Review: Clannad (anime)

I’ve just finished watching this anime series comprising 23 episodes and an OVA. The OVA is an alternative ending to the series.

Overall, I enjoyed it, although I felt there were a couple of problems, which I will go into later. There will probably be some spoilers at that time, but I will warn you before starting.

This would be what’s classified as a Slice of Life series. It isn’t my usual cup of tea, as I generally prefer speculative over realistic story lines. Now for those of you who have already seen this and are about to take me to task because you think it is a fantasy, I say, hear me out to the end. That is one of the problems I alluded to earlier and I will cover it.

The story follows Tomoya Okazaki, a self-described delinquent, in his final year of high school. Tomoya meets and befriends Nagisa Furukawa, a painfully shy girl lacking self-confidence. Nagisa is a year older, but is repeating her senior year because of missing so much of the year due to an illness.

Nagisa’s dream has always been to join the drama club, but it was put on hiatus when the previous members all graduated. Nagisa wants to restart the club. Tomoya decides to help her and the two set out to revive the club. They put their efforts on hold when they meet Fukko Ibuki, a strange girl who is carving wooden stars (she insists they are starfish) to give to all the students in order to invite them to her older sister’s wedding, who used to teach at that school. Tomoya and Nagisa help Fukko carve and distribute the starfish.

Tomoya’s best friend is Youhei Sunahara. Tomoya spends most of his free time in Youhei’s dorm room to avoid going home to confront his problems with his alcoholic father. Tomoya and Sunahara share a common bond of slacker-hood. The two quite often skip school and spend the day doing nothing.

Tomoya seizes every chance to embarrass Sunahara, mostly by saying there is a cute girl who wants to meet him. Sunahara, for his part, seems never to learn that Tomoya is playing jokes on him, and will always rush out to meet the newest love of his life, only to be disappointed. Tomoya’s jokes on Sunahara and Fukko, who occasionally zones out at the drop of a hat, often had me laughing out loud.

Other than Sunahara, Tomoya appears to have no real friends at the start. During the course of the series, Tomoya interacts with other acquaintances and becomes close friends with them. They are:

  • Tomoyo Sakagami (yes, the close first names sometimes had me confused about who someone was talking to or about): a year younger than Tomoya, she is set on becoming the next Student Council president. Tomoyo is a good martial artist and although she doesn’t go out of her way to use her skills, she will if necessary. She is a transfer student who has a reputation for trouble-making at her former school. She has been trying her best to avoid a similar reputation here.
  • Kotomi Ichinose: Kotomi is in the same grade as Tomoya, although he doesn’t remember ever seeing her before. She is so smart, that she has been given blanket permission to skip her classes. She spends her days in the school library reading books, where Tomoya meets her one day. Kotomi is so involved with her books that she has no concept of how to interact with people. During the course of the series, Tomoya introduces her to his friends, draws her out of her shell, and generally integrates her into the life of the school.
  • Ryou Fujibayashi: although Ryou is the class representative for Tomoya’s classroom, she is not very assertive. She appears to have a crush on Tomoya.
  • Kyou Fujibayashi: Kyou is Ryou’s twin sister. She is the class representative for another class. She is the more assertive and athletic of the two. She often rushes in to Ryou’s defense. While she doesn’t seem to have formal training, she is quite quick to beat up Tomoya and Sunahara if she thinks Ryou is being picked on. She tries to help Ryou’s romantic intentions toward Tomoya.

There are a few other memorable characters: Nagisa’s Parents, Akio and Sanae; Sunahara’s younger sister Mei.

I found the animation very good. Many of the outdoor scenes, had a golden glow to it that were remeniscant of the golden days of youth. There were scenes where Tomoya and Nagisa were sitting under a tree talking and the patches of sunlight filtering through the leaves weren’t just pasted on but shifted around as the characters moved. I thought that was a very realistic touch.

Many episodes, although not all, contain short clips at the beginning that tell part of a story that appears to be set in a fantasy world. I was confused by these at first, but they soon became a normal and expected part of the series.


Now for some of the problems. I can’t really point to major problems with specific episodes, rather the issues I had are with the series as a whole.

First, the series starts out with Tomoya helping Nagisa reactivate the drama club, but within two or three episodes, they decide to drop that and help Fukko with her starfish project. This seemed an abrupt change of direction for the series that I thought was strange, to say the least. The Fukko arc continued on through about episode nine or ten. When it resolved, they shifted back to reviving the drama club.

Something similar happened later; Nagisa is out of school for a period of time and Tomoya shifts to helping Sakagami in her bid for the student council presidency. I do, kind of understand that, since Tomoya has no interest in the club per se, just in helping his friend realize her dream.

Story: 3/5
Animation: 4/5
Rewatch: 3/5

Spoilers, Sweetie! This is your one and only warning.

This goes back to my comment at the beginning about whether this is a fantasy or not. In the first episode, Tomoya overhears several conversations about a ghost haunting the school. shortly thereafter he meets Nagisa. I thought at first she was the ghost, but no, they were talking about Fukko. The Fukko Tomoya and Nagisa befriend has been lying in a coma in the hospital for the last two years. Now, the Fukko they know isn’t incorporeal or anything like that, she is very solid. Perhaps this is a difference in the Japanese and American concepts of ghost, or perhaps she is something else, after all, her body still lives in the hospital. When Fukko’s project is resolved, she vanishes and all memory of her goes too, even Tomoya and Nagisa who have been friends with her the longest. However, she does show up several more times for brief attempts to help her friends. Unfortunately, those attempts never work out. She’s kind of a ditz that way.

If you consider just the first ten episodes, then I can see this being classified as a fantasy, but the entire series is twenty-three episodes. Since the majority has nothing to do with Fukko, I can’t really call the entire series a fantasy. A slice-of-life with a single, short-lived fantasy element, perhaps.

There is a second season called Clannad: After Story and a feature length film called simply Clannad.

I have watched Clannad: After Story, and I will review that at some point in the future, but I will say right now that the brief fantasy-like clips do play a role in the After Story series.

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