I finished this series a few days ago, and although I wasn't particularly moved or even terribly enthralled by the story... I've felt the lingering touch of "School Days" in my head for a while now. It's hard to describe why these stories, and these characters, have had such a lasting effect on me. To be totally honest, I found School Days to be mediocre in most ways. The characters could have developed better, the music could have fit the scenes more appropriately, and the animation could have been more seamless; however, the story still works, even with these broken components. It still haunts you, it still makes you question the outcome.
At first glance, “School Days” is a very typical slice-of-life, high school anime. There is an obvious male protagonist named Makoto Itou, and two obvious female leads: Kotonoha Katsura and Sekai Saionji. There are side characters for comedy relief. The story begins in an auspiciously innocent way; a young man falls in "love" with a young girl from his school. A mutual friend sets them up. A relationship blossoms.
However, you can't take this anime at face value.
What begins as a banal boy-meets-girl becomes an entirely different show; not abruptly, but not with grace. The pacing is purposefully stilted, and showcases the devolution of love into lust, lust into addiction, addiction into heartbreak. The characters become warped versions of themselves, slowly continuing on a confusing, destructive path. This is the life of the modern high school student; fraught with peril brought on by their own curious carelessness.
The story is stilted, as other reviews have mentioned. Although the descent of this story into something like madness seems abrupt, I truly think that was the intention of the writers. Most "school-life" dramas are completely impossible works of fun fluff. Or, they are works of total tragedy. Reality is always somewhere in between, with fun times interspersed with boredom, and then peppered with sadness. Life is usually quite different from our beloved shoujo, our school-life dramas...
That, I think is the sticking point for School Days. It's frighteningly possible for life to turn out the way this anime did. The end is predictable, but only because we have anticipated those consequences for our own misdeeds.
Seamless without being polished, plain without being austere, School Days is animated in an appropriate fashion. Neither too realistic, nor too "sparkly," the younger cast members are animated with the typical round features and wide eyes we've become accustomed to in most anime. Artistically, this anime is acceptable, but not stellar; watchable without being fantastic.
I found the soundtrack misleading and lacking. Many tense moments could have been amplified with an appropriate soundtrack, and this opportunity simply wasn't taken. Whether the studio simply forgot this portion of their show, or the soundtrack was purposefully minimized in order to emphasize the realistic nature of the shocks, I felt they missed out on an opportunity to really amplify the viewers’ emotion through music.
You will undoubtedly pity or despise each character in this anime; sometimes both, in turn. Although stilted, the characters in School Days evolve as the show goes on. What's unclear is why the characters develop in the way they do. The anime does a poor job of explaining the minds of each character, and the viewer is left to infer important details. For this reason, the characters seem disjointed at times, especially during the middle of the anime. The viewer has a hard time understanding how the characters become their "final versions," because of a lack of back-story. “School Days” could have done a much better job with the development of, at least, the main characters.
This anime may not be in your top 10. It's not in mine, but I'm still thinking about it, three days after I finished the last episode. Although it doesn’t seem terribly special at first, by the end “School Days” will leave you with a disconnected ache for what could have been, a very real sense of gravity, a plethora of other emotions swirling below your conscious mind, while you ask yourself, "Why?"
Don’t pass this one up.