Please note this review will have Clannad spoilers and will spoil minor After Story things. If you would like to read about Clannad first check out my previous review here. This review will also assume you have read my previous review or seen Clannad.
When I was nearing the end of Clannad I was feeling kind of down. It wasn’t because of anything particularly sad happening (it was around the time Tomoya and Nagisa were searching for the book to find out where the play that Nagisa knew came from) but because the journey was about to end. As I mentioned previously I really wasn’t into anime before watching Clannad and all of a sudden I was within 5 episodes of it all being over. I mentioned this to Blazekick’s very own Kel and he told me of this thing called “Clannad After Story” about their lives after high school. I thought this was just going to be some stupid cash grab to ride on Clannad’s success (I didn’t know anything about Key or their history before this) and honestly, I feel both right and wrong with that prejudgement. Let me explain why.
After Story starts off fairly soon after Clannad ends. It doesn’t give an exact time period but it is implied at least a little time has passed. It starts with Akio telling Tomoya that he needs to get a baseball team together as they’re challenging a neighboring shopping district. This team pretty much has all the main characters from Clannad with Mei, Yusuke Yoshino (the man Kouko Ibuki married in Clannad), Misae Sagara (the lady that runs the dorm Sunohara lives in) and obviously Akio. Ryou, Sanae and Nagisa sit off until Akio suffers an injury and Nagisa is forced to take his place in the game. The baseball portion contains some comedic relief but I personally feel it was a weak start to After Story. It was an easy way to help reintroduce all the characters but just seemed kind of weird.
The second part of After Story follows Mei and Sunohara. It also felt weird. I know this part was pretty much ripped directly from the Visual Novel but the problem was how they split it. What I mean is Mei first arrived in Clannad and her story started there but then she left and it continues here. A really funny part is how at first Sunohara is trying to get a girlfriend to make her think she doesn’t need to watch out for him but when every girl they know turns him down he ends up with Sanae. This adds humor (especially how he thinks she’s Nagisa’s sister not mom and it has a funny scene where he confesses his love to Akio and gets beaten up) but again feels kind of unnecessary. The second part of her story has her along with Tomoya and Nagisa trying to get Sunohara back on the soccer team. This part just seemed totally awkward especially how Sunohara thinks Tomoya broke up with Nagisa and started dating Mei and their huge fight at the end. Really a lot of the story seemed forced or awkward. That’s not even the worst story of After Story.
The third story follows Misae, the dorm lady. Honestly it isn’t that bad but feels kind of pointless. You slip into the past and find out her cat is actually a boy she knew from the past who had a Orb of Light (I’ll get into these later) and thinks he was saved by her in the hospital. She is annoyed by him at first but ends up falling in love with him. She eventually chooses her wish to be that he never leaves her (her first wish was that he’d leave her forever) and for some reason (I’m guessing he was about to die but it’s not actually explained) he leaves her pretty much right after she makes that wish. After graduating and getting the job as dorm lady, she meets the cat who ends up staying with her. Tomoya tells her this and she doesn’t question anything because Tomoya got a couple details.
The final mini story follows Yukine Miyazawa (The reference room girl since no one seems to remember her) and which I think is by far the worst part of Clannad, either Clannad or After Story. Her brother is the leader of a gang and it introduces this whole gang war conflict that really doesn’t make sense and, you guessed it, is entirely pointless to the plot! This one doesn’t even have the saving graces of comedic relief as it’s not funny, round-out explanations like the Orbs of Light or even poor execution from the Visual Novel because I’ve played Yukine’s path and the gang war stuff is not there. Her brother’s gang is and I don’t think I’d mind the story as much if it followed the Visual Novel (I even really like Yukine as a character) but Tomoya fighting the other gang before it’s revealed her brother is dead was weird and really awkward.
Now the side stories are done the main After Story. Without spoiling anything this entirely turns the disaster start around in my opinion. Any sad moments from Clannad (Fuko wishing her sister a happy marriage, Kotomi running around her house trying to find her parents and burning their document, etc) feel like almost nothing compared to what happens in After Story. It starts off simply enough with Nagisa getting sick and having to repeat her third year again. Tomoya decides to move out of the Furukawa’s after graduating and gets a job working for the electric company with Yoshino. Nagisa gets sick again but luckily had enough days that she could graduate anyway. One of the happy moments is when Nagisa is unable to go to graduation Tomoya organizes her own private graduation with all their friends. I thought it was a very good send off to all the characters while still leaving the ability to have them return (they do) and then direct contrast is when Tomoya wants Akio’s permission to merry Nagisa and has the one-on-one baseball match with him. His bad arm obviously makes this hard and eventually one pouring rain day he hits a home-run. This part was just the set up of pretty much non-stop emotions for the rest of the anime.
Once they are married there are a couple comedic moments (such as Akio taking Tomoya to Nagisa’s work to watch her in her waitress uniform) but the comedy kind of takes a back seat. It’s not sad yet, just not funny. While they are married you can tell they are super happy and pretty much don’t do anything without thinking how it will help the other. It’s really nice and continues until Nagisa mentions she wants a baby. She knows she’s weak but still wants one anyway. They decide to go along with it but I’m going to stop here. This definitely needs to be seen first hand but just know, the parts when Nagisa suggests having the baby onwards almost make-up for the rocky start After Story had.
Now Orbs of Light (finally!) Also known as Orbs of Happiness or Wish Orbs (I think Orbs of Light is the only cannon name but I’ve seen them refereed to all three by fans) are a connection between the two worlds. They appear when a person has reached maximum happiness and can be used to grant (from what I can tell) any wish that doesn’t cause a contradiction. Basically it won’t grant a wish that would have made it impossible for the person to get the orb in the first place. They really aren’t important in Clannad (I’m not even sure if they’re actually in aside from cameos, if you can call it that, in the Illusionary World) but are very important to the ending of After Story. Again I’m not going to spoil how but the last episode is one of the saddest things I have ever seen because of them both what happens in the Illusionary and real worlds.
Some final stuff that I couldn’t really fit. I really like Nagisa and Tomoya’s relationship. How they worked with and for each other, even Tomoya searching forever to find Dongo dolls even though they stopped selling them years ago. They just seemed like the perfect couple. I also really liked one of the final scenes before the baby when all their friends from school (sans Tomoyo and Yukine who both send letters saying they were busy but wish they were there) come for a New Years party as a final comic relief moment. I was also super touched by Episode 18. It was probably as a whole one of my favourite things in ANY entertainment form. It was super emotional and made me going from absolutely despising a specific character to rating them as one of the best characters in the anime (and if you’ve heard me talk about Clannad you’ll know that is not an easy feat with how many amazing characters there are). If you’ve seen it you’ll instantly know who I’m talking about.