Watched via DVD



PLOT: Clannad pretty much has the same plot undertones as every other anime adaptation of a Key game. There is a somewhat nondescript male who helps out a bunch of school aged girls with their unrealistically dramatic problems. Like with other Key animations, there is also the allusion to an alternative magical realm. I’ll be completely honest and just say that despite watching Clannad ~After Story~ this last summer (and having watched little else since) I can’t recall a thing about it. And this “explanation” for the other realm Crystal speaks of is still a mystery to my memory.

What I truly enjoy about Key game adaptations are the story arcs. They are a great way to delve into characters further and segment the story into digestible chunks. Maybe that’s why I can’t for the life of me remember much about ~After Story~; I just don’t remember any story breaks. From what I can recall, the story seemed to be the extras that didn’t fit into the first season with some added epilogue elements.

As Crystal says, the plot of Clannad surrounds a group of classmates who are trying to revive an old club. By now this plot has been extremely over done, but with a post mark of 2004 for the game you can at least claim the idea was original when it first came out.

I’m in agreement with Crystal on this one. Out of Key’s other game adaptations, Clannad is by far the best at meeting the formatting requirements of a new media. I almost got the feeling that rather than being based off of a game that the story could have been based off a light novel or manga. The one drawback is that for those fans who want more development with secondary characters there is less to see.

Development of secondary characters would be part of the stuff you can’t remember from ~After Story~, along with a lot of great angst. It’s very cathartic to watch.

PLOT: Clannad’s based off of a visual novel by Key, so the basic plot is unsurprising: the main guy, Tomoya, meets a bunch of girls and helps them with their problems until he winds up with the main girl, Nagisa. There’s also some stuff about the “Illusionary World,” but none of that gets dealt with until the second season, ~After Story~, which we’re not also reviewing because Whitney can’t remember it. I’m sorry.

So, the show’s plot. Nagisa is a sickly girl with low self-esteem who’s repeating her senior year again. She wants to get the drama club going again, but in order to do that she has to get at least three members, which means talking to people. Tomoya of course helps Nagisa find new members for the drama club, and the resolution of this storyline forms the climax of this season of the anime.

Along the way, Tomoya befriends many other girls with problems, like Fuko (who likes starfish), Tomoyo (who’s good at beating up Tomoya’s best friend), Kotomi (who’s very shy and smart), and the twins Kyou and Ryou (who are, well, twins). Most of these girls have awful, depressing backstories that make you cry, and Tomoya helps them move on. This is all very cliché, but, surprisingly, Tomoya also has his own problems in his life.

As an adaptation of a visual novel, I think Clannad does a good job of chaining the narratives together in a way that makes sense. It’s always clear that Tomoya will wind up with Nagisa, which is a nice change, and her main story is the backdrop on which every other story occurs. The show does change focus as Tomoya learns about the other girls, but it always returns to Nagisa and Tomoya. Furthermore, this show’s learned from the previous Key adaptations of Air and Kanon, so the narratives are all given room to breathe and develop. If you like adaptations of crying games like those Key churns out, then this one’s a very solid one in terms of pacing and organization.

Just for your information, I watched it again after “not remembering” it, and I still can’t remember it. What does that tell you about the second half?

SETTING: The theme for Clannad is spring. Key usually highlights a seasonal motif, and I feel that spring is quite fitting for a series based on new beginnings and turning over a new leaf.

The main cast attends school together and there are many glimpses into the domestic life of the Furukawa family and bakery. As Crystal states, everything about the town is very ordinary and charming. Even rough guys like Tomoya and Youhei seem to fit seamlessly into the pleasant little town which could easily fit into a Thomas Kinkade painting.

The only thing that doesn’t seem to fit is the magical realm that is hinted at in the opening sequences. I’m sure watching ~After Story~ helps a bit with all of that, at least for some people. Really I wish Key would stop adding in unnecessary magical elements. Sure they may get explained, but in very wishy washy terms. You barely have a moment to reflect on it before the arc gets swept under the rug to move onto the next.

SETTING: This show takes place in a very ordinary Japanese town, which is probably so that the viewer can hope that these events will happen to them in their own ordinary Japanese towns. Because of this “everytown” concept, nothing in the town stands out much, beyond the fact that a lot of strange people like to hang around Tomoya. Oh, and the Furukawa family’s bakery, which is probably supposed to represent how close people can be in the town.

