Studio: Kyoto Animation, Key
300 minutes/2 discs
This week, Nagareboshi Reviews is proud to host a guest review from fellow blogger and IRL BFF Jeremy aka Gaosalad! He has kindly written a review of the first 12 episodes of Clannad ~After Story~ and allowed me to post it here! If you like what you see, make sure to visit his pop music blog which has tons of awesome posts on popular culture and music from all over. And make sure to comment if you like his review so he'll write me more of them! ♥
Clannad ~After Story~ is the animated version of the Key 'hidden arc' in the popular Japanese dating simulation game "Clannad". Once all the stories have been completed a special "After Story" pops up for players to see what happens after the two main characters Tomoya and Nagisa begin dating, eventually extending years into the future. The anime picks up a few months after the end of the first season. The summer break is over, and it's time for our cast to go through their final semester of high school.
Many people refer to the first eight episodes of this block as the "people helping" arcs. This is due to its continuing the same feel from the first season. Every arc focuses on a different character and their set of problems all leading up to a very dramatic ending. The first season cleared through all of the main characters, leaving the more minor characters to be explored in this season. The first three arcs cover Sunohara and his sister Mei, Misae the manager of the boys’ dorms, and Yukine the mysterious girl residing in the reference section of the library.
The Mei/Sunohara arc had its problems. For instance: there were a lot of misunderstandings going around that hindered the plot and just made things worse. Why did Tomoya not tell Sunohara that his fake girlfriend was Nagisa's mother? That would have kept him from perusing her and shifted his focus back to his sister, thus negating the last two episodes of the arc. They covered up the whole plot hole of Sunohara not being mad that his fellow senior was dating his much younger sister by tacking on a line about how he didn't care because it was his best friend. The arc as a hole was pretty messy and almost deterred me from the series.
The Yukine arc isn't much better. It felt a little too rushed. Sure, they did leave hints for this arc early on, getting you ready for everything to be explained, but honestly it was a pretty big letdown. The portrayal of gangs was very unrealistic, and because of the tension between the gangs and Sunohara's antics, Yukine didn't get much attention. The ending to this arc felt too rushed. Why did she agree to fight if she knew her brother was dead? Why did she pose as her brother only to get punched in the face?
The middle arc is really what saves this set. Misae is a very likable character, and her love story felt very genuine. Sometimes people don't realize that love is right in front of them. The awkward "I’m in love with my cat" moment at the end had me laughing, taking away from the dramatic parts, but then again, it did support the furry community... kind of. I was glad to see this arc, too, because Misae was a very interesting character for the first go around and I was looking forward to seeing more of her.
After Tomoya is done solving everyone's problems he moves on to a set of his own. Tomoya graduates high school and begins a life of his own. Nagisa ends up getting very sick again and misses too much school to graduate, creating a contrast between the two as Tomoya is forced to grow up while his love continues to be a care free high school student. This contrast is the basis for the remaining episodes of the first half. Many people have praised these as being truly moving and a good way to move the story forward, but I for one long for the older days where his main concern was what girl with a dramatic past would show up in his life next.
One thing I really do admire about this show is definitely its break away from the norm of storytelling. In most anime of this genre, the focus stays on high school. The characters don't think of any repercussions past graduation and the series hardly ever extend past graduation. This series focuses on exactly the opposite. The main characters have to deal with the real world. Sure, a big chunk of the series took place during high school, but from here on out it shows our characters getting jobs, having kids, going to college, and growing up.
Stopping at just episode 12 is really tough. From episode nine onwards, everything flows together quite seamlessly and there never really is an appropriate stopping point. The portions of the "dead world" with the mysterious robot and the girl have yet to be explained and develop very slowly. The quality of Tomoya to attract the supernatural, as mentioned by Yukine, has yet to be explained either. Much is left to be desired in part two.
The series, produced by the same people who did the first season, hasn't changed much for this season. A few of the designs for characters change slightly after the graduation episode to make them appear more mature or older, but by a large margin the look remains the same. This isn't really a bad thing. Compared with the other Key adaptations, this series by far has the best looking characters. The pastel colors and bright lighting make everything look beautiful. The season also has top notch animation, causing the emotional sequences to be believable just as much in sight as they do emotionally.
The musical score from the show is ripped straight from the previous season. I've yet to decide if this was laziness, a way of saving money to keep the cost of the show low, or a way to keep fans of the previous season engaged. Reuse of the old music isn't a bad thing per say. The music is amazing and emotional, not sticking out, but highlighting sequences. It does get a bit old sometimes. An emotional sequence is always cued by the same dramatic music. Sometimes they will switch to instrumentals of the theme songs, but most often it’s the same handful of musical scores.
The opening and closing themes have been changed for this season much to my dismay. Last season's opening theme was so perfect. This one, while not bad exactly, just doesn't feel as charged. Not only that, but the opening looks vastly the same. The characters are displayed with their names and key sequences much as in the first season, and the same flashes of the minor characters happens at the end. It’s surprising they kept it this way, especially since the main group of girls fades to the background after episode 9. Even then, the first episodes feature them very little after the opening episode.
My dismay over the opening theme aside, I was glad to have that damn Dango Family crap ending theme gone forever. The song was cute for about TWO SECONDS before it became annoying. And it was on every. Single. Episode. This new ending theme is much more tolerable, probably because it was done by the talented Lia, who has done both the opening and ending themes this time.
The voice acting was notably good. The original Sentai Filmworks set did not include dubs. I have seen many episodes in Japanese, and I am told the voice actors were handpicked by Key, so it is a no brainer that these voices were perfect. I was surprised, though, to find out the dub was very well done. The company took it's time doing a dub, and I really do believe it shows. Unlike the rushed dubbings by companies like ADV and Geneon in the past, this set was put out with subtitles only and actually had attention given to the dub. Very few voices are annoying (Mei... but that's all I'll say there) and some of the voices are actually really well acted. I get plenty of hate for my attraction to dubs, but as laughable as they may be, every now and then you find a polished gem.
This series, while not as emotionally heart wrenching as the first yet, is still a very good watch. Some of the beginning arcs may feel like a chore at first, but the second you give in to the characters and the plot, it becomes an exciting emotional ride. I've heard a lot of what goes on in the second half of the series, but spoilers or not, there is no way to properly describe the drama that is this show. The only way one can truly understand is to watch it for themselves.