Mania Grade: A-
1 Comment | Add
Rate & Share:
- Audio Rating: A-
- Video Rating: A-
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B+
- Extras Rating: B-
- Age Rating: 13 and Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: Sentai Filmworks
- MSRP: 69.98
- Running time: 600
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Clannad
Clannad Complete Collection
Clannad Complete Collection DVD Review
By G.B. Smith
June 07, 2010
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Sentai Filmworks now presents the entire first season of Clannad in a new collection that contains an English dub for the first time.
What They Say
Tortured by his past and pained by an uncertain future, Tomoya drifts through life with an almost overwhelming anger and emptiness. But when he meets the mysterious, beautiful, shy Nagisa, his world seems to change. Drawn in by her gentle but lonely spirit, he begins to experience the joy life can bring. But as he discovers the reason for his newfound friend's loneliness, Tomoya also finds that life can be frighteningly fragile. Poignant. Compelling. Heartbreaking. Clannad is one of the most cherished anime of all time. Experience the wondrous and tender storytelling that has made Clannad an anime classic.
As the original audio was covered in Chris Beveridge's look at the first, subtitled-only two set release of the show, this review will focus on the new English audio track provided. The English audio is a Dolby Digital 2 channel 48KHz 224kbps stereo track, as is the Japanese audio on this release (same as the first release). The show is very heavily dialogue driven, so most of the work is done by the center speaker. There is some directionality to the mix, though the rear speakers are mainly used for background sounds (birds, cicadas, ambient noise) and for background instruments and vocals during musical segments. The sound is crisp and clear, with no audible faults. A more thorough look at new English dub will be provided below.
Originally airing in Fall 2007 through Spring 2008, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The 24 episodes here are spread over 4 volumes in a six episodes per disc format. The video quality is very good, with very few noticeable visual faults. The inclusion of a new audio track does not seem to have affected video quality. There is occasionally some softness and/or graininess to the picture, especially in panning shots and where there is intense on-screen movement (arms wildly flailing or hair waving in the wind). The colors are quite vibrant, even though the palette used by Kyoto Animation is somewhat muted at times. Textures, such as in the ending animation, are very clear and sharp. The original opening and closing sequences are retained with no replaced credits while the end of each episode has a separate chapter with the translated credits against a black screen, almost exactly the same as the original release, but now with the English dub credits preceding the list of Japanese actors.
Unlike the original half season sets that were in double keepcases, the complete season collection is in a Stack Pack. All four discs in this collection are placed on the single short spindle hub. The case itself is roughly the width of two regular DVD keepcases. Interestingly, the other interior side of the case, with the clips for holding booklets and such actually holds a thick foam insert which helps to make sure the discs cannot come loose from the hub during transit. Probably unnecessary, as the Stack Pack hub is very secure (frankly, a little too secure, making the removal of discs something of a chore). The front cover artwork is one of the standard promotional pieces used for the series. It shows the five main "heroines" against a lavender background with shadows from foliage. The spine features the title and a large picture of Nagisa Furukawa, the main female lead. The back cover displays a series of small screen shots from the show, while featuring a large picture of Ryou Fujibayashi, one of the minor characters in the show. Both the front and back covers highlight the new English dub. The production credits and the technical grid fill out the bottom of the back cover. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reverse side cover.
The main menu is very simple and straightforward. On the right is a still image of one of the characters from the show (it changes from volume to volume). On the left are the menu choices. Instead of providing a separate chapter menu, the main menu gives you direct access to the individual episodes, though conversely, there is no "play all" choice. The only other options are "languages" (where you can choose between English or Japanese with subtitles only; those choices, however, can also be changed on the fly during playback) and on the first two discs "special features," which only includes clean versions of the opening and closing. The first disc also contains a series of trailers for other releases by Sentai Filmworks. The musical theme from the "hidden world" plays in the background of the main menu on all four discs.
