Title: Clannad, アムネシア
Producers: Kyoto Animation, Pony Canyon
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School, Slice of Life
Air Date: Oct 5, 2007 to Mar 28, 2008
Number of Episodes: 23
Duration: 24 min. per episode
Should You Watch It?
Clannad is not your general slice of life anime. It boasts in a quality plot with an emphasis on the relationships between the characters. This never felt like a harem and has little to no fan service. There are many hilarious moments but equally as many tragic moments. A tissue box is also recommended. The anime may be a little slow pace in the beginning introducing the characters, but it picks up towards the end of the series. If you want a straight up slice of life that seems real, relatable and mature, this is for you.
The genre of Visual Novels has delivered many unique stories and storytelling techniques. It is more than likely the only genre to excel in plot, character development and relationships. It gives the player choices to follow ‘routes’ which allows change to future encounters and relationships with many characters, which warrants deep connections between the ‘player and the character. One of the most acclaimed companies producing visual novels is Key, and one of the most acclaimed visual novels they produced is Clannad.
Clannad means family and through the visual novel, this is more than justified. The game explores the notion of family and how far would you go to change yourself for both their benefit and your own. Adapting a well-known visual novel is quite tough; the production team must focus on an over arching route and showing various other routes as arcs, all while staying true to the novel. Kyoto Animation, who has adapted Air and Kanon into anime, headed the production to the much-loved visual novel. With two well-received adaptations under their belt, tackling on the biggest visual novel is no easy task. Yet they did it, they made a wonderful adaptation that can be considered perfect. Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of Clannad is not only one of the best adaptations, but one of the best anime series ever conceived.
Clannad’s premise tells the tale of Tomoya Okazaki, a 3rd year student at Hikarizaka Private High School. Despite being at the school for three years, he hasn’t befriended much people and has earner the title of a delinquent, being late many times and skipping classes. His only friend is Youhei Sunohara, a fellow delinquent and class clown. One day on the way to school Tomoya met a girl (Nagisa Furukawa) at the bottom of the hill; speaking about how happy moments don’t last. Whether this is a destined meeting or not, Tomoya’s life is about to change. A new transfer student aiming to become student president, a silent girl hidden amongst knowledge, a weird cherry girl with a starfish, and more embracing friendships with his current friends. Clannad primarily focuses of Tomoya’s interactions with his friend, their relationship with him and his personal growth.
One of the biggest strengths of the anime is its ability to tell a story, and boy what a story. The over-arching plot follows Tomoya and Nagisa’s attempt to act out a play. The plot focuses on Tomoya’s evolving relationship with Nagisa, and also on the other relationships between him and the other characters. The plot itself is very consistent with barley any plot holes and only minor problems with pacing. The story plays with emotions constantly and becomes a rollercoaster of emotions. This is the typical method Key adopts to keep players interested in the game and characters. The moment you meet a character it becomes light hearted and humorous then the next moment it gets serious and sometimes tragic. For the most part the anime keeps its humorous aspect and sometimes you question how after some heavy plot twist and you are still able to laugh off to some stupid action by Youhei. It somehow manages to still give you a laugh throughout the entire series it is the experiences that are shared between the characters that build on upon the plot and the overall theme. One of the biggest differences from previous Key adaptations is that Clannad is a much more mature story with more mature and complex characters. The tragedies that unfold are indeed mature, and for that I think it is a much better plot. The mature themes further develop a much deeper story and this too creates a more relatable experience and a highlighted personal response. It does at times get inspirational since many of these problems are relatable.
The strength of the anime is in its character development, which is shown through various character arcs. The arsc builds up the characters, indulging in the backstory of the character and their evolving relationship with Tomoya. There have been a few consistencies with the arc lengths, some only lasting a measly few episodes and one lasting about seven. Of course pacing should be an issue when adapting a visual novel, since there is so much to cover within a limited frame, but Kyoto Animation- Kyoani for short- has done a good job trying to pace well. Though there are those small issues with the arc lengths, since the shorter arcs mean less development for that character and their importance to the overall plot may seem misplaced. The anime may have a somewhat slower start in its first arc but it is just as effective as the other arcs.
With the relationships being so important, having distinct and interesting character is a must need. Character development is one of the story’s most important aspects. Thankfully, all the characters are unique and have characteristics of all shapes and sizes. Tomoya himself is not the usual delinquent, usually speaks in a somewhat sarcastic tone to make a mockery of others for his own benefit. His daily monologues are enjoyable and bring out a witty and hilarious tone to the serious. Despite all this, Tomoya still acts in a very mature way and still has well intentions to try and help people, but usually in his own way. This all contrasts with Nagisa’s personality, which is as pure as it can be. She in fact loves the dango daikazoku (big dumpling family) which aired in the past as a happy and cute family. She likes to hold old fashion values such as the strong relationship between the family members, which leads ultimately to happiness. She is usually seen as a weak minded person, usually being gullible to Tomoya’s antics and ploys.This contrast between the two characters creates some interesting chemistry and plentiful interesting situations. Not only is their relationship important, but it affects both of them in major ways.
