Youth: A time of friendship, first love, and bountiful joy. Enter School Days, an anime chock full of all that youthful spunk but spiced up with a bit of malice, hatred, deceit, self-loathing, and rage. Brings back memories, doesn't it?
Now, if you want some passionate, innocent high school romance, I suggest you look elsewhere. The modern day Narutaru, School Days' name is about the most pleasant part about the whole series. It starts out innocent enough with our dumb-as-a-rock male lead, Makoto, developing a crush on a cute girl with whom he rides the train every morning, Kotonoha. Being that both are too shy to actually meet each others' acquaintance, Makoto's friend Sekai befriends her and the brings the two together in a romantic lunch outing on the school rooftop; it's love at first sight, or something. Their relationship gets off to quite the rough start, so the two begin to confide in Sekai, our local relationship expert, and ask for advice on how to make their fledgling romance work.
Sounds innocent enough, right? Well, turns out Sekai has a crush on Makoto too, and as the two spend time together trying to council his relationship with Kotonoha, a little spark gets lit. As Kotonoha builds confidence in her relationship with Makoto, his feelings begin to shift elsewhere, and that's when things start getting complicated. School Days certainly doesn't sugarcoat any of the series' relationship troubles from there on out, as hearts start getting shattered left and right and friendships become venues for abusing others for personal satisfaction and gain. Other problems slowly ooze their way into the characters' lives, ranging from bullying to social rejection, and, just as in real life, some handle it better than others.
Though typically not a fan of series that highlight the morbid facets of human interaction, I must admit that School Days is definitely one of the best of its type. The structure and presentation of the series is put together brilliantly, compacting its content to start well, climax flawlessly, and end with a rather shocking bang. Unlike so many series that simply thud after they peak, the ending to School Days is neither rushed nor poorly scripted, and provides some, might I add disturbing, closure. The final lines conjoined with the last scene proved incredibly fitting, which ended up leaving me with an uneasy sense of completeness. None of the events that transpire in the series are meant to be pleasant in any form, and the writers were absolutely sure to make that message loud and clear by the time you finish.
For a mid-2007 production, though, the animation left a lot to be desired. Shortcuts were taken left and right to simplify characters aesthetics, and the production quality was downright shoddy on a number of occasions. Unlike many recent series which take advantage of exceptional lighting techniques to create dramatic atmospheres, there's simply none of that present in School Days; aside from a random slap or slamming of a fist on a desk, the characters just didn't seem alive on many occasions.
The scenery proved slightly better, though not that much. Lighting and shading varied from scene to scene, ranging from vivid and dramatic one minute to droll and boring in the next. Perhaps I've been spoiled with recent masterpieces such as Death Note, but visually I never felt as if I were involved with what was happening. The quality did improve as the series progressed, though, and I suppose saving the best for last worked on some level; while you won't be blown away by any form of visual mastery, the script is strong enough to fill in the emotional gaps without much pause.
Though I've not much to say about the musical score, the voice acting in School Days was absolutely stellar. Sekai's seiyuu, for instance, captured her character's persona brilliantly in the final episodes. All of the voice actors managed to pick up on the emotional subtleties of their respective characters, especially during their spouts of anger, which really helped animate the script where the actual animation fell short. From the faintest quivers to the most authoritative of yells, the emotional struggles of each of the characters came alive, and this really allowed the series to take full advantage of what it had to offer.
By the end of School Days, every curse word in your vocabulary will find itself aimed on Makoto in one scene or another. If you've ever wanted to know what a true bastard acts like, he's your guy. Unfortunately, I think the creators over-emphasized this in the fact that every girl seems to want to him, and he ended up feeling superficial. Even so, his evolution from shy nerd to malevolent jerk invokes a genuine taste of disdain for his character, and drives home much of the finale's emotional finesse.
Sekai, though, was by far the highlight of the flamboyant drama. Not only did she have perhaps the most interesting and well-voiced character, but her presence is what really made the series have the emotional impact that it did. Both her strength and her moral courage, though initially appearing pure, end up quite befuddled and questionable, which makes her both a character you care for and hate simultaneously. She continually shocked me with her mixture of both moral authority and judgmental lapses, which allowed her character to really personify the morose atmosphere that pervades in the series' latter half.
