This one episode Clannad OVA is to me one that is filled with emotions. Aside from that, it manages to do three things to the Clannad series: One, it provides the romance that was mostly minimal in Clannad. Two, it provides the drama that gradually fell from the plot after Fuko and and Kotomi's arc. And three, it allows satisfaction to Tomoyo supporters, since not everyone was a Nagisa fan. Many people expected Clannad to be a series with significant romantic struggles and a high level of drama, but it instead turned into a slice-of-life comedy after the first one or two arcs. But with this OVA, many will finally find what they have been searching for.*
It should be first clarified that this is an alternative world to the Clannad series; it's not a continuation of Clannad. Although it is only one episode, it manages to drive the plot very well without pacing issues. Except for the first few minutes where I needed to "adjust" to the situation, I was never lost or confused. Some wanted this to be two or three episodes, but I must admit that I rather like the one episode presentation, mostly because I cannot see how this OVA could improve. The suspense was always there, just right, and dragging out the story might lessen the impact that the OVA had on me, and possibly for many others as well.
Story-wise, it was excellent, and I repeat: I am not a Tomoyo fanboy. The mood in the beginning was awkward at first because I just simply didn't expect what was happening, but the relationship that Tomoyo and Tomoya have until she was made president is very romantic without ever going over the top. The story then progresses to an internal struggle in both Tomoyo and Tomoya - the struggle betwen affection and ambition. As both strive for their similar goals, they realize how much of an influence they have on each other, even after they both said their good-byes. For some reason, I was very touched by this, and every scene portraying their internal struggle and external façade was completely believable. I felt as if I was one of the two, facing the exact same pain. This is to me a sign of excellent scripting and directing, and for that, the adaptation and story gets a ten from me. The episode succeeded brilliantly at conveying the message of how love cannot be simply replaced by something else because love cannot be easily sacrificed and forgotten.
I must admit that there were several noticeable inconsistencies about animation, which makes me think that Kyoto Animation did not try very hard animating this OVA. However, that's comparing the OVA to Kyoto Animation standards. To the casual viewer, this episode would be beautiful from Tomoyo's expressions, which is very unlike her usual "tough" expressions, to the scenery of the snow falling in the background. I don't want to over-criticize an episode served mostly as a promotion to remind us of Clannad for After Story, so I will give this category a solid nine.
Well I wasn't really impressed by the score of this episode, but then again, I'm never really satisfied. An eight means that I most did not notice the background music due to it being not exceptionally engaging but also not bad enough to be annoying. But then, there's "Ana," the Engrish song at the end of the series which was very hard to listen to. To be honest, the melody of the song was perfect for the scene, but since English is my main language, I tried to comprehend the words of the song, which did not work very well. However, I will still give this category an eight because I will give this OVA the benefit of the doubt that a Japanese viewer would not be distracted by this song. It was really hard watching a serious scene while trying not to laugh at how bad the lyrics are.
As I mentioned before, not only was I absorbed into the episode, I felt the emotions of the characters. Tomoya and Tomoyo seemed to real, and everything was clicking into place - the background, the scenes, the dialogs. What I love best was how Youhei was handled. Even in such a serious episode as this, he still gave the viewers a few laughs like he did in the Clannad series, but not enough to distract from the mood. I think that the strongest aspect of the series is how the characters were portrayed.
If enjoyment means sitting through the episode feeling as if you have never even taken one breath, then yes, it was very enjoyable. Analysis aside, this is one of the few series that gave me a "wow" feeling after watching it without doing any extra thinking. In short, it was just a good experience sitting through the episode, and at the end, I started thinking that I was definitely glad to be able to see this OVA.
Because this is still a typical romance/drama, a nine is the highest I can give it. However, I will say that it did impact me quite a lot. I see Tomoya and Tomoyo as two people I should look up to, two people I should strive to be. They have their ambitions, and even though their obstacles were each other, they managed to overcome that obstacle to achieve their goal. What I learned from this series is that I have to also strive for what I believe in, because who knows? Maybe what I left behind will return to me later on.
*Just for clarification, I do not dislike the Clannad series.