s more disappointing is that some of the minor characters had potential to become something more than background space, but are usually disregarded halfway through the series for the sake of the main characters’ reputations. School Days also likes to give off the impression that gossip travels fast around a student body. Whether this be true or not, it served the plot well, both realistically and half-heartedly. The absence of adults in this series is also a subject of this series’ lack of realism, but it’s minor compared to others aspects of the anime.
The animation for School Days actually impressed me. For an anime airing in 2007, I could have sworn it was made by the turn of the new decade. The character designs are nice to look at, while at the same time standing out from the dull background. What this could imply is that the importance of the series is based on the characters and not their surroundings. As long as nothing slips outside the realm of School Days’ logic, nothing is at risk of being criticized. Nothing looked out of place and the expressions were as gut-wrenching as the drama within. Other than the unnecessary fan service outside of the hot and heavy scenes, I have no complaints about the style of animation. Just a nice looking moving picture.
To say I didn’t enjoy watching this series would be less of an understatement and more like a joke. Words like horrifying, disgusting, revolting, vile, gross or repulsive don’t even compare to the feeling deep within the pit of my stomach as I watched the second half of this series. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. Just when I thought the characters wouldn’t act any more irrational, they did. This title takes the expectations of a light-hearted, romantic drama and beats it into the ground. The characters’ actions are worthy of controversy. Their mindsets could be compared to an unstable dam, withering away at the amount of sheer force with which the waves of reality strike them. The ending sums up the worst possible scenario and makes it a reality, taking any likability away from each character in the series, whether it be because they weren’t developed enough or their final decisions proved disappointing. This is not a happy anime. But then again, it’s not supposed to be.
The original review paid more attention to the sexual nature of Makoto’s mindset, but I decided to cut that as I felt it was too… spoiler worthy. It was also more snide towards the ending of the anime. I prefer this version.