Brief Aside – The Point of School Days


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.

4 thoughts on “Brief Aside – The Point of School Days

  1. A good blog like this deserves comments.

    I’ve seen number of folks make the same points you have, so it’s not like your position doesn’t have merit. But I’m inclined to believe School Days is a typically trashy harem anime that lucked into critical elevation because of its outrageous last episode. Most of the content that lead up to it I wouldn’t say were remarkable; in line with what you can expect from dark and edgy harem genre. Up to episode 9 or 10, School Days was just as likely to have ended all flowers and sunshine as a bloody carnage. Like your last point states, the package doesn’t cultivate its ideas in a nuanced manner. Add to that the game it was adapted from has numerous traditional “good” endings with a few “bad” endings like we saw in the TV show, which leads me to the conclusion School Days simply wanted to push some controversial buttons (and succeeded).

    • Thank you!

      The first half definitely supports the “edgy cash grab” angle – it just comes off as mean-spirited, not smart or thematically focused. I do think the characters are pretty well-designed for making the points it makes, though – it would be a lot less effective if Makoto weren’t so believably weak-willed, or the girls weren’t so severely insecure. The number of ways the show tweaks the usual formula to make the character’s emotional descents more realistic and more disturbing make me personally feel pretty confident the commentary was intentional – but its all up to interpretation, and we can’t really know for sure.

  2. I really need to make an effort to finish this. The problem is that the ending is Star Wars level spoiled, and I found the first two episodes to be painfully boring. But I generally do hate harem shows, so this is almost a required watch.

    • Yeah, it’s more interesting as a neat piece of anime history and conversation topic than an actual show you’re watching – I honestly didn’t enjoy watching it either, and the very bad pacing early on certainly didn’t help.

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