The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Yuichi Aizawa

Kaginado: Reflections and Understanding the Effective Amusement in Crossover Parodies

“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 CLANNADKanon 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.

Masterpiece Anime Showcase: Kanon, An Introit on Recollections and Healing On A Winter’s Solstice

“In that case, my first wish is…please don’t forget about me, even just a ‘I met a weird girl in the snow’. Even that would be okay, as long as you remember me” –Ayu Tsukimiya

High school student Yuichi Aizawa returns to a city he’d visited seven years ago, is preordained to lodge with his cousin, Nayuki Minase, and transfers to the local high school. Having limited recollections of the city, Yuichi finds himself quite detached from the area and its inhabitants. However, he runs into Ayu Tsukimiya in the shopping district, and also becomes friends with Shiori Misaka and Mai Kawasumi. While in the shopping district one day, Yuichi encounters Makoto Sawatari, who’d returned to settle a long-standing grudge with him. Nayuki’s mother, Akiko, decides to let Makoto stay with them, and while Yuichi desires nothing more to be rid of Makoto and her propensity for pranks, he comes to realise that Makoto is actually the spirit of a fox he’d once befriended given human form – so intense was her desire to spend time with him that she was granted a wish to become human and reunite with Yuichi, but as he recalls this, Makoto’s strength begins fading, and she vanishes after Yuichi helps her fulfil an old promise. Later, Yuichi decides to help Mai with her image problem: she is perceived as being a troublemaker and is accused of damaging school property. After a terrifying incident at the school dance and a freak accident that sees Mai’s best friend, Sayuri Kurata, injured. Mai possesses an innate talent for magic, and when Yuichi was set to leave town seven years previously, her desire to see him stay led her to craft a story about dæmons, which began manifesting in reality. Yuichi helps Mai to accept her abilities in the present, and begins to remember the time they’d spent together seven years previously. Having explored town with Shiori, who suffers from an unknown illness, Yuichi learns that Shiori was given permission to attend school, but her sister, Kaori, acts distant towards her, fearing that Shiori might not survive her illness. Yuichi decides to go on a date with Shiori and help her make the most of her time. After a track meet, Yuichi and Ayu begin searching for something of great value to her, and as the two grow closer, Nayuki begins feeling left out. Ayu eventually takes Yuichi to her school, which ends up being an open field, and upon arriving, Ayu vanishes. Yuichi continues to search for the article that Ayu was looking for and Nayuki begins making snow rabbits, which help him remember what this item is. Akiko is hit by a vehicle and sent into the ICU, causing Nayuki to fall into depression. Unable to help Nayuki, Yuichi decides to sleep and experiences a dream that fills in the remainder of his memories: seven years ago, he’d made a promise with Ayu, who said she could grant him three wishes. However, coldly brushed off Nayuki after learning that Ayu had fallen from a tree and fell into a coma. He heads out into the blizzard in search of Ayu’s missing item, but falls unconscious. The original Makoto Sawatari saves him, and Yuichi recovers strength enough to return to the promised spot from seven years previously, making one final wish to Ayu. Mai, Shiori and Sayuri become healed from their injuries, returning to class, and Akiko is allowed to return home. Akiko explains to Yuichi what happened to Ayu, and he decides to visit her in the hospital. One spring day, she awakens from her coma, and Yuichi takes her for a walk under the spring cherry blossoms, while a familiar-looking fox looks on.

According to Jun Maeda, memories are at the core of Kanon‘s theme – the motif of events seven years previously permeate the entire story, and Yuichi is constantly struggling to remember what precisely happened seven years ago. In this sense, he is given a new start, a do-over of sorts. As Yuichi spends more time with Nayuki, Makoto, Mai, Shiori and Ayu, he comes to learn of his presence in their lives. The blank slate becomes critical for Yuichi: quite unaware of what happened the last time in town, Yuichi brings into each story a unique sense of humour and sense of compassion that leads him to help everyone to the best of his ability. Through it all, Yuichi creates new, positive memories with everyone: with Makoto, he learns of her past and helps her reach a resolution. He fulfils his promise to return to Mai and helps her come to terms with her magical powers. With Shiori, Yuichi’s encouragement and support allow her to return to school. After Nayuki’s mother ends up in a vehicle accident and Nayuki falls into a depression, Yuichi must confront his own past and finally remembers that he had coldly dismissed her the last time he was in town. Realising his fault, Yuichi manages to reconcile with Nayuki and help her find the strength to continue. The sum of these events lead Yuichi to finally remember what had happened to Ayu: she’d fallen from a tree on his last day in town and was hospitalised. Had Yuichi entered Kanon with the pain of these memories, he would not have been able to approach each of Makoto, Mai, Nayuki and Ayu’s problems with his kindness, and fear of failing would have paralysed him. Kanon thus supposes that why forgetting painful and difficult moments enable one to start fresh with those around them, it is preferable to actively understand one’s mistakes and face them directly, as Yuichi comes to do with Kanon‘s major characters. For his troubles, Yuichi is successful in improving the situation of those around him, helping them to find their own futures.

