Deskimus Prime Spends A Day With The Family In CLANNAD


CLANNAD

Long, melodramatic, fluffy and cute and yet depressing as hell.
Today's bio lesson: Girls are made up of exactly 15 sparkly lights.
Yes, I deliberately picked the only poster that wasn't moelicious. That much sugar is bad for your teeth, you know.

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Today I'll be learning you about a visual novel called Clannad. It's pretty famous; it was adapted into a two-season anime show, the second of which currently sits at the #2 best anime of all time, according to Anime News Network. So? Does the source material measure up? Read on and find out...and grab a drink or something, this might be a while.

This is not going to be an easy one to write, mostly because it strays way across the line into "your opinion" territory. Either you love it, or you hate it, or you hate that you love it, or you love that you hate it. Clannad is widely considered to be Japanese developer Key's biggest success and crowning achievement; whether you consider this to be a good thing depends entirely on your opinion of Key as a developer.

See, Key makes tearjerker games. They aren't subtle about it in the slightest, either. Generally, if you pick up a Key game, you know what you're getting into. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but a little variety never hurt anyone. And that's the problem with Clannad: it is the pinnacle of all that is Key; tearjerking in its purest and most concentrated format. Whether its execution is up to snuff is the main point of contention.

Clannad follows the story of young Okazaki Tomoya, slacker extraordinaire. He's a third year high school student with little to no thought or motivation towards education, socializing, or even geeking out. He just drifts through life rather aimlessly, killing time with his partner in...not-crime Sunohara Youhei. Naturally, things start to take a turn for the more interesting when "she is the lead heroine" dramatic wind/cherry blossoms combination scenes in recent history, they meet cute. Tomoya finds himself doing things for other people for once in his life, and things are set in motion that will likely end up with him learning some valuable things about himself, and almost definitely landing himself a girlfriend.


Fun fact: You can rename your protagonist. Go nuts with the crude jokes.
Put the newspaper away, son. Nagisa is not a bug.

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Incidentally, "Clannad" comes from the butchering of an Irish word for "family," which is a major theme and driving force behind almost everything that happens in this game.

Clannad is one of those visual novels where finishing all the "normal" routes unlocks a final "true" route. Since there are so many normal routes, each clocking in at a considerable length, this adds up a fair bit. See, one thing you have to know about Clannad is that it's very, very long. A lot of people clock in at around ~100 hours. It took me around a month to finish, and I read fairly quickly and in marathon sessions. The main cause of this length is the boatload of characters and their issues that Tomoya, and by extension you, have to work through.

There's Nagisa, the main girl, with the hair antennae of a cockroach and unfortunately none of its tenacity; Tomoyo, the hypercompetent student council prez in the making, not to be confused with protagonist Tomoya; Kyou, the aggressive purple-haired button-pusher from the next class over, and Ryou, her impossibly shy fortune-telling twin sister in appearance only; Kotomi, the book-loving genius girl and weird loner; Yukine, the peaceful tea-making caretaker (and hive mother) of the abandoned resource library; and Fuuko, the very very weird spacey girl with an obsession with starfish. That's not even everyone, either. There's a whole host of other important side characters ranging from family members to ambiguously androgynous dudes to characters whose very existence is spoileriffic.


Hey Kotomi. What are you doing CUTTING CLASS? HA HA HA
Day before yesterday I saw a moeblob, yesterday a tsundere, and today, you.

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The routes themselves are generally pretty good, following the Key tradition of first half slice of life comedy, second half drama and crushing despair, followed by (if you're lucky) glorious tears of joy at a moderately happy ending despite the second act. ALL of them. Even the ones you'd think would be played for laughs. Once all the normal routes are completed, Clannad unlocks the After Story route, which picks up from Nagisa's (main girl) non-ending, giving the entire thing a proper fina- wait what's that? You have to finish all the routes in After Story first? Yeah, this is the kind of game where nothing short of 100% completion will give you the proper ending. This is explained and justified in-game; whether you feel the explanation is adequate is entirely up to you.

As for the technical aspects, Clannad is a little iffy. Visuals are so-so, there's a bit of a dry spell of new backgrounds in the main game; since that's where the player will spend the vast majority of their time, they tend to get old pretty quickly. After Story introduces a whole pile of new settings, though, almost as if to make up for it. Character designs are a bit...different. The wide faces, odd proportions, enormous eyes and almost invisible mouths definitely stress the "cute" factor, but they do take a bit of getting used to for people used to more recent anime styles.


