Recommendation: Clannad After Story is a continuation from the original Clannad anime. It would be unwise-stupid- to not watch Clannad first. After Story builds upon everything Clannad achieved to make it an even better and angelic experience. The plot is magnificent with the right amounts of drama, comedy and tragedy, the visual quality is wonderful and the voice acting and songs are mesmerising. If you didn’t enjoy Clannad, you may actually enjoy After Story since it is in almost every way superior. If you did enjoy Clannad, then by no means watch this and feel more feels. After Story will most likely break your heart into pieces before mending it and breaking it again, it is the very definition of a rollercoaster of emotions. It is nothing short of an amazing experience that transcends almost all media.
There will be minimal spoilers in the following review. No big and major events will be described to avoid people getting spoiled, or people reliving such experiences.
Clannad After Story is a direct sequel to the adored Clannad series (or season, which ever you call it) setting straight after the warm ending in Clannad. After Story continues to follow the story of Tomoya, as he matures personally and with his relationship with Nagisa. The series is roughly cut in half, the earlier half finishing off their time in school and the latter, delving into their adult life. At high school, it is their final semester as they continue to help out their friends in their struggles. But when the transition occurs, from the sheltered life in school to the big open world, a tragedy occurs. Nagisa falls ill again, long enough to keep her from graduating with Tomoya. As Nagisa retakes her third year at school again, Tomoya finds a stable job and is able to find a small house for the two. As time moves on, and Nagisa finally graduates (after falling ill again), the true family matters of the Clannad series begins to occur. Tomoya marries Nagisa and is intent to start a family. But the truth is, is this very man who cursed and hated this town ready to start a family in it?
Avoiding major spoilers aside, Clannad After Story is a continuation of Clannad. All the characters are there, those characters that didn’t have their own personal arc in Clannad have theirs in AS (I’ll refer to this series as that from now on in the review). As we reach the end of high school for Tomoya, we evidently see his growth from an ignorant child who plays tricks and sarcastic remarks, to a more mature person who sympathises and cares. The entire Clannad experience continues to shine in AS with more hard hitting arcs and further developed relationships. As we see Tomoya grow up and mature alongside Nagisa, we can’t help to feel their genuine emotions as time moves on. It’s that very foundation of how we can relate to these characters, to be able to feel their expressions and actions, that the messages and motifs that AS delivers are hard hitting and in some cases, life changing. We get to see Tomoya interact more with adults, begin to work to provide food and shelter for his family to ensure their safety and happiness.
One thing that AS does better than Clannad, is that the pacing of the story is much better and seamless. The arcs do not outpace each other and feel short as a result, but feel complete. That is pretty much the sense you get from AS, that the entire story is complete. AS completely builds upon the first series, enhancing the experience to a further degree by placing emphasis on the relationships you built with the characters. The general plot still places emphasis on Tomoya, with the first half still engaging with him helping out his friends and the second half, fully experiencing the notion of family. And this is where the entire experience boils down to, the emphasis on family. It may be strange how the main focus is only fully feature in the latter half of AS, but the latter half is arguably better than the first series. There are a few new characters that join the Clannad cast, one of which will be one of the biggest in the latter half.
As Clannad magnificently blended comedy and tragedy together so does AS, and much better too. AS features a more mature theme and plot than Clannad and may feel very heavy and serious at times. That is how many comedic events do occur every now and again, and these moments are sheer flashes of brilliance. The comedic moments never feel tacked on; they are well executed and will get a laugh out of many. AS is also much more dramatic than the first, with the emphasis on a more mature story there are bound to be dramatic moments that may plague an adult’s life. In these dramatic instances, there is no over the top melodramatic crap that seems stupid or unbelievable. The same can be for the tragic moments that are a real tear jerker. These tragic moments (not to spoil about, or make people remember) are much more powerful in AS than Clannad, since we have travelled and related with the characters over the course of over 20 episodes. It is pretty much a stab in the heart when something tragic occurs to one of your favourite characters. It is because you build a real strong relationship with the characters and when something ever happens to them, you feel for them. That’s pretty much the gist of the anime’s strength, on how real these characters and events are. They can occur in real life. Throughout the entire Clannad experience, you get to see the characters grow and develop and feel attached to them.
While Clannad focused lightly on family and more on development and characters, the latter half of AS features the theme of family dominantly. We get to see Tomoya forgive his father after years and years of pain and suffering, we see Tomoya marry Nagisa to start a family and have a little girl of their own, and we get to see how important family is to a person. To Tomoya, Nagisa was the only thing he ever cared for in the town, he hated it immensely. Of course things change over time and we see him develop further into a family man and a fatherly figure. One of the biggest moments for him is to realise his father’s mistakes and hardships, and to forgive him for it. Tomoya is mature enough to see the past he couldn’t before, and for that he has become a better man. While he does find great happiness with the birth of his daughter, it does come with a great price. And when too the child faces the same price, we go back to the first words spoken in the entire series- how things change over time. As Nagisa once said: “Things always have to change. Fun things…Happy things…But eventually they will change. Even so, can you continue loving this place?” Things do indeed change and for Tomoya, it is the biggest quote of his life. But as things do turn into a ditch, and how tragic and miserable events occur to Tomoya; “Surely you’ll find new fun and happy things”. From the parental care of Ushio Okazaki, the forgiving of his father, or his thought of turning away at the bottom of the hill, Tomoya still manages to find something new and happy. If anything, it is the moral of the story and the meaning you take out of it, the love of family and the cherishing of the people around you. It’s that heartwarming moral that completes the story and makes you feel all fuzzy inside.