Kanon presents the importance of memories and their impact on one’s personal growth in conjunction with a supernatural flair; like CLANNAD and Air, Jun Maeda’s belief that the things that make us human (specifically, complex emotions, memories and the resulting behaviours) are complex to the point where our understanding of them are limited, and as such, applies the supernatural piece to motivate a better understanding of these ideas. The end result is that Kanon has a very romantic approach towards memories, showing both the positives and negatives. While Yuichi might have forgotten many of the events from the past, his inherently kind and gentle nature allows him to form new memories with Nayuki, Ayu, Makoto, Shiori and Mai. In time, he comes to learn that everyone has their own unique points, with each girl’s favourite food being chief amongst them. Knowing everyone’s favourite foods (Nayuki and strawberries, Ayu and taiyaki, Makoto and pork buns, Shiori and ice cream, Mai and gyūdon) gives each character a life-like feel to them, and as he spends time with each individual, their favourite foods serve to remind viewers that Yuichi, in taking the time to learn everyone’s favourite food, is genuinely committed to helping everyone out. By reinforcing the idea that Yuichi is a kind individual by default, his actions from seven year previously are to be taken as understandable, brought on by circumstance rather than ignorance or malice. When Yuichi’s past is shown, it also suggests to users that the present-day Yuichi is here to make things right. It gives his experiences credibility, and consequently, gives viewers reason to follow his story and support his efforts in helping each of Nayuki, Ayu, Makoto, Shiori and Mai to sort out the challenges that each of them face.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Kanon opens with Yuichi riding a train into an unnamed town in Hokkaido amidst a fresh snowfall. Upon arrival, he is made to wait for two hours, since Nayuki, who was supposed to pick him up, is late. The entire opening scene is set to yume no ato, a song whose chimes create a sense of nostalgic and melancholy. One of Kanon‘s strongest points lie in its incidental music, and yume no ato plays, my memories of my own past experiences with romance are recalled in vivid detail.

  • The winter cold of Kanon evokes memories of the September that I entered my fourth undergraduate year. I had just spent the summer staring down the MCAT and had watched CLANNAD, which had been so moving that I was seeking more series similar to it. Kanon seemed to fit the bill, and as I prepared to define a topic for my undergraduate honours thesis, I set foot into the world of Kanon, watching a few episodes each week. I ended up reaching the end of Kanon as term ended, finishing a few days before the mid-year progress report.

  • After settling in to the Minase residence, Nayuki takes Yuichi on a tour of the city, a generic city located in Hokkaido that is only referred to as the City of Snow (yuki no machi), rather similar to how the city in CLANNAD was called the “hills of light”. While possessing Hokkaido’s climate, many of the areas seen in the anime are similarly based off Osaka’s cityscape. The train station Yuichi arrives at is actually modelled after Osaka’s Moriguchishi Station. However, the fictionalised setting of Kanon serves to enhance the series’ aura of mystery, and here, Nayuki shares a conversation with Yuichi while on a hill overlooking the city.

  • Ayu is the first of the heroines that Yuichi runs into while exploring the shopping district; she collides with him head-on while trying to escape from a taiyaki vendor, and Yuichi hauls her off to apologise to the vendor before paying for the taiyaki. In the first episode alone, Yuichi’s character is firmly established; while sardonic and fond of poking fun at those around him, he’s genuinely kind-hearted and cares greatly for those he encounters.

