I have, with quite good reason, always been skeptical of anime sequels. Too often I find myself watching and enjoying a series, only to be disappointed by a sequel whose only redeeming quality lies in its use of the franchise name. This most certainly was the case with Clannad, as the series ended both poignantly and with a certain level of closure. Try as I might, I could not envision a follow-up being anything more than filler-driven fluff, especially at a twenty-four episode length, and thus stalled it for as long as I could.
But then I actually sat down and watched After Story, and you can only imagine my surprise when it turned out to be not only on par with its predecessor, but better. Though still maintaining its triplex of comedy, drama, and romance, After Story places substantially more emphasis on the latter two categories, allowing for an emotional journey through the characters' ever-changing lives. As can be expected, it picks up where the first left off, and wastes no time in reacquainting the viewer with the original cast. Many of the classic antics resurface - such as those between Akio and Sanae - to usher in a fair bit of nostalgia, but are handled in such a way that feel different from their original context.
Indeed, they end up carrying an almost bittersweet sensation, as the events which they parallel possess a more solemn tone than before. As the nature of their problems change, Tomoya and Nagisa's romance begins to evolve in a more realistic fashion, and paves the way for a beautiful story between the two. Despite maintaining a large cast of side characters, their importance is minimized or discarded whenever needed, and not once do they intrude on the series' elegant pacing. In many ways the number of relevant characters shrinks so substantially that the harem tag could be lost altogether, and from the get-go it becomes quite apparent that After Story's sole focus is to tell their heartwarming tale. There exists no extraneous fluff, and the end result is an anime whose many charms are all handled with equal mastery.
Again, as I mentioned in my Clannad review, the quality of Kyoto Animation's work is simply stunning. The detail simply blew me away, as After Story captures all the necessary visual subtleties to convey a strong emotional impact. From gorgeous midnight snows to soft, melancholy smiles, I can't really think of one place where it goes astray. Lavish color palettes and vivid contrast round out the score, highlighting an absolutely superb level of direction. I am left near speechless; Kyoto Animation continues to impress by not only maintaining a high level of quality, but by building upon their previous works to make each better than the last.
Though After Story only flaunts a few new insert songs of its own, the size of the original soundtrack makes this an almost trivial point. Utilizing some sixty tracks along with a handful from a remix album, the choice of music never feels overused or stagnant. All its uses sound perfectly appropriate and match their scenes with as much finesse as the visuals, leaving me with little argument against the reuse as a negative. Combined with absolutely stellar voice acting, the audible score breathes emotion from every angle, and is nothing short of wonderful.
In terms of the individual characters, it's hard to spell out much without leading too much into the details of the story; simply put, the main focus is on Tomoya and Nagisa. As for the rest, all the designs from Clannad are kept true, allowing After Story to play on their already-developed personalities without the need for further background. Perhaps my only complaint lies in the small tinge of lip-service paid to some of the side characters at the very beginning, but in retrospect I think their inclusion made perfect sense. While After Story certainly is not flawless, it hits all the important nails squarely on the head, and segues into a very satisfying character sequence for which I have only praise.
What else can I say? Of all the romance anime I've crossed throughout the years, Clannad After Story easily ranks among the best. It manages to convey touching drama, beautiful romance, and hilarious-yet-fitting comedy all in one measure, building magnificently on its predecessor to end with a wonderful overture.
This is a cruel, cruel anime. It will toy with you, systematically building you up then smashing you down with the cleverest story writing I've experienced in a long time. The effect this show has had on me is profound. I had not cried for almost 8 years until I watched the second half of Clannad After Story throughout which the broadest range of emotion is felt. That is the extent to which the show brought emotion out of me; I cried for a solid two hours; it was embarrassing stuff. Even that aside, this will go down in my book as one of, if not THE, most moving visual media experiences, of any kind, I've ever had.
The writers and directors of Clannad After Story have created an emotional masterpiece with perfect pacing and a tight plot. It starts slow as the mood is calm and pressure is low, but as the story continues and the emotional pressure is built and released, the pace increases and decreases in correspondence. This culminates in two large time-skips at the points of greatest emotional stress. Often a time-skip of this nature can feel forced; a cheap plot device to allow the writer to move on with the story when they don’t know how to naturally continue; but in Clannad After Story, it feels natural and are in fact pivotal to the plot. This playful manipulation of time serves as a motif in After Story as the writers subtly explore the nature of the supernatural within the Clannad world. The illusionary world and the true world, fundamentally connected but both outside of time in reference to each other, demonstrate this desire to use time manipulation and the supernatural to create not only an intricate and passionate story line but absolute closure in resolution.