The only extras are clean opening and closing animation on the first two discs, and a selection of trailers on the first disc. There are no extras on discs three and four.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Forming the third member of the so-called, by some fans, "KeyAni" Trilogy (a play on the nickname "KyoAni" for Kyoto Animation, the animation studio, changing the beginning to Key for Key/Visual Art's, the Japanese game studio that created the original visual novel on which this anime is based), Clannad was the third time that well-regarded animation studio Kyoto Animation took a visual novel originally created by Key/Visual Art's and turned it into an anime, the first two being AIR and Kanon. While it shares certain similarities with the earlier shows, simply because they share similar origins and were aimed at the same audience, Clannnad is perhaps the most ambitious of the three, embracing larger themes and going much further in terms of fully fleshing out the characters, even if some of those characters are based upon clearly established archetypes that are common to visual novels.
Tomoyo Okazaki is a high school delinquent, but his poor behavior doesn't stem from a nasty disposition. He has a troubled background because of family tragedy, but his anger is as much directed inward as outward. While walking up the hill to his school one day, thinking about how much he hates the town he lives in, he comes across a girl lost in thought. Nagisa Furukawa, the girl he meets, has her own problems, as she is a repeater, having been forced to repeat her senior year of high school since she missed too many class days due to illness the previous year. Together, the two of them will discover the importance of family and friends in life.
There is no need for an extended plot description, as that has been extensively covered in the previous reviews for Clannad season 1 (see here http://www.mania.com/clannad_series_12257.html). Since this may be the first time the show has been viewed by some segment of the audience, especially dub fans excited by the prospect of a new dub from Seraphim Digital, the successor to ADV Studios (know throughout time by many names, such as Amusement Park Media and Industrial Smoke & Mirrors), this review will focus on the quality of the new English dub, and how it adds to the experience, as well as giving the reviewer's personal take on both the dub and the show.
Experienced director Steven Foster, known for such works as Le Chevalier D'Éon, Pani Poni Dash!, Super Milk-chan, Red Garden, and the works of Makoto Shinkai (Voices of a Distant Star, The Place Promised in Our Early Days, 5 Centimeters Per Second), as well as several other shows which ADV released, directed and adapted the script for the first half (episodes 1-12) of Clannad. Directing duties were taken over by Janice Williams, with Clint Bickham adapting the scripts, for the second half. For those who might be worried about a directorial changeover in the middle, be assured that there is a nearly seamless movement from the first half to the second, with no drop in the quality of the performances. If there is one quibble to be had with the show from the start, it is in how some of the characters' names are pronounced, always a touchy subject with some viewers. It ranges from minor (putting the stress accent on Nagisa where it doesn't naturally fall in Japanese) to somewhat noticeable (Yuusuke is "you-sue-key" at one point, but properly "yous-kay" at another. "Kouko" becomes "Coo-ko" in the pronunciation of one actor, while Mr. Koumura, the teacher, is pronounced properly as "Koh-mura"). Sanae also becomes "Sané" (rhymes with "René") at one point. In general, however, only the most sensitive will be discomforted.
David Matranga, who has had major roles in several other dubs directed by Mr. Foster, tackles the lead role of Tomoya Okazaki, the high school delinquent whose character is far more complex than that stereotypical label would seem to indicate. Because of the death of his mother when he was a child, Tomoya and his father Naoyuki (Chris Hutchison) became estranged, as his father turned to alcohol to ease his own personal grief, leading the younger Okazaki to grow up without a strong sense of family and parental love. Tomoya's anger against his father is compounded by a fight the two of them had right before Tomoya entered high school. While Tomoya had been a star basketball player in middle school, and was recruited to Hikarisaka High School, a fictional high school in a fictional Japanese town, for their team, the fight with his father permanently injured his shoulder, resulting in his inability to play ever again. Tomoya is a young man with a great sense of resentment at the world, which he expresses through apathy. Apathy towards people, including himself.
