Remembering School Days – The Nice Boat Anniversary

by eternal on September 18, 2008

On this day precisely one year ago, the 18th of September 2007, a legend of anime was born. After 11 episodes of mind-bendingly ridiculous “romance”, drama, and character interactions, after witnessing the actions of quite possibly the worst and most (in)famous harem lead ever, and after revolutionizing the way the world would see visual novel adaptations in the future, we came to a single jaw-dropping conclusion. Yup, that’s right, people. It’s Nice Boat Day.

If it wasn’t already obvious, that entire opening paragraph was pretty much a load of garbage. School Days didn’t revolutionize anything, people don’t perceive VNs any differently now than they did two years ago, and the phrase “mind-bending” should only be used in reference to epic works of psychological/sci-fi such as Satoshi Kon’s films, but there was one thing I was right about: Makoto Ito is probably the most well-known harem lead in existence, and his show got the community talking as well as a certain infamous pizza-related “trainwreck” currently is.

I’ve noticed that high levels of moe tend to draw people to a post, even though this is mostly about Makoto. The artist is Ikegami Akane, by the way.

As we all know, the Nice Boat video was aired as a replacement for the last episode, done out of respect for a murder case in Japan that occured at the time; since then, it has become a rather infamous meme, liable to be referenced at the mention of the word “boat”, just as “a cat” is often followed by “is fine too”. In honour of this timeless typical meme and the conclusion of this half ridiculous, half amazing show, I decided to write a little post to take us down memory lane and discuss just what it is that School Days means to it’s genre.

Like I mentioned before, it’s virtually unquestionable that Makoto changed the way we look at harem leads. While those who can read Japanese (and those who obssess over Wikipedia spoilers) may have already seen the ending coming, to many of us, School Days appeared to be nothing but an ordinary, slightly melodramatic romance/drama at first. Just as Geass looked to be a fast-paced sci-fi/mecha with supernatural powers and historical themes, there wasn’t anything particularly bizarre about School Days; at least, not for the first few episodes.

For me, School Days answered a question that had been bothering me for quite some time, and it answered it loud and clear: what would happen if a harem lead took every chance he got? What would happen if he acted like a real guy rather than an anime guy with no interest in girls – or worse yet, what if he acted more selfishly than a typical human being? Given the circumstances he was placed in, had he been a normal person, would the situation have ended up like that? I have no intent of getting into a debate on society and sexism (and I most certainly know that most males aren’t like him, me being one of them), but in all honesty, isn’t Makoto closer to being realistic than, say, Rin from Shuffle or Yoshiyuki from Da Capo II?


…Come to think of it, I believe I may have gone off topic there, but what I’m really trying to say is that School Days truly owes its success to that infamous, disgustingly selfish kid known as Makoto Ito, and that he may not be quite as bad as people say.

Of course, I despise most everything he did throughout the story (almost as much as Sekai’s seduction and Kotonoha’s inversion impulse yandere moment that resulted in her going insane), but I don’t believe it would be too farfetched to say that he might be a far more intriguing character than people give him credit for. After all, in a world of either stereotypical heroic harem leads like Yuuto (Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu) and Kyonichi (although he was pretty cool), or stereotypical gutless indecisive harem leads like Shuffle’s Rin and either of the Da Capo guys, it’s kinda nice to see a guy that’s actually capable of comprehending the fact that he’s got a choice between five (maybe more?) girls, and that he’s a straight male with only one thing on his mind. Sure, he’d be a despicable person in real life, but in retrospect (retrospect, because I hated his guts when I first saw his show), it was surprisingly interesting to see how he dealt with his situation and how he slowly changed from gutless and shy to disgustingly proud and selfish. It’s like watching Death Note, only less sane.

A sukumizu is fine too.

As a matter of fact, one could say (if one really wanted to force it) that School Days could very well have served as some form of metaphor or allegory for the real world, and certainly, it can count as a timeless parody of the VN genre. Since the anime is based (fairly accurately, from what I heard) on an eroge, it’s pretty much stupid to think that there was any deeper meaning intended – and really, I’m not one to stick meaning where it doesn’t belong – but when you look at it this way, doesn’t this entire show seem to be an elaborate satire? Beyond the heart-pounding romance, beyond the WTFPLOTTWIST moments – depending on how you look at it, the series can be understood as a parody of everything we know and love.

I won’t elaborate on the idea too much, partially because I hardly believe it myself, but take, for instance, Makoto’s personality. Remember, he was placed in a world of opportunity, a world where he gets to go out with the girl of his dreams, where the friend that helped him get to that point also has feelings for him, and where, if he plays his cards right, he could end up with every girl in school. Life isn’t like that, but visual novels (in a broad sense) are. It’s for the sake of escapism, of course, and that’s why the reserved nature of harem leads exists; to balance out the vulnerabilities of the girls and to give the player a more realistic, first person perspective. But when you really think about it, if you actually WERE in a game like Da Capo instead of Jyunichi, what would you do? Just how plausible are these stories – even the legendary stories like Tsukihime – where the girls fearlessly chase after the guy, and the guys gets to stay calm and do pretty much nothing until the last few hours?

Ultimately, it’s a cliche genre, just like every other genre out there, but it’s a cliche that works. Just as how the hotblooded shounen leads balance out the cool and collected (though often sinister) shounen villains, and the plain and ordinary shoujo leads balance out the tall, mysterious bishounen, VNs work by accepting cliches and learning to like them. School Days can be perceived as a daring parody because it takes those cliches and shatters them with a drill that pierces the heavens; it does what no harem could ever do, and it’s all thanks to that guy that thinks like any one of us, only braver because he thinks he’s in a world without consequences.

