Kanon is centred around Yuuichi, a guy who has moved back to the town in which he lived as a child after 7 years away. He is also someone who suffers from a medically fascinating strain of amnesia where at the beginning, literally the only thing he remembers about his time there is his cousin’s name. However over the course of the story, Yuuichi slowly remembers his time in the town 7 years previously bit-by-bit as he interacts with the various girls who live there (half of whom have some form of connection to his childhood). Just like a Visual Novel, each girl’s “arc” is dealt with one after another and each has their own little sad moments. But unlike KyoAni’s other Key adaptation Clannad, the sadness in Kanon feels somewhat forced and like it is trying a little too hard to be sad, something which I believe holds Kanon back from being great.
The story is sweet, but held back by the forced sadness.
For 2006, Kanon’s animation must have looked out of this world. The backdrops are gorgeous with some brilliant lighting, especially in the night scenes. This, mixed with the wonderful snow effects, makes Kanon a very appealing anime to look at. Apart from the rare character face hiccup, it’s a very solid package. This series really put Kyoto Animation on the map as an animating powerhouse.
It still holds up well with today’s anime and is easily Kanon’s greatest asset.
The soundtrack is pretty much completely lifted from the original Visual Novel (which dates back to 2000), and this is no bad thing. As it is composed by Key, you expect it to be good, and it is. Some Key fans call it their greatest score, and while I wouldn’t go that far, it is certainly one of their better compositions. No track seems out of place and the character themes are not overused to the point of saturation (something which I feel can happen easily in these genres). The OST ranges from very sombre tones to uplifting upbeat tracks and is very well produced throughout, as I expect from Key.
I have to say though that the opening “Last Regrets” is rather forgettable. While it’s nothing terrible, it just seems like it should have been the ending as it is quite a slow song. That being said, the ending “Where the Wind Reaches” is much more upbeat and much more suited to be the opening. I feel that KyoAni got these mixed up.
The voice actors/actresses do a solid job throughout, but one thing that personally bothers me about the voice acting is Yuuichi’s seiyu, who is the same as Kyon’s from Haruhi (Tomokazu Sugita). I find this to be a bizarre casting choice considering the first season of Haruhi had aired only a few months before Kanon premiered and that Yuuichi not only looks similar to Kyon, but also has a similar personality. Perhaps this was a deliberate marketing decision by KyoAni to entice Haruhi fans to watch Kanon? Who knows? But to me at times it was like watching Kyon who had been transported into another anime. Do I think it detracts from the series overall? No, but it’s a potential niggle for those who have watched Haruhi already.
Nearly all of the characters in Kanon are likeable in their own unique ways, but the cast does have some pretty strong anime stereotypes. You’ve got the typical tsundere with Makoto and the stoic Mai among others, but they are done well enough so they don’t grate very easily.
That being said, the one character that can get annoying is Jun. He is meant to be the comic relief character when things get bad (much like Sunohara in Clannad) but he never really fulfils his role and is usually more irritating than entertaining.
Kanon is by no means a bad anime. The animation is stunning for the time and the soundtrack is wonderful. The story, while sweet, needed just a little something extra to tip it over into the realms of anime-greatness but sadly never received it.
You may have noticed that I repeatedly referred to Clannad in this review. This is because they are both Key Visual Novel adaptations done by KyoAni, but also because it is the shining example of how such an adaptation should be done. If you want to watch a drama/romance anime, I would honestly recommend Clannad over Kanon all day long.
Oh yeah, and stay WELL clear of the 2002 Toei Adaptation of Kanon…