The Illusionary World is interestingly different, but it’s not explored much in this season. Sorry! Just know that it’s around? It’s the place you get glimpses of in the show’s opening, with the cute robot and snow….

CHARACTERS: Finally some characters I can relate to! Key game adaptations usually show a wide variety of depressing female characterizations. This doesn’t keep me from liking them, but it’s hard to form an OTP when your choices are the girl who is five years old or the one who acts like a five-year-old.

Nagisa is a huge improvement over the female leads from Air and Kanon. She is a bit naive, but she still has some smarts, as minor as they may be. What helps is how much time is devoted to rounding out each character. We get to watch Nagisa as she faces her insecurities and develops into a lovely young woman.

As much as I said before that Tomoya is a “nondescript” character, he has an excellent back story that gets elaborated on far more than is typical for a harem anime. I also liked to see how dedicated Tomoya and Nagisa were to each other. It felt refreshing to see a strong setup for an OTP in a game adapt.

And what really sets Clannad above all other Key games and game adaptations are the secondary characters. I don’t just kind of like the other girls, I love them. I can’t think of a single arc I didn’t enjoy watching. Maybe it’s because the story focuses so much more on school/everyday interactions, but I felt as if I was able to learn more about the characters and who they really are compared with other Key series where you just bump into characters from time to time.

I also really liked that the world doesn’t just revolve around Tomoya and these various girls. We see interactions with his best friend Youhei as well as Nagisa’s parents the Furukawas. This made me feel like the world as a whole was more believable and rounded out. Which in turn made me a lot more interested in what it had to show me.

CHARACTERS: Like every adaptation of a crying game, your opinion of Clannad depends on how well you like the many characters. I really like Tomoya and Nagisa, which is good for me, since it means my ship wins. If you like Tomoyo or Kyou, there are OVAs out there to satisfy your tastes. If you want anyone else to get with Tomoya, you’re kind of screwed.

As I mentioned before, Tomoya’s a very refreshing change for a lead in this kind of show. He’s seen as a bad boy around town, and he has a lot of emotional baggage curtesy of his parents. Despite all this, he just wants to get on in the world and make more friends, which he does. His interest in Nagisa’s very believable, since they have immediate chemistry, and I bought his interactions with everyone else. The parts for his character, though, come later.

Nagisa falls into the cute, earnest, and bumbling type that I’ve liked since Air, which explains why I like her. I also found her story to be interestingly different from what I’ve come to expect from these kinds of series, as her major problem deals with the drama club. Her health and confidence issues do come in, but it’s a much more believable overall story than the distinctly supernatural narratives of Air and Kanon. I really appreciate the realism of Nagisa’s and Tomoya’s stories, even if it doesn’t stay there throughout all of the other characters’ stories.

As for the other characters, Fuko is my favorite. There’s just something about her and her starfish obsession that hooks me into feeling moe for her. I also really enjoy Youhei (Tomoya’s best friend), both for having his own great storyline and for being Tomoya’s friend. They’ve got good chemistry together, and I love every time Youhei’s on screen. As for the other girls, none of them really stand out to me, but your mileage will vary depending on your taste.

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: Clannad is just amazing to watch. Every Key series seems to improve on the last both in animation as well as digital effects. Kyoto Animation is a big part of the glorious success of the animation. It also doesn’t hurt that the show takes place in spring, a naturally colorful environment. The color palette for Clannad is lively and varied, giving each scene a magical appearance.

Okay, so the characters are colored well, but what about the designs? Well, they are definitely better than those in Air and Kanon, but they aren’t much to write home about. If it weren’t for the hair and eye colors every character would look the same, even the guys. Everyone has the same square-with-a-chin-type face. I suppose the adults have a slightly elongated face shape, but the features on Nagisa’s parents could probably easily swap back and forth without looking strange on the other’s face. There is nothing really to set the men and women apart, or young from old for that matter. I’m with Crystal on this one—hasn’t anyone figured out what an old person looks like?

