School Days Episodes 2 & 3: Duality & Psychological Manipulation

Welcome back to the second week of #AniTwitWatches Round 3. For anyone who isn’t familiar with this gig, please check out my announcement post for more information and a rundown of the basics.

This week we watched the second and third episodes of the controversial anime, School Days, which is an adaptation of the original visual novel by 0verflow. In my First Impressions, I chatted about my immediate reactions upon watching the pilot and most of those thoughts were mild frustration at how incredibly dull the presentation of the introductory episode was. After seeing the next two instalments, I can say that while my feelings as a whole haven’t changed much, I can see the foundation for things to take a drastically atypical turn in the future.

Last night, while I was watching these two episodes, I did a Live Tweet session. These ramblings are the purest form of my immediate reactions to what I was watching. Since then, I have had some time to process through my theories and perspective a bit, which is what I shall be talking about today. There will be spoilers mentioned, so please read at your own discretion.

SD Eps. 03 b

The two episodes that we watched focused mostly on Itō and Katsura having what amounts to a couple of dates and how those interactions help or hinder their newly budding relationship. There are some assists from Sekai tossed in for good measure, as well as an extremely awkward and gross boob-grab scene that made me want to punch her on Katsura’s behalf. Both of them follow the same boring execution that the pilot did, however, there were some interesting changes to the presentation that I feel are important as storytelling devices, such as the supremely weird camera angles. I’m not quite sure yet just what these were trying to establish, but I get the feeling that it’s mostly to let the audience know that things aren’t quite as peachy as they may seem to be. Our worlds are about to be tilted to their sides with chaos. They could also be emblematic of the changes to come with regard to the characters’ personas and perceptions of each other with more interactions that they share.

Some of the elements I noticed in the second and third episodes—along with my friends who are also partaking in this round of watching—were the details that focused on duality. For example, we have Katsura and Itō’s first date where the music is very cheery and typically shōjo-esque, however, the date itself was a catastrophe with Itō being a self-absorbed dimwit and Katsura feeling highly uncomfortable the entire time. So, this breezy tune meshed with the events on-screen.

Another example is a scene where Sekai is giving Itō advice on how to get his head out of his own rump in order to make a proper first move on Katsura (to kiss her) during the next date. While she’s giving this advice, her body language is incredibly provocative and seductive. This is actually quite a common occurrence during Sekai’s and Itō’s interactions throughout the two segments, to one degree or another.

SD Eps. 02 d

These dualities fascinate for me a couple of reasons. Firstly, they really highlight the love triangle aspect that seems to be going on between the trio according to the first three episodes. It also shows that Sekai’s intentions aren’t wholly angelic either. Behaving so forwardly with someone that a person knows is unavailable, in any capacity, is a mind-game. It’s psychological manipulation, which is becoming the overarching theme for School Days, it seems. A second reason that I’m mildly captivated by the dualities is because, if used properly, it can become a fabulous narrative tool. Most stories that highlight parallels and dualities between characters and relationships, end up being some sort of social commentary with highly contemplative motifs by the end. Given the scandalous hype surrounding School Days, my prediction is that this is inevitable.

Other instances of dualities that point to these qualities include Katsura’s demeanour toward Itō. In the second episode, she spends most of it being put-off by his forward nature. He tries to kiss her (in an extremely creepy and embarrassing manner) on their first date. It’s natural for her to feel greatly repulsed by his behaviour. On top of that, he focuses so much on having fun by himself that he forgets to be considerate of her presence in the activities they partake in. Her facial expressions for the entirety of episode two make her seem like she’s in this perpetual state of anxiety and maybe even paranoia. It’s extremely disconcerting to witness. Yet, in the third episode, Itō ends up visiting Katsura at her house to meet her little sister, Kokoro. This time the interactions are far more relaxed, and she finally looks like she’s enjoying herself around him. There’s a point where she even smiles and chooses to kiss him on the cheek.  It’s all very fluffy and, oddly, out-of-place.

Her conflicting attitude towards him are indicative of a couple things. She’s a very timid person and doesn’t care too much for physical contact. It distresses her. But on the flip side of that, she’s naturally curious about this boy who has shown a romantic interest in her. Some part of being courted by him probably makes her feel confident or pleasant in her own skin. This is such a normal and expected reaction from teenagers who are experiencing romance for the first time. There’s paranoia yet excitement and eagerness. Plus, there are raging hormones, shy or not, and some part of her must be interested in sexual interactions or she wouldn’t have kissed him, or initiated physical contact, on multiple occasions.

