Clannad Set 1
Based on the visual novel from Key, Clannad follows a jaded and cynical high school student named Tomoya. After a life filled with tragedy (mother died, father became a drunk gambler, I’m sure he had a dog run away at some point), Tomoya has decided that he’s done with being friendly. After meeting a girl named Nagisa he has friendly kind of thrust upon him. Befriending the girl, Tomoya’s life takes new twists that he wasn’t expecting. Working with Nagisa to revive the drama club, the task will lead him through a variety of experiences. First the pair will be distracted by a girl named Fuko who needs help passing out invitations to her older sister’s wedding before moving onto the quiet genius Kotomi who needs help making friends.
Good and the Bad
Originally airing in 2007, Clannad has been heavily praised as a series that excels in moe. Filled with cute characters, an arguably engaging story and enough drama to keep fans gushing; Clannad is supposed to be a series that gives fans of the genre something special to enjoy. Really?
From the very beginning, Clannad makes no effort to hide what it is or where it came from. The opening animation plays out like a nicely done visual novel OP complete with character screens followed by a long string of character introductions once the episode begins. To make this easy on viewers I’ll let you know that only about half the characters introduced throughout the first two episodes will actually be of consequence for the first half of the series. But it’s not like you’re actually going to notice this anyway.
Let’s get this out of the way right now… this is hardly a series that one can call ugly. The character designs are all capable of bringing out that sweet, gentle quality that they’re supposed to. When the series wants to hit one of its many dramatic moments (which we are going to get to in due time), the contrast in the backgrounds does its job of creating a tangibly heavy atmosphere. So we’ve established that if you’re looking for something pretty to look at, Clannad fits this bill.
So, why is a series that is just filled with wonderful artwork suffering from such a disparity in character design? There are approximately six girls surrounding Tomoya (I may have misplaced a couple): three of them have straight long hair (Fuko, Tomoyo and Kyou). Kyou has extra decoration in her hair but there’s not even a huge difference in hair color. In artistic design, it seems small initially. Clannad goes one step further by repeating personality types; one tsundere is usually enough for a series. At least two, Tomoyo and Kyou, qualify for this title so far in Clannad. Plus there is one set of sisters named Kyou and Ryou. Did no one stop to think that this might have been slightly confusing for viewers?
Once you get into the actual substance of the series, it’s easy to see why a crowd has gathered around this series. For a moe series filled with cute and angst, Clannad manages to be consistently funny throughout the first half of the series. That being said, let’s note that it’s also sometimes it’s at its funniest unintentionally. The jokes and comedy in Clannad come mostly from Tomoya’s banter with the girls in his life and if you’re into school comedies, these scenes are going to be great for you. During the first arc especially, Fuko provides some wonderful comic relief for the series though Tomoyo is always funny in her running gag.
Unfortunately some of the most hilarious moments of Clannad are when they attempt to be serious. Early in the series, Tomoya has a heartfelt moment with Nagisa in the rain. In that moment, the music grows tense and the mood is dark. And with a strong voice, Tomoya shares a secret with Nagisa about his past. And I laughed… a lot. Coming with the genre, Clannad does it’s very best to deliver on the deep heartfelt drama that these characters have within them. And they want to be incredibly dramatic and hit you with a deep moment. Instead a lot of these scenes just come across as cheesy and overdone. Later dramatic moments do have varying degrees of success but Kyoto Animation never finds any sort of footing to stand on with their drama.
To listen to this rant, it’d be easy to dismiss the series entirely. Barring the characters and dramatic moments (or lack thereof), Clannad is a series that is hard to walk away from once you get started. Early in the series, the Fuko story arc does a lot of things right for the series that makes time seem to fly by. Running gags are established early involving Tomoyo which become a segment fans can start looking forward to early.
It’s worth noting that three people are credited for the music in this series: Jun Maeda, Magome Togoshi and Shinji Orito. All three have worked on other moe series (such as Air) while Maeda was the scenario writer and composer for Air, Clannad and Kanon. So it makes sense that the music in Clannad is as tame as it is. Mostly made up of electronic sounding piano and string themes, nothing in this background music stood out as particularly notable. The opening theme (“Megumeru ~cuckool mix 2007~ (メグメル～cuckoo mix 2007～)” sung by eufonius) was similarly disappointing. While on a base level, the music in Clannad was never ineffective at striking a chord with its audience for the scene. It’s nothing memorable or anything that would play well out of context.
Disc 1 contains clean animations.
If you want to be really nitpicky about your entertainment, Clannad will give you a lot to be annoyed about. Go into Clannad being safely assured that this is a purely moe series and enjoy it for what it is. It’s not the pinnacle of its genre; in fact even if you take everything into consideration the first half remains fairly average. What Clannad does succeed in doing however is setting up a simple romantic comedy that isn’t to be taken too seriously If you’re in need of a moe fix, the first half of Clannad can give you that and still have plenty leftover. You’re not missing anything if you skip it though.