I wasn't looking forward to this. Though I will admit now that the anime I'm about to review stands head, shoulders, chest, stomach, and balls over the standard anime drama and makes Stephanie Meyers look like a retarded fanfic writer--
Actually let me stop the analogy there. Suda51made Stephanie Meyers look like a retarded fanfic writer with the abusive relationship between Samantha Sitbon and Harman Smith in Killer 7. Saying "It's the best drama I've ever seen" is like saying it's the least painful form of torture I've lived through. So for now lets skip stupid analogies and move onto the meat of things.
Clannad is a term that comes from an old Irish dialect meaning "Family." Supposedly. I've watched The Matchmaker and never heard the term, so I'm dubious. Anyway like the title suggests Clannad is basically Heavy Rain with a strong family focus until some tragedy hits and you see the recovery. Like I said, it's a drama. They can't exactly go into it saying the main character is a dead old man capable of transforming his corpse into eight superhuman assassins. The main character is instead Okazaki Tomoya, and let me say right now that Tomoya is an example of what Clannad did right: AMUSING CHARACTERS. No sparkle vampires here, Tomoya is a hate-filled bastard who resents the place he lives in and his father, has already had his dreams violently crushed, and has a habit of mortally endangering his best friend who is really nothing more than a fucking idiot whom Tomoya probably wouldn't be hanging out with if he weren't desperately lonely. It's like one of the writers knew me...
Anyway during an angst inner monologue talking about how much he hates the town he lives in, he encounters a girl with a weird habit of randomly shouting out the names of food and she asks him if he likes the town.
Tomoya begins hanging out with Nagisa and helping her because he had absolutely nothing else to do. Things start off mostly tame as most of it doesn't get too far a cry from everyday life in the fascist state of Japanese high school. Rumors of a ghost, a small scale war with the student council cause by Nagisa being too absent minded to check the school rules, and a girl who apparently is the child of Alma Wade and Beckett from F.E.A.R 2 judging by her inexplicable kung-fu skills and abilities to defy the laws of physics.
Actually let's explain the characters some more, since they're the focus. The anime divides itself into multiple arcs focusing on individual characters, most of them attractive females and two of them annoying dumbasses whom I wish I would die horribly.
Nagisa is the main love interest of Tomoya. A physically frail girl with an unspecified illness that randomly causes severe fevers and has an implied supernatural element only the cause goes for a slightly retarded twist in my opinion, but I can't discuss it for fear of spoilers. Nagisa is the quirky girl who calms herself down when stressed out by randomly declaring the name of the food she would like to eat at the moment. Her mother is a failed baker named Sanae and her father is Keiichi Maebara who hasn't quite gotten over the bludgeoning people to death phase of his life. Tomoya's best friend is Sunohara, a character who exists purely to make stupid statements and get physically abused. Weirdly though people keep accusing him of having a bizarre hair color without irony as two girls with blue hair and one with purple hair, along with a redhead all populate a school in a country with almost exclusively BLACK HAIRED INDIVIDUALS. The one who accused the blond of being a freak is Fuko, a stupid character who thankfully dies. Or maybe she doesn't... it's never really made clear. The character that abuses Sunohara most frequently is Tomoyo Beckett who actually turns out to be a weirdly amusing character. The other person to physically abuse Sunohara is Ryou, one of two twin sisters that attend the school who is probably one of my favorite characters because of a frankly hilarious love triangle. And lastly the other character who matters is Kotomi, a genius academically and a retard socially. I liked her as well as she obliviously committed mass murder with a violin.
Though a lot of the characters are enjoyable for the most part they exist to receive token development, have a textbook tragedy thrown at them, and then Tomoya somehow makes it all better. Most of the resolutions are unbearably happy, and after the random tragedy the characters disappear behind Nagisa screen time. The big praise I hear about Clannad is that it has a way of making the audience cry, but I honestly can't see it. The characters act the least human around the points where their flaws should be the most apparent. The mood is appropriately kept from getting too stark with instance of Sunohara abuse, but later on Fuko keeps popping up at random times and kills the intrigue in the situation. The side character arcs end on a high note with one gang war subplot that actually made me emote, but everything ends in the second season focusing on Tomoya and Nagisa.
That's not the biggest gripe I have though. Clannad didn't simply have stupid resolutions to the character arcs, the production company just flat out could not make good endings. The ending theme for the first season is a kind of stupid song about living dumplings. Maybe appropriate considering the alleged meaning of the word Clannad, but playing a kids song right after a point that should have been dramatic just kills the mood you spent time building. And the ending theme for the second season is utterly retarded because they play it during allegedly are the most tragic moments. Playing an upbeat song and keeping the fucking living dmplings after a character death is like making "Best Friend" the ending theme to Silent Hill 2.
Anyway, the basic feel of Clannad is that it's a drama with a light and occasionally cynical sense of humor, entertaining characters that does everything right until the end. Making us genuinely interested in characters before their puppies are struck by lightning is the right thing to do, but making the final tragedy as stupid as making their puppies randomly get struck by lightning isn't going to make us continue to feel sympathetic when the behavior actually comes as off. Making Kotomi flip out at a crash site when her personal tragedy wasn't one she actually witnessed was one stupid move, going too heavy on the shows supernatural side was another, and the most damning mistakes were under developing the characters we like and then screwing up the development of characters we don't as characters quickly lose their defining quirks.
Once all is said and done, Clannad is good for a drama but does it's best as a dark comedy. Hardly a classic, and it shits itself to death in the concluding episodes of season two, but it's opening and middle are good enough to excuse the shitty conclusions if you're willing to go in with a light enough mood. The best parts are actually the "Another World" episodes which explore briefly what would happen if Nagisa was eaten by a bear and Tomoya wound up with a different girl instead, simply because the drama doesn't betray the defined characteristics. If you like drama I can't recommend Clannad highly enough. If you like genuine drama relating to human flaws that will make you feel attached to the characters beginning to end, you get to eat shit as no such thing exists.
He'll be sure to stab it well!
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