Kotonoha, on the other hand, proved likable and amiable throughout, and given all she must endure, you cannot help but pity her. Yet, come the end of the series, even she becomes a rather questionable character, and I'm left with quite mixed feelings regarding the outcome of her decisions. By saying anything further I'd be pushing on spoiling her character so I'll refrain, but she's certainly not as black-and-white as she first appears.
All in all, though not an anime that will sweep you off your feet, School Days weaves a horrific tale of the human heart's ability to be treacherous and cruel toward its fellow man. The joys of youth fade idly into the back-story, and by the end of the series they seem all but a distant past. In fact, following the ending credits, the series' first thirty-seconds or so are replayed, and I found myself looking back on them in a completely different light. Though definitely not everyone's cup of tea, if you have a strong stomach and a willingness to endure some rather disturbing moments, give School Days a once through - you won't be disappointed.
If you take a story that includes everything from a love triangle, to sexual promiscuity, to rape, to characters you'd expect to have continous flowing flaws and come on the edge of breaking down, you'd expect it to be great, right?
Honestly, I'll probably never watch the series again. It might sound harsh, but read further. School Days is a series that depends on how you want to approach it-for those who want a shocker series, it'd probably be more of a pleasant watch than those who look for solidly constructed characters and something different than the norm, and despite what some may say about SD being unique, it's not. There have been some series that have used the same formula of shock factors (i.e. Shuffle!). The problem isn't so much building up the conflict, it's the hollowness of it. There are some themes here that are built, but lack proper development. I know the predominant argument for SD is that it's not meant to be realistic but entertaining...but where does the line for entertaining merge? Simply by graphic drama. I could understand some rollercoaster rides - for example a series that deals with multiple relationships and pregnancy is the josei series NANA, an anime adaptation done well, though with some slight saturation in it's dramatic themes. However, despite SD introducing some potent themes, I couldn't wrap my head around or even feel more than some bland sense of pity for the characters, and by the end, it left me feeling disgusted because it threw any sort of tangible tension out of the window.
Somehow, I just couldn't totally say this series was bad despite the bitter taste it left in my mouth, because it really wasn't considering what the story was trying to convey overall. It wants you really to hate some of what the characters do and present it in a way that's controversial. I have the feeling if you're looking for a story with a lot of shock factor and less traditional romance and realism, School Days would be more in your venue. Yet, for someone who looks for relatable emotions and good, developed characters, it truly isn't here.
School Days focuses on three main characters: Makoto, Kotonoha, and Sekai. Makoto develops a slight crush on Kotonoha while riding the subway one day, and when Sekai notes Makoto's crush, she throws her support in hooking the two together with full support. Yet, she harbors a secret fondness for Makoto in her heart-a factor that becomes the worm that eats its way through the hearts and progression of the series to come.
From that point on it becomes a web of betrayal and sexual deviancy, and while that factor sounds intriguing, the presentation of School Days really doesn't back that factor up because it doesn't give the characters as much weight on that factor. Makoto himself is a lackluster male lead with an insatiable desire for lust and sexual promiscuity-and while in his construction it does make you hate his actions, he's not more than 1 dimensional with tunnel vision-no reasoning (and I have to clarify-it's not so much what he does that's the problem, but more or less how it's developed), and very little shown to show the backbone of his addiction. Only in the final few episodes you actually see some hint as to where he laments and realizes he has a problem-a stronger irony it would have been if not presented so late or so lackluster. Sekai and Kotonoha, along with the harem cast of girls in the series, are unfortunately the victims of this deviancy, yet none of the girls, save for Kotonoha and Sekai, are given adequate development to really give Makoto's affections weight-then again, perhaps it ties in with their roles overall, not really given much heart, but as pawns in a game where their hearts are given less weight than their bodies. This could have had so much more potential if the time were taken to really give the side characters as much focus as Sekai and Kotonoha, but unfortunately, it was impossible to do.
I'll give it to the series for developing Sekai and Kotonoha, probably the better developed characters in terms of stark impact of all the events, but by the series end, it was clear that things were turning toward the extreme route for both girls.
The series does have nudity, but not as prominent in the TV version compared to if you saw the DVD, much more overt in places, and heavier than that are the series thematics, hence I'd give this series a rank for a more mature audience.
Then there's the ending, and I think it could strike the viewer in a number of ways. For me, the ending was only partially expected, but it would have had more impact (i.e. given a greater shock) to me if it didn't feel tacked on and rushed beyond oblivion. The reason I say it's rushed is because there's a lot that happens and it really could have just as well had another ending, but it went the route that most people thought and came off as a display moreso than something you could really feel sentiment toward. My approach with this series might be different than what most may view it, because in entertainment, people may not give this as much weight because it puts on a good show subjectively, but for me who looks for heart, good characterization, and lasting value in a story, this series doesn't excel.
