You didn’t think I’d forgotten this moment, did you? I deliberately saved this moment and the one I’m posting tomorrow on Christmas day for last, as I do believe they represent watersheds for the year, defining moments that portend future changes in anime in general, or a least will be remembered for many more years to come.
Today, of course, I speak of the end of that lurid soap opera so innocently titled School Days. I could just say “Nice boat” and you’d all understand. But here’s a little further reflection on what it means for anime in general.
Day 11: School’s Out
It couldn’t have come at a better time for the anime studio, that girl murderer the English blogosphere so affectionately dubbed “Axe-tan.” And the censors played right into their hands by more or less confirming by their censorship what the fans had been expecting and clamoring for–a bloodbath. This was an anime, after all, whose audience expectations were unlike most others: it had an eager audience who called for nothing less than the death of the protagonist (not the antagonist) because of its sheer hatred of his actions and character. And the show fanned those flames deliberately with each passing episode. I should know. My own blog entries about the episodes prove it, because I got into it, too.
The overturning of audience expectations is probably what School Days will be best known for, particularly for the cliche-ridden genre to which it belongs. Sure, it wasn’t the first harem show with a genuinely psychotic character undone by jealousy (that would be Shuffle!). Nor was it the first show featuring many loli girls committing horrific acts of violence (Higurashi 1st season, anyone?). Merely putting the two together might have gotten you an interesting murder mystery show, or tragedy. No, what honestly made it unique was the degree to which the entire narrative was calculated to make the audience want those outcomes, rather than seeing them as shocking, sad events. The creators, of course, did one better than even the game, by adding an extra layer of sadism to make it extra memorable; were Makoto only stabbed to death, I do not think it would have gotten nearly the same amount of attention, because that was in many ways the least surprising part of it. They knew they had to push it even further, and they did, to the point where I thought there was an element of glee in the carving up of the main characters. That element is what makes it so different from most harem anime, which takes pains not to depart far from the overall feeling that the world is a basically nice, safe place, where girls are nice and sweet and pliant (deep down, at least) and the guy nice and sweet and considerate. No wonder the logo of School Days was shattered in the final episode. This ending represents the shattering of that conventional world, and has already left its mark in the way we watch shows like Myself; Yourself and even otherwise innocent outings like Kimikiss and Clannad. The term “nice boat” has even shown up in anime itself already. It has become a permanent part of otaku culture because this ending is now a permanent part of our expectations whenever heavy emotional love drama comes around.
And that’s all the show really had going for it in the end. In my judgment, School Days is not a very good show on the levels of plot or character; despite some promising moments in the first half, it spiraled into unbelievability and outlandish outcomes as more and more girls were introduced as actors in the story. Makoto’s conscience-free actions got more and more brazen, with nary a genuine sobering moment in sight, and more and more girls threw themselves thoughtlessly at him. Its memorability is purely based on shock value, and I predict that it will only work this one and only time. Because like it or not, it has permanently altered the harem romance landscape, in which any future similar endings will simply evoke at best a comparison–“oh, that was just like School Days.” Nor would it be able to count on crimes happening just at the right time to raise fandom to a fever pitch. It was a perfect storm, really, and one that I find unlikely ever to happen to any imitator.
School Days got there first, and you never forget your first time. So shall this show be remembered. It’s less certain whether fans in general want a second, a third, a fourth time, though. I don’t. But it’s undeniable that this is one of the key moments of the year in anime.
This is an Anime Blogging Collective post. Other participants include
- Roxas –http://jroxas.animeblogger.net/
- CCYoshi – http://ccy-eternity.blogspot.com
- Orion –http://www.epicwin.org
- Owen S –http://sorenara.ikimashou.net/
- Quinn –http://otakuism.animeblogger.net
- Nekoron –http://anime.osiristeam.net
- Martin –http://www.concretebadger.net/blog/
- DS –http://daijoubu.animeblogger.net
- Crisu –http://cjblackwing.wordpress.com/