I have endured plenty of physically painful events in my life. Getting four wisdom teeth removed without general anesthesia, grabbing onto a cactus as I was slipping off a mountain ledge, and almost drowning in my friend’s pool as a little girl all come to mind. However, all these are a mere blip on the radar compared to the excruciating experience of having to re-watch the entirety of School Days for this review.
I hope you’re happy, you sadists.
“Hey Sekai, having Kotonoha as a partner is kind of…tiring.” Makoto Itou, end of episode 3.
Before sinking my teeth into this anime, I would like to give it the kudos it deserves. Deconstructing an entire genre is no easy task. Turning tropes and character archetypes that are so prevalent in a specific genre and making something new out of them should be thoroughly commended. Like Neon Genesis Evangelion for mecha and Puella Magi Madoka Magica for magical girls, there is no other series quite like School Days within the plethora of school romance anime. It is unique. In a vast sea of mediocre and forgettable shows, how many can you say are absolutely one-of-a-kind?
I could not give a single flying rat’s ass about anything or anyone onscreen.
In an unholy trinity of suck, the script, the characters and the plot perfectly unite to make it one of the most unpleasant anime viewing experiences I’ve had in recent times.
The dialogue is frustratingly monotonous. At best, the script is lifeless; at worst, it is sexist garbage. Don’t believe me? Let’s uncover some screenwriting ‘gems’ that School Days oh so graciously delivers to us.
Episode 2: “If Makoto were any other boy, he’d suddenly do this!” Sekai then goes on to fondle Kotonoha’s breasts from behind, ignoring her feeble protests.
Episode 5: “I said no… Not there! Mother will return soon!” Pained gasp. “No…I said.” Bed creaks. No further mention of these non-consensual sexual acts ever appears in the script again.
Episode 9: “Girls, regardless of the situation, need to be pushed,” Character A tells Character B, who proceeds to rape Character C three seconds later.
“I’m Makoto-kun’s girlfriend.” Kotonoha, every time she opens her mouth.
You get the gist.
School Days is a soap opera with all the trashy fun bled dry. As a pre-teen, I sometimes watched Mexican ‘telenovelas’ with my mom right after dinner. They're filled to the brim with hilariously bad dialogue, over-the-top characters, cheating left and right, nonsensical romantic storylines, and logical asspulls up the wazoo. Were they objectively bad? Yes. Do they look like Citizen Kane compared to School Days? Also yes.
Fanservice is used as an introductory tool for most of the female cast. A close-up of Setsuna’s underage ass as she runs is the first thing the audience sees of her. A lingering shot of Sekai’s exposed legs while wearing a shirt in bed appears twice in the same episode. Episode 5 is an all-you-can-eat buffet of ass, chest and crotch stills. Hell, we even get not one, not two, but (much to my absolute horror) THREE camera zooms of Taisuke’s package. In fact, let me propose a new drinking game: take a shot every time you see a close-up of Kotonoha’s jiggling breasts.
(Disclaimer: I absolve myself of any responsibility if you end up in the emergency room.)
There is a rape scene ham-fistedly thrown in for the added angst. What especially angers me about this sexual assault is not only its random placement and incorporation in the final episodes, but also the zero impact it has on the story. Rapist pins a disoriented female character against the wall. There are spots of blood on the floor of the classroom as the victim walks out in a daze. The rapist looks elated the day after, and no repercussions happen to him. As I’ve said in my Mirai Nikki review, rape scenes should only be added in a fictional work if it furthers a characterization or storyline purpose. The aforementioned scene did neither, so it comes across as tactless and crude.