School Days actually could have been much more of a beautifully told tragedy, but ended up as nothing more than a shallow watch. I'd only recommend this to those who aren't looking for a traditional romance or those who don't mind series with conflictive confrontations and themes without much expansion or development.
I didn't always like the character designs for School Days, but it gradually warmed up to me as the series went on. Backdrops, Cel production values for School Days are very well done and noted for a 2007 title. I can't take away much from School Days on this aspect and I think people will enjoy it, save for some points where it seems a little choppy on the design.
The soundtrack to School Days was among the more noteworthy ones I've heard in quite some time. The opening theme didn't really catch me at first because it does feel like the opening to an ero game, but it grew on me as I watched the series. The insert and ED themes, particularly "Waltz" by Kanako Itou, were beautiful and definitely among my favorites overall.
Voice acting actually made School Days better among the characters, the VAs were well chosen for the personalities, but the overall story was what took away from the characters more than the quality of the acting.
Not much to note on the characterization-the characters aren't handled as well as they could have been. The primary three are perhaps the characters you follow most throughout the overall series, and honestly, are the only ones that are well developed, even Makoto I'll admit.
Sekai was easily the most likable in the start of the series with her upbeat and overall sweet personality, and you really feel for her in some scenes when she comes into conflict with Makoto for not being decisive about his affections, and she ends up being just as flawed with her own insecurities.
Kotonoha may strike some as being the typical shy girl stereotype...and indeed she is. There were some scenes I even tried myself to really feel for her character, but the way the series didn't expand on the things that happened to her, or just left situations without really taking her character further that disappointed me.
The secondary cast aren't developed all that well, and easily fade into the background save for points where they cause or perpetuate conflict among the main three. Somehow, if the secondary cast were given more collective weight and development, this could have been a better series.
Overall, a hesitant recommendation. I personally did not really like it as I found it shallow and underdeveloped but there were moments I admit did strike me, and thus I wouldn't completely write it off, but it's certainly a type of series that could have been so much more.
School Days manages to be utterly crap on so many levels of writing that it will totally disgust you. You are supposed to absolutely hate the characters, otherwise I have no explanation for the writing. Oh, and the ending of the series is a cheap cop out to try make us forget everything was utter garbage until then. If only it could shock the viewers into succeeding.
It starts out as a classic harem/romance piece of garbage that lacks any creativity. There are odd camera angles that are supposed to add drama but end up just annoying. There is humor which is at best juvenile. Then, the moment we start looking more into the characters, you can begin to feel the hate. I get it, the lovable idiot with no redeeming features is suddenly the dream of every girl. Of course, that doesn't work if he's the single least likable person in the cast.
If there is any reason people hate teenagers, it is because of the ones that act like the ones in School Days. The cowardice, selfishness, stupidity, obliviousness, and general ability to annoy pervade every nook and cranny of the character driven side of the show. There are the girls that rationalize sleeping with the popular boy. There is the popular boy that will sleep with anything that moves. Oh, how easy it is to hate the main character. The ending nearly makes all the build up worth it.
There isn't any particular story, the characters are disposable annoyances, the animation is subpar, and the sound dull. Very rarely have I come to loathe a cast as much as I have in School Life, and the ending nearly made up for it. Nearly. The main problem is that the drama is that of school kids on steroids. Nobody cares about the guy who sleeps with all the vapid girls who will sleep with him because he's popular and has some superficial charm, let alone the vapid girls. This is a teen soap opera which ends with a cop out that is extremely satisfying yet ultimately empty.
Writing (Story and Characters):
Oh, the end of the series manages to salvage some of the value. It doesn't change the fact that the plot is thin at best, the characters are annoying, and the "psychological aspects" or however you want to call the attempt at depth is an abject lesson in literary failure. There is a vision here, only it's a shame that we have to suffer through ten episodes of complete garbage writing that could be condensed into two, in order to get to two episodes that should have been condensed into one.
