Friday, June 18, 2010

The School's Trees: An Introduction to Clannad, Me, and Key

Clannad is the third anime based off of a visual novel from the company Key. It's also the best thing since sliced bread, hell, it tops sliced bread. 
What might a visual novel be? A visual novel is the video game equivalent of a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Players read the text and make choices based upon the options given them by the game. Clannad had a total of 13 endings, with one true ending. While I haven't played the visual novel I've heard that it's an amazing experience, filled to the brim with beautiful stories that make you laugh and cry. There's even some guys who walk away from the game feeling more mature, something that I would have trouble believing if not for the impact that Clannad's had on my life.


About Me
This is the part of the post where I start talking about myself. Not just because I'm arrogant but because I really do think it's important that you guys know a bit about me so that way you can know what to expect of me in these reviews. I'm in my early 20's, am a guy, and am Eastern Catholic. For those of you who don't know what that is click here! I do this, again, because I feel the more transparency in worldview the better. I'm going to review from my gut, and I won't weed out my thoughts on how Christianity and this anime work together and compliment each other nicely, because that's why I find this anime so good. Clannad really is the most Christian thing I've ever seen, and I'm out to prove it. There, you got my mission statement in the second paragraph, how's that for convoluted writing?


I first saw Clannad in my sophomore year of college. I'd just had a really bad break up with a girlfriend, and so one of my friends (we'll call him Marty for now), took me in and started showing me the most positive anime he could find. I'd only seen one anime before (Fullmetal Alchemist), and was more than willing to find out if FMA was a fluke or a sign of Japan's quality. Marty showed me Eureka 7, which I gobbled up in about a week! Hungry for more, I asked what we were gonna watch next. 


What Marty showed me was Clannad. Boy, if there were things that I needed to (and still need to) hear, Clannad shouted them all. At the top of its lungs. With a megaphone. I watched the first half of Clannad, enjoying the incredible character interactions and poignant moments, and cruised right into Afterstory. That's when things got weird. This show stopped being as fun and happy as it had been before, and began a more serious twist on the things that had been set up in the first half. Before I knew, I needed a tissue, and then another, and then another. And then I started throwing things (but that's for later).  What I'm trying to say is that Clannad changed my life, it was a tool that God used to keep me afloat, and I couldn't ask for a better floater.


An Intro to Key
A brief history on Key is also necessary to set up the stage of Clannad. Key is a gaming company famous for its modern day fairytale visual novels. Their preceding visual novels, each with an anime adaptation, are Air and Kanon. Many of the themes from these anime are transferred to Clannad, especially those of dreams and alternate lives and worlds. While I'm not going to get into a full-on review of Air and Kanon here, I will say that Kanon is a good anime in its own right, and that if I could get past the first four episodes of Air I might find it worthwhile. Seriously, that show takes so long to get started.... but I digress. Again.

At first glance Clannad is just like its predecessors. It's a modern day harem fairytale about a young man finding his family. There's all sorts of weird things going on with ghosts, reincarnated animals, and alternate lives. And of course, there's the girls. Those wildly unique, hilarious, and tragic women of the main character's life. All three animes' action center around the guy's interaction with the girls. Some of the characters are so over the  top that I wonder if Key doesn't have a dart board with traits. The writers are then required to blind fold themselves and throw at the dart board. Bonus points are awarded for hitting other writers, particularly the guys who made up the Fox girl arc in Kanon!

Fortunately that's where the similarities ends. First, Clannad is an all-ages visual novel, with no hentai (pornographic) content. Both Air and Kanon have hentai content, so there's two versions of each visual novel, with their respective anime being all-ages. Clannad is the only Key visual novel that was all-ages from the start, much to the chagrin of their earlier fans. Seriously, though, how can the addition of scenes that we'd never see in real life help a slice of life piece anyway? The last time I checked it wasn't customary to set up video cameras in the rooms of people having healthy relationships. Unless of course my friends (married or not) who joke about sex all the time are prudes.  Didn't think so. Perverts. 


I'll give my quick and (hopefully not so dirty) impressions of Clannad, which'll have to keep you until next week. Oh wait, did I mention this is a weekly thing, because I have a life? Yeah, I think I just did. 




Clannad is NOT Just Slice of Life
This is something that trips up people who see Clannad. They get so drawn in my by the slice of life elements that they forget that it's a modern-day fairytale. And I mean fairytale in our modern sense of the word, where everything ends well. Yes, I just spoiled that part for anyone who hasn't seen the show, it's a happy ending!


You Must See Both Clannad and Clannad:Afterstory
While I normally call both shows Clannad what I really mean is the compilation of two "different" shows (Clannad and Clannad: Afterstory). While they have different names it's really Season 1 and Season 2 of the same show, it's just that the arc that's explored in Season 2 was called Afterstory in the visual novel. While it shouldn't be much of a no-brainer that you have to watch this show from beginning to end, I say this because....


Clannad is All About The End
Kinda weird, ain't it? That you have to keep in mind that this show is all about the end? Well, it is. Everything about this show is to convince you that the ending can and will happen. 

"But that's it for this week?" Yeah, that's it for this week. I encourage you to check out the link that I put into this article, and, well, review ME, the reviewer. It'll work out in the long run, and you'll be glad that I took the time to do this little post before all the craziness starts.

Until next week!