A canon is a type of song where the melody keeps repeating, and with each repetition the song grows more and more beautiful and vibrant as the new chords harmonize with each other. A pretty apt comparison for this series, actually.
What They Say
Yuichi hasn't seen his cousin Nayuki in years. Now that he's back, all knowledge of ever visiting has vanished. He tries to adjust to the vaguely familiar surroundings, but the gaps in his memory haunt him as time grows short. The pieces of the puzzle have appeared - an eerily silent beauty with blazing tresses, the mysterious girl with the winged backpack, and the sword-wielding demon slayer - but it's up to Yuichi to discover how they fit together.
Contains episodes 1-24.
Both language tracks for this release are offered in 2.0. The mix is fairly basic, with minor amounts of directionality. This is not a big deal since Kanon is based on dialogue. Where the audio really shines is the quiet music track. Since the series title is based on the classical term ‘canon,’ much of the soundtrack has a classical feel to it. It lends a very nice ambience to the proceedings.
Quiet is the theme for the video as well, which is presented in 16:9 widescreen. As most of the series takes place in the winter, there are plenty of gorgeous scenes of snowfall, and the feeling extends to the rest of the design as the coloring is soft and ethereal. It is a beautifully designed series. Technically, there are a few areas of cross coloring and noise in the background, but it is never overwhelming. Overall, it is a very pretty series.
I really like the recent direction for collection packaging by Funimation. The four discs are housed in two thinpaks, with an art box to contain them. The covers are full of various images of the many girls in Yuichi’s life, while the logo and backgrounds have snow motifs. The covers of the thinpaks are reversible, and have some really nice wraparound pictures on the backside. The set has a nice composition that fits the feel of the series quite well.
The menus are pretty basic but also feature nice composition. The background images are the same that are used for the reverse images on the thinpak covers. Selections are set in the picture, with a snowflake as the selection cursor. While the main menu is up, a quiet chime song plays in the background. Again, it fits well with the soft, quiet nature of the show.
Aside from a few trailers on the last disc, there are no extras on this set.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Going in, Kanon was a title that I knew little about aside from knowing it came with a tremendous amount of hype. Having now seen it, I can safely say the hype was worth it. With a mix of reality and magical realism, it is equal parts humorous, sweet, and heart-breaking, and yet overall uplifting. Kanon is a title that has a little bit of something for everybody.
Yuichi Aizawa has not visited his cousin, Nayuki, and Aunt Akiko in seven years. It has been long enough that he barely remembers the times he spent with them as a kid. But now he is coming to live with them. No reason is ever given as to why he is moving, but with that change, he hopes that he might be able to regain some of those lost memories.
His first day in town, while waiting for Nayuki to finish grocery shopping, a little girl with an adorable winged backpack runs into him and drags him to a coffee shop in order to escape a man chasing her. As it turns out, through a misunderstanding she had stolen a bag of taiyaki pastries from his stand. Yuichi forces her to return, apologize, and pay the man. Her name is Ayu Tsukimiya, and after running into her a few more times, he soon realizes that he knew her when he was a kid.
This becomes a pattern for his life. The more comfortable he gets in town, the more people he meets, many of which are former friends that he has forgotten. And as it turns out, every girl he becomes friends with is having to deal with a serious, life- altering problem, and only he can help them through those issues.
The amnesiac Makoto Sawatari, whose only recollection is that she has a grudge against Yuichi; the demon-slaying Mai who has trouble opening up to others; the perpetually sick Shiori who just wants a normal life; and the childish Ayu who holds a secret about Yuichi’s past: each is stuck in a holding pattern of life until Yuichi can figure out how to release them. Even his cousin, Nayuki, is struggling to move ahead with her life. And Yuichi is only able to help them if he can figure out what he is missing from his past and how to solve the problems he has buried.
The interesting thing about Kanon is how well it manages to tug on each emotion. For the most part, it is a charmingly humorous story of a guy and his eclectic group of friends. The comedy here tends to be more towards verbal jabs and light-hearted mishaps than from any particular slapstick. It is based more in the characters’ personalities than in physical humor.