The "story" of School Days is character driven. There is no real plot. The whole school life aspect of it is boring. Nobody cares about teens cheating unless they're fourteen year old girls looking for soap operas they can relate to. The drama is so forced and derivative that it will make you cringe. Really, the failure of the story is so extreme that the person who wrote this should have his arms chopped off in fear of something of his making it through again. I get it, people like to "deconstruct" stuff by making it "dark", yeah well... this isn't such a case. Deconstruction requires subtlety and insight, two things the story completely lacks.
In character driven stories, the characters are the ultimate thing in which a series can rise or fall. School Days ambitiously tries to have the main character the ultimate douchebag. Well, that only works if that character is interesting. He isn't. The rest of the cast manages to come off as a bunch of idiots. Everyone is selfish, most are cowards, and most of all, they are with nearly no exception annoying as hell. There is not one member of the cast that elicited any sympathy from me, and quite a few managed to make me hate them.
How do you not do things in order to make a school drama interesting? School Days has your answer. The writing is subpar, and while an interesting concept, it cannot undo the fact that it is sheer agony to plow through until it reaches some sort of a point. Romance falls flat in a story about romance gone wrong. That should tell you all you need to know about the writing.
Art (Animation and Sound):
From an artistic standpoint, School Days is mediocre at best and a horrible failure at worst. There is absolutely zero wow factor in anything, and there is so little in the way of creativity to make up for it that it hurts. The amount of issues which plague the sound and animation is huge, and unfortunately, not only in the tiny details. It isn't very bad. It's just that all the issues here pile up rather than manage to hide behind things the show does well.
Really, I understand that Shaft is a studio that has wild success with odd camera angles used for creative purposes. School Days has a cargo cult for that - it matches the form in a crude sort of way, but the execution is all sorts of wrong. The character designs are taken straight out of an eroge (every breast size available, naturally), and the lack of anything distinctive in anyone backfires spectacularly. The entire animation feels monotone. The color palette is surprisingly cold, and doesn't really fit with most of the series. Overall, there are some things that are nice, but the animation is generic on every level that isn't a failure, and isn't outstanding in any parameter.
Audio can either bring everything together, or be completely annoying. With School Days it is completely annoying. The voice acting is grating, the opening and ending themes both annoying and a bad fit for the show, and the effect use is cliche. The soundtrack isn't bad, and is actually a surprisingly good fit, and a few characters have voice acting that is actually great, though that seems more like a mistake than anything else. Still, I mentioned all the bad things, and that doesn't change the fact that from at least a technical perspective, the execution was sound.
World creation for the writing to thrive in is the ultimate goal of the artwork in anime. Where the writing is terrible, it can add extra dimensions and push a show to a different direction and fix plenty of the faults. What a shame that the art in School Days is so generic and bland, with plenty of mistakes and a severe lack of vision.
People talk about School Days like it isn't terrible. And that's because of the ending, which is much better than the rest of the show. Unfortunately, it did not manage to erase the terrible taste of the rest of the series for me. This show is bad, and the staff behind it should feel bad.
This is one of those anime where the idea was much better than the actual show itself ended up being.
It gets a LOT of flak for "one dimensional characters" but i think that's a lot more to do with the short run time than anything else. Had this been a 24 episode series it would be even more amazing than it already was. As it is, it's my absolute favorite "harem drama" and what i would gladly call important to the genre as a whole. It takes the harem genre and pulls it aside, forces it to examine itself and say "no, that's not how that would happen". It's by far the most realistic depiction of what would happen if a fairly introverted high school boy started dating the most beautiful girl in his class, followed by other attractive girls basically throwing themselves at him.
It's easy for guys to white knight it and say "no way would i act like that" but saying and DOING are two different things. This show felt more honest to it's characters, as one dimensional as they were, than any harem anime i've ever seen has. I also have yet to see ANY harem anime that DOESNT pack itself to the gills with one dimensional trope girls, so even that excuse doesn't stand.
Either way, all in all this series moved me, to tears in more than a few places, and will always be one of teh best, most important anime i've ever seen.
School Days Review:
Oh god this anime. Just…oh god. I’m not even quite sure why I’m reviewing School Days. No one asked me to do it, no one cares, and then here we are! If you’ve been living under weeaboo rock or just any rock in general you probably have no clue what this anime this is and/or why it is so polarizing and notorious. And if so, then boy do I have a review for you! So, let’s not waste too much time (I mean we could I’m up for that), let’s I guess go out and review School Days (spoilers probably ahead by the way, it’s not like anyone cares)!
