In February, we will be exploring love and romance. The word selected is “adore” because it has two main connotations: to be loved and respected or to feel worshipped. We will analyze characters that give us a feeling of admiration and explain why we love those characters. We will also be exploring different forms of love (familial, friendship, and even self-love) and how those types of love influence our lives.
For most of you reading this blog tour, you have either heard of or watched School Days sometime in your life. In that respect, you probably know where I’m going to go with this post. If you don’t know about School Days, then that’s probably a good thing because the show is quite infamous (and controversial) among most anime fans for various reasons (more on that later). Despite its notoriety, however, I want to look at how School Days turns the high school romance genre on its head and illustrates the darker side of love not really seen in most romance anime (also, spoilers).
On the surface, School Days looks like your typical high school romance anime. Based on the visual novel of the same name, the show tells the story of Itou Makoto, who one day sees a girl named Katsura Kotonoha traveling on the same train as him to school. Enamoured by her beauty, but too afraid to approach her, he takes a picture of her on his phone and saves it as his wallpaper. When Makoto arrives at school his classmate, Saionji Sekai, sees the photo of Kotonoha on his phone and offers to help him get to know her, even though Sekai has feelings for Makoto herself. Thus begins a love triangle that soon ends up having dire consequences.
As we go deeper into the series, we soon see that not everything is what it seems. As I mentioned earlier, School Days turns the high school romance genre on its head in various ways. The first is the love triangle between Makoto, Sekai and Kotonoha. Although the closest thing to this in other romance anime is the harem, most of the time the male protagonist only chooses who he will have a relationship with by the end of the series, meaning that, for the most part, the love interests, throughout the series, stake their claim as to why the protagonist should choose them over the other girls. What’s different about School Days is that Makoto and Kotonoha do eventually get into a relationship with one another, however he later cheats on her by having a sexual affair with Sekai.
This then leads into my second (and most agreed upon) point: an unlikeable protagonist. Be honest, how many times have you come across a male protagonist in a romance anime you truly disliked because he turned out to be a piece of trash? Well, look no further than Itou Makoto! Hell, he might as well become the anime poster boy for #MenAreTrash. Anyway, before I turn this into a rant, the main reason why Makoto ends up being an unlikeable piece of trash is because later in the series, he starts lying to both Sekai and Kotonoha about his feelings for the other and soon starts having sex with some of the other girls in his class.
The final (and most disturbing) point is how the show ends. At this point, Sekai believes that she is pregnant with Makoto’s child. Makoto blames her for ruining his life and tells her to get an abortion. Fueled by rage and anger, she asks him to meet her at her apartment, to which she then stabs him to death with a knife (if you thought that was the disturbing part, think again. It gets much worse from here). Later in the evening, Sekai receives a text message from Makoto’s phone to meet on the school rooftop, immediately realising that it is Kotonoha who is contacting her. Kotonoha presents Sekai with Makoto’s severed head then kills her with a dōzuki (Japanese handsaw). She then cuts Sekai open and finds that there was no fetus inside her at all. The show then ends with Kotonoha gently caressing Makoto’s head while sailing on a boat to an unknown location.
So how, then, does School Days illustrate the dark side of love? Firstly, it shows how dangerous love can be when you realise that the other person is only using you to fulfill their (sexual) desires. When you love someone, you often leave yourself emotionally vulnerable. In the case of Makoto, he took advantage of Sekai and Kotonoha’s vulnerability (i.e. their feelings for him) and used it to fulfill his sexual desires. Secondly, for every bad choice there is a consequence (in this case, an extreme consequence). If, for example, you find out your partner was cheating on you, you would usually break up with them and, more often than not, try to find a way to get back at them for hurting you. In Makoto’s case, his infidelity cost him his life. Finally, the show also illustrates the lengths some people go to to be with the one they love, even if it means hurting others in the process. Sekai knows that having an affair with Makoto will hurt Kotonoha, but (for the most part) she feels happy being with him. Similarly, even though Makoto is dead, Kotonoha keeps his severed head with her at the end, believing that they can finally be together forever.
School Days is a show that is divided among anime fans. Whether you think that the show is good or bad, it definitely gives an interesting and disturbing take on the high school romance genre that was rarely seen at the time. It illustrates how love can both hurt and destroy others when it is taken advantage of to suit others’ needs and how every bad choice can have dire consequences.
Moral of the story: don’t be a Makoto!
If you enjoyed reading this post, be sure to check out Karandi from 100 Word Anime’s blog tour, which was before mine, followed by Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews. For a full list of the anibloggers taking part in the blog tour this month, check out the Blog Tour schedule on the OWLS site.