Mr. Matranga does an excellent job of getting across this apathy that is sparked by anger and resentment. From the very beginning, as you hear the opening monologue of Tomoya, where he expresses his disgust and hatred for the town that he has known his whole life, you can hear the repressed emotions that lie at the bottom of his apathy. The performance, however, is not a one trick pony. As Tomoya's character begins to change and grow over the course of the show, Mr. Matranga's performance moves with him. In order to relieve his boredom and disgust, Tomoya enjoys playing tricks on others, and Mr. Matranga's voice becomes quite playful when Tomoya is engaged in such things. In later sections of the show, we begin to see another side of Tomoya emerge, as his budding relationship with Nagisa Furukawa seems to tame some of that anger and resentment, resulting in a Tomoya who is slightly embarrassed, almost sheepish at times, in her presence. In these scenes, Mr. Matranga manages to soften the slightly harsher tone that Tomoya has earlier in the show, displaying for us that essential change in Tomoya's interactions with others as his outlook on the world begins to widen.
Turning now to Nagisa Furukawa, Luci Christian, one of the most prolific voice actresses in the Texas dubbing scene (as she now works more often for FUNimation, as they have been more active of late), gives a wonderfully sweet and touching performance as Nagisa, a girl who lacks confidence as well as a strong constitution. While the voice that she uses is one that has likely been heard by experienced dub fans before, it is what she does with that voice that matters. While Nagisa is prone to sickness and easily loses faith in herself, there is also, deep down inside of her, a reserve of hidden strength that emerges every now and then, though that strength develops largely because of her interaction with Tomoya over the course of the show. Ms. Christian fits Nagisa perfectly, as she captures the various moods of the young woman: sad and shy, happy and cheerful, determined, and at times spaced out. She also happens to be one of the best criers in the business, and Nagisa turns to the waterworks on more than one occasion. Crying is difficult for any actor, as it often seems forced or unrealistic in any form of entertainment. There is a believability to how Ms. Christian does it.
The show itself is divided into story arcs, one of the necessary conventions of adapting what was originally a game, where multiple paths were available. The first of the "heroines" whose story is told is that of the underdeveloped and slightly mysterious Fuko Ibuki, who is voiced by Hilary Haag. Fuko is first met hiding out in an empty classroom, sculpting what looks like a giant five-pointed star out of wood with a carving knife. Fuko belongs to that class of character that is supposed to be endearing by annoying you greatly (this reviewer's own personal take on the character; many will disagree quite strongly). In this respect, Ms. Haag was an excellent choice, since she has shown on many a previous occasion an ability to make bratty, annoying characters believable. More importantly, she has a talent for making them sympathetic, something that was a bit lacking in the original vocal performance, which had a strongly grating quality that could be off-putting. Ms. Haag, on the other hand, does a good job of making the character annoying while still keeping the audience's sympathy, through a deft softening of tone and delivery at times.
After Fuko's story comes to a temporary resolution, the next main "heroine" is Kotomi Ichinose, the girl genius who sits in the library all day reading books, since regular classes would only hold her back. Emily Neves, a newcomer to the dubbing scene, plays a role that presents some difficulties, since the original, by Mamiko Noto, had a delivery and tone that would sound very strange if replicated in English. Fortunately, no attempt was made to reproduce the original, and instead Ms. Neves offers a very straightforward take on Kotomi, giving her a cheerful and girlish voice that works very well in English. What is remarkable is how natural and comfortable she sounds, even though she has not done an extensive amount of anime dubbing as of yet. At first, there is a distance to her voice, as if she is not all there, which is exactly how she needs to be played, but over time, as Kotomi begins to interact more with Tomoya and the others, you can hear the life enter into Ms. Neves' vocal performance, a little bit at a time.
In the second half, a few episodes are devoted to developing further the relationships Tomoya has with Kyou Fujibayashi (Shelley Calene-Black) and Tomoyo Sakagami (Kaytha Coker). The former is a rather fiery "tsundere" (harsh at the outset, softens later on) type, played just right, performance-wise, by Ms. Calene-Black. It is a very good performance, but it is marred by one problem: Ms. Calene-Black is not the right vocal range for Kyou, as her voice sounds too old for the character's appearance. It is unfortunate that Kyou sounds too far old for her appearance, unfortunate because from an acting standpoint, Ms. Calene-Black hits all of the right notes for Kyou very well. All fire and sass at the start, and then one memorable change much later in the show. If she could have comfortably adjusted her pitch upward somewhat, it would have made for a very good match.