Each character has their own eccentricities, like how Sayuri will only refer to herself in third-person or how Kitagawa completely fawns over Kaori as her manservant despite the fact that it never gets him anywhere. And of course, the incredibly popular—not to mention ungodly adorable—verbal tics of many of the female characters when embarrassed, such as Mokoto’s “auuu” and Ayu’s “uguu.” Likeable and believable characters are something I always look for first in a title before I decide if I like it, and Kanon has them in spades.
But just as often, Kanon moves away from the comedy and into more serious situations as Yuichi starts to get to the bottom of each person’s problems. These times hover between a solemn sweetness that at times borders on romantic to just heart-wrenchingly tragic—sometimes both at the same time. With each case, Yuichi and the girl in question have to face some difficult questions about their lives and their pasts, and sometimes the answers are far harsher than they would like.
However, what makes this series uplifting is the way that everybody manages to accept their situations and work to make the best of what they have been dealt. There are no “why me” moments, even from Yuichi, who has to bear the burdens of everybody beside himself. They face their problems head-on and are willing to accept whatever comes to them. It provides a nice change of pace from other titles where the characters might become complete emotional wrecks from their issues. In an odd way, despite the troubles they have hanging over them, their lives become about finding happiness in the small moments.
What took me by surprise with Kanon were the supernatural elements. In many ways, it is set up to feel like a slice-of-life type of series, but then all of a sudden we have Mai spending her nights at the school hunting ‘demons,’ i.e. translucent spirits that haunt the school. In fact, almost each problem Yuichi comes to face has some form of para-normal event attached to it. At first, it was a bit jarring, as it felt really out of place from the style of the show. However, as new elements would pop-up, they began to blend in and somehow enhanced the slice-of-life ideals.
More than anything, what makes Kanon for me is Yuichi himself. Though I certainly would not classify it as such, a show such as Kanon would typically have the sort of male lead that permeates harem titles: wishy-washy, nice to a fault, unlucky in everything, etc. Yuichi breaks this mold. He is a bit sarcastic, even when he should not be, and he is completely comfortable in his own skin. While he does do what he can to help his friends, he is also not afraid to thumb his nose at them if he finds it amusing.
What this ultimately does is make his relationship with everybody seem more believable. He is not a stereotype, but rather just a normal high school guy. It made me care just a little bit more about everything that he has to go through, and therefore gave the series that much more emotional impact than it might otherwise have had.
As a writer and literature teacher, I often think and teach about the importance of titles. A great title should have some form of impact on the overall theme or idea of a story, essay, etc. Kanon is a great title. As Saiyuri explains to Yuichi at one point, “a canon is a type of song where the melody keeps repeating, and with each repetition the song grows more and more beautiful and vibrant as the new chords harmonize with each other.”
The storyline of Kanon tries to follow this philosophy: starting with Mokoto, Yuichi finds himself helping to solve the mystery of Mokoto’s past so that she can be free of the indecisions that surround him; as the mystery begins to unravel, they are faced with a series of tough decisions that will dramatically affect the course of both of their lives. Every time Yuichi steps up to help a new person, this same basic pattern is followed, however each time he has new experiences from which to draw. In the end, he finds that only by drawing on everything he has learned can he come to an ultimate conclusion. And as canons often end by returning to the beginning, I really liked the symmetry created at the end with the brief appearance of one last childhood friend.
I really have nothing bad to say about Kanon. It is at times laugh-out-loud funny, and other times heart-breakingly tragic. And it hits every emotion in-between. And somehow, in the end, it is a complete pick-me-up. Add in the beautiful animation and wonderful soundtrack, and it is one of those rare pieces that hits on just about every cylinder. In that way, it has a little something for everybody. I could pick a few nits here and there, but it would be an exercise in futility as it is otherwise great. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Memorex MVD2042 Progressive Scan w/ DD/DTS (Component Connection), Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System