School Days Review – it made me feel ashamed of myself to be honest (Anime)

Usually after I’ve watched an entire season of anime, I can pretty much tell you straight away if I like it it or not. I rarely sit on the fence. ‘Liking’ usually boils down to one simple thing – do I think it’s any good? With School Days I can’t do that. I don’t know if School Days is any good. I don’t know if I like it.

 

What I can tell you is it made me feel a bit ashamed to be a guy. It made me feel somehow exposed. It made me see the bad things in myself.

 

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I’m hoping that, by the end of this School Days Review, I will have organised my thoughts enough to decide.

 

I initially started watching it because I’d read how bad it was. From my initial reading on the internet, general consensus seemed to be that this was a really bad anime of an okay Visual Novel. I don’t know if it’s just what I happened to read- or if that is an accurate appraisal, but there we go. Then, while browsing Crunchyroll, I made the conscious decision to watch the whole thing just because people said it was terrible.

 

I’m like that sometimes. Maybe this is a sign that there’s something wrong with me. I don’t know.

 

So, synopsis time. Prepare your bodies for some serious spoilers, maybe.

 

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There’s this guy called Makoto – he’s a pretty average kid. He spots a girl, Kotonoha, on the train from school. He kinda fancies her and so enlists the help of the girl he sits next to in class, Sekai, to set him up with her. She gives him advice on what to say to Kotonoha, how to behave on a date – as well as the boundaries of appropriate touching, that kind of thing.

 

Only the ‘help’ goes too far. One minute Sekai is saying stuff like ‘Why don’t you ask her questions about herself and then listen to the answers’ the next minute she’s teaching him the finer points of kissing and putting his hand up her skirt. Before you know it, Makoto is pretty fucking confused. Two girls like him. They’re both nice, only one is a little more backward in coming forward.

 

He’s a young guy, he’s in high school and inevitably he decides he likes Sekai more because she lets him touch her boobs and stuff.

 

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Only problem is, he can’t bring himself to break up with Kotonoha because he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. She’s nice. Sekai’s nice too. Actually, there are loads of girls in his class who are nice – and invariably, one by one, he ends up with a whole bunch of them, only with each encounter he fails at every opportunity to tell any of the other girls what he’s doing or make any attempt to finish one relationship before he starts another.

 

‘Maybe we shouldn’t see each other any more’

 

‘I don’t think it’s working out’

 

‘I just need some space for a while’

 

‘It’s not you, it’s me’

 

There’s none of that.

 

So basically Makoto is a spineless, cowardly, womanising prick who just bumbles along from one girl to the next, leaving a trail of adolescent misery in his wake. Initially you sort of feel for him, he’s just a kid, it’s difficult to break things up with people – but after a very short time you lose patience with him. You begin to hate him. He needs to grow up and sort his shit out.

 

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And then it hit me. Throughout it all there’s still a part of me that empathised, sometimes sympathised with him – I can recognise these traits in him because they are a part of me. In some ways I am like him.

 

I have been like him.

 

Now before I go on I should point out that my time in High School was not, by any means, a string of steamy sexual encounters where I groped girls in the PE store room and stayed round a different girl’s house every night of the week.

 

Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was in school, my parents, and the parents of girls I knew, were absolutely 100% in the ‘sleep-in-different-rooms-while-you’re-under-my-roof-thank-you-very-much-and-if-you-so-much-as-look-at-my-daughters-boobs-while-I’m-here-I-WILL-phone-your-father-to-come-and-get-you’ camp*.

 

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What I mean is, that throughout my school, college and early adult life there have been times where I’ve treated girls in a way that I’ve not always been proud of. Not outwardly dishonestly per se, but in a way that I’ve not been honest about my own feelings, and by extension not been particularly fair to them.

 

I’ve strung girls along when I’ve not been that into them for example. Or maintained friendships that perhaps I shouldn’t have, when I knew the other side wanted more than I was willing to give. Or ended up in relationships with girls just because I haven’t had the courage to say no – or been too lazy or scared to properly communicate my true feelings.

