Clannad (TV)

Genre: Slice of life, psychological drama, romance
Length: 23 episodes
Rating: 12 for complex psychology
Score: Excellent

Tomoya Okazaki is a third year high school student resentful of his life. His mother’s death has caused his father to resort to alcohol and gambling. This results in fights between the two until Tomoya’s shoulder is injured. Tomoya has become something of a delinquent. While on a walk to school, he meets a strange girl named Nagisa Furukawa who is a year older, but repeating due to illness. The two begin spending time together and slowly, Tomoya finds his life shifting in new directions.

Clannad is essentially a story about two troubled people overcoming their past demons and rejoining the rest of the world. Nagisa is quite weak and severely lacking in confidence. Tomoya isn’t very academically strong, barely spends any time at home, and has no real direction to his life. Their chance meeting is a turning point in both their lives – they give each other confidence to move on, meet new people, and generally regain direction in their lives.

Clannad is one of those series where very little actually happens, it’s all about the psychology of the journey as the characters “repair” each other. The plots that do occur are relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things (Nagisa wanting to start a theatre club, etc.), but they serve to bring the characters closer together, and force them to interact with other, equally damaged characters.

This is good psychological stuff with light comedy moments injecting some levity into the series. However, the pace is quite slow, and if you’re after an action series, this is not for you.

Marcus adds:

Clannad – After Story

Length: 22 episodes (there are also some OVAs due, they’re separate)
Rating: 12 for complex and mature themes
Score: Excellent

The second series picks up where the first left off without even a bump, instantly delivering more of the same. It isn’t until a good few episodes in that the story starts to change. It’s hard to describe without spoilers, but the more serious events start with Tomoya leaving school, needing to find a job and direction in life, and making the hard decisions that so many male anime leads never do.

Fundamentally, the story isn’t about the events that happen as about the effect of those events on the characters. Nagisa and Tomoya have had a profound effect on each other’s lives, and as their relationship deepens you know that it isn’t simply based on attraction, but on need, respect, affection and concern.

It’s only fair to warn you, the story does get very depressing later on. And it has the courage to stay there: where other anime would have waved a magic wand, thrown in a change, anything to change the mood, Clannad stays with it, because that way it can reveal more of the characters. Clannad really does stand above the ranks of ‘harem’ series, such that the word doesn’t describe it any more. It follows the characters for years as they change, and depicts their story with more depth, reality and understanding.

There are a lot of romance and harem anime out there. Clannad has set a new bar for them to air for.