As for Tomoyo, a character who proved popular enough with the original creators that they created a sequel ("Tomoyo After") which further told the story of what things would be like if Tomoya had chosen to be with Tomoyo, Ms. Coker, while also sounding slightly on the older range of believable, gives a very good performance. For an important part of Clannad, Tomoyo is something of a busybody, taking it upon herself to try to reform the delinquents Tomoya and his good friend and fellow delinquent Youhei Sunohara (Greg Ayres, on whom more shortly). Tomoyo has greater ambitions, however, as she wishes to save the cherry trees that line the road leading up the hill to Hikarisaka High School, which are in danger of being chopped down to make way for something or other. Her determination and steadfastness come through quite well in Ms. Coker's voice.
Where she really shines, however, is in one of the "bonus" episodes at the end (Clannad is actually only 22 episodes, with one "bonus" episode at the end that forms a coda, and a further alternate-reality OVA, "Another World: Tomoyo Arc," which gives some idea of how the Tomoyo arc in the original visual novel diverged from the "main" Nagisa arc). In the Tomoyo episode, a world where Tomoya chooses to start a deeper relationship with Tomoyo Sakagami, Ms. Coker shifts gears quite strongly, but deftly. While Tomoyo is still very strong willed, steadfast, and confident, there are also times where a vulnerability creeps into her voice, a sense of worry, and feelings of desire and need which are not apparent in the main story. All of this comes through quite well in Ms. Coker's vocal performance, giving her character a much deeper and complex characterization in this one episode, which is exactly as it should be.
Having covered the protagonist and the main female characters, it is time to look at the supporting cast, though there are far too many minor characters to examine each of them in great detail. The most important of the secondary characters will be noted here.
Tomoya's good friend and fellow delinquent Youhei Sunohara, is played by Greg Ayres, using his well-known and at this point to be expected "loser friend" voice, very much the same one he used previously as Jun Kitagawa in Kanon. Worries about sameness can be dismissed, however, because of the strength of Mr. Ayres' performance. While Sunohara, at first, appears to be a stock character, he is actually much more complex and multifaceted. While he shares Tomoya's defiance of authority and lack of effort in his school work, and enjoys playing pranks on those who are more straitlaced, Sunohara is not a bad person deep inside, and that comes through in Mr. Ayres' vocal performance. He manages to create a good amount of sympathy for the character, a character who is much put upon, though more often than not deserving of the rough treatment he receives at times. Mr. Ayres conveys Sunohara's easily excitable nature well, while dialing it down appropriately when the character is in a more mellow mood.
Two major figures (especially towards the end) are Nagisa's parents, Akio and Sanae Furukawa. Andrew Love gives Akio a very manly, forceful voice, which is fitting for the character and the way he behaves. There is a certain theatricality to the voice as well, which is quite apt. His star turn comes in episode 22, where he makes an impassioned speech about parents and the dreams they have for their children. It is strong, but not overpowered; emotional, but not over the top, keeping a believable edge to it. Kara Greenberg, as Sanae, is very motherly and tender in her performance, suiting the role perfectly.
Kyou Fujibayashi, one of the main heroines, has an identical twin sister (though they are easily told apart by their different hairstyles) named Ryou, played by Brittney Karbowski. Using a slightly more breathy, airy voice, she portrays the younger twin very well, conveying Ryou's lack of confidence and gentle nature. As a final note, something should be said about the "Illusory World," an ongoing series of cutaways that appear throughout the show. In a separate world, we see a bleak landscape inhabited solely by a Girl (Melissa Davis, using a nice, gentle young girl voice) and her only companion, a robot that she made out of junk which was lying around. The robot cannot speak, but in voice over (by Shannon Emerick) narrates the truth about this world. Ms. Emerick, using a voice that can be a little hard to tell at times whether it is a young girl's or a young boy's voice (a deliberate choice, I suspect, and a very good one for a specific reason), gives the right air of pathos to the narration, as the robot tells the tale of the Girl and the world they inhabit.