School Days is a 12 episode long anime done by Studio TNK back in 2007. It was originally a visual novel by 0verflow that was released two years earlier. This anime is notorious for picking a horrible route in the game and adapting it into the anime, including the most famous and hilariously sudden anime endings of all time.
This anime is rated TV-MA for eventually obvious reasons, so viewer discretion is highly advised.
If Madoka Magica is king of deconstruction in the magical girl genre, then School Days is the king of deconstruction in the harem genre. But at first, like Madoka Magica, it wasn’t even like that at all. So the story is about Makoto Itou, a typical high school boy who starts falling in love with Kotonoha, a big breasted yet sweet girl in his grade. His friend Sekai tries to get Makoto to go out with her, and succeeds. As the show progresses in the love between Makoto and Kotonoha in your typical harem plot, we start to figure out there may be more to the story than the typical can hold…
Like I said, at first School Days was your generic cute harem anime that had nothing special. But once you continued to watch the show, everything was blown way out of proportion! Sex, cheating, affairs, violence, bullying, like Jesus Christ did someone sneak into the writers office and just f*ck everything up?! It’s bad and unexpected, but I will give it credit for what it was doing. Why? Because this is one of the first animes to actually show what would happen if the harem genre was a real life thing. I mean come on, most of the stuff in this anime is pretty much accurate to what it would be like! So yeah, I’ll give credit to where it is due.
And then there’s the ending. Holy crap when I first saw it I couldn’t tell if I was laughing at how bad but relieving it was, or crying at how bad but relieving it was! Like seriously, pretty much everyone was just torn by it, it just came out of nowhere! But anyways, MOVING ON!
If you thought the SAO characters were the worst cast of characters to me, you clearly don’t even know about this anime at all! Pretty much every single character except for Kotonoha is a complete douche bag with no remorse or a soul that even I couldn’t stand any of it! How about we start with Makoto, huh? At first, I thought he was just a bland dude but at least was trying to be nice. And then, I thought he was just a sex addicting-jack@ss! Like seriously, could he be anymore dumb?! Now, let me say this, for those saying that this guy was the villain and the worst character of the show…you are probably wrong. Yes, he is awful, but Sekai was the worst. Sekai is the mastermind behind this abomination of a show and I was just waiting for her to have a torturous demise in the end! Makoto was dumb, obviously, but I don’t think he deserved to die because it wasn’t entirely his fault, he’s just doing what he was taught to do what was “right.” Sekai was the one that taught him and thus she’s more of the villain. Even when Makoto realized he was being a jerk and wanted to return to Kotonoha, Sekai was acting all sad saying she was pregnant even though no one was going to give her sympathy because she did not deserve it. If there’s anyone that deserved the sympathy, it had to be Kotonoha. Though she was mostly bland and plain, she was more tolerable then the other characters, which made me actually enjoy her. She was treated like crap in the beginning, still treated like crap, and then probably treated like a psychopath at the end (possibly, it didn’t show much of what happened after all of the abomination in the ending). I wanted to give Kotonoha a huge hug, and even though this makes me sound crazy, what she did in the end was probably the right thing to do, at least better than just standing there and watching all the hell happen in front of her.
Every single other character are jerks and I don’t care so I’m moving on!
School Day’s animation is definitely nothing special, average at best. I mean, for an anime like this, the animation doesn’t have to be that grand or anything, but since this was made in 2007 and to me that’s the big year animation started modernizing to what it is now it’s pretty freaking bad. There isn’t that much movement besides to mouths of the terrible characters, the character designs are both weird looking or very generic, and everything else is average. Not much else to say, just average.
If there’s anything remotely good in this anime, it’s probably the music. Though there’s a lot of it, the tracks are actually pretty good but mostly forgettable. Sure the openings and endings are generic, they’re at least tolerable. My favorite song is definitely “Kanashimi No Mukou He” which is the song that plays in the notorious ending. Not because it reminds me of it, but because it’s just really good! So yeah, not much else to say!
For any normal anime watcher, avoid School Days at all costs because it is very bad. The story is bad, the characters are bad, the animation is average, and the sound is fine but also forgettable. However, if you are more of an odd anime watcher who watches for the sake of reacting to it for the ride and/or the curiousity then I sort of recommend it. It’s definitely accurate with its “morals” and “themes,” but that’s really it. Overall, just try avoiding it and I’ll see you later!
Next Review: Pupa (And just when you thought I couldn't possibly review another bad one!)
(If you have any questions or corrections about this review or School Days, contact me! :D)