All the other characters are just memorable, and to say so myself, quite attractive. Not in the sense of physical beauty, but their personalities are attractive. Well, I guess their looks are also attractive. The cast is filled with many personalities; from a cute small girl with a starfish that is arrogant to a cool and calm girl, with womanly qualities and is strong both physically and mentally. It really helps when we learn much about their backstory during their specific arc. Since it was adapted from a visual novel, where possibly every girl you meet can become a potential partner, each character in the anime would go so well with Tomoya. Since the story is told from his view, we get to know what he thinks, what he feels and essentially live as he does. I will not go into further detail with the characters but they are so relatable, which makes us get somewhat emotional. It would be wrong if you didn’t finish the anime without a new favourite character. Whether it’s the lovable Fuko, cool and calm Tomoyo, smart and shy Kotomi, the ever so tsundere Kyou or the imouto Mei. Nagisa’s parents too, get a mention since they are so kind and rather cool, but are very protective of their daughter.
Previous Key adaptations by Kyoani have been done in a somewhat immature way, when compared to this, and the relationship factor isn’t as strong. It also doesn’t help how many magical elements play a major role in their story. Not to say that there isn’t any magic at work in Clannad, since the Illusionary World is a prominent reoccurring idea. This Illusionary World appears every now and again and features a small robot and a little girl (the only human) living in a sad world. This is the play that Nagisa acts out in the end. How she knows the story of the Illusionary World is a mystery, and so is the Illusionary World itself. Not much is revealed about this world and how it ties into the story, but it’s there… I guess. It is a somewhat desolate place that adds another tragic theme to the story. Of course if you do want answers, watching the next series Clannad After Story is what you want.
Kyoto Animation have been known for some top notch animation. Nothing that can be defined as the best, but they have done some really solid visual representations. Though, all the character designs are based on the visual novel they are done very well and with good taste too. The characters have distinct features that differentiate themselves from each other, and this is before the big moe character explosion. Fan service is pretty much non-existence since it serves no purpose (like it ever did) especially in this relationship based anime. The usage of colours is apparent throughout the series; even in the beginning of the first episode a large colour contrast between Tomoya’s inner monologue about his hatred towards the town, and his first interaction with Nagisa. The screen goes from a monochrome purple to flashes of bright colours where they’re surrounded by Sakura trees. The entire anime likes to show sakura trees in general. So, colour plays an important part in the story and also in the Illusionary World where things seem desolate and dull. The backgrounds are all done well and the animation seems rather smooth and fluid.
Kyoani has also done a magnificent job in finding the correct people and the voices are all done with full effect. The entire cast does a great effort and may even give shivers in the right situation. The cast contains some pretty well known seiyuus such as Mai Nakahara (Working!) and Yuuichi Nakamura (Ore no Imouto). They all convey their characters exceedingly and don’t really have any annoying voices that pierce your ears or irritate you to death.
One of Key’s biggest strength in their visual novels is their music. Composed by Jun Maeda, all composed tracks and songs are so brilliantly well done. The anime takes all the tracks from the visual novel’s soundtrack and apply them wonderfully in scenes. From the simple yet elegant tune of Nagisa’s theme to the sorrow and complex theme of the Illusionary World; Illusions, it is without a doubt that the music further enhances the emotive scenes throughout the series, playing at the right time complementing the scene’s portrayal. The songs are well memorable and so are the scenes that play with them. Even when searching through YouTube for a particular track, all the memories, the actions and emotions come rushing back. That is the effect the music has on you, it is just that amazing. Most of the soundtrack is composed of melodies only, and is usually played on the piano but some of the more complex pieces are more orchestral in a sense.
To me, the opening credits of the anime aren’t anything too spectacular. It isn’t too memorable, but what is, is the ending credits. Dango Daikazoku. This song follows the Nagisa theme and has a vocal track over it. It is deemed as the official song of the anime, since in the background are the cute Dango dumplings hopping around. The ending is innocent and cute with a very catchy rhythm. But the song shares the instrumentals of a particular piece of music that plays during dramatic moments throughout the series. The ending song itself will remind you of the innocence of the story and Nagisa, in a off and eerie manner.
Clannad isn’t your typical slice of life anime. It focuses on what is important in any good media, plot. The character development and the relationships are done very well that not only do they grow on you and you grow on them… somehow. The plot may have some arc length issues and maybe a couple pacing problems but the overall plot package is so well done that negligible damage is dealt. The anime visually looks pleasing, as most Kyoani anime production do. The anime has some of the best tracks around, all thanks to Jun Maeda’s wonderful composing abilities. The songs are unforgettable and show a ton of emotions that is experienced throughout the series. You get very attached to the characters and it is sad to see them go once you finish the anime. But then again, there is Clannad After Story.
Verdict: Clannad is an amazing piece of anime, with some amazing characters, character development, mature themes and an outstanding soundtrack. There are a couple minor issues with the arc pacing but is just very minor. This anime is for anyone who wants to have a wild emotive ride, that resonates with real life and see how inspirational and emotional you can get. Slice of life fans will indeed enjoy this, and I do recommend any anime lover to watch this and embrace it.