“Everyday people keep hurting each other, it’s no wonder why you doubt what other people in the world tell you.” —Yuusuke Yoshino
After hearing about Nagisa’s dream of resurrecting the Drama Club, Tomoya helps her create and place posters promoting the club around campus. He later encounters the enigmatic Kotomi Ichinose in the library and confiscates a knife from Fuuko Ibuki upon seeing her with an injury. When Nagisa learns that Tomoya was once a basketball player, she invites him to a game, but Tomoya skips on account of the rain. Feeling that Nagisa might’ve shown up anyways, he finds her alone at the court and reveals to her that he injured his shoulder long ago in a fight with his father. She subsequently faints, and Tomoya visits her the next day, learning that Nagisa had always been frail, falling in and missing a year of high school as a result. On the way back home, he helps defuse a situation between Yuusuke Yoshino, an electrician, and another fellow accusing Yuusuke of damaging his car. Back at school, Tomoya and Nagisa meet Yukine Miyazawa in the reference room, and when classes end for the day, Tomoya helps Nagisa practise answering questions to prepare her for becoming the Drama Club’s new president. CLANNAD appears quite ordinary after three episodes, although underlying the sense of normalcy are the hints that Tomoya’s world is a lot more challenging than what audiences initially see. Even after a mere three episodes, Tomomya’s troubled relationship with his father are presented, and similarly, the goal of reviving the Drama Club is not as straightforwards as acquiring new members. CLANNAD thus sets the stage for what Tomoya must overcome, and by contrasting this with gentler, light-hearted moments, audiences empathise with Tomoya; as his interactions with the other characters continue, we begin rooting for him more strongly.
CLANNAD‘s arcs follow a very well-defined pattern; the introduction of a particular story is initially characterised by the liberal application of humour and exposition. As Tomoya learns more about the individual he’s helping, more of their story is exposed, revealing more depth to things. This approach allows for a very natural progression for the narrative; audiences grow accustomed to laughing with the characters and enjoying their experiences. This humanises them and creates a sense of connection to the characters, so when the mood takes a turn for the serious, audiences grow concerned with what awaits the characters, compelling them to continue following the story. It’s surprisingly simple but effective: the first few episodes demonstrate hints of the darker underpinnings in Tomoya’s life, and also begin suggesting that Nagisa faces her own challenges. The masterful use of foreshadowing in CLANNAD means that events that subsequently happen do not come out of left field and surprise audiences, resulting in a sense of closure when all of the pieces come together at a particular section’s end. Already successfully applied in Kanon, CLANNAD continues on with this approach, which is similarly used to great effect in Angel Beats! to create highly moving anime that I greatly enjoyed watching.
Screenshots and Commentary
- CLANNAD deals with human emotions as acutely as though one were experiencing them, but when the situation calls for comedy, CLANNAD similarly delivers. Here, Tomoya deals with the aftermath of a near-miss where Kyou very nearly earns a roadkill medal on Tomoya with her scooter. Curiosity lead me to wonder what exactly the difference between a scooter and a moped is, and it turns out that scooters have a platform for resting one’s feet on, as well as a slightly more powerful engine.
- It’s evidently spring when the events of CLANNAD kicks off, as evidenced by the presence of cherry blossoms on the trees in the background. Apparently, Youhei’s hair is bleached blonde rather than naturally being blonde, and while he was admitted to this particular high school to participate in its athletic program, he was kicked off for fighting members who would harass younger athletes.
- While Youhei always ends up on the receiving end of an ultra-beatdown from Tomoyo, she actually does not wish to do anything to him, and usually expresses disappointment that things come to this stage. CLANNAD is the first anime where I began paying greater attention to the eyebrows of various characters, since it helped me gain a better sense of how a particular character was feeling.
- Tomoya meets Kotomi in the library and initially does not gain much from their initial conversation. While seemingly trivial, Kotomi will play a much bigger role later in CLANNAD. The library of Tomoya’s high school is uncommonly quiet compared to my recollections of high school; even during classes, there were students with spare periods who would study here. While it is during classes, I imagine that differences in how Japanese classes are structured could account for this difference.
- When Tomoya shares a conversation with Ryou about how Kyou very nearly splattered him with her scooter earlier that morning, Kyou appears out of nowhere and attempts to shut things down, since biking to their high school is prohibited. Later, Tomoya decides to turn this into a bit of a joke, after being cut off when he mentions the word “bike”. He loudly announces that Kyou is “bi”, much to her consternation.
- I originally picked up CLANNAD after I had finished Lucky Star, K-On!, The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi and The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi the summer before; the works from Kyoto Animation that’d I’d seen up to that point quite enjoyable and I was wondering what some of their other shows were like. Hence, I decided to give CLANNAD, Kanon and Air a watch. When I started CLANNAD, I was beginning a summer course and MCAT preparation.
- On clear spring days that gradually gave way to the summer, I studied for the MCAT, and in my down time, I watched CLANNAD, falling in love with the story and its characters. The lengthy story meant that the anime remained with me as I moved through MCAT preparations and began gearing up for the exam itself. Back in CLANNAD, Tomoya’s first act is helping Nagisa come up with ideas for raising awareness for the drama club, and this begins with creating posters under a gentle spring sky.
- CLANNAD‘s visual novel released in 2004, and the anime came out three years later. During this time frame, dual-core computers and flat screen televisions were becoming more commonplace, but the smartphone was still in its infancy, and tablets were still three years from becoming popular. The lack of consumer electronics in CLANNAD that are ubiquitous in contemporary society gives the visual novel and anime adaptation a timeless sense.