The illusionary world is finally revealed in AS, but not in the way you would like it to. The cold empty world with the last lonely human and a robot is finally revealed. It is nothing more than what Key does; add a magical element to the story. At the climax of the story, that world finally has a purpose, but is not explained rather well. If there is any fault with the entirety of Clannad and AS, is the execution of the illusionary world. Its purpose as well may not be clear, and the purpose itself may leave a sour taste in a few people’s mouth. I too wouldn’t care if the illusionary world did not exist in the story, reverting the ending to a more tragic and miserable ending. But that doesn’t fit with the themes or meaning of Clannad. If the original ending were true, it would tell the tale of a boy who tries to change himself for the better, but each time he does he fails. The true meaning of Clannad is family, relationships and mature character development, and if a magical element is needed to fully express and tie up the series- then by all means let it happen. Also, in turn the sad ending would not have given any closure at all for everyone watching, so the existence of the illusionary world may still be debatable but its purpose in the plot can be justified.
Clannad never suffered from any visual flaws and neither does AS. As the plot is built upon Clannad, so are the visuals. Some of the backgrounds are amazing to look at. The night time city backdrop or the exposing stars in the sky all add to the surrealism of the anime. Another thing done extremely well is the animations. At one point in the series, there is a fight between Tomoya and another person. That fight is done magnificently. Not that the fight was epic or with big flashing attacks, but the movement and the actions of the two are fluid and realistic. The characters in the fight move fluidly and throw punches like they would in real life. If anything, that fight alone can be in anyone’s top fighting scenes, not purely for its action and epicness, but for its fluidity and realism. The rest of the anime also evokes real and fluid animation. Colours are once again a big usage in AS, inducing a more highlighted experience. From the funny sunflower field to the pink blossoming sakura trees, the colours used in AS are nothing short of a strong story telling device.
The audio is once again another major positive point in the series. Still using the same tracks straight from the visual novel, the soundtracks used adds more than just background noise. The very tracks are used so well in time with the scenes that the song can identify key moments in the anime. From the simple piano tune of Nagisa’s theme playing in some of the most important moments throughout the series, to the light hearted tune of Two Idiots, the soundtrack is nothing short of a masterpiece. Even through the indication of the song, you can identify which moments may be leading up. Or through listening to the songs, those moments that the songs fit in perfectly with start to fly into your head. In conjunction with the great visual and plot aspects of the anime, the soundtrack adds a whole other level that surpasses anything your emotions can handle. It is truly the composition of Jun Maeda- the composer of the visual novel’s soundtrack- that we can experience a masterpiece of an experience. The voice acting itself is once again done magnificent.
In Clannad, for me, the opening is nothing special while the ending was, it is the opposite for me in AS. The opening title is Toki wo Kizamu Uta and is composed by non-other than Jun Madea. Sung by Lia, the song itself is nothing short of touching and amazing. The lyrics themselves completely fit in with the anime and express the anime fully well. Not only are the lyrics touching and heartwarming, the music composition reinforces its idea. And Lia herself is such a great singer, and her with Jun Madea music is such an amazing combo. The visuals that accompany the song is also well done. The entire notion of the opening is expressed so well through the combination of both. This opening is one of my all time favourites. The ending for AS can’t be said the same, it doesn’t represent the anime at all. The ending is all happy and carefree and especially with the more mature themes present in AS, it doesn’t bode well. In Clannad the ending music may leave a distaste after a sad event, but the ending here just completely ruins the mood and mindset of viewers. The ending for AS is bad, it just doesn’t fit in with anything. It is a shame since the opening is done masterfully.
To sum up my review, Clannad After Story is one masterpiece. It completely builds upon Clannad and does everything better. While the illusionary world isn’t unfolded in the best way, the entirety of the plot is based upon the theme of family. The characters and relationships once again are strong and real. Throughout AS, there will be many feels and tear jerking moments, as well as comedic moments that don’t feel bad or tacked on. The music is once again some of the best works in anime, working well with the anime’s theme and reasoning. The visual quality is never faltered, and the pacing of the story is done much better. The opening is magnificent and the ending is bad. The entire anime is done perfectly.
Clannad After Story is beyond amazing. It is one of the finest works in all media that is able to mix and blend both a coherent and amazing story with great visuals and a masterful soundtrack. The story is told marvelously and focuses on mature themes. We get to see characters develop into mature people, form relationships that last a lifetime and form a family that is the most important. The theme of family is completely relatable to everyone, and with it being the most focused idea, it is touching to say the least. After Story is a rollercoaster of emotions with a masterpiece soundtrack that heightens the experience altogether, it goes beyond being just an anime and becomes a divine experience. It creates such an emotive story at such a high caliber that is rarely seen in, well possibly all media. This may be a super tall claim, but this anime does indeed create such a strong and emotive connection between you and the characters, definitely creating a rollercoaster of emotions in this slice of life. There are happy and joyous moments, moments of great hilarity, moments that pull heartstrings of raw affectionate emotions, and moments of crushing tragedy. If you wish to live, breathe and feel in a world filled with everything your heart could implode from, this anime is recommended for you. Tissue boxes are a necessity.
After Story is as perfect of an anime it can get, the entire experience is heartwarming and touching. It is by little means the best, but one of.