I’ll be honest, I don’t know how I’m going to review this anime. The day before yesterday I didn’t even intend on watching it. Yesterday I finished it. And today, I can’t stop crying. Okay okay to be fair I actually finished it a few days ago but wanted to make a funny reference. And as always
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
Tomoya Okazaki is a delinquent who finds life dull and believes he’ll never amount to anything. Along with his friend Sunohara, he skips school and plans to waste his high school days away. One day while walking to school, Tomoya passes a young girl muttering quietly to herself. Without warning she exclaims “Anpan!” (a popular Japanese food) which catches Tomoya’s attention. He soon discovers the girl’s name is Nagisa Furukawa and that she exclaims things she likes in order to motivate herself. Nagisa claims they are now friends, but Tomoya walks away passing the encounter off as nothing. However, Tomoya finds he is noticing Nagisa more and more around school. Eventually he concedes and befriends her. Tomoya learns Nagisa has been held back a year due to a severe illness and that her dream is to revive the school’s drama club. Claiming he has nothing better to do, he decides to help her achieve this goal along with the help of four other girls. As Tomoya spends more time with the girls, he learns more about them and their problems. As he attempts to help each girl overcome her respective obstacle, he begins to realize life isn’t as dull as he once thought. – [Written by MAL Rewrite]
So that’s probably the longest synopsis I’ve plugged so far, and sadly I feel like it leaves out a lot of crucial information about this anime and why I decided to watch it. To start with, Clannad is an anime adaptation of a Japanese visual novel made for the PC and was later ported to Playstation and the Xbox 360. What I really found interesting about this visual novel is that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what genre classification it belongs to. For example, it has all the elements of a shounen harem anime directed at guys, but at the same time has dialogue and art stylized for a fantasy based shojo series.
Admittedly, I thought I was going to completely hate this show from the first moment Nagisa speaks. It’s not that I found her problems unrelatable, actually repeating a year of high school would be a nightmare for myself, but that she seemed too immature as a main protagonist to carry the show. Now personally I feel like character and plot development are the two main factors that determine how good a show is. And to be completely honest, I don’t feel like Nagisa really grows as a character throughout Clannad or After Story. So why did I binge watch both seasons of a show I didn’t even think I was enjoying?
Simply put, unless you’re a robot… scratch that — even if you’re a robot, Clannad will play your heartstrings like a harp. Whether its Nagisa’s parents’ light-hearted antics or learning about Tomoya’s shoulder injury, Clannad excels at evoking emotions — both good and bad. I’ll never forget the scene that made me fall in love with this show.
It’s really such a simple scene and I’ll admit it may be overplayed later in the show, but it had me laughing and rewatching for what seemed like hours. Of course that may say more about me than it does about Clannad. Regardless, its scenes like this that kept me watching when my brain kept telling me to stop. Watching Clannad can sometimes feel like a battle between the heart and mind. It’s a slice of life that urges you to laugh at the comedy of life. It’s a drama that inspires you to overcome your handicaps in the real world. It’s a fantasy that keeps you in suspense until the very last moment. The show probably would’ve been more successful if it had chosen just one or two of its many themes, but then it wouldn’t have been Clannad.
So here is my breakdown for the review. I’m going to review both Clannad and After Story separately (and the movie if requested) and break them down to plot, character development, art, music and enjoyment.
Plot: 2/5 Ouch!
It’s hard to define the plot of the first season of Clannad because it’s unclear what the main story is. Is it a simple slice of life, romance, fantasy, or are we really supposed to be captured by the idea of getting the drama club back together? Like I said before, the show probably would’ve been better if it were more focused.
Character Development: 3/5 Meh
This would’ve been a 1/5 if it weren’t for Tomoya who is possibly the only character to get any real development. Sure all the girls and Sunohara get at least one episode dedicated to them, but afterwards they don’t seem all that different. Such is the curse of harem anime.