Then we have the most obvious emotional card that is being tossed around left, right, and centre: jealousy. We see Sekai being jealous of Itō’s interest in Katsura, so even though she is trying to help her friend whom she wants to be happy, she’s also selfishly hoping to steer his interest into her direction. This is illustrated by the way she physically communicates with him. For example, she kissed him at the end of the first episode, which is more than likely a humongous contributor for Itō’s interest in moving things along with Katsura in terms of sex. He’s a horny, teenage boy who now believes that girls interested in him will automatically want to be sexually active. If he has absolutely no prior experience to go off of, it’s probable for him to jump to those sorts of conclusions. He’s already established that he’s pretty much an insensitive idiot with no predilection for empathy of the opposite sex. Sekai has acknowledged on more than one occasion that Itō is ridiculously dense when it comes to girls, and she also treats him like he’s younger or far more immature than her, so manipulating him in such a fashion really would be child’s play for her.

SD Eps. 01 i

Katsura isn’t an idiot, unlike Itō. She sees and hears how other girls talk about or engage with Itō, especially Sekai. In the second episode, her jealousy didn’t make any sense to me because of how disgusted she appeared to feel by Itō’s presence. But in the third episode, she finally indicated that she may have serious feelings for him, thus making her jealousy more founded and less random or out-of-place. This is another ordinary behavioural trait for adolescence, and human nature general: we always want something more when the chances of us having it are nigh impossible. It’s a gigantic form of psychological manipulation, usually self-inflicted. Katsura seems to be falling victim to the manipulations of both Sekai and Itō, possibly even her own romantic infantilism.

The biggest symbol of psychological warfare (so to speak) to come was at the end of episode three when Itō mentions to Sekai that he feels spending time with Katsura can be quite tiring. I feel this can be interpreted multiple ways. Is it tiring constantly playing pong with her mixed signals (shoving him away, pulling him close, running away and avoiding him, then inviting him over and kissing him, and more)? Is it tiring trying to be compassionate and considerate of her desired space from physical contact? Is it tiring to always be on guard and to be so formal and stiff when communicating with her? Or is the mere act of dating, in general, tiring and he’s using Katsura here because she’s the only experience he has? There are many readings to come from that.

SD Eps. 03 g

A lot of viewers felt that Itō was being bastard by callously disregarding this new relationship. He’s barely given it a chance at all and now it seems like he’s throwing Katsura away in a tantrum after not getting what he wants. I agree with this but only to a small degree. I’ve already mentioned multiple times that I believe Itō is bloody berk. He really doesn’t have a lot going for him, but I’m also 30-ish years old and know better thanks to many life experiences. Teenager do not. Cute folx being attentive, no matter how short that attention lasts, is usually something to get excited about, and emotions make people behave illogically all the fucking time. This doesn’t change with age, unfortunately. I believe that Itō being a jerk to Katsura is the effect from him being kissed by Sekai. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a mind-game. She got into his head, screwing up his chances with Katsura before they ever had a chance to truly take root. When a person has a beautiful woman who’s willing to do whatever they want versus one who’s a lot more smarter about her interactions with them, more often than not people will want what is simpler and offers the more immediate sense of validation, or in this case, sexual and emotional satisfaction.

For friends who may say that this is unrealistic, it’s really not. I have friends who have manipulated people (when they were in high school, not anymore) all the time for sex or other favours, and I’ve seen the impact these manipulations can make on those who are rookies at relationships versus those who have wizened up. This very real depiction of convoluted adolescent emotional and sexual feelings is really the only saving grace that the series has going for it so far, otherwise I probably would have dropped it already. As much stuff as there is for me to contemplate and chat about and pick apart, and as much as I can play Devil’s Advocate for Itō, the fucker is still a dolt and he drives me bloody mad with frustration.

SD Eps. 02 f

I’m curious to see what the next set of episodes shall bring us. JS (creator and host for #AniTwitWatches) promises that the dull episodes should be ending soon and then things will start picking up. I’m going to hope for that because I really want to see what all of the “chaos” and “crazy shite” is all about. In the meantime, I’m going to keep my wee phalanges crossed for it to not be underwhelming, as hype tends to let me down.

What did you think of episodes two and three? Please come chat with me about School Days in the comments below. Please, don’t share spoilers beyond episode 3! Thanks.

You can catch School Days over on CrunchyRoll.

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2 thoughts on “School Days Episodes 2 & 3: Duality & Psychological Manipulation

  1. Enjoyed the read, thanks for putting your comments up 🙂

    Next week is the last real week of “shooting doubles” for episodes, we’ll have another later in the watch, but that is mostly to catch up for the break we take around Christmas (plus it happens to be a two-part episode anyway). I did that so we could power through this more dull stuff, so you are guaranteed to start seeing the more exciting bits very soon. It’s gonna be one heck of a ride!

    Liked by 2 people

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