The high school romance genre is a pretty tried and tested staple of anime producers everywhere, but even in that crowded space School Days has managed to make a name for itself, even going so far as to (albeit inadvertently) create an Internet meme in its honour. Now the series can boast a place in Crunchyroll's online streaming line-up - But is it worth watching?
Indeed, School Days has turned heads throughout its existence - The concept began its life as an adult game (or "visual novel" if you'd rather) for the PC in its native Japan that was notable for the fact that (unlike most games of its ilk) the entire game was fully animated rather than simply comprising of numerous static or only sparsely animated sequences. It also became notorious for its incredibly buggy state upon release, but we shan't dwell upon that.
Given its anime-esque production values in terms of both animation quality and the way its story is told (split up as it is into episodes in the exact same fashion as your average series) the game was clearly ripe to be turned into an actual anime show, and School Days certainly isn't the first adult game to make that transition, nor will it be the last. Where School Days does differ from many of its predecessors however is in the way that transition has been carried out; for obvious reasons, adult games are normally entirely sanitised for the jump to TV screens, but not so with School Days - While the explicit sex scenes featured in the game are naturally no longer present, there is still plenty of suggested sexual content littered throughout the series, as well as (and more controversially while the show was airing in Japan) some extremely violent moments lifted from the "bad endings" of the original game. I really can't make it any clearer than this - Portions of School Days are not for the faint-hearted.
As for the main body of the story itself, it's pretty typical adult game/high school romance fare - One guy (Makoto Itou) finds himself in the midst of a love triangle between his friend and classmate Sekai Saionji and a quiet yet beautiful girl who catches his eye called Kotonoha Katsura. During the course of the series, Makoto's interest waxes and wanes between the two girls, whilst also occasionally veering off in the general direction of the bevy of other female characters featured in the show, until his inability to come to a firm choice about his love life comes back to haunt him.
In keeping with the suggestive sexual content I mentioned earlier, School Days does things rather differently from other adult game or visual novel adoptions by not choosing a single "route" upon which to base its plot - This means that Makoto (a horrible wet blanket of a character if ever there was one) almost schizophrenically skips between different "routes" (and thus different girls) throughout the series, creating a scenario where promiscuity is rife to an occasionally uncomfortable degree, with the series seemingly treating male characters using females as sex objects as the norm. Add to that the shocking scenes of violence (which even shook this normally unflinching reviewer a little the first time I saw them due to their brutality, and making the blood black instead of red is fooling no-one as far as toning things down goes), and you have yourself a series that couldn't be further away from the fluffy romantic comedies you may be used to in anime.
This dark and care-free take on teenage libido makes School Days a difficult series both to watch and review - It starts out as your run of the mill offering, comedy and all, but slowly sinks into a spiral of sex, lies, violence and despair that will make you squirm. The question for me as a reviewer is whether that makes it a worthwhile viewing experience rather than a simple attempt to pander to controversy - While your mileage may vary dependant upon your tolerance for such things, School Days is certainly a unique viewing experience when all is said and done.
At the time of writing, School Days can be viewed in streaming format from Crunchyroll - The entire series is now available to be viewed for free on the site.
Japanese audio, English subtitles - Available in Standard Definition and 480P streaming resolutions.
An utter subversion of the high school romance genre, which is disturbing and unsettling... yet oddly compelling in its own way.