Clannad: After Story – Anime Review



Related: Clannad (prequel)

Similar: AnoHana

Rumbling Hearts

Angel Beats!


Watched in: Japanese & English

Genre: Romance Supernatural Drama

Length: 24 episodes & 3 OVA



  • Grounding to the protagonist’s drama.
  • Improved over the prequel.


  • Emotionally manipulative.
  • Tonal incoherence.
  • Deus ex machina ending.
  • Irrelevant side stories.
  • Wish fulfilment treats adults like infants.

It’s amazing how easily the death of a character can manipulate an audience into thinking they have just witnessed greatness. Death is tragic, therefore, this story must be deep; a shallow story cannot possibly have death, can it? Steven Segal films must be emotional overdose to Clannad fans.

After Clannad’s immature take on life, I had hoped for something better in the sequel, but Clannad: After Story barely shifted the needle of quality. At first, After Story seems to cover the same ground, still following Tomoya’s penchant for helping every girl in town. The characters demand drama, yet no one acts as though they are idiots for manufacturing drama – all taken seriously, again. Moral lessons, while nowhere near as idiotic as before, are still immature. Really? Talking about the power of friendship will resolve an eternal hatred between two gangs? All I can say is good luck to Clannad’s writers when they encounter a real gang and try that solution.

However, ten episodes in, the story finally decides to get off its arse, drops the unrelated side characters (which highlights the uselessness of season one), and progress forward, graduating the main couple into adult life. Even then, it takes another third of the series for the first good piece of writing to enter Clannad’s folio, after the turning point. Tomoya has new responsibilities thrust upon him after graduation, and here, at last, we have a reality to the characters. Suddenly, the writers don’t need to force the characters to fit the drama and narrative (still not great, by any stretch, but better); the characters feel real. Shame the ending arrives a few episodes later to defecate rainbows all over the drama built up previously, all for the sake of wish fulfilment.

Experiencing tragedy in real life doesn’t grant you magical wishes unexpectedly. Or is that how Clannad’s writers think life works for those who have had it tough? If Clannad’s writers were in charge of competitions, they would stop the game in the final seconds and give the win to the ‘good guys’ because it feels good for the ‘good guys’ to win, it feels good to have everything go easy in the end. Doesn’t it feel just great when you can write away all worries?

They try to foreshadow the end, as though it covers their ineptitude, but all it does is cement how bad the writing is. Cutting to man dressed in red and blue every twenty minutes throughout The Lord of the Rings would not make Superman showing up to laser the ring at the last second a good ending. A foreshadowed deus ex machina is still a deus ex machina. The foreshadowing makes it worse because now you know the explanation is terrible; without the foreshadowing, you could have at least said “some unknown magic mumbo jumbo caused it.”

Suffice it to say, After Story does an atrocious job merging its “realism” and magical elements. The two are kept apart for the entire story, only for the magic to resolve the end. I get the feeling the writers only included the ‘magical’ part of the ‘magical realism’ genre to execute their wish fulfilment.

Clannad: After Story should have started after the turning point, two-thirds of the way through the series, and done a How I Met Your Mother style story. Tomoya, a grown up, would tell his story to someone younger, interspersing present tragedy with past humour. Drop the rubbish drama from season one, axe the majority of the side characters, dunk the harem into a wood chipper, and focus on the progression, on Tomoya and Nagisa’s story – while at it, give her a personality and dimension. She’s still as bland as water crackers. And for the love of fiction, get rid of the ending; in fact, this studio should stay away from magical elements – third story from them that has failed in this regard.

In the end, we have a series with ten largely irrelevant episodes, then some relevance, followed by a jarring tonal shift, which should have been the start, a wish fulfilment ending, and emotional manipulation throughout. I worry for those who say After Story was life changing – kill a character, and seemingly all anime fans label it a masterpiece. Any who take life lessons from Clannad are in for a rude awakening once reality punches them in the face – reality won’t grant you a wish afterwards either.

Art – Low

Slightly less Space for Rent. I almost gave Art a medium, as the quality has improved, (eyes aren’t so lifeless and less drugged girls), but when the characters look like high school juniors (in the same awful character design) despite years of growth, I find little to praise. Backgrounds are nice.