You can shove juiceboxes up her nose, replace her starfish with your friend#token:0#s bathroom. It#token:1#s people!
Fuuko is not the sharpest crayon in the box. She's like an adorably stupid dog: cute and silly, but sometimes you just gotta stop and stare and it and wonder what the ever-loving fuck is going through her mind right now.

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Music is a high point, however. Each girl has a specific theme, all of which are catchy and suit the mood nicely. There's also an entire page in the music replay library devoted to sad music, most of which is very well done at best, and effective at worst. Nagisa's in particular seems scientifically engineered in a lab to tug at the heartstrings as much as humanly possible; those of you who've seen the anime will recognize it as "that dango song." (Warning: for the love of Madoka, don't read the comments on that video, apparently everyone just loves to drop spoilers everywhere. In fact, if you're gonna play this game, just stay away from anything Clannad related on the internet. I managed to get spoiled on a major event just from Google's auto-fill while looking for a song.)

So, just to sum it up, Clannad is a reasonably well-written character drama about the importance of family and friends, coming of age, and accepting and living up to responsibilities. It features truckloads of cute girls doing cute things, great music, and if you're looking for something to weep like a child at, this game is infamous for giving you reason to.

Now, if that convinced you to play it,

STOP READING RIGHT NOW.


Go out and buy it or otherwise acquire it, and play it. Alternatively, if you played it and you absolutely loved it, you might want to stop reading now as well.


It's not like she does anything else...
Here, have a Tomoyo being perfect and wonderful.

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If you're still here, I'm going to talk about what I thought about it.

Honestly? Mixed feelings. While I was playing, I thought it was fantastic. The first couple routes were glorious, emotions were running as fast and free as the bitch-tears on my face, and life was good. And then it just kept going on, and on, and on, and on. Listen, Key. There is drama, and then there is contrived coincidence. I can accept some things as acts of god and whatnot, but after a certain point of crying and being sad and feeling awful over bad things happening to cute girls (who obviously don't deserve such things; I mean come on, they're cute) I just could not bring myself to care anymore.

See how I condensed all the heroines into the space of a sentence or less in one of the paragraphs near the beginning? I hope you liked that characterization, cause for the most part that's all you're gonna get. Don't get me wrong, there's a decent amount of spoiler-related drama that fleshes them out a little, but apart from that they tend to suffer from a little thing informally called "single-issue psychology." Everything about their personality stems from one particular experience, and everything about them revolves around one particular personality quirk.

Put as simply and bluntly as physically possible, every single one of the characters are blatant pandering. Yes, I realize this is a visual novel/dating sim; yes I realize all the hypocrisy and inherent silliness in the above statement, but sweet zombie Jesus is it ever painfully obvious. The girls are as inoffensive, immature and essentially as stereotypically "moe" as they could get away with. Kyou was the only one I believed for the barest of moments that could actually pass for someone in their last year of high school, the rest I'd put on the mental levels of 5-10 year olds. Sure, Kotomi has a bit of an explanation for the way she acts around the protagonist, but that doesn't excuse how far overboard her single-issue psychology gets. And Fuuko? If I were a more cynical, bitter man I would've thought she was mentally retarded. There are immature high school students, and then there's her impossibly childish behaviour. All of this is supposed to incite that wonderful protective feeling in the player all so that Key can gleefully do terrible things to the girls, thus getting that sought-after emotional reaction from the players.


To its credit, this route was a very well done look at relationships and twin dynamics.
90% OF THE GAME IS THIS.

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All this is well and good, I suppose. Some people might like that sort of thing, other people might not find it as unsettling as I did. It's just that the combination of certain things - the ultra-serious tone of the game, the blatant cute-pandering, the forced drama and contrived plot twists in EVERY route - just killed it for me by the time I got to After Story. Drama is a very fine line to walk between believable and contrived, and one that relies very much on the audience's individual tolerances. By the time I got to the first fake ending of After Story, when

It was just so...clinical. Like the designers sat down and decided that this point right here, right after this line, we're gonna make them cry. Cue music, sad picture, cute girl says depressing line. Yes, I'm sure that's how every drama works, but never was it more obvious than in Clannad.

Another thing to pick at is the structure of the game itself. The choices range from stunningly obvious to completely impenetrable, and bad ends are everywhere. They're also generally pretty long and heartbreaking, and they go from depressing to just frustrating after the fourth or fifth time. The game itself is nigh-impossible to navigate without a walkthrough, as certain endings require a specific route play order or navigating a maze of choices to get to.


