Tomoya is a delinquent. His class attendance is lackadaisical, and his approach to life in general is not much different; he gets most of his thrills from teasing everyone around him. However, he does have a kind side, and it turns out to be his lifeline, as he finds himself trying, ever more energetically, to encourage a lonely girl to make her dream of acting in the school drama club a reality before she graduates. One thing leads to another: whether he knows it or not, a new life has just begun.
Drama, Romance, Supernatural, Comdey.
Clannad’s first season consisted of twenty-two episodes, plus two specials; a second season, Clannad After Story, has now partially aired (Dec 17, 2008).
Nakahara Mai as Furukawa Nagisa
Nakamura Yuuichi as Okazaki Tomoya
Nonaka Ai as Ibuki Fuuko
Kuwashima Houko as Sakagami Tomoyo
Noto Mamiko as Ichinose Kotomi
Hirohashi Ryou as Kyoiu Fujibayashi
Kanda Akemi as Ryou Fujibayashi
Sakaguchi Daisuke as Youhei Sunohara
One man’s favorite novel is another man’s gag-fest…or something like that. I’ve been on the receiving end of a disapproving review of a favorite anime more than once. I’ve never forgotten what it felt like when I saw a seventy percent rating on Anime Library for Sola, my personal all time star…so I guess I feel just a little guilty about this one. Still, I can’t change my opinion-but I do know your pain, I really do. I am aware that Clannad is the darling of thousands of anime fans, all of whom were enthralled by it’s-well, truthfully, I have no notion what it is they found so enthralling. My overall reaction, as a watcher, is that it is an utterly-and sadly-unsuccessful attempt by the team that made Kanon 06 to ‘do it again’. Kanon was a masterpiece: this is not. Ranging from reasonably touching (the first arc) to absolute rock bottom (the second arc), Clannad rates, by my judgment, a one-barely. I will do my best to explain myself objectively, but no matter what, I can only judge an anime from one viewpoint, and that is my own. So if I am tearing apart an image that means a great deal to you, I am sorry…but only because I’ve been there. The series itself, I feel, does not deserve my pity.
As always, characters first – though in some cases, I could just refer to Kanon counterparts. Tomoya, the main character, is given many features directly opposite to his predecessor, Yuuichi, no doubt to prevent what happened anyway: he reminded me of Yuuichi. Despite all the technical differences, when watching him I just thought, ‘he reminds me of Yuuichi.’ And that only gets worse as time goes on and his kind side becomes more dominant. Nagisa, the female lead, does not have a close enough counterpart plot-wise to suffer the same fate. However, her design (appearance) is no more or less than a mature sized Ayu. Picture our uguu girl at the proper height for her age and properly developed all around, and you know what Nagisa looks like. She’s also easily the most bland of the cast, far and away outshined by just about everyone else, including her parents. Sweet, but flat, that’s her. Despite numerous attempts to make her something more like, well…Ayu? Tomoya’s best friend, Sunohara, is Kitagawa, Kaori’s best friend in Kanon. That’s it. Just a carbon copy with a couple situational differences. He even looks like him. Fuuko, a little girl who looks and acts elementary age but is actually high school age – another Kanon carryover – is actually a bright light in this litany: she is absolutely hysterical, and in a style utterly her own. Makes Ayu look like a lecture on agricultural statistics. Her arc is the only one of worth in this anime (more on that in it’s place), and I’d gladly have watched the full twenty-two episodes as focused on her just wandering about, and rated it high too. That doesn’t happen, of course, but if Clannad succeeded at anything it attempted, it was the comedy. I shall keep the first ten episodes for nothing more than the gut-busting fun, and begrudge not a megabyte of the space. Then there’s Tomoyo, a long silver haired girl with a gentle manner and The Kick of Justice. Forget the long hand of the law – worry about her feet. She’s actually quite a good, interesting character, and my easy favorite. Unfortunately she doesn’t get nearly enough screen time, and her role for most of the series is to add bulk to the crowd of enamored girls who all want Tomoya (g-d knows why). Actually, most of the girls serve this role more than anything else, because there are simply too many of them to give them proper arcs of their own. Even the ones that do get short ones, besides of course for Nagisa. There is something intrinsically wrong with the taste of any drama that tries to have more than three girls interested in a guy at one time. You just can’t give it proper weight, and the whole situation is incredulous, to say the least. Clannad gives him five. Right. Someone get me the name of his aftershave. Two more of the five are the twins, Kyou and Ryou Fujibayashi. Kyou is loud, long haired, and violent; Ryou is quiet, soft voiced, and short both in hair and self confidence. The usual Yin and Yang thing that producers seem to see as a shortcut to interesting. Not that it’s a tactic with no hope; Kyou is actually a lot of fun, and my second favorite character. Ryou fades out as your typical moe shoujo, but this is enlivened by the fact that anytime she is particularly overwhelmed, Kyou is sure to show up to give the perpetrator hell, something she excels at. These two never have their own arc but simply add their presence alongside all the others; truly purposeless but for flavor and to bring the number of ‘candidates’ to a gratuitous five. Last and possibly least, depending on the angle, is Ichinose Kotomi, the series’ monosyllabic, an introverted genius girl who somehow was once a friend of Tomoya’s and who he has now forgotten; all in all, she completes the list of characters who are factually nothing like Kanon characters, but remind me of them anyway. Kotomi-chan, while an excellent comedic character, reminded me of Mai somehow, and so does her arc, which is also quite short. In that she has one, she takes precedence to the twins; in how much her own affections are presented, she loses by such an extant I have no idea why they bothered at all. Amount of screen time in which her feelings (romantically speaking) are a factor? Total well under ten minutes, possibly even five. I thought she was just a friend till near the end. Or rather, hoped, since there were too many in that category already. I’ll end the character bashing here; disgust seems to have made me wordy(er).
