Note: Review copy supplied by Manga Entertainment
Title: Clannad & Clannad After Story
Anime Studio: Kyoto Animation
Genre: Romance / Slice Of Life / Tragedy
Sometimes all it takes to change your life forever is a chance encounter. Since the death of his mother, Tomoya has distanced himself from his abusive father and seems on a path of self-destruction. Nagisa’s poor health has left her a year behind in school, but she longs to restart the now disbanded Drama Club. In an impulsive moment, Tomoya agrees to help her and they soon find themselves joined by others in desperate need of support and emotional healing. Box set includes: Season 1 and Season 2: Clannad After Story over 6 discs. 6 x Art Cards 1x 40 page Art Book All Packaged in a rigid box
I think just about every anime fan has heard of Clannad by now. It’s one of those anime series that is highly regarded and is known as being truly tragic. So, now that Manga Entertainment are re-releasing the complete collection in the UK, it seemed like a good time to dive in for the first time.
From a technical standpoint, the series holds up while, despite being over ten years old. The character designs work well, with each character looking the age they’re meant to be, and not feeling overblown, even when involved with the more paranormal elements of the show. The background work is also strong, ranging from picturesque moments to slightly simpler scenery that sits nicely behind the characters.
The animation is decent, moving consistently, and saving the over the top moments for comedic kicks. Faces and body language portrays emotions the way you’d hope in such an emotion-driven show too. That’s all aided by an unobtrusive but fitting soundtrack and strong performances from both the dub and sub casts.
Most important though, are the much-lauded story and characters. In terms of our main leads, Tomoya and Nagisa are really quite excellent. Tomoya is far from the typical, bland everyman you normally get in shows with harem-esque settings. His past is painful, and the way it has affected his current – and indeed future – attitude is wonderfully realistic. Meanwhile, Nagisa too avoids becoming the one-note nice girl simply by being authentic. She has her own difficulties to deal with, and that helps make her niceness feel like one, rather than the only, facet of her personality.
The supporting cast, too, is very good, even if they don’t get quite as much focus. Sunohara is a likeable best friend, for example, and I personally thought both Kyou and Tomoyo were great additions to the cast of female characters. It’s Nagisa’s parents, Akio and Sanae, that really shine though. While Akio in particular is used as a source of over the top comedy at times, both are great parents that really come into their own when needed, especially in After Story.
The story itself is every bit as tragic as it’s made out to be. I won’t spoil things here, but the series had me in tears several times over. The characters are really put through the wringer at every given opportunity, and my word, you can feel their pain. Once you hit the second half of After Story, it honestly feels like everything is falling apart in that regard, and the sad scenes mount up as you go.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The series also throws in some nice, sentimental arcs. For example, Misae Sagara’s flashback arc is a lovely addition to the main story. On top of that, you get some of the teenage slice of life shenanigans you’d expect, such as the makeshift sports team battles and the attempts to rally people together for a club. Where it feels different to me is in the realism of it all. The heroes never feel like they’re guaranteed a win. In fact, they don’t always win. That in itself makes it feel more gratifying when they do win too.
So, if you couldn’t guess, this is an easy one to recommend. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that maintains a sense of realism, even when the fantasy elements kick in. The cast is memorable, and with this complete collection, you have the perfect way to watch it. Throw in the art cards and artbook that come with the set, and you’re onto a winner. This gets a 5 out of 5 from me.