Clannad – Anime Review

Japanese Title: CLANNAD


Related: Clannad: After Story (sequel)

Clannad: Another World (alternative endings)

Similar: Kanon




Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Comedy Romance Supernatural Drama

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 – Very Low

A high school guy helps many girls with their problems. Immature in characters, plot, and emotion.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Watch the best comedy bits on YouTube. The soulless drama in Clannad isn’t worth your time.

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Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)




Atrocious PlotAwful DialogueInduces StupidityUgly Artistic Design

25 thoughts on “Clannad – Anime Review”

  1. Have you seen the Clannad movie? It’s so much better than the series. Both Clannad and After Story combined. It leaves out all the unecessary side stories and just focuses on the main characters and main supporting characters like Sunohara, Akio and Sanae, Tomoyo and Kyou. And the best bit…. it doesn’t cop out at the end!
    It’s also much better paced. Animation wise it is beautiful however the characters tend to look too bright and shiny for some reason which I found quite distracting. I think you should give it a shot. You may like it better than the Air movie.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, and here I was thinking I was pretty much the sole anime fan who didn’t like Clannad. To be fair, I never could bring myself to complete the series, so I feel like I can’t fully judge it either way. That said, the first few handful of episodes I did see definitely didn’t encourage me to keep going, so maybe that’s all the judgment I personally need to give.

    On another note, I always hear a huge chorus of “but the second season is soooo good!” every time I bring up the topic of Clannad and my lack of enjoyment of it to just about anyone – did you by any chance watch that? I honestly don’t think I ever will, because no matter how fantastic season two is, I don’t think I have the patience to sit through all of season one as a prerequisite, but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it if you have any.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I have a review for the second season here:

      Since you don’t like what you’ve seen so far, you won’t like the second season either. Much of it is the same. As for the ‘sooooooo good’ chorus, they are referring to the “emotional” moments of the second season, but the writing doesn’t earn your emotions. Clannad is a series designed to emotionally manipulate those who think reality is a happy-go-lucky sort of place. Frankly, Clannad is an insult to those who have gone through the issues they attempt to tackle here.

      There are much better emotional dramas out there for you to watch. Try ‘Grave of the Fireflies,’ ‘5 cm per Second’ and ‘Rumbling Hearts’ (have reviews for all on the website already). I have also heard of ‘Your Lie in April,’ though have yet to watch it, so can’t vouch for it personally.


      1. Thanks for the link, I’ll definitely check that out.

        I really liked all of those shows you mentioned, with the exception of Your Lie in April. It seemed extremely popular among the blogging crowd, but I honestly found it too melodramatic for my tastes, and definitely on the emotionally manipulative side of things. It’s not that I dislike anime that are emotional, or anime that try to get me emotionally involved. In fact, I’d say that’s laudable. What I don’t like is when the manipulation is too obvious. If I can all but see/hear someone standing over me and yelling “You will be sad in this particular scene!”, then I’d say it’s a sign of poor writing.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You should watch the movie. It’s great, Those that say it’s bad are just die-hard fans of the anime series so they don’t like any other interpretation on it. I will say that it does things slightly different to the VN, but it actually does it well and what was taken from the VN doesn’t always translate well to an anime (the massive cop out).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I agree about the 1st season and the first 10 episodes of the 2nd season. I felt like the final 14 episodes really made it all worth it though. The only reason I forced myself through the boring parts was because of all the hype. I didn’t think I would change my mind about it until I actually finished the series.
        As for Your Lie in April, I thought it was superb. Very emotional towards the end, but I do think that Clannad was more of a tear jerker because of the parental realization, as well as the ultimate realization of what that other world with the girl and robot actually meant.


  3. I would agree with you.The first few episodes were really enjoyable as the comedy was the main focus,the comedy despite not being it’s main genre is really one of the best you would see in an anime.Then started Fuko’s arc and the series becomes a load of cringe.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At last I found a good review. Most reviews I read/watched were like “It’s good ‘cuz of tears, emotions and it’s very deep like DEEP like I’m ready to make references of some philosophers” but you actually analysed some plot moments and that’s golden. I agree with you comedy is good and it kept me till the end of season 1 but plot… Some things were strange like Fuko cameo after her arc. These scenes weren’t funny, just frustrating, I think.

    It’s interesting to me what you think about these moment:
    When the main character starts gardening all of a sudden in the Kotomi arc;
    In the episode 3-5 there’s a big emotional scene when Tomoya reveals his relationship with his father to Nagisa while it’s raining.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clannad is one of those bad anime I keep seeing people recommend to others. Baffling.

      I don’t remember the gardening much, though if I recall correctly, its serves as part of the protagonist’s “I must help every girl around me ’cause I’m a nice guy” complex. As with every other girl, he just happens to be equipped with every talent needed to resolve all of her problems.

      Regarding the relationship with his father, that is more emotional bait since it isn’t handled well and it occurs during the comedy episodes, which feels out of place. The half and half season split of comedy and drama is so lazy – a better writer would weave them together. I wager it also serves as foreshadowing for the second season, where Tomoya become a deadbeat like his dad before him.


  5. Wow, this is the first time I’ve seen a negative review of Clannad in my life. I haven’t seen it, so I’m not sure how I feel. Haha! I am not a fan of Key’s art style since I’ve seen Air and parts of Kanon (both versions) and could not understand why people tolerate the character designs. Say what you will about Angel Beats, but at least those designs didn’t look nearly as bad as them or Clannad.

    Even though this opinion is certainly contrary to so many anime fans out there, but I’m getting used to that reading your blog (not going to lie, I was shocked that anyone would have a negative review of one of my favorite anime Haibane Renmei, but that’s besides the point).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Certainly, Angel Beats doesn’t look any near as bad as the rest.

      I find it strange that there are fans of Clannad (the problems are so obvious to me that I don’t know how everyone doesn’t see it). I have personally never met one, but I know they exist somewhere out there!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The only thing I like about Clannad/Clannad After Story is that it inspired me to buy a Dango plushie. I’ve got a blue one and it makes a very nice pillow. (Like My Neighbour Totoro inspired me to get a Totoro plushie, except that is also because I love the film). Other than that, I really don’t understand what is so good about this anime and why people love it so much. We need more reviews like yours to point out the major problems this show has.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. To be fair, I think the reason why Clannad receives so much praise is because of how well developed Tomoya is. Nagisa really could have done with far more development, but Tomoya is so well layered and likeable as a protagonist, not to mention very realistic. He has flaws, he makes mistakes, he regrets his decisions and overcomes all of this. Clannad’s style may be moe, but if you ignore all of that and just focus on Tomoya’s depth in the anime, then you’ll notice that’s where the heart of Clannad really is. Sad to see this show get such harsh criticism.


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