Yukine's route is the visual novel equivalent to taking morphine. So very soothing.
Hmph. It'll take a lot more than that t- OH GOD MY HEART IT'S SO CUTE

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And finally, Nagisa. Normally, I don't pick apart characters, but for you dear, I'll make an exception. No spoilers in here, but if you loved her, you might wanna skip this paragraph.

So overall, my thoughts on Clannad? Disappointing, but only because I had such high expectations. It was still a decent read at times, and some routes (Kotomi's, Kyou's, any part of After Story that didn't have Nagisa) were great, bordering on fantastic. The good parts were unfortunately overshadowed by contrived plot twists, staggering length, and poor characterization. Tomoya himself steals the show, I cared far more about his development than any of the others. So, not all was bad, and most of the parts that were bad were purely subjective.

This is very much a divisive piece of work; quickest way to find out if you like it is to either watch the first couple episodes of the show, or if you've ever seen or played anything Key has done. It's worth noting that I really wanted to love it. Chances are, you will. It just wasn't the kind of thing I could suspend my disbelief for, and I'm legitimately disappointed I couldn't enjoy it as much as other did. Whatever you decide, bring tissues. All the cynicism in the world can't hold a candle to this mechanically-engineered soul-crushing machine.

This has been Deskimus Prime signing off with yet another review. Feel free to leave your rage and your comments below. See you next time, same Bat-forum, some other Bat-time.

If you liked that visual novel review, why not try some more?

Good review as always. I will check it out.

Though one "good" thing that might be considered is that you might get immune against Key drama.

Nice review, and I agree on a lot of the points (especially characterisation, Tomoya(/o) and Kyou were really all that had dimension>2).

I just could not bring myself to care anymore

I would contend that it's because the execution is so consistent that it becomes numbing after prolonged exposure; I found that when I really stopped caring about anything that was happening I'd put the game down for a week or so, then pick it back up - there's probably something about filling up tear ducts, etc - making it seem so much fresher. After Story spoiler discussion:

.

HOW DARE YOU SAY THESE THINGS ABOUT yeah I can't really argue about any of this.
I never played the game myself, but I DID watch the anime. You are right about everything, storywise. Most of the time I was just watching it because I am horribly sexually attracted to loved the shit out of Tomoya.

Maybe this is just because it was spaced out by a week between every episode, but I thought the part where

was excellent. That was the saddest shit, guys. I felt EMOTIONS.
Plus, I guess I wasn't already dealing with drama fucking everywhere with the rest of the characters. Maybe the anime is a better experience purely because you're not being bombarded with like one hundred hours of everyone's stupid problems. You don't get innoculated.

Anyway, good review. Plenty informative, and you managed to make it so it's not impossible to read without revealing any spoilers.

Perditio:
Nice review, and I agree on a lot of the points (especially characterisation, Tomoya(/o) and Kyou were really all that had dimension>2 [color=aliceblue]and sort of Akio/Ushio, but they're not till After Story[/color=aliceblue]).

I just could not bring myself to care anymore

I would contend that it's because the execution is so consistent that it becomes numbing after prolonged exposure; I found that when I really stopped caring about anything that was happening I'd put the game down for a week or so, then pick it back up - there's probably something about filling up tear ducts, etc - making it seem so much fresher.

Psst: your spoiler is showing! Cover your shame good sir!

Thanks, and in retrospect that's definitely what I should've done. I was hoping if I just sucked it up and plowed through they'd give me a good ending and I could replenish some moisture in my ducts, but nope. I would've liked to see it end with Ushio after the train ride home, or maybe after meeting the Ibukis a little later. There was just no need for that bad ending, and the good one just took an entire genre shift.

Evilsanta:
Good review as always. I will check it out.

Though one "good" thing that might be considered is that you might get immune against Key drama.

Why thank you, and I wonder about that. Planetarian is still one of my favourites, and reduces me to a puddle of misery every time.

Monkfish Acc.:
Plus, I guess I wasn't already dealing with drama fucking everywhere with the rest of the characters. Maybe the anime is a better experience purely because you're not being bombarded with like one hundred hours of everyone's stupid problems. You don't get innoculated.

I watched the anime alongside/right after reading the VN, and I would say that while you miss most of the good stuff in the first half (i.e Kyou and Tomoyo) the execution of the second season anime surpasses that of the VN After Story, without leaving out major characterisation in the shortening into ~18 eps; so much can be said purely through images that take so many more words to describe.

