From the corner of his eye, Mokoto saw an attractive girl on the way to school each day. Kotonoha is shy but hard to approach, so he never made a move. When class seating arrangements changed, Mokoto is beside an outgoing nosey girl named Sekai. She learns of Mokoto's crush, and offers to help hook the two up. Things are shaky between Mokoto and Kotonoha, and it's not clear if they're suited to each other. Sekai on the other hand, gets along well with him and feels her heart drawn to him. Other girls will take an interest in Mokoto as well, but in the end only one of them will get a head.
Don't watch School Days. It's the worst most horrible thing ever. If you do, your cat will die and global warming will ruin Christmas. Don't even read this review. Just hit the back button while you still can.
Now with the half hearted people gone, I can talk to those of you too curious for your own good. The reason I didn't rate this title isn't because I'm too chicken to do so. School Days requires thinking for recommendations, and reflections on how it succeeds and fails. The creators are either geniuses or assholes. Possibly both. Actually, by the end I was sure it was both.
Visual novels are popular in Japan, but rarely make it over here (recently the School Days Visual Novel was commercially translated if you're interested). They often excel in story telling due to multiple options for endings. Often these are cute and sentimental, but they can go in very messed up directions too. Visual novels can be daring this way because bad endings are optional. School Days became fairly well known for some rather vicious alternate endings. Anime adaptations of Visual Novels almost NEVER use a bad ending, bringing us to an anime which does just that. Whether it's successful this way is hard to say, but it is certainly different.
The characters of School Days are very flat, which isn't unusual, but there's clearly something... off about them. I didn't feel attached to any of them, which was peculiar in the case of Kotonoha - the quiet, kind hearted shy girl who is a type I normally sympathize with easily. Maybe it was because I had a vague idea the ending of this show is a bad one, but I think it's more on purpose. The characters are intentionally frustrating, and presented in a way to distance the viewer from them. Why? That becomes a little more obvious once you see what happens to them.
If you loved the characters, you'd HATE what happens to them. On the other hand if you didn't like them, you might feel better about them getting their due. This is particularly the case with Makoto: the central male lead who may go down in history as the biggest asshole in anime. His listless attitude is annoying from the start, but he's easy to despise due to the way he treats girls like garbage. While Makoto makes the show interesting and somewhat unique, he also makes it hard to watch. This is the continuing juxtaposition of School Days: interesting, but hard to watch.
I'm open minded and avoid shows I'm sure aren't my thing, and don't watch things just to hate on them as some sites do. I avoided School Days, but over the years I've enjoyed titles others dislike; the kind of anime with the guts to do something different. School Days has many traits I liked in other titles, which is why gave it a try. Rumbling Hearts - with it's intentionally frustrating characters. Shuffle - with the girl who goes totally psycho. Myself Yourself - with some surprisingly messed up content even if starting like typical fluff. However these titles have something missing in School Days: a heart.
I'm not suggesting it requires a happy ending. School Days is malicious in a way I found off putting. Nearly every aspect of this anime is cruel to the characters for no reason, and I hated that.
School Days has some unique traits too. I can't name another anime that explores the idea of "the mistress" quite like this one. Although I found the beginning episodes painful, it does a good job of exploring two people who are physically attracted, but completely unsuited for each other.
Later on the anime gets pretty whacked out. It makes no sense to me how Mokoto could be so clueless with women in the beginning, then become a ladies man by the middle. The girls throw themselves at him, but nothing about him has changed. I had to laugh at how many girls he's banging towards the end, like whoah. Makoto calls this period "when everything was going great", but the viewer understands he's only using the girls for sex and cares nothing for them. It's a clever way to evoke a sense of hate towards him, which is a great setup for how things go to hell. I won't go into detail in how this ends, but it's messed up and pretty much everyone gets their due. I felt kind of bad for Kotonoha, but on the other hand I was a little surprised how indifferent I was about her fate - which was happy in a way... maybe. To be clear, I've seen anime endings more fucked up than School Days, so it wasn't as shocking to me as it may be to some.
School Days is interesting in an academic way. It explores things rarely (if ever) touched in anime. This requires watching at a cold distance from the characters. Without that connection, it can get away with the events that transpire, but the question becomes, do you even care? That's basically how I felt about School Days. It's mean in a shallow way, but intriguing for the same reason. It may be worth the watch for those who want a show daring enough to go were few do (not like this anyway).
"Nice Boat." -- Internet message board post concerning the Japanese network too chicken to air the final episode, and instead showing a slide show of scenery. One being a cruise liner.
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