Sound – Medium

For the one-third of grounded drama, the script is of a better quality (not great), but the rest of the series drags it back down. Music overpowers the actors at times (reminds of Mrs Weasley and Celestina Warbeck versus Fleur Delacour).

Story – Low

After Story starts with the same immaturity as before, but once the characters progress, the story shows glimpses of quality. Shame the ending doesn’t like quality – truly one of fiction’s worst.

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: Not worth your time unless looking to see whether you are easily manipulated by emotion. Clannad: After Story is a definite improvement over Clannad; however, anime has so many better romantic dramas to get through before you have to scrape this.

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

Positive: None


Deus Ex MachinaInduces Stupidity

11 thoughts on “Clannad: After Story – Anime Review”

  1. Deus ex machina? Are you kidding me? Did you even payed attention since Episode 1 of the first season? How could you call it an deus ex machina when it was heavily foreshadowed since the beginning? Its not like they magically pulled it out of their ass or something.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree! Clannad was written with the ending in mind. The “stars” were a thing very early on in the series. I was reduced to a puddle of tears while I was watching 😅


  2. Whether or not, the magical element of the anime was created and must be used at some point. I agree with you on some points, but i disagree that the characters present false feelings. I see that the feelings were very well exploited and the characters showed it in the dialogues and situations. On the other hand, if this were not provided power, I wanted Tomoya overcome the death of his wife and marry another woman, like Kyou, and forming a new family. But if the story was created that way, you have to follow to the end. At least Tomoya learned something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Once you see that the girl has no depth, you realise how Clannad doesn’t use real emotions to move you. It instead relies on emotional manipulation to trick you and having an ending that undoes all consequences doesn’t help. Watching better emotional stories will arm you to spot such tactics.

      Off the top of my head, try the following for better emotional stories:

      Grave of the Fireflies (this is the perfect example of doing it right)
      Death Parade
      Madoka Magica
      Rumbling Hearts

      Non-anime examples:

      Schindler’s List
      Shawshank Redemption
      Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
      The Green Mile
      The Pursuit of Happiness


  3. It always hurts me to go to MAL and see Clannad Afterstory rated significantly higher than AnoHana, Madoka Magica, Grave of the Fireflies, Death Parade, 5 cm/s, and even Wolf Children, all of which made me shed bucketloads of tears (especially that last one), something that Afterstory couldn’t manage despite having more episodes than all the above. I see it hailed by lots of anime fans as ‘critically-acclaimed’ and it makes me wonder who these critics are and what exactly did they see in Afterstory that I couldn’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another great review on Clannad. Everyone goes on about how great episode 18 of After Story is, which is the flower field scene and I agree it does have some touching moments but to me, the greatest episode was episode 12, which was about Yoshino. His backstory is so underrated. It pains me how such a great character like him (he’s the electrician and Tomoya’s co-worker) always gets overshadowed with other supporting characters, like Misae and Yukine and so on, who did not deserve their own arc, whilst Yoshino did. He had plenty of life lessons to learn from and this is what Clannad is meant to be about. Sadly, the show dismisses his advice and forces more unnecessary drama and cops out at the end, so all of that was for nothing. All of what Yoshino had said to Tomoya was for nothing. That honestly annoyed me the most. Yoshino is actually my favourite character, followed by Akio. Tomoya’s okay and Tomoyo had her moments as well, but the rest of the cast is just forgettable and served no purpose to the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is funny how you list grave of fireflies as better when Bennet Sage called it emotionally manipulative. It is his opinion of course but others might view grave differently than you. He might think clanned is great.


    1. Emotionally manipulative is an objective element often used incorrectly when attributed to heavy drama (something can be emotionally manipulative even in light drama), some people just don’t mind it. Fireflies is far from emotionally manipulative. Also, Grave of the Fireflies is a true story except for one notable change and it would be even more tragic without that change. A girl with mysterious terminal illness X and wishes conveniently bringing people back from then dead is classic emotionally manipulative content. Clannad + sequel hit all the clichés.


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