Anyway, with all of that said, this is pretty much the reason why I call School Days “his” show, rather than Sekai’s show or Kotonoha’s show. I’d be the first to say that AIR is good because of Misuzu and that Clannad is good because of Nagisa (go ahead and laugh, Tomoyo fanboys), but when it comes to School Days, I can’t see it being anyone’s show but Makoto’s. Sure, there are some people that take the story seriously and actually like some of the girls, but I think the majority of us treat it more like a trainwreck than a solid romance/drama visual novel; and at least for me, watching the show 100% 3rd person instead of 1st person, I found that the story really did revolve around him, and if the writers didn’t make him act on his instincts and defy the laws of the harem lead, there wouldn’t be anything good about the show. People wouldn’t be talking about it, there would be no Nice Boat, and there would be no obscure aniblogger commemorating the 1-year-anniversary of said Nice Boat.

So, what does this all mean? I suppose the meaning is entirely up to you; I’m near-certain that we all ended up with a different opinion of this show, but as far as I’m concerned, it was a masterpiece in it’s own right. Sure, it was no heart-wrenching Key, flawlessly beautiful Makoto Shinkai, or mind-bending TYPE-MOON, but it was something entirely different. In an ocean of typical anime about typical things, where typical characters fight typical bad guys and fall in love with typical heroes/heroines, School Days dared to be different, and stuck out like Kotonoha’s boat against that crimson horizon. What more can I say? A show this ridiculous, illogical, and all-around stupid just has to be respected and commemorated. It’s just too awesome not to be.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

M12 September 19, 2008 at 5:50 am

Indeed, many VNs feature unrealistic male leads who have no interest in girls. However, Makoto seems a bit extreme.

Anyway, I had no idea it’s already been a year! Happy Nice Boat Day.

M12s last blog post..Sh*tty Stories – A Special Friend


ETERNAL September 19, 2008 at 3:11 pm

@ M12: lol, he definitely is quite a bit extreme, but I guess I just found something more “human” in him than most harem leads. Happy Nice Boat Day to you too XD


zenical September 19, 2008 at 9:44 pm

No idea it’s already one year.. Haha. Didn’t take notice XD. School Days – fun while it lasted =/

zenicals last blog post..1/100 MG ZGMF-X20A Strike Freedom Review


CJ September 20, 2008 at 5:44 pm


CJs last blog post..Cartoon Network’s Toonami Block Allegedly Ending Tonight


CCY September 22, 2008 at 1:59 am

Haha, reminds me of when I did a post celebrating the same thing, but on the anniversary of the first episode. But that’s just being annoying and pimping myself. XD

Interesting analysis on School Days, how it’s still essentially an otaku’s fantasy up until the last minute, except of a different kind (sexual rather than more romantic). And then, it’s a totally different kind of fantasy at the end.

I still wonder how long School Days’s fame will last; it already seems fading a bit to me, perhaps because all the attention is on the ‘nice boat’ meme. I can’t remember much of the show other that ‘Makoto is a pimp; people die; lulz’, personally.

Something noteworthy, yes, masterpiece, no. It feels too much like paying service to the fans one way or another, kind of like pro wrestling, like it’s obviously staged. I don’t think something can be a masterpiece unless it sucks you into its world.

Also, what bugs me about reading your blog is that I keep thinking I should be posting or cross-referencing this on our other board as well. XD

CCYs last blog post..The Informed Fanboy: All the Stats You Need to Know About SaiMoe 2008, so far


TheBigN September 22, 2008 at 1:48 pm

It’s why I found the vitriol that someone had towards Makoto interesting. Everyone (save for Kokoro and her friend, but that’s because they weren’t in high school yet in that universe, probably.) was pathetic in some way shape or form, but Makoto got most of the hate. And I think part of it is because that he doesn’t live up to that ideal cliche of what the main lead in a harem is supposed to do in the eyes of an otaku. But at the same time, he probably exhibits what most otaku would actually do in a situation like that. You could say that he is ourselves, or at least our “greater demons”, and if you look at it that way, it’s annoying to see the negative aspects of ourselves highlighted in such a blatant way.


ETERNAL September 22, 2008 at 1:58 pm

@ zenical: I suppose a year does pass pretty fast. It was by chance that I somehow remembered “nice boat” sometime around the 14th, and when I checked, it turned out that I had only a few days to write all of this up :P

@ CJ: lol, a fitting end for someone who dares to forget the most messed up VN adaptation in history?

@ CCY: I suppose “masterpiece” is a bit strong of a word, especially as the best thing about the show is essentially “fan service”, though a totally different kind than what people generally think of when they hear “fanservice”. Also, yes, it’s funny how neither of us ever end up mentioning our blogs outside of these comments >_>

@ TheBigN: It’s a scary way of looking at it, but it’s also what I was getting at as well; if the writers wanted to label Makoto as a metaphor and the show as a far more disturbing look at otaku culture than Welcome to the NHK could ever be, they could probably pull it off.


charlie March 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm

i believe it at first seem quite intriguing for it almost seemed like a soap opera that knew how to use your emotions properly but i believe that wouldnt happen the murder i think kotonoha wouldnt be as senile or oblivious to all that happened and if i were the character and those events were in true life than i would have chosen sekai which most other males would because she make you feel comfortable and a woman would go for the guy not manipulate and scheme to get him so even though it was a good anime it had potential to go on longer than 12 episodes and could even have become a much greater show which i miss dearly and i would like to ask if anyone knows if SummerDays the spin of school days will become an anime or manga and where can i get either game that would work on american style ps2.


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