Eye shape changes, too! It’s a vital part of being able to tell apart Kyou and Ryou, aside from their hair. Kind of like Kagami and Tsukasa in Lucky Star….

ART STYLE/ANIMATION: This show’s gorgeous. Really, it’s just amazing. Kyoto Animation (which is known for everything pretty) animated it, so it looks stellar. I’ve heard people complain that it’s a notch down from Kanon and Haruhi, but I don’t buy it. I bet it’s eye-killingly beautiful on Blu-ray. Nobody ever goes off-model, and the backgrounds always look impressive. Given this show’s success in Japan, KyoAni has a lot of budget to pour into this kind of show.

The biggest barrier to entry may be the character designs. They all fit the mold of girls with somewhat improbable hair and large eyes, though the facial proportions aren’t as exaggerated as they are in Kanon. More irritatingly for me, all of the adults look really young, so that Nagisa’s mother can pretend to be a high schooler. Can’t people figure out how to age adults’ faces?! Miyazaki can do it, so why not this type of anime?! Maybe it’s because you’re also supposed to feel moe for Nagisa’s mom. :/

The obvious answer to this dilemma is age lines. Just throw a couple lines on their faces, and they’re bound to look older. I mean, it totally worked in Kodocha and Cardcaptor Sakura, right? XD

OVERALL: Just so you know, Crystal, I think I remember some things from the second half. I’m pretty sure there was a baseball game…oh wait, nope I think that was still the first season. Really I have to disagree with Crystal. Clannad isn’t just a preview of what is to come. You get the chance to learn about every character in depth in their own arc and still get to see the formation of the drama club and, of course, romance.

The second half was still really great and a nice change of pace. Usually we don’t get to see how people age after their high school romances, and ~After Story~ shows us, well, the after story. It is a must-watch if you want to see what happens to the OTP, but I think the main course of the series is in the first half and getting to know all the characters and see friendships build.

As much as I loved Kanon and want it to be my favorite Key adaptation, I have to say I think I enjoyed Clannad the best. Rewatching the second half, I have to say that I really enjoyed it as well…it just doesn’t leave as much of an impression.

I suppose I should disclaim that this show isn’t for all tastes, but really I think you already know who you are if you’ll like this kind of show or not.

OVERALL: The first season of Clannad is an incredibly solid adaptation of a visual novel. It’s got a good structure for getting through the stories, along with an interesting male lead to spice up the standard array of main girls. On its own, though, that’s really all that can be said about Clannad: it’s good at being a slightly-different visual novel adaptation. Where the series shines is in Clannad ~After Story~, so I just consider Clannad a prologue to the emotional punch of the sequel. Because so many visual novel adaptations exist out there, I only consider Clannad worth watching if you’re also going to watch ~After Story~ to complete the narrative and find out why it’s such an important series. So, for my sake, watch Clannad and enjoy it and all of the girls, but make sure to go watch ~After Story~ too, or you’re missing out on what all of the fuss is about. And please remember the experience, unlike Whitney. I might have to disown her for that….


Now that our winter break has started and our lives aren’t ruled by graduate school as much, we are working on some extras for the site. I like to crochet and write my own patterns, so I added a section called “crafts” to our categories. Here I’ll upload any patterns I write that are anime/manga related. So far this break I’ve created a crochet pattern for a tachikoma. So if you’re interested you can find it here. We are also working on a Christmas special, more details later. -W


2 thoughts on “Clannad

  1. Looks like we watched this at about the same time. I have mixed feelings about this one. I was not as emotionally invested as some fans were, but it certainly had its moments, both sad and funny. I still remember when Tomoya got accidentally locked in the storage shed with the other girl. This was one of the funniest moments in all of anime. How an American situation comedy has never stolen it I will never know : )

  2. Whitney’s quote: “Maybe that’s why I can’t for the life of me remember much about~After Story~; I just don’t remember any story breaks. “

    Hmm… this very much reminds me of that great moment when Tomoya and Nagisa characters stayed up all night, and “forgot” about Fuko.

    They were emotionally invested, then they could not recall … what? Huh … … who? …
    Seems like Whitney was influenced : )

    The story arc about this “girl that disappeared” was an effective one. It was what I liked best in the series. Darn it, I would say that it was serious ART!

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