When I watched School Days for the first time, I had a very good idea of what I would think of it. Every review, every opinion and everyone I’d met who had seen it all has the same thing to say; it’s one of the worst anime of all time. And I have to say, when it was finally done and the end credits were rolling, it had me taken completely by surprise. I don’t think I’d had so much fun watching an anime in such a long time.
Oh, not because the characters are well-written. Not because the story is anything special or exciting. Quite the opposite. Both of those aspects are incredibly, hysterically awful, coming together to produce an unbelievably entertaining piece of crap. That’s right, it’s one of those animes. Those anime that seem to get everything wrong, featuring characters that go beyond stupidity, exploiting every single harem and soap-opera cliché (right up to the over-the-top ending that’s supposed to be tragic but really just has you cheering at seeing every one of these idiots getting what they had coming) and being one of those anime that’s just so darn bad, it’s good.
School Days was originally based on a visual novel of the same name and saying that it shows is a gross understatement. Character designs are generic and flat, with many of the female characters looking exactly the same with the exception of hairstyle and eye/hair colour, and the main male character, Makoto, features one of the blandest character designs I’ve seen. From beginning to end, the series makes no attempt to impress you with its characters and this largely carries over in their designs as well. Not only that, there is little to no detail added to them when drawn from a distance, making their already uninteresting designs look even lazier.
However, leaving the negatives aside for a moment, the rest of the visuals aren’t half bad. The backgrounds are nice and fairly detailed and, while I complain about the designing of the characters, the animation itself is fine and shortcuts are taken where they are not that noticeable. The use of lighting and angles throughout is also rather nice, particularly during the final episodes. Despite this though, the animation and visuals only ever manage to be competent and at no point do they fully impress.
Leaving aside the entirely forgettable opening and ending themes, School Days actually does sport some decent music. The problem is that, while the tracks are nice to listen to, they never truly stick in your mind and would require watching the same episode several times in order to actually notice and appreciate them. I say this with the exception of one track however; played during the very last episode, ‘Kanashimi No Mukou e’ is a beautiful, dark piece which is both brooding and memorable.
This is also bolstered by an equally excellent voice cast; while the characters themselves may be terrible, awful people, the seiyuus portraying them fully convince and give their characters life and believability. If we are supposed to hate a character, the seiyuus make sure that we do with their top notch performances. Even when they aren’t given a whole lot to work with, they try their absolute best to carry through and they certainly manage it. At the time of this review, there is no English Dub to speak of and I highly doubt there ever will be.
School Days starts off innocently enough with a premise that is not uncommon in other anime before it; high school teenage boy has a crush on shy high school, teenage girl and manages to ask her out with the help of his other female friend, who also happens to have feelings for him herself. Sound like a standard, harem soap opera yet? Don’t worry; it gets better.
Our main high school teenage boy, Makoto, decides roughly three or four episodes along that actually dating his girlfriend and having to make the effort for her is too much like work for him. So, the logical conclusion would be to talk with his girlfriend, Kotonoha, and explain that their relationship isn’t working out for him and it would be best for the both of them to separate? Of course not! No, the obvious thing to do is to instead decide to cheat on the girlfriend that he was pining for with his other female friend, Sekai, and completely ignore Kotonoha’s presence, her feelings be damned! And Sekai, of course, feels remorse at this and yet, of course, makes no attempt to stop him at all when he decides to turn attention to her rather than the original girlfriend he was oh-so-desperate to go out with.
But wait; it gets better. Not only does he decide to start a relationship with Sekai as well, for some reason every girl in the entire school now seems to vying for his affection. That’s right; completely out of nowhere! We get some stock stereotype labels such as ‘the childhood friend’, ‘the best friend’, ‘the best friend’s best friend’ and so on, but all they are in reality is a slew of one-dimensional idiots whose only purpose is to make Makoto look even worse when he decides to sleep with them as well. By the end of the show, you could make a line-chart equation of how many girls Makoto has strung along, despite him having little to no attractive qualities whatsoever!