Sadly, there are far too many characters to discuss each and every one of them in detail. If you would like to share your thoughts on many of the minor characters omitted from this review, please feel free to post in our forums here at Mania. Overall, it is a very good dub, one that does justice to the complex personalities involved and the emotional lives that they lead.
Which brings us to the show itself. What does one make of Clannad? On the surface, because of its origin as a visual novel where the main male character embarks on a series of relationships with more or less attractive young women at his school, many who have not seen it have dismissed it as a "harem" show, though this would be to sell it far short of what it manages to accomplish. In the end, Clannad is really a sweet look at a loving relationship that springs up between two people who, at first, might seem to have little in common. Their journey turns out to be a meandering one, as events and other people attempt to get in their way, much like real life, where it is rare to have an easy progression from one stage to the next without incident.
In the end, the real power of Clannad lies in its characters. Yes, admittedly, several of them are very much caricatures, trope-laden bundles of stereotypes, neatly packaged for ready consumption by fans of this "type" of show (though Clannad defies easy identification in some ways). Putting them aside, the strength of this show lies in the central relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa, who are much deeper than they appear initially. While apathetic and filled with a despair brought on by impotent rage against the world and himself, Tomoya deep down inside just wants to be loved, but is afraid to express that desire, as he has not known love so far in his brief life. Nagisa, seemingly weak and lacking in confidence, gains in strength over time, and while she draws strength from her relationship to Tomoyo, she shows herself to be an equal partner in that relationship. As is remarked by one of the teachers late in the series, one who was having trouble with Tomoya, when Nagisa is around, suddenly Tomoya becomes much more able to be handled, more civilized, more kind. It's not that that kindness was created out of nothing. It was always there deep inside of him, but it required Nagisa to bring it out.
One of the most important themes is family, and the strength of family bonds is handled very well in the scenes showing Nagisa and Tomoya with her family. Akio and Sanae, while the former especially seems somewhat unrealistic in his behavior at times, have very realistic interactions with their daughter and her close friend who becomes more than that. When Akio realizes that his daughter is in love for the first time, he has the expected, but not unreal, reaction that any doting father would have: a strong sense of protectiveness and resentment against the man who has intruded on his relationship with his beloved daughter. When the family is all together, their daily interaction is quite believable, and itself forms a model for Tomoya to learn what a "real" family, at least, what a loving family, should be like.
While there are some supernatural elements to the show, fortunately they do not, as yet, play a direct role in the main relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa. That air of reality helps to make the drama more believable, and winds up rendering the characters more believable as well. And it is that realism, in characterization and in the situations they face, that helps to carry this show forward, presenting a central pair that one can see falling in love one step at a time.
While easily dismissed as a harem show by those only superficially acquainted with it, Clannad is actually a rather sharp, and sometimes realistic at times, portrait of young love coming into existence. While many of the characters fit into stereotypes straight from the mold, the lead pair of Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa move past that, showing an unexpected depth and complexity. There is a realness to their relationship that helps to move this show from being a mere "one boy, many girls" anime into the realm of a slightly sentimental, well written, look at the love that two lost souls find when their paths cross one day. High school comedies and dramas are a dime a dozen in anime, which is why it requires something special to set a show apart from the crowd. Clannad does that with fairly sharp writing that can be funny at one moment, and heartbreaking at another. The transitions are not jarring or forced: they flow naturally, in a rhythm not unlike real life.
Now for the first time, English dub fans can also enjoy the show in English. Overall, the dub, directed by Steven Foster and Janice Williams, is a very good effort, with performances that capture the characters very well while providing an emotionally fulfilling experience.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Sony KDL-32S5100 32-Inch 1080p LCD HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Sony Bravia DAV-HDX589W 5.1-Channel Theater System connected via digital optical cable.