School Days

Genre: Romance
Length: 12 episodes
Rating: 18 for adult themes throughout
Score: (complicated)

Makoto Itou rides the train to and from school every day. At the beginning of his second term in high school, he falls in love with a beautiful girl that rides the same train. Unfortunately, she barely knows of his existence, so his classmate Saionji helps set them up, despite that she, unbeknownst to Makoto, is also in love with him. The three are bound in a love triangle that will affect their lives forever

I’m not sure where to start with this series, it’s so completely different to other anime romance I’ve watched.

Makoto deviates markedly from most of the clichés in other series, most importantly: he’s incredibly realistic. In the early episodes, his inexperience is both amusing and cringeworthy in places; as he becomes more accustomed to the situations in which he finds himself, his character changes: he grows more confident, but at the same time loses part of his personality. As the series progresses, Makoto changes so profoundly the person at the end of the series would be utterly unrecognisable from the one at the beginning of the series, and not necessarily in a good way.

Then there’s the girls. The two female protagonists are both abuser and victims at the same time. They’re realistic. They’re both betrayer and betrayed, and Makoto is completely oblivous to their feelings and what’s happening around him. Even when profound events take place later in the series, Makoto still doesn’t get it – as far as he’s concerned, he’s getting some, so all’s right with the world. He’s utterly disinterested in the damage being left in his wake.

I think this quote from Anime-Source sums up the series far better than I can:

What started out as having many people believe this would be a sweet, melodramatic love-story has turned into a gripping, horrifying look at reality. There’s no sugar-coating on this story, no dodging real-life issues. School Days forces the viewer to witness the shallow ugliness of how our world really operates. It’s the dirty, foul side of humanity. For the girls left in the wake of this mess, there lies nothing but shattered souls, broken lives, and bloody hands. No cheesy cop-outs or save-endings in order to fill the viewer with a sense of “everything will be alright in the end.” Nope, sorry, this is reality. Reality has consequences.

This is a bloody powerful series, but it’s hard work to watch, even for someone who’s watched a lot of anime. I could only only really recommend this to someone who knows the emotional flaying they’re getting themselves into. If that’s you, then this series is a good find and will reward you with the kind of kick in the guts you got from watching other harrowing series: SaiKano, Now and Then Here and There, etc.

You have been warned.