Moderate to Heavy Spoiler Warning.
I’ve just finally finished watching the notorious School Days, a short anime series based on an eroge visual novel. The premise revolves around a classical high school love polygon, with the series beginning with the protagonist Makoto Itou beginning a relationship with his crush Kotonoha Katsura (who returns his feelings) with the help of his close female friend, Sekai Saionji. As you’d expect, Sekai secretly harbours some feelings for Makoto herself, and selfishly takes action on them with the occasional display of intimacy between the two. What sets School Days apart from most other anime and visual novels of the genre is the notoriously dark atmosphere the story takes on. As the story progresses, the plot grows darker and darker as the entagled relations between the characters become more and more complicated and painful for those involved.
I have very mixed thoughts on School Days as a whole. There are elements of the show which I would consider very shallow, and others which indicate something deeper. But I feel the best way to express my thoughts is to go into a rough analysis of some of the main characters. Let’s start with Sekai Saionji.
Sekai is, perhaps the main female character of the story. She is introduced as Makoto’s close friend and confidant. She supports Makoto when she learns that she has a crush on Kotonoha Katsura, and plays cupid to get them together. While this is all happening, it’s revealed through intermittent displays of sexual intimiacy that she actually has feelings for Makoto herself. Later in the series, Makato seems to grow ‘tired’ of Kotonoha and decides that he prefers Sekai’s company instead, and so they become much closer as a result. This is where the story gets a bit complicated though, as Makoto was never able to build the courage to break up with Kotonoha, so he’s really cheating on her the whole time. Sekai knows it’s wrong against Kotonoha, but she chooses to follow through with her own selfish feelings. She often tried to get Makoto to tell Kotonoha, but not before having sex with him. So yeah, you could portray Sekai as a villain in this story, but the thing with School Days is that pretty much every character is portrayed in a very negative light at some point or another. Sekai’s character is also called into question with regards to her interactions with her best friend Setsuna Kiyoura.
Setsuna seems to have the highest moral ground of all the characters in School Days. Setsuna’s presence links the story to the past, which kinda sheds light on some of the movitations of various characters’ actions. When she first entered the High School, she was picked on by some guys for being so short, and then she met Makoto, who tried to help cheer her up and supported her. Setsuna was determined to be strong and independent in high school, which she arguably accomplished with those few words of support from Makoto. And so, Setsuna was the first to develop a crush on Makoto, and tried to get a seat next to him in class. But when her best friend Sekai found out about where she was sitting, Sekai developed an interest in Makoto as well, and pleaded to Setsuna to let them swap seats with each other, and Setsuna sacrificed her own desire for Sekai’s sake. This incredible loyalty to her friend is shown many times throughout the series, but Sekai seemed very ignorant about the lengths Setsuna went for her sake. But you can see how the girls’ affections for Makoto were batoned off from one person to another. Contrasting Sekai though, Setsuna was much more resolute and determined to do anything for Sekai, whereas Sekai was unable to express the same dedication when it came to her ‘love coaching’ for Makoto. Sekai gave into her own selfish desires, and often forgot what she was fighting for, if anything. Sekai was easily lost. On the topic of battoning off feelings, I’ll move the focus to Kotonoha.
Kotonoha is biggest victim in this story. After falling for Makoto and being hitched with him through Makoto’s efforts, she slowly but surely came to feel stronger and stronger for Makoto. She began as a fridid innocent girl, but slowly became more and more dedicated to her boyfriend Makoto. But the point where Makoto stops sharing these feelings for her is when the series reaches it’s low point for me. For about 5 episodes, they drag out the repeated circumstance of Kotonoha insisting that Makoto is her boyfriend, and Makoto not denying anything in front of her, but telling others that he doesn’t feel the same way, and he just keeps their relationship in limbo for an agonizingly extended period of time. They could have wrapped it up in one episode, two at most, but they just kept going on and on with it, like a bad soap opera. On another hand though, perhaps that agonizing stagnation of the relationship was the writer’s intention, to inflict that feeling of being trapped on the reader. Reminds me a bit of Haruhi’s Endless Eight arc. I honestly can’t tell if the writers are literary masterminds or just shallow-minde
d fools. But when the time finally does come that Makoto denies his relationship with Kotonoha, she has a mental breakdown, which is only made more profound by the amount of time he went on lying to her. Kotonoha becomes completely possessed by the idea of being Makoto’s girlfriend that, even after breaking up, she tries to fill in the gaping hole in her heart by entering a trance-like existence of pretending she’s still with him. It’s really painful to watch, but again it drags on and on, which can be taken either positively or negatively on a meta level. It just depends on your interpretation, and I can’t make up my mind about it. One fact remains though: Kotonoha is a victim in many ways in the story. Now, allow me to finally analyse the main character, Makoto Itou himself.
Ahh, where to start with this guy. He’s pretty much the embodiment of your average teenage boy, but they really seemed to enjoy amplifying his jerk level to infinity for the sake of the story. Long story short, if Makoto had half a brain that wasn’t localized in his genitals, pretty much none of the tragedy of the story would have occured. That’s right, all of the tragedy, all of the darkness in the story, is because Makoto was a horny bastard. Yeah, you can probably tell how I feel about this guy. He let Sekai help him get into Kotonoha’s pants so he could throw her away for Sekai, without telling Kotonoha about it, then he got bored of Sekai and started doing it with 3 other girls. It just got way out of hand. It makes all of the drama of the show feel completely shallow and empty when the cause of it all is a horny young man. It’s not like he’s a bad guy, he just doesn’t use his brain, at all. Half of his dialogue is lines like “Uhhh, I guess…”. I mean gee, why? This guy’s motive is completely stupid, there’s no depth to what he does. It’s just because he wants sex. The show could have been so much more with the other characters at least having some kind of intelligent thought going on in their brains. But what’s more worrying is, why does everyone have the hots for this guy? It seems every second female character has a crush on Makoto, and it’s never explained why. Well, to be fair, there was an explaination for Setsuna. Apparently Makoto used to be a nice guy before he hit late puberty and started fapping to every pretty face he encountered. But that’s it, and it’s not like Setsuna ever acted on her desires (not in a harmful way, anyway). The rest of the girls just seem to like him because, well, there was no reason. Hormones are the only explaination I can give, and any story that uses hormones as a precursor for tragedy is really bland and unfulfilling in my book. There’s no moral, no message. They just wanted to take a typical highschool setting and give it a really dark twist. Seems way too shallow from a literary analysis standpoint, it’s like gore for the sake of gore, it’s pointless.
Allow me to turn the chessboard over. With this new interpretation, the show gains some kind of merit.
School Days is a show which provides an accurate representation of High School life for many real people. It’s redeeming merit is the realism of the story.
Think about it. I’m sure everyone has met a few Makoto Itou’s in their day. These are characters we can really relate to, people who make stupid decisions purely out of response to their raging hormones. This is something that happens all the time in the real world. From a literary standpoint, it’s very shallow, but, when you consider this text as a realistic depiction of school life, it all makes sense. The show wasn’t trying to entertain or inspire us, it was trying to be realistic. School life isn’t all Keion, it can get pretty dark and depressing. The only evidence that contradicts this interpretation is the ending, which is very unrealistic. But at the same time, it’s more of a dramatic exaggeration of the turmoil in your common high school. It’s like the imagination of a heartbroken schoolgirl manifest, so if you interpret it like that, you can somewhat understand where School Days is coming from.
Either that, or the show is a shallow piece of crap. What do you think? All I know is that without love, it cannot be seen. So, do you believe that this boat is indeed nice?