- Newfoundland, Canada
- I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Clannad... and what it says about anime: Part 1
Don't worry, I'll get back to my Top 10 Countdown soon.
However, for the time being, I wanted to talk about an anime that may have altered my Top 10 list if I had watched it before I compiled that Top 10 list. That anime is Clannad.
Thanks to the recommendations of my good friend and fellow Anime Suki poster Kogetsu Shirogane, I recently watched Clannad, an anime that I had not bothered with when it first came out due to how action-oriented anime is what dominated my watching habits before I became more involved in Anime Suki's poster community.
With this in mind, I probably should provide some background information on my history as an anime fan before I get into my review of Clannad, to help those who read this blog understand where I'm coming from here.
A few years ago, a close cousin of mine, helped along by frequent discussions on animes and anime characters on the Comic Book Resources site, managed to get me interested in anime. I had watched bits and pieces of various anime shows before then... mainly the big three of Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, and Sailor Moon... but it was only at this point that I began to watch anime as a somewhat consistent entertainment hobby.
The first ten or so animes I saw, after I became interested in anime, was directly determined by my cousin (and, by extension, by his best internet friends). Those animes were, in no particular order...
1) El Hazard: The Magnificent World
2) El Hazard: The Wanderers
3) Excel Saga
4) Ranma ½
5) Tenchi Muyo!
7) Full Metal Alchemist (the original anime)
8) Neon Genesis Evangelion
9) Azumanga Daioh
So, even though I only became a big anime fan during this decade, my introduction to the world of anime included a significant number of 90s animes. Also, for those familiar with most or all of the anime above, you can probably see how most of the anime I watched in the early going were of a predominantly zany and action-packed nature... with Azumanga Daioh probably being the one closest to "regular" school life, or slice of life in general.
The KyoAni titles, as such, are largely ones that were a bit different from the animes that I had cut my teeth on.
In fact, as big a fan of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as I am now... I honestly found the anime more than a bit weird in the beginning. Episode 00 honestly didn't help matters when I first saw it, although I now look back on it fondly. However, Haruhi had just enough of the sorts of elements that many of my favorite early animes had to hook me in... and it particularly helped that Haruhi herself slowly grew on me after an early disliking of the character (yes, amazing, isn't it? ;) ), and in fact I now love the character.
Haruhi was likely the ideal anime to introduce me to the KyoAni style of anime... I suspect that the genre transition into Clannad was made easier because of it.
So, in any event, my knowledge of Clannad before the past two months or so was very, very nil. I was aware of it, of course, but only through its presence on Anime Suki, and also through occassional allusions to it. So, I went in watching it with out hype playing much of a role. I will admit that part of the reason why I took Kogetsu up on his recommendation is that Clannad is one of the more... relevant animes, shall we say... of the ones I have yet to see, but I read no comprehensive reviews on it before I watched it, and basically went into watching it with no preconceptions whatsoever and an entirely open mind.
So... in this blog post I will look at Clannad's original season. In Part 2, I will look at After Story, as I feel that After Story warrants its own posting.
So... with all of this regrettable exposition out of the way (sorry about that ^_^;; ), what do I think of Clannad? What were my first impressions of it? What do I think of its cast of characters, and what do I think it says about modern anime?
Well, first of all, and to get strait to the point... I very much liked the original season of Clannad. In particular, the Fuko and Kotomi arcs (basically constituting episodes 5 through 14, IIRC) were two of the best anime arcs I've ever seen, and certainly the best signal character-focused anime arcs I've ever seen. This ten episode run was one of the best anime runs that I've seen, at least as far as characterization, emotional involvement, and plot cohesion are concerned.
It helps, of course, that I almost instantly fell in love with the actual characters of Fuko and Kotomi. Fuko's mannerisms and style of speech are too adorable for words, while Kotomi is one of the most endearing and lovable characters I've ever seen.
Kotomi, to me, is like a mixture of some of the best elements of Mikuru Asahina with some of the best elements of Yuki Nagato. However, raising Mikuru here helps to get to a key point pertaining to Clannad.
While Fuko and Kotomi are incredibly moe, irressistably cute, and sweeter than Nagisa's favorite bean bread, they are not helpless or hopeless characters... unlike, well, Mikuru Asahina, to be frank. Don't get me wrong, Mikuru has her appealing qualities as well, but it's nonetheless very refreshing to see a moe girl that can pick up for herself, take the iniatitive, and gain accomplishments of worth.
