Clannad proves that anime can even convey the most dearest of emotions.
I remembered the first real steps that I took into the anime world a few years ago. Not the regular shows you saw on television as a kid, but really diving into it. Discovering new shows for the first time. I recall Gosick as one of the first series I picked up back then. It was still rather fresh. I browsed through many shows and stumbled upon Clannad, with its misleading ‘harem’ category tag. I thought I would just skip it, only to come back again and consequently encountering one of my all time favorites. As of today I have rewatched Clannad and Clannad After Story multiple times.
Clannad tells the story of Okazaki Tomoya who detests the city he lives in. Everything is terrible and works against him. He’s just passing through his high school days without any real purpose. One day he meets Nagisa, an insecure, shy girl. After their faithful encounter a romance stars to flourish, but not as rose colored as you might expect.
Where many romance anime tend to go on an utopian love trip, Clannad takes it upon itself to prove different. The theme can be pretty confronting at times. Tomoya is a failure at school and Nagisa, just like Tomoya, a social outcast. This brings a lot of story elements that may resonate with many viewers. Not everybody is popular and gets good grades all the time. Everything has a certain balance and sometimes it topples over.
Clannad goes beyond the high school setting, which is a nice change of pace within the genre. It takes you through multiple stages of the young couples life. School, work, adult- and parenthood. It’s a very welcoming dynamic that really makes you bond with the characters. You get the feeling you were with them through it all. A powerful mechanism to keep the viewer at the edge of his or her seat through the whole ride.
Given, the show is not perfect. As with many series, Clannad is divided into multiple arcs. And of course not all arcs are as equally strong. One of the first arcs in the Clannad franchise, about the ghost girl Fuuko, is actually pretty captivating. On the flipside, the arc with Sunohara and his vengeful past with the soccer club is one that is almost agonizing to watch and doesn’t feel like it adds much to the bonding between Nagisa and Tomoya overall.
Clannad shines when it focuses on the interactions between Tomoya and Nagisa. As Tomoya grows towards Nagisa and her family, he makes a substantial emotional development that really makes him a sympathetic character. While their relationship grows, you’ll get a greater sense of engagement with the show. When you’re rewatching Clannad, you’ll be waiting for those moments. The strongest story arcs start at mid way Clannad After story, so you’ll have to sit through some decent part of the series before the real action really starts to launch. But, do not be afraid, the buildup is strong and is necessary to lay the strong foundations for the main plot.
The full 1080p Blu-Ray version of Clannad(AF) is truly a spectacle for the eyes, even despite airing years ago it is still gorgeous. The characters have great detail and the environments are lively. The opening sequence of Clannad After Story is especially esthetically pleasing.
The soundtrack can, at emotional scenes, really pull the heartstrings and make the effect even more dramatic. During the less intense scenes, the music is adequate, but not really noteworthy. It’s rather quirky even. It’s one of the typical Maeda Jun touches.
Clannad and Clannad AF are a well balanced package. The series has its stronger and weaker arcs, but the interactions between the two main characters is where the show is at its best. The interactions feel natural and really take you on an emotional rollercoaster not many anime series can establish. I therefore rate Clannad(AF) a 9 out of 10 for its more than stellar performance.