Anime Review: Clannad


– dating sim (Key Clannad) adapted to anime
– licensed by Sentai Filmworks
– 24 episodes (4 disc DVD)
– related:
* Clannad Movie (alternate retelling)
* Clannad: After Story (sequel 25 episodes)
* Clannad: Hikari Mimamoru Sakamichi de (manga)

Basic Premise:
Tomoya Okazaki — a self-proclaimed delinquent student and bum — is despondent. He lost his mother as a young age, his father is an alcoholic, and life doesn’t seem to be getting better, only worse in the last days of his high school career. He doesn’t see the point of anything anymore, until he meets Nagisa Furukawa. Her journey to recreate the school drama club gives Tomoya’s life new meaning. It also opens him up to new people, new experiences, and new love.

I’m breaking my “no spoilers” rule for this one. You’ll see why if you keep reading. You’ve been warned.

As an anime adapted from a dating sim, I knew Clannad would be a typical harem anime. True to form, good looking, buxom beauties were raining from the woodwork all around Tomoya — Nagisa, Ryou and Kyou (the identical twins), Fuuko, Tomoyo (no this isn’t a typo), and Kotomi. Each has their own unique issues and personalities that make them easy to distinguish.

This anime see-sawed from absolute hilarity to tear-jerking sadness as we learn more about each of the girls and their lives. There was no in between. It’s obvious from the beginning that Tomoya will end up with Nagisa (she’s the main face in the opening credits and she’s the one he spends the most time with).

So far as shoujo dating sims turned anime go, this one was pretty good. I would love to go back and watch the funny parts again because they had me rolling. The sad parts I would skip. It was too much angst and too much drama. That was the reason I skimmed the movie and didn’t bother watching Clannad: After Story. I couldn’t take it anymore. Though I did catch a peek at the end of Clannad: After Story just to see how it ended.

If you want to just cut to the chase, then watch Clannad the Movie. It’s the same basic story (Tomoya plus Nagisa) but told at a faster pace. I didn’t watch the whole thing for reasons stated above, so I can’t say what was left out when making the movie.

As a bonus, there are two alternate stories. One at the end of Clannad (Tomoya plus Tomoyo) and one at the end of Clannad: After Story (Tomoya plus Kyou). I’m kind of upset they didn’t do an alternate story for Kotomi. She was my favorite.

For those who like the high school drama/romances then this one is perfect for you. Just be warned it is a little angst heavy. And by “little” I mean a lot.

I only had one major issue with this anime. It was a huge gaping flaw that, as a writer, I simply could not ignore. Tomoya, the main character, isn’t fleshed out enough so he seems like an asshole.

Yes, he plays pranks on his friends and cuts classes and other things as such, but those incidents are not to what I’m referring. I’m talking about his treatment of his father.

According to Tomoya, after his mother died, he and his father had a fight that left Tomoya unable to lift his right arm past his shoulder so he had to quit basketball. This is harsh because he loved basketball and had entered the high school to pursue that vocation to the fullest.

It’s not clear when Tomoya’s mother died. He says before he knew himself, which is extremely vague. He was on the basketball team when he entered high school. This is evidenced because the captain knew him and of his injury in intimate detail. So the fight had to have happened when he was fifteen or sixteen.

By the time we meet Tomoya, he’s already given up on everything and is estranged from his father, who is an alcoholic. Whenever Tomoya and his father interact, his father is sober and trying to bridge the distance by taking an interest in Tomoya’s hobbies or trying to have meals with him. In all instances, Tomoya acts wary towards his father, ignores the man, or runs away (in some cases literally), making Tomoya look like a jerk for not even giving his father a chance.

I thought perhaps this was just my view of the situation. However, one of the girls starts coming over to cook Tomoya breakfast and get him out of bed on time so he won’t be tardy to school any longer. She meets Tomoya’s father and reports that she found him nice. She even seems confused when Tomoya ignores his father, which is good because she isn’t the only one.

The writers try to show Tomoya’s father in a bad light. One of Tomoya’s teachers decides to do a home visit. Even though Tomoya dodges, the teacher ends up talking to Tomoya’s father. The topic is Tomoya’s future. Tomoya’s father tells the teacher that Tomoya’s future is up to Tomoya and that the teacher should discuss such things with Tomoya.

I guess this is a disconnect between Japanese culture and American culture, because I didn’t see the issue. A parent willing to let their child decide their own future and their own happiness. Yippee. Isn’t this usually the conflict in most anime — the main character railing against the future his/her parents have laid out and wanting to decide on their own? Finally an anime parent is doing just that and I’m supposed to see that as bad. O.o? I’m a little confused.

Each time the viewer sees Tomoya’s father he is sober, quiet spoken, somewhat withdrawn, and very sad. Seeing the way Tomoya reacts to his father makes the man even sadder and makes Tomoya seem more and more like the bully of the pair. It makes me wonder, since the writers never tell you in the anime, what started the fight between Tomoya and his father and how exactly did Tomoya get hurt.

Is this one of those teenage misunderstandings? Did an accident happen during the fight that caused Tomoya’s injury and perhaps he blames his father because he thinks the man did it on purpose? There were no answers given, unless they are in Clannad: After Story. It’s a huge question left hanging and big gaping hole in Tomoya’s characterization that I can’t get over.

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