Great reveiw, but I'll probably stick to the anime with this one, as I'll be hard pressed to have 100 hours on my hand even after exams are over (...such... backlog...). And that amount of cuteness is likely to disagree with my already somewhat diabetic tastes.

...Planetarian will probably challenge them well enough whenever I get around to get it working.

Shoot. I can't even quote other people for fear of the spoilers.

Well, I've already given you my opinion on the user group, and for the review itself? Well...I'm still trying to stay ahead of you, so I naturally have nothing but jealousy!

Evilsanta:
Though one "good" thing that might be considered is that you might get immune against Key drama.

I dunno. Ever since I got into visual novels, I notice I get hit worse at similar things in other media. I think I didn't become inoculated so much as susceptible...

Perditio:

Monkfish Acc.:
Plus, I guess I wasn't already dealing with drama fucking everywhere with the rest of the characters. Maybe the anime is a better experience purely because you're not being bombarded with like one hundred hours of everyone's stupid problems. You don't get innoculated.

I watched the anime alongside/right after reading the VN, and I would say that while you miss most of the good stuff in the first half (i.e Kyou and Tomoyo) the execution of the second season anime surpasses that of the VN After Story, without leaving out major characterisation in the shortening into ~18 eps; so much can be said purely through images that take so many more words to describe.

I have heard from all accounts that After Story is pretty damn fantastic; I watched the first season kinda on and off for glorious Kyou and Kotomi goodness, but interest kinda died rapidly. I've been putting off watching the second season mostly because of said overdose of sadness, I have a feeling I'll probably enjoy it more than the VN.

I can guarantee the scene in which

is gonna reduce me to pure bitch tears. That part hit pretty damn even in the VN; because it centered around the most interesting and most sympathetic character in the game: Tomoya, the protagonist. Watching him push through life and grow as a person was easily the most enjoyable part of the game.

great review, and good to know. I just finished the vn Kanon as was wondering what to move on to after shaveing the beard and all the other things i do when i wake up from being lost in a good vn.

in summery Kudos for the review and giveing me something to do and Kudos to Drow for giveing me a vn so good i sometimes forgot to eat.

Wait... Clannad After Stories is ranked #2? It wasn't a Tokyo Mew Mew by any means, but did it really deserve any form of praise like that? I mean i distinctly remember After Stories as the crowning point of a review i made where the anime was completely incapable of making satisfying resolutions for pretty much anything. The arcs ended badly in my opinion, the ending themes sucked, but the big knife in my gut was

That said, i've got a random question, and if you've been able to make these reviews maybe you can help me get this item in English, but i've heard a new version of Clannad was released where the focus was on Tomoyo instead of Nagisa. Did you have any plans on reviewing that one, or is Katawa Shoujo going to leave you checking out freeware items for a little while?

Where exactly can you even buy this?

I've never seen it in store so I'm going to assume the best bet would be online (and apparently it is only in Japanese with fan translations?).

Pyramid Head:
That said, i've got a random question, and if you've been able to make these reviews maybe you can help me get this item in English, but i've heard a new version of Clannad was released where the focus was on Tomoyo instead of Nagisa. Did you have any plans on reviewing that one, or is Katawa Shoujo going to leave you checking out freeware items for a little while?

That would be Tomoyo After that you're thinking of, it's basically After Story if he'd ended up with Tomoyo instead. I'm kinda bleah on the whole idea, I wasn't really a fan of her - too perfect at everything - and from what I hear it has some evil, evil plot tweests that I'd rather not have to sit through.

That said I'm halfway through 999 for the DS, and if I can figure out how to get screenshots that'll probably be my next review. That or Umineko.

ChupathingyX:
Where exactly can you even buy this?

I've never seen it in store so I'm going to assume the best bet would be online (and apparently it is only in Japanese with fan translations?).

Uh, yes. Buy. About that.

Pretty much the only (legal) way you're gonna find a lot of VNs is through ordering them online, which adds quite a big chunk of $ on top of their already fairly expensive prices. Not to mention that many of them are completely out of stock, don't ship overseas, or are generally impossible to find. I can't in any good conscience say that piracy/filesharing is a good thing, but if it weren't for people sharing VNs over the internet and doing up fan translations, almost no one outside of Japan would ever see them. Kinda sad, really.

And now that Megaupload's on the edge of being nuked, it's gonna be a lot harder to find VNs the less-than-reputable way.

 

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