Clannad Collection 1 (of 2) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tomoyo’s life finds itself being slowly turned upside down as he becomes close with a number of young women who will reshape it all.

What They Say
Sometimes, something as simple as a chance encounter with a strange girl talking to herself can change your life forever. Alienated from his abusive father, Tomoya has been spiraling into delinquency since the death of his mother. Nagisa's curse is her fragile health, which has forced her to repeat a year of high school. But when Tomoya impulsively agrees to help Nagisa restart the school's disbanded Drama Club, a new mechanism for change is created, acting like a magnet for other girls with equally tragic stories.

Prepare to meet the ambitious Tomoyo, who dreams of becoming class president; Kotomi, a troubled genius with a secret past; and most mysteriously, Fuko, whose disassociation with the world has become so severe that she is literally fading from existence!

Contains episodes 1-12.

The Review!
The first of the new anime properties from Sentai Filmworks, Clannad unfortunately doesn’t merit an English language audio adaptation. What we get for this set is the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 224kbps. The audio for the show is quite good, though limited by what it is, as Clannad is very much a dialogue driven piece with ambient music and sound effects throughout. The music and such doesn’t really have a big impact but instead is very subtle and quiet for the most part which keeps it from being overbearing. The dialogue is where the bulk of this mix takes place and it’s generally a center channel oriented mix but with enough placement and directionality at times to make it noticeable. Usually only one or two characters are talking on screen at a time so it’s not a heavy requirement but when there are more it comes across well. This is a solid sound mix overall but not one that really pushes any limits for obvious reasons.

Originally airing in 2007 and 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This collection features the first twelve episodes spread across two discs in a six/six format. The show has the usual high quality Kyoto Animation work that I’ve come to expect from them and the transfer captures it quite well. Like their other works, there’s a certain softness to a lot of scenes but so much of it just has a real beauty to it with the colors and the nods to realism. The put out a beautiful sense of atmosphere to their work and the transfer here does an excellent job of capturing that with solid bitrates and attention to the busier scenes. 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. Sentai has done a very good job with this release as there’s little to really fault here other than a few gradients that are visible and some expected noise in a few backgrounds here and there.

Presented in a single sized keepcase with no hinge inside to hold the discs, Clannad has an appealing look to it but one that doesn’t really stand out all that much. The front cover features a very appealing shot of Nagisa in her school uniform with one hand outstretched where she’s got a great smile to her. With the soft pinks behind her and the flowers, it’s a very inviting piece and one that pushes the simplicity of the series. But it doesn’t stand out all that much either for anyone who may casually come across it. The logo is kept small as is the collection label which surprisingly includes the episode count on it. The back cover makes it plain the intent though as it says “For fans of Kanon and AIR” which is what this is really aimed for. The back cover has a soft opaque view of a couple of the other girls underneath everything which gives it a soft feel as well. There’s a few good colorful shots from the show along the left while the right has a small print summary of the premise. The remainder is given over to a small round of production credits and a good clean technical grid that lays it all out clearly. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

The menu design for Clannad is quite nice as it uses the beautiful backgrounds to great effect where it has the sun shining through the trees with all kinds of colors on display. The natural setting is very appealing with the way Kyoto Animation designs things and when you combine it with the character artwork for Nagisa on the two volumes it’s even more so, particularly where she’s holding a Dango Dango character on the first volume. Each disc has top level episode access which is a plus but beyond that it’s pretty barren as the first volume has just the special features while the second has the previews for other shows. No language options are available here either since it’s a monolingual disc and they default to just that with subtitles on, though they can be turned off on the fly.

The only extras included are clean versions of the opening and closing sequences which can be found on the first volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the Key/Visual Arts game series of the same name, Clannad is a twenty-three episode series that once again delves into the moody and atmospheric world of high school students in slightly strange situations. Teaming up once again with Kyoto Animation, the series fits in very well with what's come before it with Air and Kanon. Unlike those two however, Clannad wasn't based on an ero visual novel but it still has very much the same feel as those two anime adaptations. While the show does come across as the same in a lot of ways, it's the kind of series where if you loved what they did in the other shows, you don't mind coming back for more of the same with new characters and a different setting.

Sentai Filmworks has opted to put out the first twelve episodes of the series in this set instead of the single disc format. This works rather well for a show like this in some ways as it covers the introduction elements and then the first major arc of the series. The downside is that it also starts the second arc of the series and it's a tease that'll leave you waiting for a bit. That's good in getting you the next set, but it does make the wait a little more unbearable. Like other Key series, Clannad focuses on a small group of characters in a school based setting as they go through their lives. It's a very laid back show where the atmosphere really captivates you along with the strong visuals. The things that made Air and Kanon so enjoyable really are here just as strong.

Clannad revolves around the mildly delinquent student Tomoya, a young man who has some troubles at home that has seeped into his everyday life. With his mother dead for several years, his father has taken to listlessness, drinking and sleeping a lot. With little work coming his way, he's always around and Tomoya just resents him all the more for it. At school, he hangs out with Sunohara, another mild delinquent who doesn't have all that much in the way of ambition or things going for him as it seems. First appearances are of course deceptive but Sunohara has that kind of feeling about him that he's just killing time until something more interesting comes along. For the two of them, they spend a lot of time together out and about as well as at Sunohara's dorm room where he lives with what seems to be the entire rugby team that likes picking on him.

