Please note this review contains minor spoilers for Clannad. Nothing major or After Story related will be mentioned.
I have had trouble getting into anime in the past. I’ve tried multiple times but really could never get into it. Finally I was able to enjoy Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders but as I am up to date I needed something else. I saw a couple friends talking about this anime called “Clannad” and was bored and decided to give it a try. I was very quickly hooked in and it has quickly become on of the only entertainment related moments to actually cause me to cry. Don’t make any mistake, Clannad is not all tears there are some comedy and romance elements thrown in but we’ll get more into that later!
Clannad starts off by introducing the main character, Tomoya Okazaki, to us as well as Nagisa Furukawa and does a fairly good job setting up the story. It starts off with Tomoya stating he hates this city and pretty much everything but leaves it vague enough for you to wonder why. That’s something I feel Clannad does extremely well is gives you just enough information to not be confused but not enough to fully understand causing the eventual reveals to often surprise you even if you think you’ve got it. Anyway Nagisa and Tomoya don’t really meet here and Tomoya just files her under crazy. Eventually we are introduced to Tomoya’s best friend Youhei Sunohara. He isn’t actually all that main of a character which I found disappointing. He appears in pretty much every episode and adds great comic relief in his battles with Tomoyo Sakagami while he’s trying to trick her into revealing herself as a man (as no girl could ever be as strong as Tomoyo is!). The other major characters for Clannad include Fuko Ibuki, Kotomi Ichinose and the twins, Kyou and Ryou Fujibayashi.
Clannad means family or clan in Irish Gaelic. This is shown exceptionally well as you end up learning a little bit about all the character’s families. Some of them are more explored in the After Story but I’ll get into them next time. Clannad also has multiple mini stories put together while still attempting to keep the main story. The stories followed in Clannad are of Fuko, Kotomi and Tomoyo. The overall story is an attempt by Nagisa and Tomoya to restart the drama club as it was shut down due to not enough students wanting to join. Nagisa has always wanted to join but has health issues and is often stuck in bed (as we see many times through-out both series) Anyway while doing this they meet a freshman named Fuko who is carving starfish giving them to students inviting them to her sister’s wedding. It is later discovered that Fuko was a girl who got hit by a car on her way home from the opening ceremony and has been in a coma in the hospital ever since. It is not explained exactly how Fuko is interacting with everyone but is hinted it is her dream to get as many people as she can to enjoy her sister’s wedding. They discover Fuko’s sister, Kouko Ibuki cannot see Fuko but continue none the less, eventually Fuko starts fading from everyone’s memory and Fuko’s story is wrapped up in one of the saddest moments moments I’ve seen at Kouko’s wedding. Even though no one can even remember Fuko after this (including Nagisa and Tomoya) she appears a few more times to add brief comic relief, often in attempt to help out but usually messing it up in some way.
The second story follows Kotomi and introduces the fact that characters are aware (even if not every many of them) of this other world we’ve been seeing. In this other world there is a girl and a doll made of junk. It is described as “a world that has ended” and fits that for the most part. There are lights in this world that are explained much later and the doll is unable to actually talk to the girl being forced to nod, shake its head and point. We find out Tomoya was a childhood friend of Kotomi and that her parents, who discovered and were doing research on the other world, had died in a plane crash on their way to present information about the other world.
The final of the shorter stories involves Tomoyo and takes place mostly with present events with only a tiny part of it going into her past. After the student council refuses to let the Drama Club reform (for many reasons) Tomoya decides he needs to help Tomoyo win as president so she will be able to reinstate the club. In her story we learn her parents used to fight a lot and she would run around beating people up, her brother got sick of it as their parents were fighting over who’d keep the kids in the divorce and jumped off a bridge. When he got out of the hospital they walked under some trees on a path to the school which became to mean a lot to them. The school wants to cut them down and that turns out to be why she wants to become the student council president. There is also a little bonus episode that takes place in an alternate universe with Tomoyo and Tomoya dating with Nagisa either non-existent or Tomoyo just never met her.
The main story finally picks up fully at this point with The Drama Club putting on their play (about the other world which Nagisa somehow knows about) but the day before Nagisa learns that her parents gave up their dreams because of her illness. This leads to a very touching scene of her crying on stage and her dad yelling across the gym at her trying to convince her it was what family does. I’m going to leave it here as not to spoil anything and although it wasn’t tear jerking it was still quite sad.
Personally I think Clannad does everything really well. The animation is great, sound and songs are great, character development is quite good, although I kind of wish Tomoyo’s story was a little more flushed out as it seemed kind of lacking compared to the other two (both in length and actual contributing factors to the story), it has the perfect balance of comedy so you aren’t left too depressed but not too much so the sad bits seem awkward and out of place. Besides Tomoyo’s story I think Clannad was quite good.