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This Is Why I Don't Completely Miss My High School Days

WARNING!!!! This review will contain spoilers regarding the show's twist ending, as well as most of the plot. You have been warned.

I'm exhausted with the last few posts where I went political, so here's me taking a break from all that shit and making another venture into the land of the small screen. Unfortunately, I'm not recommending about a good show - no, this is me ranting about one of the worst Anime programs I've ever encountered in the form of School Days, a romantic drama/teen soap opera in cartoon form. Yes: in addition to film and TV, I like the realm of Japanese Animation, primary because of the various sub-genres and avenues it covers, from science fiction/dystopian settings like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Outlaw Star, to slice-of-life comedies/harems such as Tenchi Muyo! and Love Hina. There's a genre for every sort of taste, and it's interesting to dive in and see what's there. However, in the case of School Days, it's a trip that will infuriate and frustrate the viewer to the bloody end.

On the surface, School Days starts off like your typical high school romance movie: our lead character Makoto Ito has fallen head over heels for the soft-spoken Kotonoha Katsura, only he's too shy to muster the courage to tell her how he feels about her. Makoto's tomboy, no-nonsense friend Sekai Saioniji takes matters into her own hands by befriending his crush and playing matchmaker between the two parties. Kotonoha agrees to give Makoto a shot and they go on a date, only for it to end badly due to the latter making unwanted advances, thus making the former uncomfortable around her. Thanks to a scolding by Sekai, telling him the way he went about trying to woo his date the wrong way and to consider her feelings, Matoko persuades Kotonoha to give him another chance, which she does. Sekai's advice takes, and because she believes him to be sincere, she gives our hormonally driven, but earnest lad a kiss on the lips, thus cementing their relationship status as an item, She invites his new boyfriend over to her house for a date later on, only to wind up babysitting Kotonoha's sister for the duration of the date.

So far, this seems like your mull-of-the-road courtship, right? Here's where we start going off the rails: Matoko calls up Sekai to tell her about the date, which can be summed up in his own words: "Dating Kotonoha is...tiring." I should probably tell you right now, because the rest of the plot won't make sense if I don't (not that it does in this series): School Days is meant to be a deconstruction of the harem romance genre where one hapless lad ends up romantically linked to two or more women, who, at the end, wind up confessing their love to said hapless lad and/or being his lover. I like the idea of turning the genre on its head to show us what's left once we peel away what's on the surface (see David Fincher's Gone Girl, the sci-fi crime drama Psycho-Pass and Alan Moore's graphic novel Watchmen), but if you're going to play the deconstruction card, the characters need to be developed (or at the very least recognizable by the character tropes confined within the genre) and/or likable in order to throw the world topsy turvy, and this is where the story and its execution goes seriously wrong.

Seemingly bored by Kotonoha and her unwillingness to put out for him, Makoto instead becomes romantically linked to his best friend, Sekai, who suggests that she and him have "special sessions" in order to get Kotonoha in the mood for knocking boots. Really - I'm not joking: The pair fondle and engage in heavy petting on top of the school roof as Makoto's girlfriend begins to worry about why the former has acted so distant towards her. If you think Makoto's actions made him into a jerk now, it only get worse as the series progresses. Kotonoha invites his boyfriend, as well as her other classmates to a water park, in the hopes of re-igniting the spark in their relationship; she even begins to show more suggestive attention toward Makoto, which only makes her boyfriend more uninterested and distant towards her, in addition to making him lust over Sekai further, despite her constantly telling him that they are just to be friends and nothing more. Eventually, both Sekai and Mokoto exchange their feelings for one another, along with body parts, and end up fucking each other. You can see why I don't like this show thus far, right?

Days pass since their lovemaking/backstabbing, and Sekai's guilty conscious begins to grow. She tells Makoto he needs to stop leading his girlfriend on before she catches them cheating and end the relationship before they can continue further. The cheating bastard doesn't, and Makoto continues to lead her on, as if there's nothing wrong between them! There are various reasons why I hate this anime, and right near the top is the atrocious characterization of Makoto and Sekai. To put it very bluntly: Makoto is one of the most uncaring, un-likable, selfish and just plain deplorable fictional characters I've ever come across. I get he's supposed to be this horny stereotypical teenagers (a la Jim, Stiffler and/or Oz from the American Pie movies), but those characters evolved and grew over the course of four films. Makoto constantly uses the gullible and forgiving nature of Kotonoha to continue to act like a cheating scumbag as he winds up two-timing both his first girlfriend and Sekai for her friends, Otome, Hikari, and any one first-year female who, inexplicably, ends up sleeping with Makoto. Again, I could at the very least, get past some of his behavior if the character began to have any sort of remorse or felt awful for what he's been doing, but he doesn't show it, and he never feel much guilt for letting his dick get the better of him until near the end, where his screwing around (sans condom, no less!) gets one of his schoolmates seemingly knocked up and the rest of the female population shunning him, *as well as getting themselves tested for STD's . It isn't until he sees a mentally broken Kotonoha that he begins to see the error of his ways, but by then, he's too much of an irredeemable prick for us to care for him. (*emphasis mine, of course)

Sekai isn't much better, to be honest.While she does tell him several times to keep it in his pants when it comes to Kotonoha, as well as to stop hitting on her so blatantly, and despite the fact she does tell him to break it off with his girlfriend to put her mind at ease, it's still hard for me to feel for her when she's as much in the wrong as Makoto. Her case for being a victim goes out the window once she lies about carrying the bastard's child and being shunned by Makoto completely, telling her it's not his problem and to go get rid of it (do you see why I hate this little shit so much?) as a way to keep him from going back to the now mentally unstable Kotonoha. How do you keep you man from staying too far? Why, you grab a chef's knife and stab your lover to death with it, of course! No joke - the final act of this tragedy becomes a bizarre mix of macabre and sleazy exploitation, but I'll come back to this part later on.

