Clannad

Title: Clannad
Genre: Drama/Romance
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: 22 episodes
Dates: 5 Oct 2007 – 21 Mar 2008

Synopsis: Okazaki Tomoya considers himself a delinquent. He hates school, usually turning up late, and has had a troublesome relationship with his father since his mother died. One day on the way to school, he bumps into Furukawa Nagisa, a girl who lacks confidence after being away from school for a year due to sickness. Tomoya finds out that Nagisa had always wanted to join the Theater Club, and convinces her to do so, but later they both find that the club had been disbanded for some time.

The Highlights
Story: Filled with meaning and driven by themes; a lot of it is under the surface.
Lead characters: Fantastic characterization and relationship development between Okazaki and Nagisa.
Supporting character arcs: Fuko’s arc is amazing; others fall by the wayside.
Animation: Clean, but lacks the polish of previous KyoAni works.
Comedy: Surprisingly funny… except for one annoying recurring gag.
Ending: Fitting and satisfying.
Drama: No where near as heavy as previous Key adaptations.

I hate to allow a review to be driven totally by comparison, so I’m going to be as succinct as I can. Clannad and Kanon 2006 both share superficial similarities, but their respective approaches to storytelling, and their strengths and weaknesses couldn’t be more different. To get this out of the way, I thought Kanon 2006 was a better anime because of its polished script and execution, and rhythmic pacing. But Clannad has better lead characters and a more meaningful story. One can make the argument that Clannad is a smarter and more mature version of Kanon, but doesn’t have Kanon’s heart and emotional appeal. There’s no pathos or tragedy in Clannad, where Kanon had a truckload of it.

Categorizing Clannad isn’t trivial, and the best I can come up with is slice-of-life with a plot. The plot itself isn’t of primary importance, and there are very little in the way of big impact twists and dramatic revelations, as the story is driven largely by themes, such as family, loneliness, memories and dreams. These aren’t necessarily themes that are new to Key works, but the depth to which they are explored and allowed to drive the story is. A large part of the storytelling transcends plot and dialogue. Gestures, body-language and symbolisms say an incredible lot about the mindsets of characters and the states of relationships, which are the major elements that underpin the story. Nothing is so overly subtle that one misses it if one is paying attention, but very little of the truly meaningful undercurrents that make the story is spoon-fed to the audience either.

Clannad breaks away from the strict modular style that gave structure to previous Kyoto Animation-produced Key adaptations about half way through, which gives the script a great freedom, but the sacrifice is focus and pacing. With the exception of Fuko, and, to a lesser extent, Kotomi, none of the supporting characters received enough focus to make anything substantial of their dilemmas. Sunohara’s arc eventually becomes about Okazaki, Tomoyo gets only half an episode in the spotlight, while Kyou gets even less. While I wish there was more time available to explore these characters further, I can forgive this since the two characters that received the most screen-time were the most interesting. I think it’s fair to say that the second half of Clannad belonged to Okazaki and Nagisa, and their relationship is one of the best in the genre. Never mind the romantic aspect of it, the way Clannad shows how these two constantly grow because of each other was praiseworthy. It’s rare to see relationships in this genre of anime that are as meaningful and substantial as this one.

For something which isn’t really a comedy, Clannad is hilarious. A lot of the funniest situations are instigated by Okazaki, but he somehow manages to come off as manipulative without being mean-spirited. It adds another respectable element to his character and separates him even further from the hapless harem lead archetype. Not all the jokes work, though. Sunohara’s gags are often low-brow, while a recurring Fuko joke is too random, bordering on inappropriate, to be funny.

An excellent soundtrack and a solid (although somewhat unpolished) visual effort combine into a topnotch aesthetic effort, while Ishihara Tatsuya’s directing deserves credit for accomplished storytelling. The ending has been oddly received with controversy, but I really don’t understand why. Sure, there are still unanswered questions regarding the Illusionary World, but in my opinion, the importance of this pales in comparison to the issues that were tied up in the final episode. While I’ll certainly welcome a second season, mostly for the last part of the source material, there was nothing in the finale of this season that I was unsatisfied with.

While there are a few flaws with this anime, there are aspects of it that have been executed extremely well. The dramatic peak is over after the ninth episode, but the constant and continual character development that the two leads go through makes up for it. As far as Key conversions go, this one might have the least impact, but I’d say it was the most enjoyable, and had the best lead characters.

The Rating: 7
7/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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