  • Her diminutive stature and winged backpack gives Ayu a very child-like appearance. Indeed, Ayu’s mannerisms are eccentric, and she’s fond of replying to any sort of challenge, adversity or retort with the nonsensical uguu, rather similar to how Misuzu of Air would say gao in response to anything that upset her. However, beyond this, Ayu is also friendly and warm. Ayu’s voice is provided by the legendary Yui Horie (Naru Narusegawa of Love Hina, Belfast of Azur Lane and Satomi of Dumbell wa nan kilo motteru, to name a few).

  • Kanon‘s initial episodes are about introducing the characters, and as such, the series progresses very slowly as Yuichi explores the town. HIs misadventures lead him to run into Shiori, a girl who he often sees hanging outside on the school grounds. She’s got an illness that prevents her from coming to school, but shows up on the grounds anyways. When they meet for the first time, Ayu’s attempting to escape from the taiyaki vendor and collides with her, spilling Shiori’s personal items onto the ground.

  • Makoto is introduced as a mischievous girl who only remembers that Yuichi’s wronged her in some way previously, and while Yuichi is put off by her troublemaking, Akiko and Nayuki consent to take her in. In contrast with Yuichi’s dislike for her, Akiko and Nayuki sense something about her and regard her with kindness. In exchange, Makoto only seems to trouble Yuichi with her pranks, although Yuichi is able to see through them for the most part, creating comedic moments early in Kanon.

  • Shiori’s illness is never specified, but it is severe enough as to be considered life-threatening. Because of the stresses this illness has on her and her family, her sister, Kaori, refuses to acknowledge that Shiori is her sister. The reasoning for this is that Kaori fears losing Shiori more than anything, and feels that the closer she is with Shiori, the more it will hurt when Shiori’s time runs out. Of the characters, Shiori is the only person Yuichi had not met in the past, but in spite of this, he still regards her with kindness.

  • Besides a favourite food, the different characters all have their own unique leitmotifs, as well: Ayu’s theme is titled Hidamari no Machi, or “Sunny Town”, a happy, easygoing piece that captures her energetic, cheerful character. Staff have commented that this is their favourite theme for the characters. Nayuki’s theme is Girl in the snow, Makoto’s is The Fox and the Grapes, Mai’s is The Maiden’s Cage and Shiori’s is Beyond the Smile. Each of the girls’ themes speak to their personalities and situation.

  • Ayu often describes a remote school in the area, but seems to have no apparent home. Her enigmatic origins leave viewers with many questions, but Akiko appears to be able to understand something unique about Ayu that Yuichi is not able to pick up on. She invites Ayu over, and over time, Ayu becomes an increasingly frequent guest of the Minases. Unlike Makoto, Yuichi has considerably fewer objections with Ayu being around.

  • Makoto’s pranks go one step too far one evening, when she lights a firecracker and tosses it into Yuichi’s room. He responds by removing the firecracker and returning it to its sender, sending Makoto into hysterics. Yuichi ultimately decides to send Makoto job-hunting, reasoning that doing something will help her learn some responsibility and also fund her own pork buns and manga, two things that Makoto are particularly fond of.

  • Yuichi’s expression here speaks volumes about what he thinks of Makoto; even after what could’ve been a rather deadly prank, Akiko and Nayuki don’t seem too concerned. Initially, audiences will tend to side with Yuichi – Makoto’s mischievous nature means that despite her unknown origins, she comes across as being little more than a nuisance.

  • When Makoto finds a small kitten, she’s thrilled to look after it, as the kitten seems quite drawn to her. She accidentally drops it off a footbridge, but the kitten ends up quite unharmed. The incident causes Yuichi to lose his patience with her, and Makoto runs off into the night, looking for the kitten. Yuichi later finds her and brings her back home.

  • Mishio Amano, one of Yuichi’s classmates, gives him the truth about Makoto’s origins and introduces viewers to the idea that there a supernatural play in Kanon. The winter landscapes and lighting in Kanon, similar to Air and CLANNAD, are deliberately and smartly used to set the mood. By framing Mishio and Yuichi’s conversation against the landscape, it shows the vastness of what supernatural forces they are dealing with: Mishio warns that Makoto’s presence is going to be limited as a result of her diminishing power and that she will begin forgetting over time.

  • Upon learning about this, Yuichi’s attitude and treatment of Makoto takes a complete turn: he begins to spend much more time with her, fulfilling his old promise to never leave her side. As a child, Yuichi had befriended a fox, who by a miracle, took human form. Because Yuichi had to leave town seven years ago, he technically broke his promise to Makoto, which accounts for why she seeks revenge. However, Makoto’s time is limited, and her memories do indeed begin to fade as she and Yuichi make amends.