Plot and delivery time. For the first eight or so episodes, Clannad actually did very well. I was honestly interested, and eight ended strongly. These plus nine made the first arc, Fuuko’s arc, minus the first two and a half or so which are general introduction, with the seeds of the arc to come dropped casually in the midst. The humor was great, the emotions of Fuuko’s dilemma were strong-and to be honest (aren’t I always?), that was the last time I thought favorably of the series. It is a little hard to describe what was wrong with the arc’s conclusion. Here’s my best attempt: while fan-service by default means ‘privileged angles’ (cough*panties*cough), it can actually refer to any element of an anime made for the watchers rather than for the story itself. Those who prowl fanfiction.net have probably seen more badly spelled examples of ‘fiction for fans’ (rather than by fans, a critical distinction) than they care to remember. This was by professionals, but it still felt like it was designed to fulfill the fantasies of the greatest number of watchers – just instead of hormonal fantasies, the ones they were fulfilling were plot based. It was made to tug the maximum number of heartstrings, not to best conclude the story they were telling, and this is always a turn for the worse. Though I didn’t have the words at the time, I knew that it had disappointed me. And it only went downhill from there. Kotomi’s arc starts out as a return to the top notch comedy (starfish FTW!), but after two or so episodes it starts to become serious; only, somehow, it failed entirely to get me serious. And then we got to the conclusion…okay, look. I have standards when I write. I believe strongly in making the story you tell as strong as possible. I also feel the truer the tale, the more it will touch. And I have never, ever, ever watched a worse conceived scene in all my experience in anime, and I pray never to again. It’s very hard to explain my absolute abhorrence without spoilers. I’ll try by saying that once again it tried to pull every single heartstring they could, pulling out revelation after revelation-except this time, not a single one had the slightest ounce of plausibility. I snorted in disgust at the first three, and then proceeded to skip my way through in hopes of some redeeming moment later on. That’s right, I skipped my way through most of the high point of the arc. And I never found that redeeming point either. I stopped watching cold for months. I have never stopped, without intention of continuing, so deep into an anime before (G Gundam was a fifty episode series, so it’s different). The only reason I kept it on my hard drive was because I have a friend who has trouble downloading, and he was interested in it. Eventually I decided that having gotten that far, I should finish, and review it. You may not be grateful, but too bad. I did.
There is a short arc on Tomoyo after that, which was nice but not nearly as in depth as I would have liked. She was an intriguing character, but after they were through she was not much more than part of the ‘Unrequited Lovers of Tomoya’ club. It takes three to form a club in their school; at five members, they honestly qualified. After that we go back to full time ‘revive the drama club’ mode, focusing on Nagisa and Tomoya. We have one or two fairly stupid ‘problems’, solved in equally stupid or implausible fashion, and then the kicker. The whole issue with his dad, instead of being dealt with (it deserved to be, it wasn’t bad at all as a premise), is used as a gimmick to put Tomoya in Nagisa’s house. That’s it. It’s the last time the series acknowledges it. It’s also rather hentai-esque, and I find it rather ironic that of the three, Clannad, Kanon, and Air, only Clannad was not adults only as a game, but only Clannad as an anime suggest hentai roots. There’s really not much more to say; this deep in, explaining things in detail is pretty much impossible, and none of it made much of an impression in any case. Right up till the much awaited confession. The series never managed to move me again. Flat, mundane failure. Some moments were enjoyable, but that was it.
I mentioned that the series seemed to suggest hentai roots, right? It’s a statement demanding a bit of explanation, I know. The scenes I’m referring to range from a questionable scene involving Tomoya locked in the gym storage shed with Kyou to various scene shots that emphasize girl’s ‘endowments’ a bit too deliberately to ignore. And one or two inbetween. Perhaps not, in itself, a flaw, but it is reminiscent of what is missing throughout Clannad: a lack of taste or sense of proportion. Even the traditional definition of fan-service makes some form of appearance.
What can I say? No matter what anyone else thought of it, only the comedy and the first eight episodes keep this at anything more than zero. I did warn you not to read this if you were already a fan. However, for the record, I’ve always been conscious of the lack of counter-opinions in the review selection here. I’m the only one for now, so it can’t be helped, but if you want to make a sort of ‘mini-review’ in response in the comments section below, that is more than fine: just make sure that it is detailed and specific. It should be able to help someone who is wondering whether they would agree with me or others more. Don’t say ‘I loved it’, say why. That’s all. But by my account, Clannad is a one.
Final Rating: 1/5
This review is brought to you by Z.N. Singer
Facts such as cast and airtime are courtesy of ANN’s encyclopedia entries. All else is and always will be the original creation of the author.
3 Responses to “Clannad”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.