Japanese Title: CLANNAD
Related: Clannad: After Story (sequel)
Clannad: Another World (alternative endings)
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 23 episodes & 2 OVA
- Consistently good humour.
- Nowhere near as bad as Air.
- Childish characters.
- Immature view on reality.
- Pretentious attempts at depth.
- ‘Space for rent’ art.
- Often awkward dialogue.
Over my years as an anime consumer, a great many people have told me of Clannad, of its emotional depth, of its brilliance as a romantic drama that plucks one’s heartstrings like a sombre harp. “Clannad builds you up with cute characters before it tears your heart down piece by piece,” one recommender said, tears swimming in his eyes. But, alas, my heart remains untouched.
Clannad’s pretentious opening scene should have been indicator enough of things to come. The tale starts with Tomoya on his way to school as he sees the strange girl Nagisa talking to herself, conveniently about what he needs to hear. And when she turns those football-sized eyes, with enough space to park a Hummer between them, they become friends, for some reason.
Despite this setup, romance isn’t Clannad’s focus – the Tomoya-Nagisa plot prevails for but a handful of episodes. No, Clannad’s core is Tomoya and his penchant for helping those in need. The narrative introduces several classmates and town citizens, both groups overwhelmingly female, with life problems for Tomoya to fix, occasionally taking a supernatural slant. Nagisa, for example, seeks to revive the drama club. A woman suffers from the dissolution of her engagement – those sorts of dilemmas. Though half-a-dozen girls surround Tomoya, Clannad isn’t a harem anime, at least. The cast instead gives off a softcore visual novel vibe.
My first issue with Clannad stems from the art, for it leaps off the screen with its hideous nature. I cannot take these girls’ issues seriously when they have doped eyes bigger than Tifa’s bosom with the Pacific Ocean between. All these women look so brainless. I actually enjoyed Clannad more when not watching the screen, merely listening in periphery.
You tell me you can stomach the art? Alright, doing my best to ignore the space so big no billionaire can afford its rent in Tokyo, let’s look at them as characters. Childish, like the art, is how I describe them. Remember, these girls are supposed to be high school seniors, yet they have a mentality I wouldn’t find acceptable in an infant. They flutter their eyelashes, squeak their words like the most sickly of moe characters, giggling throughout, and we are supposed to find these girls intelligent? No, these girls aren’t deep; they are empty characters built with no emotional connections. They are quirky, yes, but not flawed. Not real. And the dialogue is so awkward. When these characters speak in the serious moments, I never hear a person. All I hear is the script recited by actors. I can hear the scriptwriter’s comments on the page noting, ‘This line is emotional,’ ‘This line is to convey depth,’ ‘The audience needs to know Tomoya is insightful from this monologue.’
This immaturity extends beyond the personalities into the logic this anime believes of reality. One kid’s parents are getting a divorce, so the kid jumps off a bridge and this magically fixes the marriage. No, no, this isn’t some fake “let’s pretend to care about each other before she blows her brains out in the girls’ locker room” arrangement; we are genuinely meant to believe all is well. There aren’t enough Picard facepalms on the internet to accommodate such idiocy.
Where Clannad does succeed is in the humour, particularly with Tomoya’s sidekick Youhei involved. His rivalry with the ‘strong girl’ of the group had me every time. After she lays the smackdown on him, he keeps challenging her, unable to let the defeat go. His strategies are most peculiar. “You have to lend me your breasts!” he shouts at her. “Why?” she asks. “Did you see? Did you see that? Her asking ‘why’ means she can lend me her breasts to me, right. Then that means her breasts aren’t real; they’re removable!” What a genius. Clannad is genuinely funny. In fact, it feels as though a different writer handled the comedy.
I don’t regret my time with Clannad. The comedy was enjoyable when not interrupted by the shallow drama and false emotions. I only wish they had a better scriptwriter. Here’s to hoping the sequel hired someone new… At least this doesn’t sink as low as Air.
Art – Low
Hideous character design, especially for females – the adults even look like pre-teen girls. Animation is alright, at least.
Sound – Medium
Acting is fine, in either language – the script brings them down. The music is on the cheerful side – cute ED.
Story – Low
A high school guy helps many girls with their problems. Immature in characters, plot, and emotion.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Watch the best comedy bits on YouTube. The soulless drama in Clannad isn’t worth your time.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)