Into Tomoya's life a number of women must fall. Clannad looks to revolve around a group of about five women who go to the same school as him. Initially, he comes into contact with Nagisa, a girl who is a little sickly as she's spent some time away since she gets weak easily. Tomoya and Nagisa become unlikely friends pretty quickly and before he knows it he's actually at her house which is also her parents business as they run a local pastry shop. The family life is fairly amusing and they almost seem to take in Tomoya in a way and he's unsure of it all since it's so unlike his own home life. There's hints of what he wanted out of life but there's also an edge of something there where you wonder if he feels that he doesn't deserve it.

Nagisa is easily a favorite as she's quiet but has this desire to start up the drama club so she can put on a play that she's interested in. That she's the quiet type but has this desire to be in a play is amusing as is the way she seems to know almost nothing about the whole process itself. And that the drama club has been disbanded for awhile now and she's having trouble starting it up only makes it more appealing. Tomoya also interacts with his class leader, a young woman named Ryou. She likes to tell fortunes with a regular deck of cards and is a generally sweet girl which is balanced by her sister Kyou. Kyou is far more outgoing and protective of her sister so she often shows up to smack others around, often Tomoya, in her efforts to make sure Ryou has a very positive high school experience.

There's a similar set of parallels in the form of Tomoyo and Kotomi. Tomoyo is a very outgoing and aggressive girl who has a reputation in the area to begin with, enough so that during the festival she wears a bear costume so others don't see her to cause problems. Tomoyo is often set to trouble by Sunohara which is very amusing since he's initially convinced that she's a guy with the way she beats up on him. Contrasting her is Kotomi, a genius girl who skips most of her classes and spends her time in the library reading books and learning. She's the main focus of the second arc which starts towards the end of this set. Kotomi is a very introverted girl who doesn't even register other people talking to her for the most part and Tomoya is one of the few that's actually able to get through and connect with her. Both of these girls get very little development during the first half of the series but their stories are slowly woven into the overall picture in very enjoyable ways.

Where the bulk of this set revolves around is with the character of Fuko. Fuko is a very unique girl in her own way, though familiar from other Key properties. Fuko connects with Tomoya rather easily as even though he's a delinquent of sorts, he's still a decent guy. When he comes across her several times, he finds himself drawn to her and the way she's always carving starfish out of leftover wood. Through his time with her, he learns of her accident and time in the hospital as well as her older sister that used to be a teacher at the school and is about to get married. He helps get Fuko to live with Nagisa for a littl while as they try to figure out how to help her with her problem all while discovering what the real mystery and secret of Fuko is.  Admittedly, you can tell what Fuko's deal is pretty early on if you've seen Kanon or Air so there isn't a lot of surprise here, but it's still a lot of fun watching the stories get told in the way that they're designed. It's about the atmosphere and mood.

And that's what a good chunk of any Key series is about and Clannad is no exception. So much of Clannad is about watching the characters go through the slow discovery of what the mystery is – Fuko at first and then on to Kotomi – while also building up their relationships. There's a nice moment along the way where Fuko realizes that both Nagisa and Tomoya make a nice couple and she puts a few little things in motion to reinforce that. The pleasure and enjoyment comes from watching these relationship develop slowly and seemingly naturally. This is such a contrast to so many series where things are done chaotically and with such pressure and in a short amount of time that it pushes the envelope to much. Yet here, the slower but no less dense pacing allows for it to have a far more natural feeling to it.

All of this atmosphere is ably aided by the beautiful animation. The settings are familiar to be sure, but there's a very lived in and soothing feeling to all of it with how Kyoto Animation has done all of it. As much as I enjoyed Air for its visuals when I first saw it and Kanon later on, watching the progression of their style for the Key properties has been thoroughly engaging. Clannad certainly takes it up a notch, though there are obvious character design similarities, and it all comes together beautifully. The characters are all done in a really good consistent style and I like that they do manage to avoid outlandish colors outside of some of the light purples used for several of them. Sunohara is the main exception with his blonde hair but that just fits in with his delinquent status. Clannad is a beautifully animated series that captivates with its designs and animation.

In Summary:
As much as I enjoy these series, they are ones that are somewhat hard to talk about. So much of what it's about isn't so much the story itself but the feelings that it conveys. Clannad conveys so much with its characters and the way that interact with each other, the way their relationships grow slowly but in an engaging way. The twelve episodes here bring us some familiar situations, especially after Kanon, but it's the small subtle things that are the most engaging. So many series try hard – very hard – to get you to care about the characters, but Clannad does it with such ease that it's almost amazing. These kinds of series aren't for everyone to be sure, but I've found this one to be quite engaging so far and done with characters and situations that have me more interested than Kanon did, never mind Air. Fans of those shows will fall in love with this and it may be the one to draw in others as well.

Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

Mania Grade: A-
Audio Rating: B
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: 39.98
Running time: 300
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Clannad