“I think a lot of the time, you just parody yourself.” –Dylan Moran
Whereas Key adaptations have garnered a reputation for being heartbreakers and portray tragedies, Kaginado is a parody series produced by Liden Films Kyoto Studio and acts as a massive crossover for Key’s most iconic series, including CLANNAD, Kanon, Air, Little Busters! and Rewrite. As a part of the twenty-first anniversary celebrations, Kaginado brings back memorable characters and their traits from their stories, allows everyone to mingle in a shared space, and derive amusement from the antics that follow; Ryou laments her lack of presence compared to Kyou, Youhei challenges Mai, Lucia, Koutaro and Yuiko to a soccer game after he receives complaints, Yukito finds his puppeteering skills completely outmatched, and Kouko invites the older sister characters to discuss what they admire most about their younger siblings, only for things to devolve into a baseball game in which the younger sisters unleashed their repressed dissatisfaction at their older sister. Later, the male leads discuss the frustations of being a protagonist in their respective stories, and everyone prepares for a massive culture festival, only for the finale event to be crashed when Yuri announces she hates this world and plans to take the fight to this school with her SSS members. Hilariously light-hearted and poking fun at virtually every aspect of Key’s best-known works, Kaginado is a gentle series that shows Key as having a sense of humour about their previous titles. While I have seen Angel Beats!, CLANNAD, Kanon and Air, coming into Kaginado, I did not have any familiarity with Little Busters! or Rewrite. In spite of having two shows I’d never watched before, Kaginado‘s setup nonetheless created a novel experience in which I would find all of the moments funny.
By definition, parodies are dependent on a priori knowledge of a work to drive its humour. When I was in middle school, The Matrix and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was all the rage, and I spent many an hour laughing at the outrageous portrayal of The Matrix and Star Wars as fans poked fun at all aspects of these films. However, from the humour, it became very clear that one needed to have seen the originals in order for half the jokes to work. For instance, watching the Merovingian’s henchmen using weapons like an inflatable banana and a board with a nail in it as weapons against Neo during the chateau fight is dependent on having seen the original chateau fight. Someone lacking the context would not likely find these details amusing, and as such, watching Kaginado thus became an exercise in understanding what makes parodies work – whereas a traditional parody will often only focus on a single work, Kaginado is a crossover, and this allows characters from multiple stories to mingle together. Commonalities that the characters share allow one to gain a better of measure of how they act in their own series, as their combined interactions often create chaos in this shared environment. Since the problem of context is eliminated, one needn’t have seen every work in full to enjoy things, since knowing even about just one or two of the works can be enough to understand the context of a joke or exaggeration. This is where Kaginado succeeds as a parody, and even provides the incentive for one to give the other Key series a chance.
Screenshots and Commentary
- While CLANNAD presented Ryou as being shy and timid, Kaginado gives her a more sullen and moody disposition. Here, she does fortune telling for some of her classmates, and the results leave Kano bleeding. The visual style in Kaginado is quite similar to what World Witches Take Off! did, with both chibi and blood being used in a highly stylised manner. The characters look adorable by default, but they can also convey humour exceedingly well: in fact, of all of the slice-of-life parodies I’ve seen, Kaginado most closely resembles World Witches Take Off!, which I similarly enjoyed for its over-the-top exaggerations.
- Much as how World Witches Take Off! had done, Kaginado episodes start out being self-contained experiences, but over the course of the series, the episodes begin to tell an overarching story. Some of the humour in Kaginado is inappropriate: during a soccer match where Youhei challenges the swordsmen of Key, Youhei and his team have their clothes blown off. As memory serves, soccer was a big deal in CLANNAD, being the reason behind how Youhei and Tomoya reconcile during the events of ~After Story~, but here, the soccer game is purely done to drive a few laughs.
- The chibi art style is meant to be cute rather than alluring, so Kaginado is able to further make fun of things by having the characters rendered normally. Despite only running for three minutes each, Kaginado‘s episoldes pack a considerable amount of laughs into its runtime, using everything from gags and timing, to visual elements. However, unlike the Flash parodies I watched back in middle school, the art style in Kaginago is consistent, and the voice acting is spot on: all of the voice actors and actresses reprise their roles.
- Seeing Nagisa again immediately brought back memories of ten summer earlier, when I’d been watching CLANNAD to unwind from my busy and demanding schedule. I had entered CLANNAD because, after Angel Beats!, I became curious to see what Key’s other works were like. At around this point a decade earlier, I also joined the AnimeSuki forums with the aim of promoting this blog and getting to know other fans better. Although I was unsuccessful in gaining new readers, I did end up befriending a few of the forum’s members, most notably, Ernietheracefan, Wild Goose and Flower.