Most reviews talk about what a deeply unlikable playboy Makoto is – and for good reason. He is a cheating, lying dirtbag. However, far less is said of how frighteningly sociopathic of a protagonist he really is. Less than ten minutes into the first episode, he assaults a female character by pushing her forcefully against a chain fence. He grabs her by the collar and later justifies his actions by blaming said female character for making him feel ‘flustered’. In episode 5, Makoto says he “can’t hold back anymore” and then gets on top of his resisting classmate. He sleeps with multiple girls in a single episode and has zero compassion for his girlfriend-of-the-day. Hell, he even cheats in full view of the rest of their class, then gaslights the girl he is currently dating. Villain protagonists need to have charisma – or other positive personal qualities – in order for the audience to sympathize with them. Makoto has all the charm of that ant I accidentally crushed on my way to work this morning. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast follow that same vein.
Sekai’s motivations make no damn sense. She makes it her life’s mission to play matchmaker for Kotonoha and Makoto, despite holding romantic feelings for the latter. Unlike Minori’s strong loyalty for Taiga in Toradora, it remains a mystery why Sekai sacrifices her own happiness at every turn. She is not friends with either of them before they start dating. There is no backstory that explains her issues. Nada. Furthermore, she also sabotages that blooming relationship she sets up…and then tries to get those two to stay together after the fallout. Wash, rinse and repeat. A chronic manipulator with no end goal, only hurt feelings. She would be a somewhat more interesting character if half her lines didn’t solely consist of the word ‘baka’. You know the type.
I would call Kotonoha a doormat but that would be an insult to doormats everywhere. A good doormat clears off the sludge on your shoes, come rain or shine. Kotonoha acts like she had a lobotomy as a child and only has the word ‘sorry’ in her vocabulary. I rest my case.
If I start ranting about the walking annoyance that is Taisuke, my keyboard would melt. I don’t want to start taking anti-hypertension medication, so I’ll leave it at that.
Setsuna is the best character, but since the cast also includes a wallflower, a rapist, and an abusive fuckboy, that is weak praise. Is she a memorable character? No. She is an emotionless, sarcastic loli stereotype…and an emotionless, sarcastic loli stereotype is just the thing that is needed to cut through the anime’s bullcrap. Unfortunately, like the rest of the female cast, she is not immune to the strange allure of Makoto’s cock.
There are other characters in School Days, but best of luck trying to remember their names. However, there really is no need to expend any mental energy. They are all Makoto’s sidechicks with interchangeable hairstyles. That’s about as memorable of a description I can manage for them.
Color palette looks washed out. School Days came out in 2007, but there are 90’s shows that look more polished and presentable than this series (Revolutionary Girl Utena sends her regards). Character designs range from the basic to the unappealing; if Taisuke had a longer nose, he would be an anteater. Anatomical proportions are way off in several scenes, especially when people are in the kitchen or when characters are seen from a distance. Scenery is present. It has colors and shapes. Viewers can see School Days takes place in a school. Nothing more to say.
Most of the camera work is unexceptional except for two instances. A fish-eyed camera angle of Kotonoha denotes the darker turning point of the anime (beginning of episode 4). The second half of Episode 12 has the best cinematography; the director clearly had fun with some of those shots.
The soundtrack is composed of dull synth tracks and pithy piano pieces that I have already forgotten despite listening to them ten seconds ago. The sound design is like a late 90’s throwback of those personal GeoCities websites’ MIDI tracks that took twenty minutes to load on a dial-up modem. At least Episode 3’s ED changes into something more melancholic, and the singer’s voice is an improvement. The OP is upbeat but unremarkable. Voice-acting is…passable, I suppose. No one sounds like a newbie voice actor, so I can begrudgingly give the anime a bronze star sticker for that.
Finally…the infamous ending. Just in case the hermit living in a cavern in the Himalayas wants to watch School Days one day, I will not spoil it. Suffice to say, it is the one and only reason why I did not give the anime the 2/10 I strongly believe it deserves. Given the dreadful cast, the uninspired writing, and comatose plot, the ending is incredibly cathartic and enjoyable. Is it good enough to watch School Days from beginning to end? Absolutely not, and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is likely Satan in disguise.
*insert obligatory and overused ‘nice boat’ joke*
Recommended wholeheartedly to the pick-up artists and red pill communities. Congratulations, guys, you finally got an anime made for you!