School Days (TNK) – Genre: Drama, Romance, School
Ah, School Days. There are few who are unfamiliar with this outrageous title and few who are oblivious to its infamous ending. It’s often denoted as the “worst anime ever” simply because of this, but is that really fair? This review will be an attempt to objectively present a different view that I think School Days deserves, much like how the series itself shed a unique light on the medium.
Based on a visual novel of the same name, School Days follows the everyday school life of Makoto Itou who is the epitome of your generic single-minded, lustful male protagonist. He meets the girl of his dreams, Kotonoha Katsura, at the train station and enlists the help of his friend Sekai Saionji to get closer to Kotonoha. Things lead to another, and Makoto inevitably develops feelings for Sekai. What follows is an unraveling of both rationality and human desire that ultimately culminates in a boiling point of complete insanity.
Still, this series probably isn’t deserving of the hate that it gets. Sure, it definitely has serious flaws, but not enough to merit the hate. If you look at it as a simple harem love story, then yes it is very subpar, especially with the ending that is seemingly put in only for the shock value. Even in that regard, the makers would probably feel like they’ve done their job. But I like to look at the series in a different way, like it were some sort of social experiment. Some might say that this view is a bit presumptuous and that I’m trying to make a gold mountain out of a pile of crap. This is possibly true. However, I feel that School Days tries to take the expected genre it’s trapped in and spin it into a pseudo-Shakespearean tragedy. You could even go as far to say that it acts as a deconstruction (we just love to throw this word around, huh?) of the school love genre. Everything that happens leading up to the final moments builds up the tension and chaos until something finally snaps to release the attenuated energy.
Let’s talk some Shakespeare for a second (I’m not an expert, so please forgive me). I personally like to think of School Days as akin to a Shakespearean work, with my sincerest apologies to William. In these plays, people go insane, there’s tons of betrayal, and the majority of characters die by the end. Yet, these works are considered masterpieces. Why? Is it because the writing is exceptionally good? Could be. Do people just like tragedies? Maybe. Ultimately, it’s the public, the audience, who decides whether something is a stroke of genius or an asinine piece of garbage. Where these perceptions are derived from is perhaps a more complicated question that I don’t have the answer for.
Of course, School Days is far from perfect, perhaps even far from good depending how you look at it. The execution was fairly poor, ranging from not-so-great voicing acting (though I do like the character designs), random character motives, and sporadic plot jumps. Had it been a longer series, it would have more time to develop the characters, and we would get a closer look into their minds, in order to get a sense of “why?” Like a train wreck, it’s horrible, but you can’t stop watching and you want to know why things turned out the way they did. Getting to know the different characters’ psyches would have made the ending more understandable and more “fair.” But, I think the creators wished for this surprising reaction from viewers, almost as a practical joke of sorts. I can only imagine what it was like to watch the ending without spoilers.
For me, the biggest of fault School Days is not the over-the-top ending, in fact that could be its saving grace. Its downfall would the lack of coherency in terms of character actions and a terribly constructed protagonist. Makoto literally has no outstanding traits outside of his lust. In essence, he is the male libido personified. In that regard, School Days does a great job of deconstructing the notion that all male protagonists can act upon their lustful desires with no repercussions. It’s really one of those cornerstone pieces of the medium that everyone should experience at one point or the other, like Hamlet or the Grand Canyon. Of course, watch at your discretion.