The Clannad visual novel was adapted into what became my favorite anime of all time. Once I saw the anime, I wanted to see how Clannad began. Buying the Clannad visual novel was one of the best things I have ever done, and I have spent dozens of hours playing through it. Now that all is said and done, it is time to discuss the best (and the worst) routes of the Clannad visual novel.
For those who do not know, Clannad has twelve routes in total. Eleven of these are usually called the "school routes." The twelfth one is called "After Story," which is considered to be the main story of Clannad. For this article, we will be looking at the eleven school routes from worst to best.
Now, without further ado, let the countdown begin!
11. Kappei Hiiragi's Route
I am forever grateful that Kyoto Animation decided against adapting Kappei into the anime. He should not exist. The only purpose for Kappei's existence is to help Clannad appeal to an audience that is into seeing feminine male characters in anime. In street argot, I believe the proper term is "queerbaiting." In the end, Kappei's route does nothing more than discredit the other characters of Clannad.
Kappei is the only supporting character that serves no purpose outside of his route. He walks into the picture, absorbs some of Tomoya's time, and leaves without adding any development to Clannad's story or its characters. While Ryou Fujibayashi has a prominent role in Kappei's route, Ryou's appearance is actually a detriment to her character. She starts out as the cute and shy girl she is in every route. Over time, she becomes much more confident and bold. This metamorphosis should be reserved solely for her own route, and seeing it here is very unsettling. To summarize, Kappei's route does nothing more than worsen the Clannad experience.
10. Toshio Koumura's Route
Koumura serves two purposes in Clannad. The first is to act as the bridge between the main cast and Kouko Ibuki in Fuko's route. The second is to be the drama club advisor. These two roles are not enough to constitute a memorable character. As a way to combat this, Key decided to give him his own short route in Clannad. Unfortunately, his route is more of a stumbling block than anything.
A little down the line in Nagisa's route is where you branch off to Koumura's route, and if you play through the routes of Clannad in the recommended order, you will end up going through Koumura's route right before Nagisa's. So, you go through half of Nagisa's route, sidetrack to Koumura's, and then repeat Nagisa's. This is bothersome for a first playthrough, especially since you have to go through this extra trouble for such an unnoticeable character.
9. Misae Sagara's Route
I like Misae, so I am reluctant to put her so low on the list. To be fair, Misae has even less impact on the story than Koumura, with her only other highlights being in the baseball route and an optional performance in an event in Nagisa's route. Out of all the routes in Clannad, Misae's is the shortest, which can be bad or good, depending on how much you like her. The route also has a cliffhanger ending. What puts Misae over Koumura is simply having a more attractive personality that makes for a more memorable character.
8. Mei/Yohei Sunohara's Route
The Sunohara siblings certainly have their fans, so some of you may be put off by me placing them so low. They are good characters, but I do not like them enough to want a whole route just for them. Yohei Sunohara is prominent in nearly every route of the visual novel. I like seeing his relationship with Mei, but after seeing him in the game so much, I would not want to spend an extra five hours just on him.
Mei's main role is to help add depth to Yohei's character, and her inclusion is also a benefit for Tomoya. Tomoya is seen as somewhat of a big brother in the Sunohara route, which is a side of him we do not see anywhere else. Still, Mei serves few purposes, and her brother may alienate some fans. The route has merit, but not enough to reach higher on the list.
7. The Baseball Route
The baseball route is an optional route to help people new to Clannad become familiar with as many characters as possible in a short amount of time. In fact, the scenes in Clannad that are unique to the baseball route amount to only around an hour’s worth of playtime. However, the experience is not just in that last hour; it is also in all of the optional dialogue that should be read. Despite having little impact on the world of Clannad, the baseball route is an excellent gateway that proves to be very enjoyable for new and old players.
6. Yukine Miyazawa's Route
The story of Yukine's route is fairly simple. Tomoya meets Yukine, there are some fun hijinks between the two and some other characters, and it ends in a way one would expect from a romance visual novel. Amongst all of the routes in Clannad, Yukine's is the most relaxing. It lacks the melodrama that is prominent throughout all of Clannad. The dynamic it adds to Clannad is what makes it important. Despite that, it is not on the same level that the main routes are on. Even so, Yukine still gets the accolade for the best route among the supporting cast.
