"Poignant. Compelling. Heartbreaking. Clannad is one of the most cherished anime of all times."
The first time I watched Clannad was back in 2008, and I just finished re-watching it for the 3rd time this past few days. Now I realize that will take years before I watch something that does the same impact on me like this anime did. I was moved by it the first time I watched, and the third as well, but surprisingly in a different way. Throughout all anime history this is one of the most notorious series in the romance/drama genre, not only for the emotional load it carries but also for the effects and different reactions it causes on the people who watched it.
The quote at the beginning of the review is from the description of the blu-ray edition. Of course they wouldn't bad-mouth their own release on the disc cover, but it's so honest and true that I couldn’t find a better way to introduce this review (I just removed the "and now it's available in HD!" part, obviously.)
I'd like to start this review, if I may, going straight to the point; the main reason why some people avoid Clannad.
"It's too cute."
Yes man, it is. I agree with you. There were times I thought to myself "this would never happen in the real world" but what is the problem? Appreciating these beautiful moments won't bruise you. "You'll cry" is also a sentence often read in reviews. I admit, I wrote it on my After Story review, but it's not mandatory! Nobody is obligated to cry or feel sad, it's just that the anime is so strong that it makes a lot of people cry. Even if you're not really into drama or romances, give it a try. If you dislike then drop the 2nd season, but complete this one! It's one in a lifetime experience, I dare to say you'll enjoy at least half of the show.
The Clannad collection is undoubtedly a well known anime. Even though, the After Story receive much more attention than the first season. Mostly because it's more "touching" than its predecessor, but it wouldn't be the same and wouldn't even exist without this prequel. It's the entire set that makes Clannad the masterpiece it is.
Some people end up watching After Story before the first series. The storyline is set in a way it's not necessary watch the first season to understand what is going on, the characters are introduced again and it's a different theme. However, I cannot guarantee that you will enjoy the show as much as someone who watched the 1st season before.
Clannad is something I would recommend even to a friend who have never watched any kind of anime. There is no need to have a "anime background" in order to enjoy it, it's something everyone, without exceptions, can watch. Despite the genre, age, tastes... There is no gore, violence, profanity, battles... it's just the classical slice-of-life humor mixed with a lovely romance, that proves how strong some stories can be by themselves without any kind of "attractive" or fan-service.
Do you know anyone who's a little depressed and is now reading some kind of self-help book trying to see the "beauty of life"? Recommend to him/her this anime.
If I were to define this series with one word, I'd say it's "charming". It's an anime to be enjoyed, appreciated. All the aspects of it, including art, soundtrack, characters but specially story.
When we were little, we used to find everything amazing, even the most stupid and simple thing was something amusing. We had a hell of a time with friends, laughing for no reason... But, suddenly it's all gone.
All those great mementos are now just vague memories and you're stuck in a boring and endless routine. This are the thoughts of our male protagonist, Tomoya Okazaki. And this little fragment from the first scene gives you already an idea of how the story will progress. However these are also thoughts we all have inside of us, and that's why Clannad's story becomes so realistic at some point, because it's close to reality, a reality some people have experienced themselves.
Don't worry, this sadness isn't the main focus of the story. Clannad is a heartwarming tale. Our protagonist will make many friends along the way, and with them new situations will appear, turning his lonely days into something much more enjoyable, happy, and also mysterious.
Jun Maeda and the screenwriters from Key did a marvelous job with the development of some points from the story, keeping some surprises hidden until the very end.
Clannad is a character-driven anime. Since it's based in a Visual Novel by Key, KyoAni decided to maintain the same setting, that's why it is divided into "arcs", each one focusing in a specific character.
When you say on a review that one series has these arcs, a lot of people usually interprets it with a prejudgment that it's bad because they think it will completely focus in one character during some episodes and leave the rest like if they were in "standby". This is not how it works with this series. Clannad was divided into arcs because that's how the Visual Novel was done, it was already like this, KyoAni just decided to follow the order. Even though, these arcs are all tight together and some 'themes' are continuously being developed, sometimes on the background but also taking the main stage at some episodes.
While talking about characters, I must praise those who imagined and designed them. From my standpoint, they're original, unique.
Nagisa, for example, has a strong personality but is easily turned down, she's caring but also very naive. It must seems incoherent but this is where things gets interesting. These characters' personalities aren't "fixed", and just like us, they change as the time passes by. Watching a character that's plain and you can predict its next action is boring. Stereotypes like the "tsundere friend" will always be present because in a way or another they're trademarks of slice-of-life. Even though, the way they're interpreted and the actions these characters take is what makes the difference between the average and the outstanding.
Kyoto Animation has always impressed me with the visuals and the details you can get from their animes. As expected from a high budget company they have in their hands the most recent software. That said, the artwork was also a joy. It's common to see wallpapers of Clannad around the internet, just another proof of it.
The placement and setting for the story was really well done, all the buildings and alleys seemed like a small countryside city. Same goes for the characters, they all have a clean and careful outline with that "moe" style KyoAni has. Like said before, KyoAni did an adaptation of the original story, so it means they had almost everything of the storyline done, this way they could focus on improving and include minor "spoilers" and visual jokes from the later chapters into the very first episodes which is great because when you finally get to those episodes, you have that déjà vu kind of feeling and remember they did hint you about that.
The soundtrack chosen and created for this series is something to give praise. I was astonished with the OST. They included some really emotional piano pieces for the strong scenes but also relaxing songs for the happy moments.
Although, they did a huge mistake with the ED. Not that it was the wrong song, Dango Daikazoku is addictive and a cute melody, however, there were lots of emotional endings throughout the anime, but after that heartbreaking scene, they throw the usual ending theme. Ok, Dango is a great melody but it isn't perfect for every moment. You can't have a happy and a sad ending with the same song! In some scenes, it ruined the entire emotional atmosphere that was built up. This would be one of the few reasons for me to remove some points from Clannad score.
I once read this marvelous anonymous quote:
-"Oh, now I understand why there are few doujinshi of this anime"
and a caption followed: "otaku after watching the complete Clannad series."
It's true! The story is perfect the way it is, nobody wants to mess with it.
It's a complicated thing to say "that series is the best anime of all times", this is something too relative. Even rankings like the one here on MAL aren't trustful. I'm not saying that it's wrong! It's just that these things are extremely relative since each website of anime has it own community and, as well, some differences in the rankings. Even though, there's one thing you can take as "absolute". If an anime is acclaimed by the majority of the critic during years it must mean it's good. I hope I was able to make a point, and at least convince some of you to watch it.
[...] adfghkjgfdssSorry, just sweeping my tears of the keyboard.