For many, the ending will be hard to comprehend and fully understand. It took me a couple of hours of deep thought and hindsight to really work it all out. That being said though, I believe a second viewing in a year or so will reveal many things that I'd missed or hadn't thought about; of course with the benefit of foreknowledge of the story to my advantage. I later read this explanation which is the soundest I have read and pretty much agreed with everything I'd thought about. This in mind, I won't bother writing an explanation up myself but I recommend giving that link a read once you've finished the series.
This particular character design is not really my thing; I mean you expect big eyes and strange head shapes (where the nose extends down to become the upper lip in side profile shots and pointy chins) in anime but the artists took it to the extreme here and made some pretty un-human looking figures in certain shots. However I understand that while this might not be my preferred taste, many people love this art style. Every other aspect of the art in this anime is breathtakingly beautiful. I found myself, at times, just pausing to admire the scene. The depiction of the illusionary world is one of the most striking I’ve seen in an anime.
The departure from the dreadful opening title song of Clannad, is very welcome, yet the departure from the “The Big Dango Family” closing titles is sad. Both changes are expected however as this is a new season of the anime. The soundtrack of this anime is constructed with enough variety and musicianship to be interesting on its own, yet with enough repetition of themes to seamlessly aid in story progression and emotional response. The story uses musical motifs to direct the viewer’s feelings at the necessary times. The most important example of this is “The Big Dango Family” song. Usually a musical motif will be a song or musical theme that is linked to a certain event, character or feeling. Uniquely, in this case, “The Big Dango Family” song serves many purposes. It is fundamentally linked to Nagisa and later Ushio and is used in conjunction with other techniques to convey any emotion that is appropriate for the time. It is used at times of the greatest joy and times of the greatest devastation. It is used to show hope and yet also to show hopelessness. Its success in this endeavour can be contributed to the many forms of delivery of the song, from the characters own singing to the use of the song in its full form (as heard in the first season closing titles).
Clannad After Story naturally picks up the characters where Clannad left off as Tomoya and Nagisa begin to build their initially tentative relationship into an intimate marriage and close and loving family. This development happens slowly at first being realistic and natural as possible but as the pace of the story picks up, so does the character and relationship development. We see a departure from the meaning of the title* in Clannad to a new interpretation; from the “family” that friends provides to the “family” or a husband, wife and a child. The story changes its focus from the group at the school to focus exclusively on Tomoya and Nagisa and their trials. This begins a masterful expression of innocent love and true human emotion and culminates in Ushio, a brilliantly written character in her own right.
In Clannad After Story we do not merely watch, but we experience the characters’ lives in the most important transitional seasons. We see and feel their schooling and the joys and trouble associated. We experience the stress and freedom of leaving that relatively worry free live to become a true part of society. We experience the joys and anxieties of love in all its forms. However, throughout all of the elation and despair, the titular theme* and indeed the overarching goal of this anime is finally and triumphantly achieved as we come to realise what it is that is of ultimate importance: family. To Tomoya and Nagisa, it does not matter the magnitude of what they have to face, they can and will face it together or alone for the sake of the other and Ushio, their daughter; even if it takes time for Tomoya to realise this in his depression. This is a wildly ambitious story, executed with near perfection, regardless of how it affects you emotionally, this is, to me, one of the most beautiful stories ever written.
* “Clannad” literally means “family” in Irish Gaelic.
>>This review is written as an evaluation of the show as a piece of art and does not necessarily reflect my beliefs in regard to real life. I believe that a relationship with my God and saviour Jesus Christ is of ultimate importance and that family is one of his most precious gift to us. It is Christ who is my hope throughout trial, when my world comes crashing down around me, there is peace in Christ. This anime made me hyper aware of this fact as I wished with all my heart that Tomoya had this hope as I do.<<
Clannad & Clannad after story review
Storyline: 10. Tomoya Okazaki is a senior highschool delinquent who doesn’t care about his future. After losing his mother and getting permanently injured in a fight with his drunken father, therefore being unable to play his favorite sports basketball anymore, he’s lost all motivation to give meaning to his life. But that all changes when he meets Nagisa Furukawa on the way to school: a sickly, shy and uncertain girl who has no friends because she had to repeat her year after a serious illness struck her. She wishes to open the school’s theater club again, which got closed after all its members graduated. As Tomoya decides to help her out, he starts showing a gentler side of himself and meets new people, all the while trying to face his own problems at home and his doubts about what the future will bring . Season one (Clannad) starts at the first semester and ends at summer break. Season two (Clannad After story) starts at the second semester after summer break and ends many years after Tomoya finishes high school, where he starts to find his own way in life by getting a job, renting a house, and more things that I wouldn’t want to spoil for you guys. Rather than trying to explain the brilliance of this story, you should start watching it already after you finished reading my discourse. For as long as I’ve been checking out Anime, this one certainly stands out. Heck, it even made me shed a tear at a certain part in After Story (just once, honestly!).
