Under the gift basket came an anime by Jun Maeda, Key, and Kyoto Animation, also known as one of the more famous anime series, Clannad. Justin got it for his Secret Santa.

ClannadWhere does a young studio go after adapting Full Metal Panic (Fumoffu and The Second Raid), Air, Haruhi Suzumiya, Kanon, and Lucky Star into moderately successful anime? You go and adapt your third Key visual novel in a 2 year span. Out of the Key adaptations, Clannad might be the most famous VN turned into anime. Was it because it’s the only one to get a sequel, do something new, or it’s genuinely good?

Well, even before I started blogging in 2011 Clannad has been one of those “anime that makes you cry/sad”, so I’ve heard plenty about it, and still do today. I’ve experienced those emotions when watching Kanon. The problem is the last time I watched Kanon was sometime in high school, which translates to eons today. At some point I will go and watch it just to see if it holds up. Instead, thanks to the Reverse Thieves Secret Santa project, I’m finally watching the anime KyoAni decided to work on after animating Lucky Star.

ClannadThere are always people who know exactly what they want to do thanks to how they grow up. There are always people who don’t care about what they want to do thanks to how they grow up. In Clannad, Tomoya Okazaki is in the latter portion, as he’s a boring, unmotivated senior at Hikarisaka High School living in what he calls a boring town. Why? Well at this point in his life, he lost his mom in an accident as a kid and his dad’s a drinker/gambler. He then lost his chance in basketball after a fight with his dad hurt his shoulder. Nothing has gone well for him, so with no aspirations, and lack of enthusiasm in school, little has changed Tomoya’s attitude.

Assuredly enough, a girl he had never met before enters his life. Nagisa Furukawa is a super shy, almost naive girl who questions change and if that’s a good thing. When Tomoya counters her thoughts, the journey between how they become lovers begins, and it starts out as simply as possible: reviving a dead Drama Club.

As it’s based off a VN, there’s competition for Tomoya: the sisters Kyou and Ryou Fujibayashi; Tomoyo, a transfer student who can’t do wrong in anything she does; Kotomi, the pride of this site as an anti-social genius; and Fuko, a girl nowhere near trying to love him but is an important cog in his life nonetheless. The series initially gives us some traits on all of them but then puts together arcs for each character, except for the sisters to an extent. Or at least compared to the others, who end up getting an arc that’s not only personal for them, but ends up being super personal to Tomoya.

So, how did those arcs go for me?

Fuko and her big sister

ClannadOut of all the arcs, this turned out to be the saddest one for me. That might be because it home for me personally. You want to do almost whatever it takes to stay relevant, or at least be known to a special few for a long time. For Fuko, her efforts to try and get the student body to attend her sister’s wedding is thwarted by the fact that she’s nothing more than a ghost. That fact gets punctuated (ok, this is actually the second fact but I won’t reveal the real fact because spoilers) is when the school, even some of her closest friends, slowly forget her and what she wanted despite efforts to change that because she’s disappearing.

That’s why the idea of leaving something for people to remember you by stood out strongly in this arc. I think most people want to leave some sort of memory behind so as time passes on there’s always that moment or gift those special friends or family remembers them by. For me, I question from time to time whether I can do enough to have friends or family remember what I did, or whether time will wash that all away. Otherwise, thanks to the build up and how Tomoya and Nagisa reacted, it overcame, for all intents and purposes, a fairly annoying at times character to be an unforgettable arc for me.

Kotomi and her parents past

ClannadThis one was not bad, not great. Probably just good. The idea that Kotomi and Tomoya were tied together in the past was fine, but the revelation about what happened to Kotomi’s parents, and what they did felt weak. To explain without spoiling everything, as Tomoya and crew attempted to build her confidence up in class (after all, she is an anti-social genius), they then throw in how important Kotomi’s parents were, and with flashbacks, reveal some pretty dumb things. The end of that was touching, but, and I know it’s anime, the lead up was super sketchy.

I think the only other thing that stood out was Tomoya trying to put in the effort to help Kotomi out…which meant taking time off school to clean her lawn. Seems super weird, until you think about where Tomoya was, what’s been revealed, and where he’s at now, and it’s fairly decent.

Nagisa’s “Fantasia Story”

ClannadI would love to spoil that Nagisa and Tomoya don’t actually become a couple in this anime, but…if you’ve heard of this anime before (and seen the artwork), and if you’ve heard of After Story, then you know that this is where this anime was heading. The only question was how would it get there.

Would you believe it starts with something serious?

To be fair, the anime teased a bigger picture during some episodes. However, it starts this arc by forcing an unreliable side character to explain how no matter what type of injury or affliction you have, no one should immediately sympathize with you. I say forced because it tries hard to make that point but feels unnatural. But that said, in a way, this is true. Obviously it sucks, but there’s no way around the fact that people have their own lives to live, and they’re fortunate to not have anything that can set them back. They can’t worry about everyone’s injuries or setbacks. That’s why for those in that unfortunate position, they have to do whatever they can to overcome that.

After this arc, they then finally explain what’s with those images involving a girl and her doll (I thought it was a robot, but ok), and, for the most part, this was fine. There was a line by Nagisa’s dad that was really good that sets up the reasons why Nagisa’s dad and mom dropped what they were doing in their lives to focus on her. Combined with Nagisa discovering what has ailed her for a long time, it was certainly dramatic. I can’t say I completely enjoyed it (felt melodramatic at times), but it was effective, and with that close, it was certainly a good way to end Clannad.

ClannadTomoyo x Tomoya

From a purely fan perspective, this is great. Out of the main girls in the anime, Kyou and Tomoyo were my favorites, so to see one of them get an arc in an alternate timeline with Tomoya was fine. From actually analyzing the episode, this was bad. They probably didn’t think it would fit in this episode, but to not actually acknowledge Nagisa in the episode was weird. Like they could have still been friends, but it instead seems to start where Nagisa and Tomoya never met? At least, I think? Whatever the case, it’s already off to a bad start. It manages to get worse when they bring up how far apart the worlds of Tomoya (a delinquent) and Tomoyo (Student President) are. Maybe it could’ve worked, but I don’t think it was executed all that well.

Clannad has been one of those anime I’ve meant to watch for a while. Now that I have, I can see why it was suggested to me — even despite its age, I think it holds up well. Clannad: After Story is supposed to be superior to this one, so maybe next year I’ll check it out and find out why. Otherwise, if you have been like me and haven’t seen Clannad, then you might wanna give it a shot. It’s currently streaming on Hulu.