But wait; it gets better! Not only has Makoto shown little to no remorse or regard for the consequences of this actions, he actually has the audacity to get angry with Sekai after she falls pregnant by him because he doesn’t feel like dealing with the responsibility, and goes whining back to Kotonoha despite causing her nothing but pain and she, of course, takes him back like a utter idiot. Why, you ask? Because in the grand total of maybe three days they went out, Kotonoha decided that she was madly in love with Makoto and was willing to forgive him for anything. Who cares if he cheats on you and treats you like a complete doormat, at least he’s said sorry now! And it just gets stupider and stupider, ending with an incredibly satisfying and cathartic bang which will leave you cheering as you see these characters you’ve come to love hating getting just what they deserve.
The story is beyond stupid, contrived and features one of the most hateable cast of characters I’ve ever seen in an anime. And I enjoyed every single bit of it, it is that hilariously bad. Every moment, every scene, every line of dialogue gives you something to laugh at or get angry over because of the sheer stupidity that unfolds before you. The normal harem clichés employed in many other anime we’ve seen before make even less sense here; there is no reason why this guy, who has no attractive qualities to him whatsoever coupled with the personality of a brick, should have this many girls going after him. There is no reason for his girlfriend to be so devoted to him that she takes him back without a second thought, despite finding out all that he has done behind her back. There is no reason at all as to why anything I was witnessing could not have been avoided if any of these characters shared half a brain cell between them. This anime brought me so much happiness with the sheer idiocy of its story and its cast, which I think even the creators themselves were aware of as the ending serves as the epitome of schadenfruede and gives the viewer exactly what they wanted to see. And that’s why I can say, from beginning to end, the story of School Days was a glorious train-wreck that was perfect for that aspect alone; hating these characters and laughing at their dumb decisions so much that it only feels that much better when the last episode finally brings us the comeuppance that everyone in this story had coming.
It’s easy to tell by just watching later episodes that the writers were trying their absolute hardest to make Makoto utterly irredeemable and the epitome of a complete and utter jerk. And in some aspects, they certainly succeed. Some of his actions later in the series are so mind-bogglingly cowardly and despicable, you’ll have a hard time resisting the urge to hurl the nearest heavy object at your screen. However, what makes him especially irritating and annoying is that, while his actions are terrible, he himself is as bland as cardboard! Every time he says a line, I always expect to hear a ‘DUUUHHHH’ sound effect played after it. What’s even stupider is that he reacts with utter surprise when Sekai informs him – shock, horror – that Kotonoha might actually be upset about him cheating on her?! And most of his reactions to the things that he does are like this; he goes and sleeps around with almost every girl in his class and is actually surprised when it comes back to bite him? His deviousness is only outclassed by his idiocy and cowardliness.
Kotonoha, meanwhile, is written to be the tragic victim in all of this, suffering from both bullying and a boyfriend that doesn’t care for her. And, while this would probably work in a well-written story, she instead comes off as one-dimensional and irritatingly submissive. As stated, despite finding out all Makoto has been doing and him completely ignoring and neglecting her, she forgives him for all he’s done because they dated for a grand total of maybe three days before he got bored and that was apparently enough for her to fall deeply in love with him. So much so that her personality, or what little there is of it, does a complete one-eighty for the series finale and has her go completely crazy for a boy who treated her as nothing less than dirt. Just because the writers made the rest of the cast the children of Satan, it doesn’t mean she is a good character either.
Sekai is the only character left worth talking about, as all of the other characters simply serve as plot devices for Makoto to sleep around with. While she starts as perky and helpful, her character soon amounts to nothing more than consistently whining about how ‘nothing is fair’ and ‘why can’t Makoto just love her’, never even considering that her actions may also be just as stupid and cruel as his, and is only mildly more self-aware than Makoto of the consequences of her actions which – surprise, surprise – come back to bite her later in the series.
I can definitely see why many people declare this one of the worst anime of all time; its characters go beyond selfish and verge into just plain idiotic, taking its story right along with them. But there was just too much of the ‘so bad, it’s good’ factor for me to dislike it. This anime brought me so much rage and so much joy at the same time. So, yes, in a strange way, I do honestly recommend it.
If you’re looking for an anime that slaps every moe harem and over-the-top, soap-opera cliché right in the face, without even realizing it, or if enjoyably bad anime is your thing, School Days is a more than worthy watch.
All I can say is, God bless you, School Days, you terrible, awful anime, for giving me so much rage and so much fun.