This review does NOT contain storyline spoilers of ANY kind.
So, Clannad. I heard about this anime when I was browsing an anime tracker. I saw a torrent, "Clannad.1080p.FLAC" and I said to myself: "Hmm, nice quality, interesting name, good ANIdb score...Let's give it a shot". Then I noticed: "based on a visual novel" and I rolled my eyes. But since, I already downloaded it, I reluctantly made the decision to watch it nonetheless.
Oh boy, was I in for a shock. This anime has climbed to number 1 in my personal "Best Drama Anime Eva' " in just 6 episodes. If I got your attention, let's continue to...
Since it's base DNA is a visual novel, as you'd expect, the story is chapter based. The first two chapters tell the story of the male lead and two other girls. Each one lasts around 6-7 episodes. Although the "main" story is present in these chapters, it's somewhat on the afterburner. Some may argue that this is a major flaw of the anime: lack of concentration on the romantic development of the main characters, but I think these "side" chapters really manage to flesh out the human features of both Tomoya and Nagisa, as well as the other characters.
At about the halfway mark of the series, the main story picks up and you're tossed in a maelstrom of emotions: you will laugh at the mischievous pranks pulled by Tomoya, you heart will warm up at the innocence of Nagisa, you will be there, with the characters, living their story, feeling their love, their despair, their sadness, their hope. No other anime has sunk its claws so deep into my soul, dragging it out screaming and kicking only to put it back warm and fuzzy :D.
It's gorgeous. If you have the possibility to watch it in full HD, you won't be dissapointed. The background are fantastic, from the diminishing rays of the sunset sun which bathe the scene in a crimson red to the sea of stunning blue, to the character design which manages to create extremely expressive faces and eyes, withouth exageratting.
I remember a scene with sakura trees in full bloom which absolutely blew my mind away. It looked divine.
The music is mostly orchestral. The opening is a very catchy, yet undeniably sad song which presents the characters. The ending, on the other hand is very cute and childish on the surface, but always brings a tear to my eye. You'll know what I mean after you finish the anime (well, both seasons). The overall soundtrack is taken almost directly from the visual novel. Although I played the VN, after I watched the anime (which I highly recommend doing), the music didn't seem out of place in the anime. It's good.
It manages to create atmosphere, a very sublime atmosphere, in the tragic moments but it kinda fails to bring a smile to my face in the comedy scenes.
It's an absolute joy to see a male lead who isn't a pervert, incredibly dense, clumsy or indecisive. Tomoya looks like a normal guy; not the "normal" in most harem animes. Just a plain old Joe or Jack. But you must never judge a book by its cover. Tomoya has a very devious mind and the pranks he pulls (mostly of Fuuko) are absolutely hillarious. The "harem" has it all: tsundere, the shy one, the genius, the clumsy one etc etc etc, but what makes Clannad soooooo vastly different from other animes is that all those characters feel real. They have real emotions, real pasts, real dreams...By the way, there's no fanservice here. And I wouldn't like it any other way.
Don't get me wrong, I like boobs in my anime, but in this anime, it would just feel cheap to reduce such splendid characters to mere eye-candy.
Clannad is a marvelous story, an excellent drama with a pinch of real comedy. The name actually means "family" in Irish and although this idea is hinted through the first season, it only picks up during the second. But if you wish to see a true romance anime, this one is for you: a diamon among others.