Clannad is a dramatic romantic/comedy esque show. I use the term romcom loosely as it doesn't feel like your traditional romcom, but admittedly it has similar components: Socially awkward boy with his comedy relief, hyper active best friend meets socially awkward girl in high school. We follow the journey of Tomoya and his developing relationship with Nagisa. That is the primary premise of the storyline, however throughout the show, we are greeted with new characters who get their own sort of story arc underneath the overlying story. Now, people may say that these stories are pointless as they divert the attention from the primary story, but this show is all about character development. We become surrounded by imperfect and emotionally scarred beings who's eventual friendships help one another to overcome these problems. Unfortunately, the story does take a while to kick into gear and it kind of feels like a slog watching the first few episodes when you don't really care what's happening. But after watching the Fuko story arc, the anime swings wide open and takes you on a emotional rollercoaster of love, laughter and pain.
A quick note is the OVA's you may stumble upon at the end of the season. This is an alternate universe episode, this is what happens if Tomoya made a past decision differently.
It's by Kyoto Animation (Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, FMP, K-On etc.) and you can tell by it's notable eye design, colouring and especially their comedic faces. I've personally always been a fan of Kyoto's animated works, and Clannad is no different. The parts when we are shwon an empty world with a lone girl and her robot, the use of standard animation and 3-D is done perfectly and the scenes themselves are breathtaking. Another top job done by Kyoto.
Honestly, when it comes to reviewing sound, I'm not really sure what to say other than if I liked it or not. Both the opening and ending songs i'm not particularly fond of, but the music in show, especially at the end of story arcs, are beautiful. This is where it really shines if anything, but it's nothing noteworthy. I also like how the ending song is the dongo family song given Nagisa's fascination with them so it's nice to hear how it's actually meant to be sung.
I could have written another entire review just on the characters because there are just so many that we get to know so deeply and intimately. But since i don't like reading too long reviews i'll keep this brief. The characters are outstanding. Like i mentioned earlier, the main attraction for this show is watching the characters develop as people; seeing the quiet bookworm come out of her shell to make friends, Tomoya battling his relationship with his dad and Sakagami's transformation from schoolyard bully to student presidential candidate. And it's all done in such a way that you care for them, laugh and cry with them. These characters mean so much to eachother and it's heart warming and heart breaking seeing their journey. The comedy that relieves the heaviness of the show rests primarily with Tomoya's friend Sunohara and Nagisa's awesome dad Akio. Sunohara is your typical comedic best friend we've seen in so many animes, but his exploits still get me laughing. Akio on the other hand was a surprise to me. Akio looks like a younger character, and even acts like a younger character which adds a completely new dynamic to the traditional father figure in anime's ( he actually reminds me of Kamina from Gurren Lagann) and it's a joy to see Nagisa with her family in contrast to Tomoya's relationship with his father.
Subbed or Dubbed?
Personally, I would choose the dubbed version simply because it has been done unbelievably well. It features such great VA's such as Luci Christian (Bamboo Blade, Claymore, D.Gray Man, One Piece *Nami*) David Matranga (5 centimetres per second, Elfen Lied, Highschool of the Dead) and Greg Ayres (FMA, FMP, DBZ, Gunslinger Girl) and the emotion these VA's put into their performance is incredible. Granted there are points and characters where it's a little stale, but as far as Dubbed goes this is pretty top notch.