I’ve wanted to review this one for a while now.
Clannad is one of those series that is near and dear to many people’s hearts. I talked about it recently, as my second favorite story of all time, and from what I know, it was an emotional trip for almost everyone that’s watched it. But that’s all from personal preference, experiencing a story that I perceived as great. Critically speaking, is there anything different about Clannad? How good is it, really?
Well, that’s what this review is for, right? Strip the feelings, and let’s get a good logical look at this series, and see how it holds up.
1. Story: (9.5/10) Exceptional
Okay, obviously, being my second favorite story of all time, Clannad’s story has got to be one of the best around.
Clannad focuses on the life of Tomoya Okazaki, unmotivated high school student, the relationships be builds with his friends, and eventually, the love he learns to cherish. It’s a standard journey, of the delinquent that learns to appreciate life, but honestly, Clannad does it quite well, thanks to a natural progression that develops at a perfect speed, in my opinion.
The first half of Clannad is rather slow, which, could have been a very, very bad thing if it lacked a sense of direction at the time. Too many series are bogged down by a sense of aimless wandering at one point or another, making what would have been a great story something only decent at best (I’m looking at you, Death Note). However, thankfully, Clannad carries a clear sense of direction throughout the whole series. When it’s aiming to be a rom-com, you know it, when it’s aiming to be dramatic, you know it, and when comedy elements are abandoned entirely, man, you know it.
This all plays into Clannad’s consistent thematic strength, a narrative that takes into account the development of the main characters. It emphasizes the progression of life, the different paths people can take, as well as the realistic importance of family, in a way that most Slice of Life anime are simply not capable of doing. There is romance, to be sure, but Clannad’s story is able to both provide that, and much more, making its story, in my mind, one of the best.
Although I will say, one’s perception of the ending can make Clannad’s story either legendary, or half-assed. In my mind, it was powerful, the perfect ending, but for many others, it was just nonsensical and a thematically unfulfilling cop-out. However, that is a matter of opinion, and one that I can’t judge accurately as a result.
2. Characters: (7.9/10) Good
Clannad had an exceptional story, and its characters were certainly able to carry it out, but honestly, I think it can’t be denied that Clannad’s characters were probably the weakest part of the series.
Tomoya and Nagisa, the main protagonists, were relatable, simply designed characters that were fun, and had personality to them. Much of the series is based on their struggles, their ability to learn as they wander through life together, and I have no complaints in how they were portrayed. However, where Clannad falls just a bit short, is in the depiction of…well, everyone else.
Beyond the new main characters, there’s a whole host of side characters that, after being given their spot in the limelight, are quickly forgotten. Tomoya’s best friend Sunohara, the tsundere Kyou, the strong, aloof Tomoyo, are all helped by Tomoya, and push his character development forwards in their own ways, but that seems to be the extent of their purposes in the series. Every character feels like a literary element, and nothing more, which, for an anime that gives focus to all of them at some point, is rather disappointing.
There are some anime that are able to get by making two to three characters fantastic, but Clannad is not one of them. With so many characters–with many similar designs, to boot–focusing on each individual one at different points was ironically enough, a death sentence for the show’s cast. Either Clannad lost focus, trying to flesh out each character, or each character’s arc gets cut short, leaving us with a disappointing lack of development.
Clannad was certainly able to remain focused, carrying out a consistent narrative that worked very well. But in doing so, it gave us a set of characters that, despite functioning well as archetypes, lacked relatability and strong character development.
3. Art/Style: (8.5/10) Great
The artistic and stylistic choices that went into Clannad, if they had to be described in a few words, were simple, but efficient.
As a 2007-2008 anime, it was alright, pretty good for sure. However, considering that beautiful, well-animated series such as Code Geass and Death Note were released in 2006, it doesn’t exactly live up to that sort of excellence. That being said, however, what Clannad lacks in sheer, unparalleled artistic strength, it makes up for with its choices of what details to focus on. From small, cute movements, to more animated ones, the details provided really give Clannad a lot of personality.
For the Rom-Com sections, freeze-frames, comedic combo meters, and randomly detailed pieces of animation really make more funny sections hit home. At the more dramatic moments, facial features are emphasized, tears fall, lighting is utilized wonderfully, and all the details that either weren’t there or weren’t focused on, suddenly become huge parts of the scene. And of course, the music, simplistic and not very dramatic for the most part, picks up at just the right moments. You KNOW from hearing that one melody, that something important is happening, and in tandem with the animation, it makes for some great moments.
So, the animation and the musical quality is not the best, as far as anime go. But few anime I’ve seen are so confident in using these assets to create a consistent tone. Clannad, simply put, knows what it’s doing. So, despite its (mostly) decent-at-best animation and simplistic music, it manages to make a huge impact, because the series knows when to use what it needs to.
4. Personal Enjoyment: (9.3/10) Exceptional
All in all, Clannad is an anime carried by its ability to tell a story. Where a series like Mirai Nikki is carried by quality in its animation, music, and style, but fails in regards to the story it tells, Clannad doesn’t have as much technical prowess, but tells a great, well-supported story.
And of course, if you know me, you know I love a good story.
Clannad, and its second half, After Story, delivered on the expectations it gave its audience; a quality that I personally love in a series. It was confident in how it delivered its story, and because it had good things in all the right places, the story didn’t fall flat on its face. Because of this, I was able to enjoy it greatly, consistently providing emotional impact, as well as just plain, intellectual enjoyment.
So all in all, even beyond the emotions, Clannad was good. It had weak moments, to be sure, but everything that needed to be there, was there. All the important details, everything necessary for a Slice of Life anime was there, making Clannad, the quintessential, definitive, emotional anime. It’s a classic in the Slice of Life genre, and a classic in the world of anime as a whole, that was an absolutely wonderful experience.
Final Score: (8.8/10) Great
- You enjoy good family stories, because damn. Clannad’s got you covered.
- You can enjoy Rom-Com elements with your drama, or vice-versa.
- You’re looking for a good cry.