Let's Talk About: School Days

Disclaimer: This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS regarding the anime School Days. If you are thinking about watching it, please refrain from reading this article. 

Have you ever watched or read something that had such a mind blowing turn in its plot that no matter how hard you try, you don't ever really get over it? Some examples of this for me include the Abducted By Demons arc of the Higurashi When They Cry manga or some of the deaths in Game Of Thrones. But there is one anime series in particular that sticks in my head to this very day for this exact reason: School Days.

Let's go back to the beginning. I've been a fan of romance and high school anime ever since I first watched Kanon (the 2006 version) back in 2007. Unfortunately, with such an anime being my introduction to the genre, I always found it difficult to find anything that matched its level of quality. However, one Sunday evening, on a quest to find any semi-decent anime to relieve my boredom, I found School Days thanks to MyAnimeList. Reading the synopsis, it seemed to be nothing more than just a generic high school romance, but I was bored and wanted something to watch so I gave it a chance. Back then I would download entire anime series to my iPod Classic (all hail the king of iPods) and watch them at night instead of sleeping (thug life).
School Days is about Makoto Itou, a generic protagonist who seems to have very little in the way of personality who develops a crush on a girl who gets the same train to school as him, called Kotonoha Katsura. Upon discovering his crush, a close female friend, Sekai Saionji, decides to play cupid and get Makoto and Kotonoha coupled up. Fair enough, pretty simple plot, if not a bit predictable. Immediately you can get the jist of what is going to happen. Sekai, Makoto's classmate is going to develop feelings for Makoto as she goes about introducing him to Kotonoha. This does happen and you would be right to assume that the plot plays out like other series such as True Tears or Rumbling Hearts, where the protagonist has to chose the lady he truly wants to be with.

Yeah... you see that is where the similarities end, because unlike those (frankly dreadful) anime series I just mentioned above, Sekai doesn't get Makoto by the last episode, she gets him by episode 5 (there are 12 episodes in total). And so begins the next part of School Days: Makoto's spiral into ultimate douchebaggery. Basically, Makoto quickly found that his newly acquired girlfriend Kotonoha wasn't all she was cracked up to be, and is in fact a bit vapid (just like him!) and he actually likes Sekai more, so they begin to have an affair, and eventually they get found out. This initiates a complicated tug-of-war between Kotonoha and Sekai about which girl Makoto actually wants to be with, which is made more complicated by their friends who get involved and also the fact that Makoto is too spineless to let down Kotonoha gently, instead choosing to ignore her. While all this hustle and bustle is going on, he decides it'd be a great idea to have sex with some random childhood friend a few times for some reason, and obviously Sekai is pretty upset when she finds out and so she then wants rid of Makoto. While all this is happening Kotonoha is left alone, talking to Makoto on her mobile phone (despite the fact he blocked her number) because she still believes that Makoto loves her when anyone with a working set of eyes and a brain can deduce that he clearly doesn't. Then Makoto becomes a 'stud' and starts shagging anything that resembles a female and all this comes to a climax (sorry) when Sekai tells Makoto that she is pregnant.

So at this point, I more or less waved 'generic high school romance' goodbye 'cause that ship sailed long ago. I thought School Days would be more along the lines of 'going for coffee after school and exchanging sweet glances across the classroom' but instead I got a dude who can't keep it in his pants, one knocked up girlfriend and a heart broken ex-girlfriend who is in need of a restraining order. Definitely not what I expected. Not one bit.
So Makoto doesn't like the fact that Sekai is pregnant and that he has to face the consequences of his actions and alienation from everyone in the school. While he is going out for a walk he bumps into Kotonoha and sees that she has quite clearly been damaged by his rejection and breaks down in remorse for what he did to her. He hugs her, crying and apologising. Kotonoha comes out of her trance like state and smiles, hugging him back.

That is a condensed summary of all the events that take place over 11 episodes of School Days. But there is one more episode, episode 12. The events of episode 12 are what cause School Days to become notorious among anime fans all over the world. Due to its content, the episode even got cancelled from airing on three TV channels and delayed for more than a week by another. One channel, TV Kanagawa even showed a thirty-minute video slideshow of scenery footage in place of the episode. One slide in particular was of a boat, which resulted in a meme called 'nice boat' being added to the vast collection of meme's that litter the internet. I'm putting off talking about episode 12, aren't I? I've wanted to write an article about School Days ever since I created Alt:Mag 4 years ago, but the problem I always ran into was that I never knew how I would go about writing a decent article that contains so many spoilers. Well I decided to finally man up and talk about episode 12 once and for all. But why tell you when I can show you. Basically, after Makoto pisses Sekai off by hooking up with Kotonoha again and not giving a shit about the fact that she is pregnant - the following sequence of events occur:


I remember sitting in bed, my face illuminated by the screen of my iPod as I watched the final events of this anime unfold. My hand was placed over my mouth in shock at what I had just seen and to this day, I guarantee that I would have never seen it coming. Even if someone had told me the events of episode 12 prior to watching it, I probably wouldn't have believed that person. But that doesn't mean the creators just threw in a twist ending for the sake of shocking the viewer. The ending makes sense, and it works well because everyone can see that Makoto is a massive asshat. The twist is beautiful, and I don't mean that what actually happens is beautiful (in fact it's kind of abhorrent), I mean the way the creators of School Days hid this twist away in this sugar coated high school romance, which at its height seems to be nothing more than a bit of banal adolescent drama. This is why it works. Even the title is misleading to some extent. I mean, I don't know about you, but if someone asked me to describe my 'school days', I think it would sound more along the lines of 'I was an uncool kid and my habitat was the ICT room where I would design Skateboard deck designs on Macromedia Fireworks while the popular kids would either play football or spray their beloved Lynx body spray around while overexagerating any and all sexual endeavours they may have had before going to meet their girlfriends after school (true story)' and would definitely contain none of the events that take place in this anime's final episode, or similar.

But after all that, and even though this anime shocked me, I still ask myself the question: "is School Days good or is it bad?" I can't speak for everyone, but over time I think I have learnt to really appreciate School Days and see the creator's spark of genius - there is a method in the madness of School Days. Sure there is a really cringe-worthy swimming pool episode (a top notch choice for filler episodes when the beach is taken) and some of the interaction between characters makes me want to scream because it is so 'anime' that it is unbearable; but that doesn't mean School Days didn't win me over. It is well animated for an anime from 2007, it has likable and dis-likable characters that were so because that was how the creators intended them to be, the plot is actually really well written and develops satisfyingly over the space of its 12 episode run (something some anime series seem to struggle with) and most importantly, that twist. Oh the twist... did I mention the twist?

What did you think of School Days? Do you love it or hate it? What effect did the twist have on you? Make your voice heard in the comments section below, or on our Twitter or Facebook pages - let us know!

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