The one character the audience does have some sort of sympathy for is Kotonoha Katsura. She is this sweet, kind and caring figure, and yet this character is mostly written as a doormat, as she is constantly bullied by her peers in club activities, in addition to being mentally abused by her prick of a boyfriend. At one point, and as her fears of Makoto losing interest in her deepens, she buys him two cell phones - one for him, one for her, as a means to keep him close. He responds by eventually deletes her from his contacts and blocks her cell phone number though help of Sekai's most trusted confidant, Setsuna - again, what a fucking dickbag! The one time she grows a spine in this series is when she confronts her former friend, slaps her in the face, and then begs; no, pleads, that she stay away from her boyfriend. Driven further into denial, she is promised by Makoto that they'll share a dance, which never happens, as he ends up dancing with Sekai. Whilst the two end up dancing the night away, the poor girl ends up being stalked by Makoto's only male friend, Daiskue......who rapes her. They added a rape scene as the breaking point for Kotonoha to have her mental breakdown. Again, I've seen plenty of nasty things both in film and on TV, and this has to rank as one of the most shameless, vile and deplorable acts ever to put to celluloid; yet still, it somehow manages to get worse from there.

As you may or may not have noticed, the anime has many big events which, for the most part, act as a plot device to move the story forward even when it doesn't make sense in the context of the story. For example, the rape scene: the character of Daiskue can be boiled down to outright pervert: he constantly thinks about wanting to have sex and he pesters Matoko about reaching the stairway to adulthood. Even when he attempts to hit on Kotonoha in earlier pats of the show before the sexual assault, there's nothing to suggest he would force himself onto another woman. When he does force himself onto Matoko's girlfriend, the result feels like an out-of left field play, in addition to reaching the point of no return in being utterly reprehensible. Let's also take the resting room revelations that come to light. Apparently, the bitchy mean girls on the festival committee set up a camera to catch all the students get hot and heavy in a make-out room. Why did they do this? 'Who cares - they're a bunch of vicious cunts and that's what they do!' is something I can hear the writers of this garbage yelling during script sessions. By sheer coincidence, Makoto and Otome are caught doing the deed, much to the horror of Sekai watching the footage. Or how about when Setsuna takes advantage of a passed out Makoto and starts making out with him, only to be caught by Kotonoha. Her reasoning for doing what she does is explained in a flashback where Makoto finds her alone and crying over being bullied for her small stature, and shows her kindness by saying she's tough and should run for Student Committee; and while her motivation in that scene does make sense, the fact Makoto's girlfriend just happened to walk in on that moment feels forced. All these plot points happen because the story requires these chance situations to occur, rather than being apart of it. To quote Mathew Buck of Channel Awesome, these things happen "because the plot says so!"

Which brings us to the final third act of this dreadful story, where Kotonoha texts Sekai to meet her on the roof of the school building. There, she confronts her former friend and rival over the latter lying about her supposed pregnancy - how she knows this was a lie is anyone's guess at this point and makes her open a duffel bag containing the severed head of Matoko. Kotonoha then reveals she has a dozuki saw in her hand, which she uses to slit Sekai's throat, causing her to bleed out and die, as revenge for her killing Makoto Yes, you're reading all of this correctly: Kotonoha, the sweet, innocent girl from the beginning of the series, sawed off Matoko's head from his lifeless corpse, threw into a duffel bag and went into a murderous rampage. And as if that act wasn't disturbing or brutal enough, the sequence goes one further and, I shit you not, has her cutting open her stomach and uterus to see if her suspicion that Sekai's pregnancy act was bogus, which it was. The whole act itself is so bizarre that it feels like I've stumbled into a double billing of a Nicholas Winding Refn/Quentin Tarantino film, and not in a good way.

I'll keep this brief: watching School Days was a dreadful, joyless experience, one that I haven't encountered since my very first review of That's My Boy. The characters are mostly shallow idiots who lie, hurt and betray each other at random and the overall flow of the story just feels like one big plot point after another. Makoto is right up there with Bella Swan of Twilight in being an infuriating, careless and all-around awful character ever created for any entertainment medium, and Sekai ends up being just as selfish and cruel as her lover. Kotonoha does have a believable arc, but I hated how her characterization is being an abused victim by her peers, both in mental and sexual ways. All of this cultivates in a twist ending that's shocking, but not in the way the people who made this show wanted: instead of being a dark and twisted macabre tragedy of star-crossed lovers, the result is a cheap and grossly disturbing ending which borders on absurdly ludicrous at best and exploitative at worst. It's a show where even fine ideas can be undone by bad character writing and even poor storytelling.


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