It’s been over a year since I first watched Clannad, but finally I’ve picked up Afterstory, and within just a couple of hours of immersing myself in the show’s world again, all the memories of why Clannad is so special came flooding back.
I suppose the best way of summing up Clannad to someone who has had no prior knowledge of it (without going into the story or anything) is to focus on the emotion of it all – because really, if anything, emotion lies at the heart of this show.
Let’s say for a second you cast your mind back to a time you feel real nostalgia for. That golden-tinged, but ever slightly so melancholic nostalgia. That’s Clannad. Distant memories of school days and endless grey skies. The smell of the pavement just after a rain shower. That’s Clannad. The bittersweet tug of your first memories of romance. A world that will always exist just beyond your finger tips. That’s also Clannad.
Don’t let the cutsey, moe look put you off – Clannad is a deep, deep show. It deals with loss and heartache and romance in a way few other anime I’ve seen manage. Yes, the characters are achingly cute, but there’s real sadness behind those supersized eyes. Yes, this might be another ‘oh, best girl didn’t win’ show – but then, if you think about it, isn’t that just the case in real life. The best girl/guy never wins, do they?
It’s a mature show too – just to give you an example, within the first few episodes of After Story, the main character lies to his best friend and says that he’s slept with his best friend’s kid sister, just to try and shock him out of a rut he’s got himself stuck in. They then proceed to beat seven shades of shit out of each-other. And all that while best friend is pretending to go out with main character’s girlfriend’s mother (who best friend thinks is actually her sister). Pretty fucked up, right?
But it’s the tension in moments like this which will keep you coming back for more. Don’t be fooled into thinking Clannad is slow paced – it’s approach to slice of life is one that comes with all the messy, intricacies and screw-ups of everyday life. It’s a world where we see high school kids blossom into adults, and work their way through all the angst that burns inside us when we’re teens.
Back to that nostalgia for a moment – Clannad might have been broadcast in 2007, but for some reason it always reminds me so much of the 90s – maybe because that’s when I grew up. It just captures that precise sense of loss and unnatainability so very well. This is a world you thought you knew, that you thought you could remember so well – but that with each passing day is slipping further and further out of your reach as it fades into the past.
The soundtrack helps a great deal in that regard too. I could go into so much detail about the plethora of incredible songs on the soundtrack (the Dango theme of course, and also the amazingly euphoric OP theme from the first season) – but for me, it all comes back to Snow Field, and the melodic synth hook that forms the heart of it. This theme returns for the most part almost every episode, always accompanied by some of the most poignant scenes in the show. And every time it absolutely breaks my heart because again, it is so enfused by sheer loss and nostalgia. As a music fan, it contains – for me – some of my favourite records of the early to mid 90s. Stuff like the Pet Shop Boys’ Being Boring or Duran Duran’s Ordinary World. Hopefully you can get the link between them – the link I feel, anyway. I always found it quaint too that for a show called Clannad (aka, ‘that’ famous Irish group) – Snow Field does actually sound like some of the mystical stuff you could probably pick up on a new age CD.
Is there anything else that immediately springs to mind when I think of Clannad – in terms of other anime, that is? Haruhi Suzumiya, obviously – being also directed by Kyoto Animation, it’s a no brainer in terms of sheer visual style. But a lot of the emotional tugs and feelings hit home in the same way. And perhaps, more recently – Your Lie In April, again for the real emotional punches and wistful sense of longing.
I could go on about why this show triggers such strong emotions for me – but suffice to say, if you haven’t seen Clannad, go see it. Don’t be put off by the art style. Heck, After Story is rated 8.8 on IMDB, and ranked the 3rd greatest anime of all time on Anime News Network. And if that doesn’t convince you – nothing will.
I’ll leave you with Snow Field – hopefully it makes you feel even a fraction of why this show is so special.