Art: 5/5 Looking Good!
For an anime that’s nearly 10 years old, the art holds up pretty amazingly. I wouldn’t say it’s as colorful as something like Hamatora, but the style fits the story perfectly and was clearly a main focus of the animation team.
Music: 4/5 Woo!
I never thought I’d catch myself singing The Big Dango Family song or humming the sad background tunes but I’m guilty of both. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of diversity in the music and it gets repeated a lot during the show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing since it’s good quality, but it can get stale after a while.
Enjoyment: 3/5 Meh
As much as this show has grown on me as a whole, I must admit that the first season just seemed overall dull for me. Sure it was cute and can give you all the feels, but it was really the snippets of comedy in the first season that kept me watching. Otherwise I don’t know that I would’ve stuck around to watch…
Plot: 5/5 I CAN’T STOP CRYING!
Clannad After Story took an unfocused romance visual novel and turned it into one of the most emotional rollercoasters I’ve ever ridden. About half of the season is still focused mostly on Tomoya and Nagisa’s relationship development, but even then the pace picks up dramatically when Nagisa becomes pregnant. This later becomes a problem as Nagisa’s mysterious anime disease causes her to die during childbirth leaving Tomoya to take care of their daughter Ushio by himself. Or at least that’s what the show would have you expect. Instead in episode 17 we get a jump to 5 years in the future with Tomoya slowly wasting away. We learn that their daughter has been living with the Furukawas and bears an uncanny resemblance to Nagisa. Eventually father and daughter are reunited on a trip devised by Nagisa’s mother and Tomoya and Ushio set off and truly bond for the first time since Ushio was born. If this episode doesn’t bring tears to your eyes, the next several are bound to. Tomoya becomes a good father, makes up with his own father, and reconnects with his old friends. Life finally seems to be looking up for him. Then Ushio gets sick.
Thus leading to possibly the saddest moment in anime history. Fortunately Clannad knows not to end on a low note and finally pays off the side story of the girl and the robot in another world. Turns out the girl is Ushio and the robot is Tomoya and she’s been collecting these little balls of light to grant his wish. Suddenly Tomoya wakes up back to the moment Ushio is being born — Only this time Nagisa doesn’t die. Show goes from 0 to 100 then back to like 50 real quick. It’s because of this arc however that I would recommend watching all of Clannad. Hell I’ll probably watch it again just for those bittersweet feels.
Character Development: 4.5/5 Still crying
I very nearly gave this a 5/5 as well, if it weren’t for the fact that there really isn’t much character development in the first half of After Story. However it is the first time we really see Nagisa develop as a character, and we even get to see where some of the side characters end up such as Kyou becoming Ushio’s kindergarten teacher. As far as Tomoya is concerned, I’d say his development is actually pretty astounding. He really seems to become an adult in more ways than one. From finally mending his relationship with his father to becoming an amazing and hardworking father, he’s really another person entirely from the slacker we see in episode one. Even the Furukawas get some further backstory and emotional release.
Art and Music: 5/5 Nice distraction from the tears
Really nothing to add on from the previous season. If anything I’d say there may have been a slight improvement in the quality for some of the more emotional scenes, but overall it seemed pretty similar.
Enjoyment: You know it’s gotta be a 5/5
After Story brought just about every kind of emotion out of me. Happiness, sadness, fear, trust, you name it and Clannad brought it. There were a lot of moment I could relate to Tomoya and other moments I could just laugh at the hilarity that was Fuko and her starfish.
Together I give Clannad
So what did you think of Clannad? If you think there’s anything important that I missed please let me know in the comments below. Or if you just want to share your favorite moment from the series or have an way-too-in-depth conversation about it let me know! In the meantime I’m going to flood the rest of this post with some of my favorite gifs from the series.
Geez I’d love to add more, but I can’t even find gifs from my favorite scenes in the series. Anyway I hope you enjoyed the review!