What’s up with School Days?
It’s an uncomfortably scathing and cynical commentary on the nature of most harems and dating sims. Not a fun ride, but a pretty necessary one.
Most harems exist as sexist power fantasies, relying on the relative inoffensiveness, blandness, or obliviousness of the protagonist, as well as generally a lot of not-taking-themselves-that-seriously, to (theoretically) avoid coming off as creepy and narcissistic. School Days doesn’t do that – School Days plays it straight. It takes a callow, nebbish male protagonist with a weak moral center, and surrounds him with girls with such significant personal issues and such weak self-image that his realizing he can have sex with people just by wanting it and pursuing it makes it actually happen. It’s a relentlessly negative show, but that’s the point – it’s saying that harems are pretty ugly things, and that the circumstances of a harem require a lot of shitty behavior on the part of the guy and a lot of psychological dependency on the part of the girls. By mapping the escapism of harems to characters with actual issues, it acts as a scathing critique of the idea of “winning” girls.
That said, the writing is suspect, the pacing is sluggish in ways that don’t support the material, and the show never actually grapples with its themes, it just exists as a representation of them. The points it makes are a lot more interesting than the package they’re wrapped in.