Imagine, for a moment if you would, that you're laying down on an operating table and the Doctor leans over and smiles to you kindly, says everything is going to be just fine right before he quite literally rips your heart out, shreds it in front of your dying face, then pieces it back together magically and says "Nanchatte" (just kidding) while putting it back in.
That would quite literally be what Clannad After Story does to you in a nut shell. Of course there's a lot more to it than that but I wanted to warn you before hand because, quite frankly, I had to wait a few days before I wrote this review to prevent the urge to write down major spoilers.
Now, on to the actual review.
The story pretty much picks up where the first one left off, this time however it spans several years instead of just 1, so the pace is very much accelerated, and much of it is abbreviated through character narrations. Due to this the story isn't really dragged out at all and it does pretty much everything Clannad didn't. It focused almost exclusively on the main pair, it wrapped up some of the side characters and their issues, and it was quite compelling through out.
I'll be frank, Clannad was a near masterpiece in artwork and character design, there was very little to the original that wasn't visually pleasing. Clannad After Story didn't let me down and kept up with the trend and maybe even surpassed it. I really don't think I need to say much more at this point because if you've seen Clannad you already know what to expect from Clannad After Story, and you get it in my most humble opinion.
Honestly, and for those of you that know me already know this, but sounds are rarely important to me as long as they don't annoy the crap out of me and don't ruin the flow of a show. I almost never remember or even pay any attention to them since, to me, it's all just part of the back ground. I'm a very visual person and so auditory stimuli just falls off my brain recognition filter. In the end, the sounds were good enough that I didn't notice them :P
I expected a lot from Clannad After Story because one thing that Clannad had was characters, a lot of them, and most of them fun to watch and root for. I had forgotten how much of a sadist Tomoya was, and yes he is a sadist. That man loves a good joke at someone else's expense and it's usually on his "best-friend" Youhei. Most of the side characters really only get a blip on the screen by comparison to the original, mainly because the focus on the main two. There was some side story going on and a lot of it was just to develop the characters to "stable adult" status so as to tie off any loose ends that might have been left over in the first series. I guess you could say it was a satisfactory inclusion but lacked what it really needed, even when dealing with the main two characters. You weren't even sure they were going out for real, it just seemed so distance at times. It wasn't a big deal for me but others might look on it with less tolerance than I did. Even so this was the reason for the not so near perfect score I gave it.
As I stated at the very beginning this show likes to pull your heart through a cheese greater, drop it on a floor covered in broken glass, stomp on it with cleats only to dust it off, tape up any major blood leakage and stuff it back into your chest cavity right as it asks you... "Now wasn't that fun?". This show is sadistic, and it's proven to me that I'm a freaking masochist when it comes to something like this as long as everything is put right at the end. This is one of those shows that I'd never try to recommend to anyone other than someone that really loved Clannad, even then there are going to be those that do that are probably going to hate Clannad After Story anyway. For me, I both loved and hated this show, and it's that strange sense of duality which seems to have solidified this show in my top 50 all time anime list.
I don't expect anyone to understand what I mean without actually watching the show, there are some that are going to think I'm nuts for rating it as high as I did after they do, but in the end, for me, this show was worth every minute watching. It just took me getting past some very difficult episodes to get to this point. In the end, I'll never watch this show again... once was enough, this is the only reason it gets a 9 instead of a 10 even though I've rated it 5/5 stars.