*Those who want to avoid spoilers should stop reading here as there are major spoilers ahead throughout the review*
From reading people's reviews and recommendations, and the fact that Clannad After Story is ranked 2nd in all of the animes here in Anime Planet, I was expecting an anime that would leave such an impression on me that I couldn't stop thinking about it afterwards. The kind what Code Geass left me with. Instead, I'm left with a hollow feeling. A feeling that will stick with me for a long time. A feeling of disappointment.
Yeah, you heard right. I can't see this as a glorious example of anime drama and romance. Don't take me wrong. I liked it very much, but when the plot twist undermines the very essence it built up towards, I cant call that awesome story telling.
I'm of course refering to the twist in the very end, where after Ushio's death, Tomoya awakens back to the time of Ushio's birth where Nagisa doesn't end up dying and everything ends up happily. To me, this made the fact that Tomoya woke up from his depression and starter to act like a father should totally meaningless. Of course it's always better if tragedies can be avoided, but in anime the character development totally goes apart and the mood is totally ruined.
I would have preferred that only Ushio would miraculously come back to life and maybe Tomoya would end up dating Kyou instead. I was actually expecting that since she ended up as Ushio's teacher by chance (that usually signifies something). But this fact is not taken advantage at all, which left me disappointed.
I for one, loved the first season. The story of Ibuki Fuuko in particular is the only time that an anime has ever made me cry (apart from Silver Fang from my childhood). And im not talking about becoming teary eyes or getting that choking feeling. No, I'm talking about real crying and even though I'm a man, I'm not ashamed to admit that. Forgetting all the good times you had and then to finally succeed after all the hardship even though everyone had already forgotten about her. Something about that just pushed me over.
Which also takes me to another point I was expecting in After Story. Namely the continuation of Fuuko's tale. We all knew she was still around even though everyone forgot about her, so I was of course waiting anxiously for her awakening (who ever doubted that?). So of course she wakes up. But she has also completely forgotten everything that has happened to her. It's never even mentioned if she remembers her sisters wedding that she fought so hard to make happen. This pissed me off, because now the whole thing has no effect what so ever on her new life. I was constantly waiting that Tomoya would find that starfish that Fuuko gave her earlier and somehow remember something. Or give it to Fuuko, which would cause her to remember something. Instead nothing. They just became friends easier and thats all the Fuuko's tale gave us.
Okay, Ill stop bashing the anime for a second. Maybe I expected too much from it. It's still a beautiful story about overcoming hardships in life, even the extreme ones (even though the ending completely nullifies this). The more uplifting stories are the highlight of this anime. The story about the cat in example is one that left me in good moods. I do prefer watching happier stuff, since it always somehow makes me feel happier as well. After watching After Story, I felt depressed (and hollow like I mentioned earlier).
Still, I cant get over the ending bit. Not long ago, I watched the third season of Higurashi and in there was this situation: Would you rather select a world, where nothing bad has happened to anyone or would you rather choose a world that you fought hard to create, overcoming extreme tragedies that had happened in the lives of you and your friends. I have to agree that I would choose the latter like Rika did. Just because choosing the other one would nullify all the hardship you've managed to overcome.
I have to say, this so called review ended up more of a rant than a review. Maybe I should try to make this look more of a review by actually reviewing something.
I have to say, Clannad After Story has one of the best animation styles that I have seen. Although I don't take much notice of it usually, unless it's very bad or very different. The animation here is very clear and the use of colours makes certain scenes very beatiful. Only the scenes with the otherworldly girl and robot, which are animated differently from the rest, are below in quality. Not to say they look bad. Not at all, but where the actual world looks normal, their movement looks much more mechanical and faked. And in case of the robot, I'm sure that was intended, but the movement of the girl also seemes abnormal, which I dont think was.
Ah, this I have to love. None of the music jump out for you to notice, but it emphasizes the mood and feelings that are being processed at the time perfectly. The themes are very depressing when needed and sad to the point of near crying. Voice acting is also top notch. I don't think there are any characters who didn't manage to get their emotions through with their words.
Before I started watching After Story, I had to watch the original Clannad again to remind me where we were. Thanks to this I can say the characters develop quite nicely throughout the series. In Clannad Okazaki Tomoya started out as funny person, who always spoke his mind, even though it sometimes offended people. It didn't matter though, because no one took him seriously enough. All it caused was some humoristic conversations and situations. And I just loved this part of him. In After Story after graduating and marrying Nagisa, he gradually became more boring character. Maybe it's because he didn't have Sunohara or Fuuko to tease, but I personally started to view him more of a normal avarage person rather than a anime character. After the death of Nagisa, it immediately become obvious that he has become his father. The one thing he hated. It was so clear that you could only hate him like he hated his father. After he realizes this himself and makes up with his father he becomes a much likeable character again, like he was originally. I could say that he went full circle, but that is not totally correct as he ends up a lot more mature and responsible than he was.
Nagisa on the other hand changed more during Clannad. In After Story she remains roughly the same. In After Story though, her weak body is given a lot more focus, which then made it quite obvious that she would end up dying giving birth to Ushio.
Ushio is quite a refreshing character in this whole tragic mess. She at first seems very monotonous, but soon it becomes clear how pure and loveable she is. She really reminded me of Yuzuyu from Aishiteruze Baby, an anime with a lot more uplifting feeling than Clannad After Story. But that can be because I think these two are the only animes I have watched that have similar situations. Because of the uplifting memories I have of Aishiteruze Baby, I really liked the scenes with Tomoya and Ushio doing their daily lives.
Following immediately after Clannad, Tomoya and Nagisa are dating like we established in the end of the first season. After Story revels with a few episodes in nostalgic feelings of the first season, until finally Tomoya graduates from school with his fellow frieds and they all go to their seperate ways. Nagisa has to repeat her last year once again due to her absences.
Tomoya find himself a job, first helping out in the Furukawa bakery and later working with Yoshino Yusuke as a electric repairman. He engages with Nagisa after getting his own apartment. All seem happy so far.
After Nagisa declares that she is pregnant (which caught me by surprise, since before this, we havent even seen them kiss yet) a slight doubt start to creep in. Everything seems to be going too well. Nagisa's health was known to be weak and the anime even elaborates it to us that there are dangers with the delivery. And possessing a genious foresight like mine (:D), I quickly determine that she will die a tragic, but heroic death, giving birth to the child paying with her life.
And so she does, but things don't go as smoothly as I hope and Tomoya falls into depression, leaving the child Ushio to Akio and Sanae to take care of. Sanae tricks Tomoya into going on a trip with Ushio and during the trip Tomoya finally learns that he has become like his father. He mends his ways and becomes a good father to Ushio and even manages to make up with his father. Things are looking up again.
After Ushio became sick, the creeping feeling starts again. This is not going to end happily. I knew it in my mind, but still believed and hoped that the anime can't be this cruel. It is. There is no way around it. No happy endings.
Or I say that, because as we all know the &¤/#ed up ending attempts to make a happy ending but falls flat trying.
As a person whose main concentration is the storyline and characters, I have to say that Clannad made a good effort, but losing the comedy from the first season may not have been the best solution. The first season offered us deep tragedy, but uplifted us occasionally with hillarious comedy so we don't fall into depression. After Story tries hard to uplift us after tragic events, but this time the tragedies are too hard and the comedy is too subtle to balance it out. This causes the series to stay more in depressive side than uplifting, which I never like that much in an anime. Excellent series, but not as good as the first season.