- These were exemplary members of the AnimeSuki community, being the precursors to the current community I’m with. While Wild Goose and Flower are now inactive, I still converse with Ernietheracefan from time to time at alternate venues. Over time, AnimeSuki’s community has become increasingly inactive, with only a handful of regulars still discussing anime: over the past few years, some users begun emphasising politics over anime to the point where the political threads are more active than the anime thread. For this reason, I do feel that I’ve done everything I could there, and while I’ll continue posting links back here, it feels like it’s time for me to call it quits.
- Back in Kaginado, during a flea market of sorts, Yukito spots an opportunity to try and make some coin by showing off his puppeteering skills, only to be promptly defeated by everyone else. In Air, Yukito’s success was already limited, and he ultimately made ends meet by taking up odd jobs around town. Here in Kagonado, the most successful business by far is Kyou, who has Kotomi put on a lethal violin recital and then “convince” audience members to pick up earplugs. Small details, like Kotomi going barefoot, show Kaginado‘s commitment to authenticity: Kotomi originally eschewed shoes for comfort.
- Yukito’s luck runs out when Ayu runs through the scene, trying to escape a taiyaki vendor that she’d just stolen from. In the process, she tramples Yukito’s puppet and destroys it totally. Early in the series, Kaginado explains what its title means: かぎなど simply means “Key et cetera“, and this is fitting considering that it takes Key’s works and adds on a comedic piece to it. Ayu’s entrance is almost entirely dependent on being familiar with Kanon and how Ayu initially greets Yuuichi.
- Kaginado is at its best when the characters act contrary to their usual selves, and here, Ryou, Shiori and Haruka share a hi-five after deliberately thrashing their older sisters with baseballs and calling them homewreckers. Ryou and Shiori certainly wouldn’t have done this in CLANNAD and Kanon, so the humour comes from seeing this dramatic contrast in actions. What makes the moment doubly strong is how confident Kyou and Kaori are in their younger sisters’ love for them, speaking to a disconnect that can only result from how the stories were originally written.
- For me, the segments of Kaginado that were most difficult to follow involve the characters outside of CLANNAD, Kanon and Air, but even in scenes featuring characters from Little Busters! and Rewrite, so long as characters from the Key series I’ve watched were present, I could still follow what was going on. Aiding in Kaginado‘s ability to elicit a smile was the fact that the incidental music used is sourced from other Key series, which similarly creates a disconnect; while the music is wistful and has a visual novel-like feeling, the mood in Kaginado does not match what they music conveys.
- The final few episodes of Kaginado are dedicated to a school-wide culture festival, which sees Kanna, Ryūya and Uraha arrive to check in on Misuzu. This was a surprising development, and I remember that when watching Air, it had felt quite jarring to suddenly be transported back into the Heian Period. While this explained Misuzu’s unfortunate curse of being forced to die and reincarnate whenever she discovered friendship, Air‘s ending was a little tricky to follow. It turns out that Yukito’s kindness would manifest in a crow, and Haruko ends up loving Misuzu as her own daughter, so when Misuzu dies, she is at peace. These memories return to Kanna, breaking the curse.
- Back in Kaginado, Fuuko, Ayu and Shizuru reunite after originally disagreeing on which form of marine life is the best. Until Kaginado, I’d never thought it was possible to see Ayu and Fuuko in the same room together, and it turns out that Shizuru loves saury. Jun Maeda is fond of giving characters a favourite food in his works, citing that it helps to give them a unique identifying trait which allows his characters to be distinct. This works well enough for each work, and the bonus is that, when a crossover like Kaginado is made, it allows similar characters to naturally group together.
- While the characters from different series might be similar, they have their own unique personalities and idiosyncrasies, so humour results from them clashing despite their commonalities. However, there are some characters that simply get along with everyone, and here, Sayuri passes cake to Michiru in a moment that warms up all of the café’s spectators.
- Kaginado‘s variant on the café simply has patrons watching the students act adorable, which is something I’ve never seen before at any school festival: normally, shows would prefer to have students actively work on an experience that attendees can then enjoy, but as a crossover parody, Kaginado is free to completely disregard convention. In this way, Kaginado has all of the same spirit and creativity of the Flash parodies I watched back in middle school. My favourite of them remains The Matrix Has You, which had been a collaboration between several animators.
- Kaginado neatly answers what would happen if Kanna actually met Misuzu. Moments like these are only possible in crossover parodies, and while Misuzu doesn’t have quite as active a role here in Kaginado as she did in Air, the moments that were portrayed were hilarious: my favourite would be when Haruko breaks a scene by suggesting that Misuzu is going to be late for school after she slowly steps towards the goal line as she had in Air‘s final moments. One would imagine that such a meeting, seeing Misuzu at peace with her world, would be Kaginado‘s equivalent of Air‘s resolution.
