Greetings! Welcome to my next review, this time for highly regarded Key anime Clannad, based off a visual novel of the same name. This will be just for the first series, as Clannad: After Story will be a separate post. I will primarily be giving my impressions of the anime in this post, so there will be spoiler.
Now without further ado, let us begin the review!
Summary: Tomoya Okazaki is a third year high school student resentful of his life. His mother passed away from a car accident when he was younger, causing his father to resort to alcohol and gambling. This results in fights between the two until Tomoya’s shoulder is injured in a fight. Since then, Tomoya has had distant relationships with his father, causing him to become a delinquent over time. While on a walk to school, he meets a strange girl named Nagisa Furukawa who is a year older, but is repeating due to illness. Due to this, she is often alone as most of her friends have moved on. The two begin hanging out and slowly, as time goes by, Tomoya finds his life shifting in a new direction. -Anime New Network
The original Clannad is definitely one of those anime where people either love it or hate it. The anime seems to really be the break out anime for Key that put it on the map as not just producers of good visual novels, but also competent with an anime series (not that Kanon or Air were bad). Whether Clannad is actually any good or not, that is for you to decide. My thoughts definitely skew toward the negative, but there are aspects I appreciate about the series. Also, the sequel anime, Clannad: After Story, is far superior regardless of who you ask.
With that out of the way, the story of Clannad primarily follows protagonist Tomoya Okazaki as he encounters and helps out various girls. While these happenings go on around him, Tomoya as a person also grows and learns about the joys and sorrows of life. Right off the bat, the most frustrating thing of Clannad is the style of story telling. It comes across as a harem series initially, and is mostly just a “meet and greet” style of show. The style employs the use of individual, often unrelated, arcs to introduce and explore a particular character. Once the arc is completed, the character of focus is pushed into a supportive role. This leaves the show feeling repetitive, and with only six girls to introduce and 23 episodes to fill, the actual plot of Clannad moves along at a snails pace. There is a case to be made for this, however, but more on that later.
Clannad uses a mixture of genres, with many elements of a slice of life (one of my favorite genres), comedy, romance, drama, and supernatural. For most of the anime, two or more genre are used in conjunction with each other to highlight the mood of a scene, and is arguably the best element of its storytelling. A good arc that highlights this is Fuko’s arc. It makes use of a seemingly comedic situation to introduce the set up before moving into a heavily dramatic and supernaturally involved story arc. Mixing genres in an effective way to bring forth strong emotions is something Key is a master at it, and Clannad highlights this.
The animation is well done (as always for Key). Since the anime focuses on the girls that Tomoya could potentially court, and it is based on a visual novel marketed to men, the girls have very cute, or “moe,” designs. They felt a little cookie cutter to me, as swapping the hair and eye colors around would essentially result in the same girls. However, feel free to correct me if I am wrong. The soundtrack is equally excellent, though there are some awkward vocal tracts that can be distracting.
My biggest issues with Clannad were the genre assignment and the predictability. The anime really pushes itself as a romantic anime, but because Tomoya spends most of his time solving the girls’ problems, any romantic subplot takes a huge backseat until the last few episodes. This makes the anime as a whole incredibly predictable. While the characters are all well fleshed out, they can all seems rather passive at times, which drags on the pacing, something else I struggled with. I understand that most of the emotional moments are due to these passive characters drawing pity from the viewer, but I just found it draining to watch.
While the plot was a struggle to enjoy at best, Clannad has some powerful themes that take advantage of the story style. They lend emotional weight to each scene and make it far easier to connect with the characters. The primary theme involves the search for purpose and motivation in the otherwise mundane drivel of life. The slow plot pacing really enforces the slow passing of time one can feel without purpose or motivation, and the anime does pick up some as it goes on, signifying Tomoya finding his motivation and purpose. The heavier themes of suffering and relationships also play prominent roles in the anime. While the relationship aspect is clear, Clannad makes these more realistic than other anime by showing how person struggles can interfere with relationships. This goes for both sides, as Tomoya is not the typical one side male protagonist, but is simultaneously suffering alongside the girls he tries to help. The thematic elements can border on cliche at some times, but a nonetheless a powerful presence within the anime.
Thank you for reading the review! I am curious to know: what did you think of Clannad? Be sure to comment below, and let me know what you agreed, or disagreed, with in my review. I really enjoy hearing other people’s thoughts. Below is a link to my previous review of Clannad on RishRaff Reviews with my friends, if you are curious. Anyway, follow me on Twitter and look forward to the next post!