- Nagisa learns that Tomoya was once a promising basketball player, and hoping to learn a little more about him, invites him to a basketball game. Like Youhei, Tomoya was once an athlete whose struggles led him to leave school teams. The concept of a delinquent student is common in anime, referring to students who tend to come and go as they please and are not beholden to the same rules as other students.
- While delinquent type characters stand out in anime, they’re much less noticeable in reality. At this point in time, Tomoya does not have a substantial emotional investment towards Nagisa yet, and as such, when the day of the game comes, he skips when seeing the rainy weather, only coming out to check up on Nagisa after recalling their promise. Tomoya reveals a shoulder injury stemming from a fight with his father some time ago, and Nagisa faints in the rain.
- Nagisa is taken home and will recover after some rest. In the meantime, Akio accidentally insults Sanae’s bread, causing her to run from the shop, forcing Akio to jam a copious quantity of the bread up his mouth, declare it to be delicious and run off after her. This particular act is repeated on several occasions, under different contexts and with different breads, being hilarious in a unique way every time.
- Tomoya runs into art instructor Kouko Ibuki who once taught Nagisa and is a frequent patron of the Furukawa Bakery. Nagisa greatly admires her, and occasionally acts as a source of guidance for Nagisa and Tomoya.
- A former musician, Yuusuke Yoshino is an electrician who is fond of dramatic poses and quotes, a callback to his earlier days. He gets into an argument with another fellow who finds a large dent on the hood of his vehicle, and is accused of dropping his equipment on the hood to cause said dent. Tomoya difuses the situation and works out that a cat was responsible. His guess is corroborated by a particularly husky feline who casually saunters by.
- CLANNAD‘s anime adaptation is able to really bring all of the characters to life, capitalising on the animated medium to portray moments in the visual novel in a fluid manner. However, at the time, technological constraints meant that most audiences likely would not have been able to really appreciate the visual fidelity within the anime. High definition video was still very much a new technology back in 2007, and the average internet download speed was around 600-800 kb/s. As such, for period reviews of CLANNAD, most screenshots their reviews featured would have been 480p.
- In 2017, ten years after CLANNAD aired, internet speeds are on average around ten times faster, allowing me to provide 1080p screenshots. When he encounters Fuuko, who is seeking a small carving knife Tomoya took from her earlier to prevent her from continuing to injure herself, he asks her to prove that she’s recovered sufficiently to retrieve the knife. Tomoya treats Fuuko as a small child rather than a fellow high school student; both playful and concerned with her, it shows a side of Tomoya that’s quite unlike his usual quiet demeanour or his more spirited pranks against Youhei.
- After class one day, Youhei finds a baby boar hanging around campus and proceeds to tease it until his owner appears to defend it. It turns out that Kyou has a baby boar she calls Botan, and she proceeds to kick Youhei’s ass. Botan is not fond of Youhei but takes a liking to Tomoya. Named for the peony flower, Botan has nothing to do with the C++ cryptographic library that is alternatively known as OpenCL.
- The reference room is a quiet corner of campus that Tomoya and Nagisa frequent, after Tomoya visits to find a resource for helping Nagisa deliver better speeches to motivate the Drama Club’s revival. They run into caretaker Yukine Miyazawa, a friendly second year who is willing to help those she encounters, assisting seekers in finding the information they require. Yukine’s role has long been displaced by powerful search algorithms, and these days, online search engines are capable of giving seekers access to nearly limitless information.
- In the time since I’ve heard it, “Dango Daikazoku” has become one of my favourite ending songs of all time, reflecting on the gentle and innocent personality that defines Nagisa. The lyrics themselves to the song are befitting of an inviting children’s song, but belie the song’s theme of family, painting vivid imagery of the strength of what family is about and acting as a motif for Nagisa, whose optimistic outlook on family drives change in Tomoya.
- Tomoya gets to work helping Nagisa improve her speeches, the first step towards restoring the Drama Club. This post is similarly named because the first three episodes of CLANNAD are really about first steps, in establishing the CLANNAD world, the characters and the events that unfold as Tomoya’s story progresses.
- It’s actually a bit of a curiosity that CLANNAD‘s third episode aired on the same date as this blog’s anniversary, and I will be dropping by later to briefly respect on what six years of blogging has been like. I assure readers that this is a mere coincidence, and that when I started this blog six years ago, I had not watched CLANNAD. Once these formalities are completed, I will be taking a look at the film In This Corner of The World, which I’ve been looking forwards to watching since hearing about it last August, as well as doing the after-three posts for both of Girls’ Last Tour and Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter!, anime that I’m actively following for this season.
With the introductory material in the books, we now move on towards the main stories of CLANNAD. During my revisitations for the ten-year anniversary of the anime, I’ve chosen to break down the anime into separate arcs: reviewing each individual episode will be a gargantuan task that simply won’t be practical. Instead, I’ve opted to write about CLANNAD in four different talks. The first of these will be Fuuko’s arc, followed by Kotomi, then Kyou and Ryou, and finally, Nagisa herself. Each arc has a unique contribution to CLANNAD, being a self-contained story whose consequences nonetheless have an impact on future events. Some of these elements return as hilarious bits of comedy that lightens the mood of a serious moment, while others foreshadow critical aspects of the narrative, setting the stage for each of the upcoming arcs.