Trying to make sense of School Days is easy. I think the guys doing this adaptation already knew they have a winning case of source material on their hands. Ignoring the whines of people who thought “the game was better” I think the anime is probably as good as it could come while incorporating as much as possible, of the bombs of joy and LULZ that the game was renowned for.
But I think I feel like talking about how it relates to Elfen Lied and Higurashi a lot more, because those shows apply similar plot mechanics to evoke emotional responses, and both achieved (or failed to achieve) those goals in ways that shed light as to why School Days was so good.
For time’s sake I’ll make this short. Two main points.
Sympathy. For a lot of people it’s much easier to sympathize with a bunch of high school sluts sleeping around and a guy who knows not love but only of the mire of selfish desires he is stuck in. That’s something counter-cultural folks have been preaching for decades since the 70s, religious or otherwise. But seeing it in anime is a bit of a refresher simply because, hey, you’d think this wouldn’t appeal to the otaku segment. But sure enough, we are all human and we can sympathize with Makoto, Sekai, and Kotonoha, in their foolishness. Needless to say, that’s already a case for the win when you compare settings: a couple youngsters living in an abandoned shrine-like mansion taking in random naked people who NYUUS? Or being transferred to the boondocks, going to a school with 1 classroom from grades K to 12, and having your life terminated every 5 episodes then reset?
Believability. The gruesome death quotient for Americans is probably higher than most other viewer demographic. American entertainment glorifies violence, but that’s not to say no one else does; it’s just a matter of making a point with said violence versus mere glorifying it, as a societal norm. In all three cases, violence is NOT glorified. In fact, in Higurashi one can make a case about the violence being a device for parody. It certainly seems comical, at times, for Elfen Lied and School Days. Instead, violence is, in turn, to draw emotional response from people either who deserves the wrong end of a sharp, pointy object or to demonstrate some kind of plot-oriented balance in terms of theme, or to illustrate or symbolize some thematic concept (like lost innocence). I guess that doesn’t speak so much as to why it’s funny, but it certainly can be if you’re in the inappropriate state of mind (ie. one that is more in tune of watching for violence per se–what’s usually required in enjoying violence, rather than extracting the reason behind it). The absurdity in all three cases is astronomically high, but School Days spend a good 11 episodes to set that up for you, so it is, at least, the least incredible of the three. Elfen Lied would likewise be well-served with violence if the show’s main schtik–that slice-of-life/slice-of-death tension–wasn’t so abused to oblivion so early on. Or maybe alien with invisible, stretch hands just seems a little too weird for suspension of belief. You pick.
So, yeah, School Days is a job well done, although it is definitely not something you want to recommend to people who watch anime purely for cutesy harems OR lol blood gore violence vampires.
The Nice Boat thing is just bonus material, thank you Japan!