#1 The most unlikable protagonist imaginable
Let’s cut straight to the chase: Makoto Itou is the most unbearable protagonists ever to star in an anime. He’s a mentally-deficient, anti-social dipshit. A selfish dullard that has literally no redeeming qualities, but whose status as an anime protagonist nevertheless entitles him to an ever-loyal cast of friends and love interests.
School Days is about his tumultuous love life, which is kickstarted when he expresses an interest in Kotonoha Katsura, a quiet and mysterious girl who he frequently spots on the train home. Since he is completely oblivious about love, his classmate Sekai Saionji pulls together a plan to bring the two together. He is literally handed the romance that he wanted so dearly without any effort whatsoever… only to get tired of it within days.
Because Makoto doesn’t want romance, he wants sexual attention. He is an entitled little bitch who throws a tantrum whenever girls won’t satisfy his every urge, but who also whines incessantly if he’s ever expected to do anything in return. That’s no exaggeration. He literally complains that he deserves to touch women at one point and repeatedly cries about things being too complicated, painful, or tiring when asked to be a decent boyfriend for once. And if a girl won’t do what Makoto wants to do, he’ll either force himself on her anyway or skip straight to the next girl.
It’s infuriating to watch and I get that it’s deliberately made that way. He’s not a character you are meant to like. That’s fine, but it also raises the question of why anyone would like him within the context of the story. He is a plain-looking dunce that isn’t good at anything, who is perpetually rude and standoffish, and doesn’t have any hobbies or passions that give his life meaning. I’d consider it a miracle if he had a single friend, let alone a harem of women literally fighting over his fleeting attention.
#2 Overbearing fanservice
While no actual hentai found its way from the School Days eroge game into this anime adaptation, what we did get was a frankly absurd amount of fanservice. School Days will take every opportunity it can get to have some breasts bounce around or awkwardly pan the camera in such a way that a butt or titty is in perfect view.
I don’t usually mind a bit of fanservice, but School Days is annoyingly relentless. The fanservice shots are very cheap and the frequency with which they occur kill what little excitement they may have held. The anime was later uncensored, but this only adds a bare titty or two throughout the show. All the actual romance scenes still cut to black the moment a single button on somebody’s clothing is undone.
#3 mediocre animation
School Days was inflicted upon this world back in 2007, so I wasn’t expecting anything groundbreaking for it in terms of visuals. Even with those lowered expectations, I was shocked to find out just how ugly School Days was both in design and actual animation.
The show has the usual flaws you’d expect. Static background characters, faces that don’t always look right, unflattering in-between frames, those I can usually forgive. However, School Days also sports very obvious animation mistakes and scenes that just look strangely off for various reasons. My favorite was a scene where a character pointlessly moved further to the side during a conversation, only to instantly flash back to her original position seconds later. It’s so visibly wrong and pointless that it captivated me. I went back twice to see it happen again just to make sure I wasn’t delusional.
From a creative perspective, I find that School Days is just so drab to look at. The grey-on-white school uniforms and uninspired locales already sap a lot of energy from the show, but the main characters are particularly inexcusable. These character designs are so plain it looks like they were intended for random background characters, not the sexy heroines of a harem game.
#4 Boring romantic drama
School Days is a drag to get through, not just because the characters are annoying, but also because the drama they are involved in feels utterly stagnant. Makoto ends up bouncing between different women, most notably Kotonoha and Sekai, and this stalemate persists for about 8 episodes.
All the drama just keeps circling back around to the same status quo, to the point that different scenes in different episodes end up feeling completely identical. It’s so slow and stretched out that any tension the show does manage to build dissipates soon after. Around episode 10 the plot does liven up and the final few episodes are undeniably intense, but the plot twists that get us there don’t really make much sense.
I welcomed the change of pace and there is a certain novelty to seeing a show I hated end this chaotically. However, it’s not exactly stellar writing and even further calls into question why we had to sit through hours of tedious build-up if it was all just going to explode spontaneously anyway.
#5 It’s not worth the infamy
School Days would have been a forgettable series under normal circumstances, but it gained so much infamy as a result of its censored release that we still talk about to this day. It’s one of those crazy stories from the anime industry and it has made the show something of a legend. A legend that is really not worth chasing.
What happened to the show was certainly hilarious at the time, but nowadays it’s not worth the pilgrimage. The memes are many times more entertaining than anything the show has to offer, and most versions of the School Days that you’ll find nowadays will be the uncensored releases with the joke stripped out. What you are left with is a nonsensical melodrama about unlikable characters that drags on for a few hours and then comes to a mildly novel conclusion.
I had hoped it would be one of those “so bad, it’s good” show, but only found the bad.