Jun 15, 2010
Clannad (Anime) add (All reviews)
kajia (All reviews)
I have to thank "Clannad", for increasing my Japanese vocabulary and introducing me to a new word. While watching "Clannad" at my local anime soc, I could feel a certain something radiating from it. I'd encountered similar feelings before from other anime, but never quite so strongly. By the end of it, I picked up a new word to go with that feeling.

That word is "moe". I'd never come across the word before "Clannad", and but I sure as hell knew it's meaning afterwards. It describes a feeling that originates from the sweetness of the female characters. But it's not a charming kind of sweetness that you get from, say, "Aria". It's an extreme kind of sweetness, the kind you get from gorging yourself on the icing from a cake, the kind of sweetness that makes your tooth ache and your stomach churn. I can't stand this kind of sweetness because it's artificial, arising from a cynical, calculated attempt on the makers part to portray the girls as cutely as possible. Taken to this kind of extremes, it has no real substance and serves only as an obstacle to good characterisation.

You can tell pretty quickly that "Clannad" is blatently based on a harem VN or a dating sim. The main protagonist doesn't waste much time hooking up with about 12 different girls. What's more, the character designs, with their various hair colour extracted from almost all major parts of the visible spectrum, are exactly what you'd expect from the source material. There's the Brown Haired Girl, the Blue Haired Girl (they don't even need names, and to be honest they don't deserve names), the Grey Haired Girl etc, and even a pair of Purple Haired Twins. In fact I'm surprised to see the roster is missing a Pink Haired Girl. Of course, a generically distinct personality is assigned to each girl. Now, "generically distinct" may sound like an oxymoron, but I assure you it is not. The girls' personalities are all distinct from one another, however they all conform to their own generic archetype that can be readily identified within about 20 seconds of their introduction. There's the Adorably-Childish Girl (aka Green Haired Girl), the Shy Girl (aka one half of the Purple Haired Twins), the Feisty Girl (aka the other half of the Purple Haired Twins) etc etc. Again, I'm surprised to see the roster missing a Ditzy Girl - maybe they deliberately missed one out in order to prevent the whole thing from becoming even more painfully transparent than it already is. It also soon becomes obvious that, though all the girls shows interest in the main character, for the purpose of the "Clannad" playthrough, er, I mean, storyline, the main character's "target" is Generically Sweet Girl (aka Brown Haired Girl).

Though I guess "Clannad" is technically not quite a harem, since there's another guy in the cast besides the main character, it may as well be one, because the other guy in question qualifies as a man only by technicalities. Practically, he's more like some sub-human creature, perhaps on about the same level as a worm, and is suitably treated as one too. Most of the girls treat him with distain and none of them are interested in him in the slightest. To be fair, the main character himself isn't quite your average harem lead, and for this reason, I've given him some more respect than the others characters by actually looking up his name for the purpose of this review (I'm bad with Japanese names and can never remember them): he's called Okazaki Tomoya. For some reason I keep thinking he's called Kyon... I think it's because like Kyon from "Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuuutsu", he sticks out as the lone, sarcastic voice of relative reason amongst a sea of irrational madness. Anyway, I digress... as I was saying, what make Tomoya different from a typical harem lead is that although he is a bit of a good for nothing person, he's at least more charismatic and confident than that typical loser-but-nice stereotype that's recycled through most harems, and so you can at least kind of see why he's able to get on quite well with his, er, harem.

Other than the insane amount of moe, another thing that stood out about "Clannad" (in a bad way) is the insane amount of heavy handed emotional manipulation injected into the show. This show has more of it than "Saikano", and THAT is saying something. I bristle at the sight of the slice-of-life tag attached to this title, because this show completely sacrifices any sort of realism associated with that genre in favour of trying to artificially invoke more emotions from the viewer with unbelivable and outrageously melodramatic storylines. The "tragic" backstories for the various characters pasts are so contrived that at times it feels like a competition between them to see which one can be more ridiculous and unrealistic. It's a competition that is eventually won by Blue Haired Girl's (aka Nerd Girl) backstory involving a teddy bear. It's a story that is so "moving" that it had everyone in the room bursting into tears. Tears of laughter that is. Moreover, most of the girls - Blue Haired girl being a prime example - simply disappears into the background once their part of the story is over, and the shift in focus from one girl to the next is so swift and ruthless I found it kind of off putting. What's the point of spending an arc fleshing out these characters if they simply get swept under the carpet again once their part of the story is over? Brown Haired Girl is probably the only person who's presence can be felt throughout the series, and that's only because she's obviously the girl who's gonna hook up with Tomoya's eventually (but don't worry, if you don't like this ending, Kyoto Animation has rather helpfully made several "Clannad" OVA's that are basically alternative playthroughs where Tomoya picks someone else).

Only one of the supposedly tragic situations did not come off as overly melodramatic, and that's the one involving Tomoya's family situation with his dad. However, it's side story that's really jarringly integrated into the show. It comes into the show's focus randomly with little apparent purpose. It also feels out of place when placed against the cheesily cheerful parts, and what's more did not really come to any conclusion. It's almost as though when given this piece of material with genuine potential, the makers of "Clannad" didn't quite know what to do with it. As a result it feels like a bit of a tag on without much purpose.

I'm really glad that I watched this with my local anime society, because with my stubborness of finishing what I start, watching this whole thing through by myself probably would have killed me. I remember trying to catch up with the episodes on the weeks where I couldn't make it to the society showings, and I literally had to split each episode into two or three chunks to be able to complete it - I just couldn't stomach watching more than a few minutes of it at a time. And no wonder - with its sickeningly strong stench of moe, ludicrously contrived stories and array of cardboard template cut-outs masquerading as female characters, just what is there to like for someone who's not into moe or extremely sappy melodrama?