Plot and pace: 9. While the first season contains 24 episodes and 2 OVA’s that you can watch to see an alternate ending, the second season has about the same amount of episodes, but stretches over a lot more time than the first one. The series never gets tedious to watch, as each episode has added value. It’s also a good thing that the chapters follow up and always get better. You actually feel they’re getting somewhere.
Cliffhangers: 8. The series is a nice mixture of romance, comedy, drama and – for the first season - harem, and it’s the drama that usually makes for some great cliffhangers. Clannad will certainly play with your emotions, both happy and sad, which makes for a great watch.
Satisfying ending: 9. I’m pretty sure you won’t be unhappy with the way Clannad ends, especially after some sad events that’ll take place throughout the series. During the show, you’ll see a lot of scenes with a girl and an animated doll made of junk. It’s not until the final episodes that you get to understand the symbolic meaning behind them. The reason I didn’t give the show a 10 for this part, is because the ending was somewhat rushed and they could’ve been a bit more elaborate with what happened afterwards (or could’ve happened, i.e. what they did after season 1 with the OVA’s).
Characters: 10. Clannad offers so many wonderful characters. I can’t say I hated any of them, even though some of them were less interesting to me than others. The main characters like Tomoya and Nagisa both have a great background story with which the viewer can sympathize, but also the other characters all have their own unique background, personality, goals and dreams in life, … and even though many of these characters are stereotypical for a romantic anime, you get to sympathize with them because of the way this show develops. In the end, you will start to notice that you were actually cheering for one of the girls to hook up with Tomoya, and after some site-browsing I noticed a lot of different opinions from fellow watchers who were rooting for another girl. While the first season might contain too much harem – it seems every girl is interested in the male protagonist – the second season isn’t like that anymore since Tomoya has made his choice clear. In After Story you see the characters take their own path in life after school, which makes for some great cameo’s and makes you feel that this series takes time to create an appropriate ending for every character you started to sympathize with. The shock of some dramatic events throughout the series even changes one of the main characters’ personality, like it would in real life, and you’ll notice the dark irony when this happens.
Rewatchability: 8. Clannad deserves a re-watch for all the bad things it did with my feelings. I’m sure I’ll watch it again someday, or at least finish the visual novel which practically follows the same storyline and even has the same jokes, except that you can choose which girl you want Tomoya to hook up with (so if you’re disappointed with the outcome it might be a good idea to try out the visual novel before re-watching it, just a tip).
Conversations: 9. It’s hard to describe how Clannad manages to play with your emotions. One moment you’re laughing because of the great humor this show contains, the other moment you’re feeling awful for one of your favorite characters. The strong conversations play an important part in all this. Some of the one-liners in this series are ridiculously funny, but also the bad moments get expressed well.
Art Style: 9. Clannad is eye-candy. It’s a modern Anime in a simplistic setting, with amazing looking characters. Everything looks attractive, from the backgrounds to the visual expressions of the individuals.
Music and sounds: 8. The voice acting was spot-on with none being bad or annoying to listen to. The opening themes were both appealing to the ear. The show has some background tracks that can become a bit repetitive, but it never really irritated me.
Personal Enjoyment: 10. This Anime is the best I’ve seen so far this year, and I don’t expect any series to beat it until the end of 2014. This show has everything: an enjoyable blending of drama, comedy and romance, loveable characters, an appealing and progressing storyline, a decent ending, and so much more. At first I was critical about this series, but Clannad has proven to be worth every minute of my time. It is a recommendation to everyone who wants to join the emotional rollercoaster, but don’t make it scare you off if you don’t like drama. You might miss out on one of the best anime series if you do.
Oh my goodness I want to meet ONE person in this world that can watch both seasons of Clannad and not feel sad for the characters, feel like crying or actually crying because I know I broke into tears five times through that anime but I must say I also laughed my face off. The characters are Amazing and its not every day that you find an anime where you get really attached to characters. To be truthful I started watching the first season of Clannad a while ago and after 3 episodes I dropped it because it was boring but then like any anime you have to get past the boring introduction so you can get to the good parts. Over all its a brilliant anime totally recommended.
Really good, the second anime I ever watched (after Clannad, of course). Funny, sad, really good animation style. I just feel like the characters aren't developed as well as they could be. Definitely worth watching though xx