This is not only true of Fuko and Kotomi, but also of Nagisa. It also holds true of Kyou, Ryou, and Tomoyo, albeit to lesser extents in my opinion.
So, for me, this is one of the unique charms of Clannad... competent, and hence a touch more realistic, moe girls. And yet, while they are competent, they are still rather good-natured and sweet.
Another one of Clannad's strengths is Tomoya.
Tomoya is one of the most well-rounded anime main male protagonists I've ever seen.
There's an outside chance that him and/or Kotomi would have cracked my Top 10 list if I had watched this anime before I began making it.
Tomoya is like a softer (and hence a bit more relatable, for me) version of Kyon... but at the same time he avoids the dreaded Doormaticus Suckitosis disease that so many anime harem leads seem to be afflicted with. ;)
Tomoya's prankster side combined with Sunohara's principal comedic relief role provides Clannad with moments of humor to compliment its sublime sentimental spectacle.
While I felt that this humor was sometimes a bit excessive and overplayed, it was probably better to have it there than to have Clannad be a deadly serious show at all times.
What I like about Tomoya, and what I like about most (if not all) of the cast, is how they feel like real people to me. The slapstick comedy moments aside, it's not hard to imagine real life people living lives, and exuding behaviors, much like those of the characters of Clannad. Oh, the characters of Clannad all of their quirks and eccentricities, but these quirks and eccentricities merely add flavour to the characters rather than outright defining them. They're like a real life best friend with an unusual hobby, or a peculiar interest, or an atypical talent.
One other strength of the original season of Clannad that I wish to note (and this particular strength is even more readily apparent in After Story) is the overall presentation style. By that, I mean, the OP, the ED, the artwork, the animation, and the background music. All of these synergistically synthesize superbly to help create an anime that's not too polished, but is also very clean and emotionally impactful.
All of the above being said... the original season of Clannad is not with out its flaws. My first impressions of it were actually a bit mixed, as it felt very much like Azumanga Daioh Light to me in the first few episode. However, the Fuko and Kotomi arcs really kicked this anime into high gear, and done loads to set it apart from other school-life focused animes.
However, I don't consider Clannad the "greatest anime ever", as I've read its widely considered to be by a strong majority of its fanbase. In fairness, though, I should point out that this is coming from an action-oriented anime fan. I tend to like epic struggles and flashy fight scenes, and that is simply not a selling point for Clannad.
Nonetheless, Clannad's major selling point is an uniquely good one, precisely because its unique.
While Clannad is not my all-time favorite anime, it is now one of my favorites, and there is something that I can say for Clannad...
Clannad is definitive anime.
By that, I mean, if I wanted to point to the sorts of characters and narratives that best represent anime as a distinguished entertainment genre with its own characteristic cultural background and flair... I would point to Clannad.
You know the old saying of "A man's man?", which has been extended upon to include sayings like "A player's player", "A warrior's warrior", and "A politician's politician"?
Well, Clannad is an anime's anime. It has almost all of the elements that differentiate anime from western cartoons... and almost none of the elements that western cartoons share with anime.
If anime was to ever die out completely, the first particular anime show I would think of... would be Clannad. And then I would feel very sad over the death of anime given how there's nothing in western entertainment that is even remotely like Clannad. If anime was to ever completely disappear, shows like Clannad, and characters like the cast of Clannad, would quite likely completely disappear with it.
And so, somewhat paradoxically I'll admit, I'd like to see anime become a bit more mainstream and hence very vibrant and commercially successful. Because I'd like to see more people become acquainted with shows like Clannad, and I'd hate to see shows like Clannad to die out completely or be thoroughly buried in obscurity.
In its own way, Clannad is actually wholesome family entertainment, with a predominant theme of the value of family and interpersonal connections and relations. It is a story of growth, both on a personal level, and on a community level.
And yet, Clannad does this with out ever seeming overly simplistic or condescendingly cold. It is a warm, friendly, and inviting anime, and I hope that there will be more anime like it in the future... however, I also hope that there may be more mainstream action-oriented fare as well.
Perhaps such mainstream animes could help somebody else find their way to their Clannad like I found my way to the Clannad.
In Part 2 of this 2-part review of Clannad, I will look at After Story. I hope that folks who enjoyed this review will come back for that one as well. :)
For now, though... Here's a toast to Clannad Season 1!!!