- While Makoto enjoys a BBQ pork bun and spends time with Mishio Amano, I decided to return to campus today for kicks: back in 2017, it was announced that the story of Leon the Frog was restored to its original glory, and having never climbed the stairs of the social sciences building from basement to the thirteenth floor when I’d been a student, I decided to make the ascent. After returning to my favourite outlet on campus, the Korean BBQ House, for their grilled chicken and beef combo with a side of tomato salad and honeyed potatoes (which tastes exactly as good as I remember), we swung by the building and made the full climb: the entire experience took around twenty minutes, and it was fun to read it from the bottom floor to the top floor, including one H-scene whose relevance to the story still eludes me.
- I note that I have previously mentioned the Social Sciences building in my post on Magia Record‘s “Breakup Staircase”, and folks curious to see what those stairs look like will finally have some photos. Back in Kaginado, when the culture festival’s beauty contest comes on, Tomoya and Yuuichi decide to take to the stage themselves after Mio suggests Riki would’ve won. Hilariously, Nagisa doesn’t seem quite so worried that Tomoya’s kitted out in the girls’ uniform, and she seems more concerned as to whether or not Tomoya might actually win. Here, it suddenly hits me that the protagonists of each Key series appear to be given less time on screen than the secondary characters, which really allow them to shine, and as such, when Yuuichi and Tomoya attempt to take back the spotlight by force, one cannot help but laugh at how absurd everything is.
- Nayuki doesn’t actually get much screen time in Kaginado, and here, she attempts to stop Akiko from selling her special jam with Sanae’s bread: Akio’s already down fore the count from attempting to consume Sanae’s bread when it’s already been given some jam. The combination has been implied to be potent enough to knock a grown man out: CLANNAD ~After Story~ had something similar happen during a fight between Tomoya and some of the city’s rival gangs, but back then, it was only implied that Sanae had managed to get her hands on Akiko’s jam.
- The resulting hilarity from the beauty contest has Mei so embarrassed, she can only cover her face in shame. Kaori is completely unamused by what’s unfolding before her eyes, while Shiori is content to simply keep eating her ice cream. The beauty contest’s setup is actually reminiscent of a faux cosplay contest that Otafest had hosted in some years, and while I myself could never don a seifuku and walk across a stage with confidence, I can easily see that events of this sort are treated as being highly entertaining.
- In the end, even Tomoya and Yuuichi’s efforts fail: in a stunning twist, Angel Beats! Hideki Hinata takes the top crown, and Yuri Nakamura reveals herself. Since Angel Beats!‘ cast had been absent from the other eleven episodes, their appearance was all the funnier, and I found myself wishing that they’d shown up earlier. While Angel Beats! had been quite poignant, the series had numerous comedic moments, as well. However, this finale is not the end of Kaginado: a second season began airing back in April as a part of the spring season, and I’ll be looking to watch it, as well.
- Overall, Kaginado is a series that will appeal to fans of Key and have some background of the series (I would suggest that having watched at least two or three Key works is sufficient to understand the jokes), and I certainly had a blast with this short anime. My Kaginado experience thus draws to a close, and I’ve only got one more post left for this month: I will be revisiting Kantai Collection: The Movie to commemorate the five year anniversary to its release. Beyond this, it’s full steam ahead as I enter September. The month will kick off with Jon Creator’s Showcase, and then it’s onto ARIA the Benedizione, which I’ve waited for quite some time to share my thoughts about.
Through its caricature of aspects from Key’s prior works, Kaginado proved to be a delightful series of shorts that also had the unexpected side effect of sending me on a journey down memory lane. I picked up Angel Beats! after curiosity got the better of me, and I wanted to see the anime behind the Lia’s My Soul, Your Beats!. When I watched CLANNAD, I was staring down the MCAT. Three months later, my enjoyment of CLANNAD ~After Story~ led me to give Kanon a whirl, and in trying to hunt down music from Kanon, I came upon Natsukage, an iconic song from Air. Seeing all of the characters returning in chibi form to bounce off one another in a zero-stakes environment proved most cathartic, and as a result, I found Kaginado to be a fantastic way of lightening up the mood from series that were otherwise emotionally-charged journeys. Kaginado gives Youhei a chance to shine where Tomoya had previously dominated, shows Ryou and Shiori’s repressed anger surrounding their older sisters, openly confirms what happens when Akiko’s special jam and Sanae’s artisan breads are combined, and even has Tomoya and Yuuicihi take to the stage for the beauty contest to show how things are done. Having all of the characters retain their old personalities, but otherwise act in ways that are contrary to how they’d act in their respective series serves to remind viewers that as serious as Key’s works usually are, if the tragedy were stricken from their worlds, the characters would experience life in an over-the-top manner, one that is sure to put a smile on viewers’ faces.