  • Makoto’s story marked a turning point for me: having already seen CLANNAD, I found Makoto’s story to be surprisingly similar to Fuuko’s story. Both Fuuko and Makoto share a poignant background that is cleverly weaved into their arc, and in both cases, Tomoya and Yuichi both regard the other as being inconsequential, only to learn of their stories later and then begin doing their utmost to help the other out.

  • One touch about Kanon that I particularly liked was the design of the Minase residence: the large windows by the hallway allow natural light to flood into the house, giving it a very inviting feel that maximises the amount of illumination even in a place where it’s cold and snowy for a better half of the year. If I had to guess, I’d say that Kanon is probably set in Asahikawa, albeit a highly fictionalised version.

  • Makoto’s arc ends on a very tender and heartwarming note: her wish fulfilled in full, Makoto loses her human form and vanishes. The importance of Makoto’s story is two-fold: it shows how the supernatural have relevance in the events around Kanon, and also shows the process that Yuichi goes through in order to get to know someone better. With these two elements established, Kanon can begin pushing into the main storyline itself.

  • Mai is the next heroine that Yuichi helps out. Her stoic demeanour and eccentric mannerisms have landed her in trouble more than once, and she faces suspension from school on the suspicions that she’s responsible for damaging school property. However, her personality stands in contrast with her personality, and the earnest, sincere Mai never denies these allegations. Yuichi decides to help Mai become more popular amongst the other students and stave off her negative reputation.

  • During Mai’s arc, Yuichi spends numerous lunch breaks with Mai and Sayuri, the latter of which had been a quiet and unsmiling individual until she’d met Mai. She’d come from a difficult family situation and lost her brother to an illness, eventually losing her sense of self. By the events of Kanon proper, she’s become a warmer character who worries for Mai’s wellbeing and supports Yuichi’s attempts to help her out. When news of a school dance reaches Yuichi’s ears, he decides to take her to the dance.

  • Mai’s favourite retort to Yuichi’s remarks is to admonish him with a light chop to the head to express her displeasure. Sayuri, on the other hand, tends to append ahaha~ to the end of her laughter. In Kanon, Sayuri is a secondary character, but in the game, it is possible to explore the outcomes of spending more time with her, culminating with Yuichi asking her out. The visual novels typically provide a much richer and detailed account of each story, although I’ve found that anime adaptations can really bring some scenes to life, with the school ball being one of them.

  • The school dance starts smoothly enough, with Mai and Yuichi’s dancing being impressive enough to turn heads, but when a dæmon appears and wrecks havoc, the student council president attempts to have Mai expelled. Yuichi manages to prevent this from happening and decides to help Mai fight the so-called dæmons. However, when Sayuri attempts to give Mai a gift on her birthday, and becomes injured in the process, Mai loses her cool and attempts to kill herself.

  • Mai’s story serves to further accentuate the presence of the supernatural: it turns out that her ability to control abilities some consider unnatural did indeed lead her to leave her old home, and she found it difficult to make any friends until she’d met Yuichi. By spending time with her, Mai eventually comes to accept her powers, and is hospitalised to treat her injuries, which had resulted from her killing off pieces of herself.

  • With Mai’s situation resolved, Shiori’s story comes next. While Kaori refuses to acknowledge Shiori as her sister, Yuichi decides to help her in the way he can, taking her to some of her favourite places around town and giving her a chance to sit in a desk at school. Kaori later explains that Shiori was never expected to survive past her birthday, but in spite of this, Yuichi decides to help her celebrate anyways. As the day comes to an end, Yuichi gives Shiori a birthday gift by a brilliantly-lit fountain.

  • Yuichi’s kindness is one of the reasons that Kanon was so easy to follow and somewhat formulaic in nature: aside from a sardonic manner and his love for playing jokes on those around him, Yuichi is genuine to everyone he meets. CLANNAD‘s Tomoya was similar in this regard but had more noticeable flaws which made his journey more meaningful. This was almost certainly one of the learnings that CLANNAD would take from Kanon, and the end results are very pronounced. This isn’t to say that Yuichi is a flawless character: his own shortcomings and mistakes are brought to light in Nayuki’s arc.

