Thursday, June 24, 2010

THe School's Trees: I'm Miserable, and Wanna Be Happy (Part Two)


So I said I'd only do one post a week, but after looking at the former post I thought something was lacking, and realized that it was a bit of my own story. So much of my own thoughts about Clannad are about the impact on my own life that I can't help but write about it.

I really have trouble with the standard anime format, which takes four episodes to set up any show effectively. In my humble American opinion I think a show should be set up in one episode. Anymore than that and you drag it out. While I realize that, as an American, I have a shorter than average attention span, I do think it's just good policy. People shouldn't have to wait to find out if the show's worth watching, they should know pretty quickly. A lot of anime I've watched does turn out to be worth it later, but there's still the hurdle of the first four episodes.

Clannad isn't like the others. It grabbed me in one. It told me in one episode that there was another world, that it had some form of impact on the world of Tomoya, and that the whole thing would revolve around Tomoya and Nagisa, while still introducing quite a few of the main and supporting characters. While Clannad does follow the four episode formula, it's first episode is able to stand on it's own merit, something that I find isn't the case with most anime. What am I talking about? I'll post a few examples, and may God help me.

Kanon/Air: SLOW. SLOW. SLOW. Part of it is that the main characters just aren't that interesting in comparison to Tomoya (or Ed from FMA), and that definitely doesn't help. It takes a good four episodes for any semblance of plot at all to start forming, and even then it's not necessarily very exciting (Kanon, I haven't seen enough of Air to comment further)

FMA Brotherhood: I know I'll draw ire for saying it, but I hated the first four episodes of FMA Brotherhood. HATED. It was a sped up version of the first show that somehow managed to spit on all the memories I'd had. The Nina arc was especially bad, and I almost got up and left from the sheer inane quality of that episode. How are we supposed to care if this girl dies if we don't get the connection first? Yes, her father's still an evil man but the impact is lessened by the lack of exposure. Does that sound a little extreme? Probably. But that was my reaction to the dribble that is the first four episodes of FMA Brotherhood. (Now before anyone gets defensive, I love FMA Brotherhood, and it really is superior in practically every way to the original. I just don't like the first four episodes, that's all.)

Those are two examples I can think of off the top of my head that make me wanna rage, but I can probably think of more. My point is that any good piece of literature or visual medium should grab you from the first instant you see it. Clannad did that for me, even if that was only because I needed to hear someone say "Go find new memories". For me that was enough of a reason to watch the rest of the show, if only because I'd seen that someone knew what was going on. They knew about how much the past could hurt, and they wanted to go forward anyway. I wanted to see if Tomoya could back up his command "Go make new memories", if only so I could laugh at him in case he failed. I'm happy to say he didn't, otherwise I wouldn't love this show as much as I do now.

Now I'm not gonna say that I had it worse than anyone (I definitely didn't), but it was still pretty rough after the break up with this girl (we'll call her Jamie) that I was referring to. I had sunk a lot of personal time, stress, money, and tears into a really horrible relationship, and had fooled myself into thinking it was going somewhere. Imagine my surprise when I found it wasn't. I was confused, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, because so much of it had been spent in the service of  Jamie. I'd thought that that was all there was to life, and so when the relationship ended it felt like life had ended. I wondered why I was alive.

Yes, that's called pathetic. Moving along.

The opening three minutes of the anime turned that attitude on its head, and showed me what I really was. Selfish, delusional, and in desperate need of a good time or three. But I needed more, I needed to see it work. Clannad moved on to prove that to me, as I'll show in the following weeks.

Does that make me biased? Oh yeah, definitely. But that may not be a bad thing. My bias just might show a different side of what this (and any anime) is capable of. And that can't be a bad thing. Because no matter how nutty I am it'll show you a different side, and you just might walk away knowing a different thing or two.

And isn't that the point?