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Kanon (2006) Review

by: therik
January 5, 2009

story 6/10

Kanon (2006) screenshot

Sayuri and Yuuichi sit in the cafe.. The steam from their coffees wafts through the air which is filled with gentle strings of some classical music.

"Do you know this piece?" Asks Sayuri. "It's Canon. Pachelbel's Canon. That central melody repeats itself again and again, as layers are slowly added to the music, making it richer and more beautiful each time." She pauses. "Wouldn't it be lovely if life was the same way? If it changed delicately and softly as we live from day to day?"

If there is a line that more effectively underpins the series, or if there is a clearer example of Kanon's philosophical poetry, then I apologise for leaving that stone unturned but I could think of no better way to begin this review.

As adult visual novel adaptations go, Kanon (2006) is mature, dignified and sensitive, much like the earlier Air and subsequent Clannad. Of course, it has its share of oddball and loud personalities but they serve to amuse rather than to irritate. In fact, such moderation is something of a hallmark of the series, every bit as recurrent as Kanon's principal plot themes of memories, promises and miracles. Although most characters are eye-sparklingly cute, you an still empathise with them as real people. Although the imagery is clever, it is never boastful. Although the show is funny, it's not too funny. In fact, the humour in Kanon is masterful in knowing its role. It doesn't elbow you in the ribs and laugh raucously at its own jokes; instead it lightly strokes your shoulder, reminding you that it's always there and giving you the choice of whether to laugh or not.

This moderation is key because it allows the show to go ahead and tell its story without gargantuan diversions detracting from this primary aim. The structure of Kanon's narrative is typical of the genre. A handful of shorter, character-specific story arcs are played over the main story, which lasts throughout the entire length of the show's 24 episodes. Ideally, such a structure would allow for a variety of tales and a multiplicity of different emotions to be presented as each one unfolds. Dismayingly, Kanon forgoes such a structure, instead preferring to focus on one emotion and one alone - sadness. Every story is sad. Yes, there are moments of joy and even some of triumph, but tragedy in Kanon is all too commonplace. It is the incessant lifeblood that pulses all too visibly beneath the thin membrane of kawaii which initially seems to envelop and identify the show.

The most painful consequence of this omnipresent sorrow is not a continual rending of the heart strings as one might hope. Rather it is the onset of disappointment and despondent indifference on the part of the viewer. In its delivery of tear-jerking moments, Kanon is something of a relentless tease. It threatens time and time again to move you, to break your heart, to give you a story or a moment that you will never forget; and yet it never does. Whether it is because the show saturates itself with sadness or whether it is because the stories refuse to set foot upon the plateau of true poignancy, this series fails to make good on its first avowed intent - to effect the viewer emotionally.

animation 8.5/10

Kanon's animation is simply sumptuous. It is hardly controversial to claim that Kyoto Animation represent the zenith of their particular style. As well as luscious backgrounds, every epsiode boasts the distinctive character design, nigh-on perfect lighting and constant attention to small details which are typical of the studio's releases. Although the term "winter wonderland" has been overused to the point of meaninglessness, I feel that Kanon's whitened landscapes can be described no other way. It is almost as if the snow consciously chooses to fall upon Nayuki's town, because it knows how delightfully it will be animated.

As such, any qualms should be seen as relatively minor. Those that I have are mainly to do with something of a cuteness overdrive which many of the girls seem to possess. Although I maintain that it does not preclude the ability to empathise with them, some of their features and expressions are exaggerated almost to the point of parody, whilst their ridiculous floods of tears occasionally serve to dampen emotionally charged moments with unwitting comedy.

sound 9/10

Although I cared little for the songs that play during the opening and ending credits, the soundtrack is, on the whole, marvellous. Seemingly every piece of music does its job with efficiency and panache, as mood is built up through the background music just as much as it is built up through dialogue. Surprisingly, and almost uniquely, some tracks are memorable enough to stay with the viewer long after the series has run its course.

The voice work is also of a high standard. Whilst more sensitive ears may have difficulty tolerating Ayu's frequent use of her "Uguu" catchphrase, this is more a quarrel with the script than the VA, who manages to keep the repetitious utterance from grating. The voices are adaptable enough to maintain strong and distinct characterisation whilst presenting a spectrum of emotions and steering the protagonists away from being two-dimensional stereotypes.

characters 7.5/10

Dramas of Kanon's ilk need to strike a delicate balance in creating their cast. The characters must be sufficiently quirky to be memorable, but must also be human enough to engender sympathy and undergo a true development in personality. This is a lofty goal, but one which Kanon generally attains. I qualify this last statement because the anime errs slightly on the side of caricature on occasion, particularly with the characters of Ayu and Makoto, whose obnoxious immaturity wavers indecisively between the amusing and the overpowering. However, if you are prepared to indulge the pair their foibles and see them as simply being somewhat unorthodox, then there is no reason not to see at least a spark of realism within all of the show's protagonists.

Futhermore, due in no small part to the strong personalities exhibited by some individuals, the character interaction is always enjoyable. It not only creates a lot of Kanon's trademark comedy but also ensures that the dialogue contains many lines which are truly priceless.

overall 7/10

For my part, I found every character in the show to be likable, and to possess some trait which I was able to identify with, or at least enjoy. This is the main reason why I was so wholly disappointed with the series' failure to grip me on an emotional level. Although I stand by every positive comment I have made in this review, I feel that Kanon falls tantalisingly short of what could have been greatness. Its insistence on telling tales of woe is tempered by an inability or unwillingness to go the proverbial distance and present something truly affecting.