  • Nayuki is probably my favourite of the heroines in Kanon: her story is a gentle but sad one that is set concurrently with Ayu’s arc within the anime. After finding a red bead, Nayuki reminisces on how she used to make yuki usagi (“snow rabbits”). These are the equivalent of Western snowmen, and are usually crafted from the leaves (ears) and berries (eyes) of the Nandina domestica, a flowering plant. These sculptures are made by women and children, and there’s over two hundred years of history surrounding these sculptures.

  • By having Ayu and Nayuki’s story run side-by-side, Kanon means to tell viewers that Yuichi must make a choice between Nayuki, who’d loved him since they were children, and Ayu, whose origins and presence still remains a mystery, but of great significance. Yuichi ends up choosing to spent time with Ayu, helping her to search for something precious that she’d lost years previously. This brings the two closer together, but comes at Nayuki’s expense.

  • Owing to Kanon‘s more condensed structuring, Ayu and Yuichi’s relationship advances far more quickly than that of CLANNAD‘s, which portrays Nagisa and Tomoya as holding hands for the first time some months into their relationship, versus the few days for Ayu and Yuichi. While Kanon‘s anime adaptation might be quite short relative to how much content there was in the original visual novel, the anime itself never feels forced or rushed; things are adequately explained to viewers so that it’s easy to follow what’s going on.

  • The dramatic lighting, of vivid reds and deep purples, that accompany Ayu and Yuichi when she finally shows him her “school” hint at the unease and doubt that follows. Here at this spot in the woods, Ayu vanishes before Yuichi’s eyes. Yuichi is devastated and pushes forwards in his search, and Nayuki does her best to help keep his spirits up despite his troubles. Ayu’s disappearance hints at her origins, and I am reminded again of CLANNAD‘s Fuuko, who was hospitalised but managed to maintain a presence anyways, interacting with the principal actors to keep the story going.

  • In this revisitation, I’ve briefly mentioned that I began watching Kanon a short ways into my final undergraduate year, after my MCAT and during a time when I was supposed to be picking out a topic for my undergraduate thesis. I was enrolled in an honours programme that yielded a Bachelor of Health Sciences degree for my first degree, and in the final year, students must take a special projects course that sees them conduct research and write a thesis of sorts on their findings: in many ways, this course was similar to a miniature graduate degree. As I pushed through Kanon, my project materialised into a multi-scale renal model.

  • My fourth year of university was marked by a dramatic resurgence in my spirit, and I had found my old spirits again: having taken the MCAT, my studying for exams became much more effective. Striking a fine balance between working on my project, and the decidedly less exciting coursework, I managed to do very well in my final year, returning to the Dean’s List and bringing my GPA back up to a point where I could earn an honours degree. I would watch Kanon every three or so days during this time, and it took me a few months to go through the entire series.

  • That’s enough reminiscing about my undergraduate program’s final year; back in the present, we’re now closing in on the Christmas break very rapidly now, and this past week, I’ve attended a second Christmas party, which was a quiet get-together with the office. After a traditional dinner of turkey and Italian-sausage-stuffing, with maple-bacon topped vegetables and mashed potatoes, we settled in to conversation and watched Die Hard. On the day of the party, it had actually rained, and those around me remarked on the curiosity of this phenomenon: here in my city, precipitation takes the form of snow from November until around April.

  • When Akiko is involved in an accident and hospitalised, Nayuki falls into a depression. The combination of Yuichi’s rejection and her mother’s injury leaves the normally-cheerful and optimistic Nayuki inconsolable, refusing Yuichi’s efforts to talk to her. Yuichi decides to rest and reattempt, but while sleeping, the remainder of his memories return to him: seven years previously, on his last day in town, Yuichi and Ayu had been playing together near a large tree on the hill, but Ayu fell out of a tree and fell into a coma. In a panic, he ran off, and then rebuked Nayuki’s confession of love to him.

  • The dream gives Yuichi the last piece of the puzzle he needed, helping him to understand Nayuki’s feelings and also remember where he and Ayu had buried the angel amulet that Ayu had stated could grant three wishes. He heads off into a blizzard to locate the amulet, and while he manages to find it, succumbs to the elements. When Yuichi comes to, he finds himself in a warm bed: it turns out that the original Makoto Sawatari had found him.

