Review: School Days

In regards to the anime community, there are actually very few shows that are almost universally panned. The community is mostly full of praise for various shows – such as Attack on Titan, Fullmetal Alchemist, the big three, etc. So when a show comes along that invokes the ire of nearly everyone, you know it had to have done something truly awful to rile everyone up.

It puts me in a bit of an awkward position when I think said show is brilliant.

 

The number one thing you hear from almost every single person that hates School Days is: Makoto is an asshole/jerk/scumbag and is therefore incredibly unlikeable.

Yet… isn’t that the entire point?

It’s one thing to try and portray a character as being good when they clearly aren’t, but School Days doesn’t try and hide the fact that he’s an awful person. If anything it revels in it since people – especially teenagers – being shitty people is what the show is entirely about.

If nearly every other romance show is trying to portray the positives of relationships and that age, School Days is the exact opposite. Let’s face it, not all relationships work out like they do in the fairy tales, and people can be supremely flawed. That is what School Days is about: a guy that just doesn’t understand what it means to be in a relationship.

It’s not as if people cheating is a minor statistic in real life, hell enough people do it that they made a damn show out of it. And looking up statistics on the number of people who’ve admitted to infidelity might just make you do a double take.

If you think about, that’s probably why nearly all romance shows focus on “the chase”, as people like to call it, rather than the actual romance itself. The emotions people have before actually going out are like a drug, but once they start going out it can – and sadly, often does – start to die down. Some people just eventually break up, or at least one of them resorts to cheating to most likely try and relive the emotional high they had back at the beginning of the relationship.

Even though I know it probably isn’t true, I like to think the director took this route with the show because he just despised the romantic comedy genre of anime. In actuality I’m sure it was just because it’s famous for how many bad endings it has so they just decided to have the adaptation use one of those routes, but I like my interpretation more.

But honestly, it’s actually kind of refreshing to see a show cover just how easy it is for a relationship to go south. Makoto isn’t even the only one to drive this, every single character in this show is despicable in their own special way. Some more than others, definitely, but that’s also just another fact of life: there is no black and white, just endless shades of grey.

The main point of what I’m trying to say in this ridiculously roundabout way is – and this may sound weird at first – it’s fully possible for an unlikeable character to be likeable due to their unlikability. As long as they’re intentionally made out to be bad people and they still act logically in regards to their twisted morals, they can actually be incredibly fascinating characters.

Makoto actually acts perfectly logically based on the mind of teenager who thinks with the lower half of his body rather than his head. He’s fine with his relationship with Kotonoha at first, but after he realizes he needs to take his time and actually put effort into their relationship, you get the comment from him that ended the third episode: about how going out with her is tiring.

Then Sekai lets him start getting physical with her, so he starts wanting to go out with her instead. After that, it follows the same pattern of Makoto giving most of his attention to a new girl after they have sex with him, because that’s all he really cares about in the end. He doesn’t bother to break up with anyone because it’s too much effort for him. He probably thinks if he just ignores them long enough then they’ll just go away.

He doesn’t even realize how much of an asshole he’s being until the end when he finds Kotonoha after all the other girls refused to be around him anymore. …And then not too long after he gets brutally stabbed to death.

At least pretty much everyone agrees how cathartic that scene is considering, again, that’s the whole idea. Build up hatred for all the characters – especially the main one – and then brutally murder him.

This all may sound weird coming from the guy that made a long analysis post about how great ToraDora is, but both shows are great for opposite reasons. I like ToraDora for its perspective on the positives of relationships and how love can come from the most unexpected of places, and I like School Days for its perspective on what’s, in all honesty, something that has a fair chance of happening in a relationship. I mean, not all guys will get the amount of girls Makoto got knocking on his door, but still.

To be fair though, School Days is definitely a show that you don’t want to watch twice. Unlikable characters are fascinating the first time around because you have no idea what they’ll do, how far they’ll go with whatever they’re doing, or whether they’ll stop being dicks before the end. They’re a lot more painful to watch a second time around because knowing exactly what they’ll do makes them a lot less interesting. Plus shows that focus on something negative just get kind of depressing after the first time around.

In a way, I’m actually kind of glad that School Days has the reputation it has. If it wasn’t hated this vehemently by so many people, it’d probably only be seen as average and everyone would have already forgotten it exists. I obviously also wish it was seen for what it was trying to do (if anything because I really am tired of seeing “it’s bad because Makoto is a bad person” arguments), but you know, I think the show can live with the kind of legacy it has. And if it can, then so can I.


2 Comments on “Review: School Days”

  1. Baka-Raptor says:

    Agreed. The one thing School Days doesn’t get enough credit for is how realistic the initial romance actually plays out. For at least those episodes, I’m struggling to think of an anime that portrays high school romance more realistically.

  2. My favorite bit of foreshadowing in the show is when the students are studying the philosophy Legalism, which avers that people were naturally evil. That tended to be the disposition of most of the people in the show! All in all, I also think that the show worked very well for the themes it was trying to tease out.


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