In small doses - as I discovered when re-watching this series - Kanon is a competent emotive drama. The exceptional animation and sound ensure that it is sublime as a passive viewing experience, and there are enough excellent pieces of dialogue to consider it memorable. Taken as whole, however, it is enjoyable but occasionally numbing. I would recommend the series if you have enjoyed similar animes, such as Clannad, Da Capo, and Myself; Yourself. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a truly moving and thoughtful tragedy, then perhaps search elsewhere.

Anime Info

It's been seven years since Yuuichi Aizawa returned to the city he once lived in as a child. Though many things happened to Yuuichi in his past, he can only remember bits and pieces. His parents left Yuuichi in the care of Akiko once again, and this time, he will attend the same school as his cousin Nayuki. Many different girls appear before him, and some of them seem to know him from his past. Yuuichi must now recover his memories of the dark secrets that he erased from his heart, before he loses his precious ones.

my anime:

not rated

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About the Author

therik's avatar

therik

When it comes to anime, I tend to be a fan of comedy, shoujo, romance or anything else that will put a smile on my face. However, I'll review pretty much anything. Whether you like or dislike my reviews, I'm always glad to receive feedback, and I'm always happy to get into intelligent discussions.

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comments

default avatar ishmael1991
Mar 15, 2011

I think your review on the story was way too harsh, and too subjective on certain points which you stated as if facts.

'this series fails to make good on its first avowed intent - to effect the viewer emotionally.'

It clearly intends to have a supernatural and fairytale-esque feel about it. Its about miricles etc, therefore a lot of it wont effect the viewer emotionally, unless they are moved by magical elements in stories.

Even If you meant that the magical elements of the story fail to effect the viewer emotionally, most people found the suicide attempts, emotional dialogue, and feeling of mystery combined with the blossoming romances, and sad cold winter setting to be at least quite emotionally moving hence the fact this anime is known as one of the most tearjerking. If you didnt find it moving, then i think you are in a minority, and it seems unfair, to consider this a flaw of Kanon.

"Do you know this piece?" Asks Sayuri. "It's Canon. Pachelbel's Canon. That central melody repeats itself again and again, as layers are slowly added to the music, making it richer and more beautiful each time." She pauses. "Wouldn't it be lovely if life was the same way? If it changed delicately and softly as we live from day to day?"

If there is a line that more effectively underpins the series, or if there is a clearer example of Kanon's philosophical poetry, then I apologise for leaving that stone unturned but I could think of no better way to begin this review.

for most viewers, i dont think this anime is about philisophical poetry. The show intends to feel magical as i have stated before, it clearly isn't intended to give the viewer life lessons, or cause them to question their philosophies. Logic comes under the catergory of philosophy(infact the two words are often intechanged), and kanon dosent intend to dominate the storyline with logic, or hammer complex philisophical messages into the viewers head.It was just a mere passing statement made by one of the characters, to create a sense of hope and dreams, and it feels very appropriate given the context in the story. Besides, there is nothing logical about romance and magic. Kanon embraces the fact that fiction dosent have to be logical, and creates a world where mircles do happen.

If you were dissapointed by how un-emotionally moving it was, when compared to Clannad after story, then you had your hopes set too high considering this was made 2 years before Clannad afterstory(to be fair the reviewer didn't say this but a couple of people are agreeing with the review based on this rather flawed reasoning).

I think your review is very well written, and you do a good job at getting your points accross, i just strongly disagree with a lot of the story section.

 

Tokuwa avatar Tokuwa
Jan 19, 2011

Very fine well-written review, I'd say. I especially liked the good flow while still remaining detailed. I'm only midway in the second story arc, but this reflects what I feel about Kanon currently.  After seeing CLANNAD, I was also expecting something equally dramatic, especially considering the impressive winter setting that would have set the mood just right. And like you - I felt teased. In an almost masochistic fashion, I was expecting the big tear-jerking strike by the end of it's first arc, but ended up feeling somewhat unimpressed thinking "This is it? Hit me harder!"

I have the feeling how much Kanon affects you is largely a matter of what tear-jerking anime have been seen before. After surviving Grave of the Fireflies, Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 and, of course CLANNAD - I felt like an experienced boxer being hit by a rookie. But I believe Kanon has a much stronger impact on those, that haven't seen comparable tragedies. Taking that into account, I feel Kanon 2006 deserves a little more recognition.

  • But for one - as I haven't watched it entirely, I wouldn't dare to judge.
  • For two - seeing your review perfectly backed up with reasoning, all is well.
  • For three - I don't want to end up OWNED by an awesome reply, like the first two that disagreed ::laughs::
default avatar saviornt
Jul 22, 2010

Pretty spot on review if you ask me.

therik avatar therik
Mar 1, 2010

Phantom Liege:

"When you said "Of course, it has its share of oddball and loud personalities but they serve to amuse rather than to irritate." I didn't think it was to irritate, rather to keep the audience interested and listening, instead of listening to some boring, plain-old chatting for a few minutes or something."

Perhaps you could read those words you quoted again? I say that the loud personalities serve to amuse rather than to irritate.

Thanks to everyone else who's commented. Just as a note, 7/10 is not a low score by any means, which is reflected by the fact that I talk more about the show's strengths than I do about its weaknesses. Although it's hamstrung by the "Why am I not crying?" factor observed and stated succinctly by zmalt, it's still funny and engaging. I did not dislike it by any means.

Xplayer avatar Xplayer
Feb 25, 2010

Since I set emotivity as my baseline standard by which I evaluate animes (you seem to go for objective overall effect + rewatchability), obviously I ranked Kanon much higher. But to each his/her own...

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