  • The clean, white design of Makoto’s apartment is intended to create a very minimalist, clean environment that represents a rebirth of sorts, rather similar to how Gandalf awoke in a white void after his rebirth following his battle with the Balrog of Moria. This “reborn” Yuichi retains his kind personality but now gains his old memories back, allowing him to put two and two together and properly address those unanswered questions from his past.

  • Returning to the promised spot, Yuichi finds that Ayu has re-manifested, and makes her final wish to Yuichi: to forget about her. Yuichi refuses, and Ayu decides to make a different wish, disappearing shortly thereafter. While the precise nature of this wish is not specified, one can surmise what it was easily enough. Having taken on new memories from spending time with Yuichi and the others, Ayu makes a much more selfless wish, channeling what is Kanon‘s equivalent of the Infinity Gems to heal all those who have been hurting in the past seven years.

  • Nayuki has also recovered, and she heads out to the same spot where Yuichi had rejected her years previously. Yuichi takes his chance to properly apologise to her, and the two reconcile in full under a gentle snowfall, giving a romantic, if wistful feeling. At this point, Nayuki has not heard back from the hospital on Akiko’s condition, but the fact that Nayuki and Yuichi are able to be open about what they feel is a subtle sign of what Ayu had wished for.

  • As winter gives way to spring, Mai and return to school, preparing for their graduation, while Shiori is cured of her illness and accompanies everyone to class. Akiko, fully recovered, fills Yuichi in on the final pieces of what had happened to Ayu: after she fell out of the tree, she was brought to a hospital. Yuichi visits her frequently and holds the hope that Ayu would awaken. However, Yuichi’s friends soon move on with their futures, leaving Yuichi her only visitor. Another year passes, and Yuichi manages to figure out the last piece of the puzzle: the Ayu who had appeared to him was never seen without her red headband. Yuichi realises that this is the gift he had intended to give to her on the last day he had been in town years previously.

  • Locating the headband is the solution, and Ayu regains consciousness soon after, bringing Kanon to an end. Because I watched Kanon after I did CLANNADKanon did initially come across as a bit emptier and lonelier than CLANNAD. My impressions, however, remained quite positive, as I found the story to be about coming to terms with the past and facing one’s mistakes to rectify them. I praised the series for being very forward and clear with its mechanics, as well. In time, Kanon has come to stand out on its own merits apart from CLANNAD, and is definitely worth the journey.

As Jun Maeda’s first work with Key, Kanon represents an essay in the craft; Maeda would later come to use the learnings from Kanon to build the masterpiece that is CLANNAD. Numerous elements from Kanon were successfully applied to CLANNAD and honed; notions of family, the mother-daughter relationship, human emotions as having a near-supernatural presence, and numerous other features are shared between both series. CLANNAD‘s scenarios are more poignant, and written in greater detail, taking lessons from Kanon to craft an even more emotionally-powerful story. However, despite being the predecessor to CLANNAD, Kanon stands strongly on its own merits: the story itself is focused, establishes Yuichi’s story along with those of each heroine well, compelling viewers to stick around and follow the story as Yuichi learns more about everyone and himself. Coupled with Kyoto Animation’s top-tier animation, superior sound and superb voice acting, Kanon, like CLANNAD, looks timeless and aged exceptionally gracefully. The arc-based story is easy to follow, and despite the presence of the supernatural, Kanon succeeds in keeping the narrative and its messages clean and simple. The end result is that Kanon, like CLANNAD, withstands the test of time and is well worth watching. I have no trouble recommending this to folks who enjoy stories similar to CLANNAD, and those seeking a moving story about self-discovery will find Kanon a worthwhile series to watch. There is one final aspect to Kanon that I’ve not yet mentioned, and the main reason why the series ultimately is one I regard as a masterpiece: being set in winter, a season associated with death, suffering and stillness, Kanon creates the seeds of new hope amidst the snow and cold. Yuichi’s warmth and patience throughout the winter, then, is met with reward by the time spring comes: Mai’s graduated, Shiori’s formally enrolled as a student, and Ayu awakens from her coma, spending a warm day with Yuichi under the cherry blossoms. By enduring and working hard for those around him, Yuichi earns his happy ending as spring arrives, when life and colour is restored to the world. After watching Kanon a second, and a third time, my intense dislike for winter began dissipating, and in time, I came to accept winter as a season to not be endured, but one with its own merits and things to enjoy, having seen Kanon‘s presentation of winter as being a beautiful season in its own right.