 

I’ve always liked to think that part of me is in the past. Any self-respecting guy would like to think that, by a certain age, you just don’t behave in certain ways any more. You’re beyond that. I don’t know why, but watching School Days has, bizarrely made me question that fact. Like it’s brought up certain emotions from my past that I’d long forgotten about. It’s opened the proverbial box, if you will.

 

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It’s made me doubt myself. Even though this is primarily about adolescent relationships, the basic principles still ring true no matter how old you are. They’re more innocent, simpler, the emotions more raw – but watching School Days was still perpetually uncomfortable for me.

 

There’s another reason for this constant feeling of discomfort. When I read one review of School Days, I was under the impression that half way through it was going to go completely crazy. Like there was some twist or turning point that would turn everything on its head and it would go off on some freaky tangent.

 

My assumption was that it would turn into some disgustingly violent slasher, or everyone would turn into vampires or something – such was my unfamiliarity with either the anime, VN or Manga.

 

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But as I approached episode six, then seven, then eight then nine (of a 12 Episode series) it became apparent that this twist or ‘crazy thing’ wasn’t wan’t going to happen any time soon. And so what I was left with, was this weird feeling of impatient expectation – but at every step I was left wanting by a distinctly average high school romance. A love trian- er… hexagon, that just made me feel guilty for 25 minute bursts at a time.

 

As a result when any scenes that were even remotely sexual came up – I found myself almost repulsed. Like it was some kind of subtle torture. A penance if you will.

 

Basically, School Days just made me feel bad about myself.

 

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Now, one part of me would like to think this is intentional on the part of the writers and director. Like this was part of the Grand School Days Plan. How cool would it be if it was intentionally, powerfully toying with my emotions like that – and you could argue that this is the case given the (what I now understand to be) infamous ending.

 

But School Days really isn’t that clever at all.

 

I think it wants you to take that reading from it sure – but the ending ultimately betrays that. It betrays the girls in a pretty horrible and dismissive way, which wasn’t immediately apparent until I began thinking about a) whether I wanted to write this School Days review, and b) if I did, what I would talk about.

 

In order to fully explain further, though, I’m going to have to deliver a pretty major spoiler.

 

DON’T READ ANY MORE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO RUIN THE ‘TWIST’

 

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Makoto, being the disgraceful, sex-obsessed jerk that he is, get’s his comeuppance in the anime’s finale.

 

A number of girls confess their love for him and the anime, at points, alludes to the possibility each of them may be capable of doing something extreme. In the end, one of them goes a little mad, one tells him she’s pregnant – they all become aware that he hasn’t exactly been exclusive to them and, well, eventually he’s stabbed to death with a kitchen knife in his own home.

 

It doesn’t end there – two girls confront each other, with one girl cutting open the womb of the other to try to prove that she wasn’t pregnant.

 

I’m not adverse to endings like this – I quite liked Audition, for example – but in School Days it’s extremely problematic, in that it undermines everything that it sets up.

 

On the one hand it’s saying ‘guys, come on – don’t be assholes – treat girls with love and respect’. It even goes as far as to add an ‘or else’ like a modern day parable. Except in doing that, the opposite message is delivered.

 

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With the exception of one girl, you could argue that they’re presented as a little crazy. One girl starts to display creepy, stalkerish behaviour, having one-sided conversations with no-one on the phone. Another girl tells him she’s pregnant when she isn’t, as a means of manipulating him, another girl attempts to control  him by blocking another girl from his phone, text and emails.

 

Ultimately, Makoto never has to face up to the mess he’s created. It’s a needlessly easy escape for him and yet the girls he’s treated so badly are presented as dysfunctional and almost as much to blame.

 

This is not a sentiment that sits easy with me – and one that I find pretty repulsive.

 

If there’s one thing I can testify to, is having to live with the memory of having treated a girl you like unfairly, or let them down, or upset them to the point of tears would have been a far more fitting and enduring punishment.

 

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If you like decent anime, there are loads of great releases at very reasonable prices over at our store!

 

*I’m really sorry Mr Price, it was genuinely a misunderstanding and I meant no disrespect.

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