I'd like to talk about the greatest word in the English language.
Why is it so great? Because there's no ambiguity there, you can't twist it to suit your needs. It's one of the first words very small children learn. It's such a small and simple word and really deserves to be used more. Because, let's face it, people are idiots. Even me. I may like pseudo-intellectual bullcrap and spell like a champion, but this morning I spent about ten minutes looking for the calorie count on a tube of moisturizer. I'm an idiot. You're an idiot. We're all idiots. That's why we have the word 'no'. Any time you're presented with an idea that could turn out badly, all you have to say is 'no'. Easy! Right? If more people said 'no' in School Days, it'd be a much more boring story.
Hey Makoto, you wanna cheat on your super-hot girlfriend with this other hot girl?
No, that'd hurt my girlfriend and I don't think she's quite that stable to begin with.
Hey Makoto, you wanna cheat on both girls you're seeing with that girl who looks about ten?
No, if either girl found out I'd be in trouble. Plus I should really break up with one of them...
Hey Makoto, you've cheated on your girlfriend with two girls so far, why not add your lovelorn childhood friend too?
What? No! What kind of awful person do you think I am?
School Days is a deconstruction, one of my favourite subgenres because it always leads to depressing conclusions. It focuses on the harem anime, which runs with the idea that several girls chasing one guy is a good thing and the guy can actually settle down with all of the girls in a sort of Mormonesque arrangement. TV Tropes calls this formula 'The Tenchi Solution' but it did exist before Tenchi brought his particular brand of piddling bland crap to my TV screen. Urusei Yatsura had a protagonist that wanted to set up a harem (most of his dialogue revolved around it) but he was treated, quite rightly, as a pathetic lech. Kimagure Orange Road (hilariously known in other parts of the world as Almost Magical Harry) has only two girls to form a harem with, but towards the end of the series the protaganist mans up and tells one girl he loves the other girl. He leaves her a heartbroken mess, but at least she has closure and can start to move on. In Tenchi Muyo, there is no such resolution, our dull-as-fuck hero just coasts along adding more girls to his harem as time goes on. And they're all okay with this.
School Days' hero, Makoto, is a Tenchi in the making, a spineless little twat with no real defining features aside from being very good at lying to girls. He spots a regulation hottie on the train one day and, too much of a coward to approach her, he takes a picture of her on his cellphone. This is then spotted by a cute girl names Sekai, who offers to help him get close to the hot girl (named Kotonoha) for some reason. The ploy works, Kotonoha doesn't tell Makoto to get the feck away from her like she has every right to, and they start dating.
For some other reason, Sekai decides she wants Makoto for herself (it must be twoo wuv!) and she throws herself at him. Makoto, like Ryan Giggs, Tiger Woods, is incapable of refusing sex when a girl offers it no matter who it hurts so they end up dating behind Kotonoha's back. Then Sekai's friend Setsuna tries to convince Makoto to be exclusive to Sekai the only way she knows how...by shagging him. Amazingly, this tactic did not work.
Makoto apparently has this childhood friend named Otome who also wants to hop into bed with him and has been picking on Kotonoha with her gang of bitchy girls (no real reason for this, they're just bitches.) Otome corners him during a school festival and jumps on him, and Makoto is just too weak to stop her from banging him. Poor guy must be severely chafed by now...
BUT WAIT! Some random girl with a stupid hairdo named Hikari who is apparently a friend of Sekai's shags him too. Poor Makoto, these disgraceful women are forcing him to cheat on his loving girlfriend (who he abandoned at the school festival to bonk Otome/dance with Sekai, and it's heavily implied that she was then raped by a friend of his and her mental faculties are starting to fray badly).
At last, some sort of consequence forces itself to the crux of the storyline. All that unprotected sex has managed to make Sekai pregnant somehow and Makoto does what any red-blooded man who had no part in this would do... he tells her to get a termination, publicly abandons her and continues to sleep with her friend. At this stage, Otome's bitchy friends realize that this man is a real prize and they co-erce him into a threesome with them. I remember when I used to randomly turn up at my male classmates' house with two of my friends for communal one night stands, don't we all? Ah, our School Days...
Finally, based on his harsh treatment of Sekai (but not Kotonoha, no-one cares about her anymore) the girls he's been schtupping abandon him. Makoto is forced to go without sex for one whole day, wandering around in the snow like a lost dog, until he runs into Kotonoha (who has been wandering around in the snow waiting for him to message her for God knows how long) and they reconcile. This is kinda sweet, but only because poor Kotonoha looks so happy to be with this douche.
Sekai catches up with the happy couple and they display how happy they are by kissing in front of her. Actually that's quite restrained for Makoto, I'm very surprised he didn't bend Kotonoha over and have his way with her right there to show Sekai he's totally serious. Sekai understandably freaks out and runs away, while the newlyweds make plans to have dinner together. Everyone knows what happens next, even if they've never seen the series.
It's stab o' clock!
Sekai freaks the feck out and givens Makoto a great big stabbin'. Good for her, if only she'd thought of doing that before all the unprotected sex that got her pregnant, and likely now ridden with some sort of venereal disease. So this is awesome and all, but what'll happen when Kotonoha comes back and finds her twoo wuv dead? Will she call the police and talk about this whole sorry affair? You'd think so, but that'd be too sensible and Kotonoha has alreay demonstrated through the series that she's not quite right in the head.
On the roof of the school where the murder took place (why the hell didn't she run for the border?) Kotonoha catches up with Sekai, who is prepared to kill again to protect herself. Fortunately Kotonoha proves far more crazy than Sekai and after shocking her opponent with Makoto's head in a rugsack, she gives Sekai a well-deserved murderin'. Then she cuts Sekai open just to check that she was telling the truth about being preggers (as if it mattered at this point.) The series ends with Kotonoha on a NICE BOAT (look it up) clutching Makoto's head.
As misery porn goes, this is a delightful romp. Everyone is either a slut, a jerk or crazy and when you throw hormones into the mix you got a proper misery martini. The bad ending in the series actually outdo the bad endings from the game by powering up the gore and Makoto is a slimy little weasel just like Tenchi, so it's very satisfying to see him get the end I've been wishing on Tenchi for years. As harem anime goes, from the start you can tell this isn't going to be like any of the others, even the notoriously bloody Higurashi. The uniforms actually look like school uniforms and not overdramatic cosplay, everyone has a relatively natural hair colour and style (except Hikari, but she seems like the type of person who bleaches her hair and does it up like that for attention) and it effectibely displays what kind of people you'd really expect to see in a real-life harem situation. The game has two sequels, Summer Days and Cross Days (which gives us a yaoi option...hooray!) so here's hoping another series could be made. You don't come across misery like this every day.