5. Nagisa Furukawa's Route
It is not surprising that the top five spots in this countdown are held by the five main female characters. What is surprising is Clannad's heroine being placed behind the other four. While the other main girls have sound conclusions to their routes, Nagisa's simply cannot stand on its own. I was also disappointed when only a couple of the other main girls joined her in her route. I expected to see everyone working together to make Nagisa's story great. If they did, perhaps Nagisa would be ranked higher on this list.
Despite my criticism, I really enjoyed Nagisa's route. The story of Nagisa's and Tomoya's relationship was told somewhat differently than it was in the anime, but it was just as good. If you see the anime and read the visual novel, a change of pace in story is refreshing. Even though Nagisa's route is not the best, the heroine of Clannad has plenty to deliver. It is just a shame that the route cannot stand by itself.
4. Fuko Ibuki's Route
Fuko's arc in season one of Clannad remains one of my favorite parts of the series, and her route in the novel may even be better! While Fuko's story in the novel is pretty much exactly like her arc in the anime, a visual novel has interactive features. On a semi-regular basis, you will get options to pull pranks on Fuko. While there is an achievement for pulling pranks in a certain order, you will probably have more fun mixing and matching options at your leisure. This extra feature is the one thing that moves Fuko's route from fifth to fourth.
My only criticism for Fuko's route is that I found the ending to be a bit forced. Also, looking around the community gives me the impression that Fuko is the least favorite of the main cast, and I am no exception. Opinions always matter, and it would be wrong to put Fuko any higher than fourth place, despite having the most interactive route of the visual novel.
3. Kotomi Ichinose's Route
Something interesting about Kotomi is that she is the only main girl to only appear in her own route. Despite this, Kotomi's route is one of the best written and most enjoyable parts of the Clannad visual novel. In fact, that is exactly why her route is so good. Kotomi is special, and she has a whole seven hours of play time set aside just for her development. Kotomi's route is certainly a contender for anyone's favorite of the visual novel.
What sets Kotomi apart from the other characters would have to be just how tragic her tale is. Kotomi's past goes just as far back in time as Nagisa's, and the trials she has gone through make up the darkest backstory out of any of the main cast. Kotomi is a deeper character than anyone else in Clannad, and she wins the hearts of many fans who play through her route in the visual novel.
2. Kyou/Ryou Fujibayashi's Route
As I lurked about, searching for opinions on the best route of Clannad, Kyou was the most frequent answer. Looking at my username, one might think I like her as well. The reason for the route's popularity is that the love triangle between Tomoya, Kyou, and her dandere twin sister makes for a love story that appeals to a wide range of audiences. Also, out of all the main routes of Clannad, this is the only one to completely shut off every other main girl. Even Kotomi's route had help from the others, but the Fujibayashi twins pull this route through by themselves with nothing going for them except just being fantastic characters.
There is a metamorphosis that the twins go through throughout the route, primarily Ryou. As I mentioned while discussing Kappei, Ryou's journey takes her from a shy, love-struck girl to a confident woman. Kyou also goes past what is initially perceived as a standard-issue tsundere girl that switches between rash and kind. She battles between supporting her sister and pursuing her own affections for Tomoya. This love triangle entangled with coming-of-age elements makes for the most popular route among Clannad fans.
And yet, despite my love for the Fujibayashi twins, there is one other. This girl is such a great character, she got her own visual novel. Finally, at number one…
1. Tomoyo Sakagami's Route
Yes, the greatest route of the Clannad visual novel belongs to none other than Tomoyo Sakagami! As fantastic as the rest of the main cast is, she has a few aspects that push her to the top. Maybe it is her fierce determination that many of us crave. It could be that a regular girl working hard for the sake of a loved one is very relatable. Is it the realistic tale of young people battling between their love for each other and the sake of their futures? It is in fact all of these things, combined with how well they blend into the world of Clannad.
Excluding Nagisa's, Tomoyo's route is the only one to discuss Tomoya's relationship with his father. The other routes also dismiss what happens to the characters after the credits roll. It is for these reasons that Tomoyo's route is the best. It feels more complete than any other route, and I think it is because Key realized this that they gave Tomoyo an After Story. Tomoyo Sakagami is the best character of the Clannad visual novel, and her route is the pinnacle of the Clannad experience.
Now if only Kyou could get an After Story…
And that is it for the countdown. If you are wondering whether I like the anime or the visual novel better, I do not have a preference. I think they are part of the same whole, and they should be treated fairly for their respective mediums. And above all else, I hope you will give them a try! Now it is time for me to play through Side Stories and Tomoyo After. This will take a while.
Clannad (Visual Novel by Key)