The cast stories expand before settling in to deal with the core characters, their pasts and what their future may be.
What They Say
Tomoya Okazaki is a high school student who resents his hard life. Then he meets a strange girl named Nagisa Furukawa, and his life begins moving in a new direction.
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 Kyou in her school uniform with her arms crossed with a . 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 the two girls used across the two volumes here. 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)
The second half of Clannad hits with this release by presenting ten episodes that cover the remainder of the main series of stories. After that, we get an extension episode that serves as a wonderful epilogue and then a separate OVA in which we have a very different timeline to watch. Like other Key series, Clannad works through a few more character stories before it really delves into the two primary ones, dealing with the secret behind Nagisa and what's really been eating at Tomoya for all these years. While the overall idea and the way its presented is somewhat predictable, there's such a smoothness and grace to how they bring it all about that I can't help but be pleased by how this ends.
Clannad works through only a few character stories overall for the second half and starts off by finishing up with the one started in the previous set. Kotomi's been practically in hiding after all that's happened to her and Tomoya is finding that he really feels compelled to do something for her. While she spends her time hidden away in her house, Tomoya's begun weeding the garden and making general repairs in that area. With their pasts tied to each other in simple ways which we see through flashbacks, it's an interesting if mild bonding that the two have overall, but one that provides for some beautiful visuals. Tomoya's efforts have the other girls becoming involved as well which is good to see as the overall group bonding is growing quite nicely here.
Kotomi's storyline with her past dealing with her parents is something that's quite nicely played out here, though a bit too sugary sweet for my tastes when it comes to the end discovery. Her anger at herself with what happened to them has resonated for years and she's still feeling very responsible for it in her own way. There's some interesting moments about her past that we see, such as how she asks for a teddy bear for a present because that's what she believes a girl her age would want. Her relationship with her parents is cool but loving in the way it's expressed, where she feels safe and loved but the moment something goes different than what she expected or wanted, it ends up throwing her off balance completely. Kotomi's story has a lot of good moments to it, but some of that momentum and interest was lessened by the far too sugary revelations made when the suitcase arrives.
The shift of focus moves on to Nagisa in a way as they group discovers a new way of trying to get the drama club organized and approved. Nagisa's desire to do he drama side is still very much one of the core storylines of the series and this is another area where they utilize the cast well to bond everyone to making it happen. The idea this time is to get Tomoyo to make a lot of friends and impress people so she can have an easier time running for student council president, which in turn would make it a lot easier for the drama club to be approved with her on their side. Sunohara really gets into this and sets up all sorts of matches and competitions for Tomoyo (and Tomoya!) to get involved in which lets them circulate throughout the student body and interact with everyone to some extent. It's generally a light piece, but there's a lot of quieter personal moments such as the explanations as to why Sunohara is doing all of this and a small exploration of Tomoya's problems with his arm and what led him down that path.
The final two main stories that involved the leads of Nagisa and Tomoya are really well done as they're tied together in just the right way. Circumstances push Tomoya into living with Nagisa for awhile and he gets to experience a very upbeat, close and loving family that he hasn't had in some time, if at all depending on how well his memory is. This is a very fun turn of events as Nagisa's parents, Akio and Sanae, are just such a wonderful couple with how they interact with each other and those that come to visit. With Tomoya living with them for awhile, he gets plenty of grief from Akio, but some of it comes from the realization that his daughter really does like Tomoya. Even worse is that Nagisa is interested in a guy who is very much like her father, and the two men start to realize that slowly which makes their relationship all the more fun to watch.
Clannad has dealt with a little side story from the beginning about the girl who is all alone with her little robotic friend that she created. That story starts to become the focus as Nagisa is using it as the basis of the play she wants to put on in the drama club. When it starts to come out, it's part of a bigger secret from her past that her father is trying to keep secret and he enlists Tomoya to help it stay that way. Having the side story finally come about and seeing the way that the two men get closer together as Akio hints at the reasons from the past and why he's hiding things from Nagisa does very well in tying it all together. So much of shows like this, and from Key in particular, are all about the feelings and emotions that if they can't make it work then it'll feel weak and fake. Clannad doesn't do that even with this kind of hook to the story. I'm not sure it really strengthens it terribly, but it doesn't make it weak and it allows for the play to have added meaning for many.
Interestingly, Clannad does really end with its main storylines in episode twenty-two, which really surprised me. You do wonder where they'll take you with the remaining two and both of them proved to be quite different ways of dealing with it. The first one is the true epilogue as it goes past the school festival and shows how things have changed between Nagisa and Tomoya since then. It's a perfect epilogue because it shows the sweet side of things and the goodness of the characters after all they've been though. As much as I liked it, I really loved the last episode which is an OVA that takes the characters into an alternate timeline. The focus is much smaller and it has a much colder feel to it as it revolves around Tomoyo and Tomoya being in a relationship with each other. Nobody else is involved here outside of Sunohara and it's a very intense if brief kind of relationship in the Key style. With the focus being so small and the core of the characters still the same, it's really intriguing to see this interpretation. Enough so that I'd love to see even a twelve episode series about it expanded.
It's been really interesting watching the Key series in the last couple of years. Going from Air to Kanon and then to Clannad, you can see their progression both in storytelling complexity and the animation itself. The story side is something I'm hoping they continue to evolve on because there is certainly a good deal of familiarity here. That's not a bad thing because what they do, well, they do it incredibly well. Rare is a high school romantic dramedy as enjoyable and compelling as this even if it has that air of familiarity from Kanon. I hope that they do start changing things up a little bit though as they continue on with new series. When it comes to the animation, I love that varying styles to the settings in each show and Clannad has a very solid one as it's not quite the extremes we saw in other shows. It plays more to the center without being too warm or too cold. With great character designs, fun and interesting characters and a series of stories that keep you watching as the threads start coming together, Clannad is something every Key fan will likely enjoy while it could easily convert and bring in new fans as well.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
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.