I figured that it might actually be a good idea to talk about the anime that I'd seen before Clannad, because it somewhat formed my expectations, and also gives a good picture of what I look for in stories.
This was what kicked off my anime-viewing. Well, technically speaking, I'd seen a few episodes of Cowboy Bebop, as well as Howl's Moving Castle, but that was it. This was the first series which I finished. Scrapped Princess was a fantasy about a princess who had been prophesied to destroy the world on her sixteenth birthday. It followed her older brother (a skilled swordsman) and sister (a powerful mage) as they strove to protect her from the rest of the world. It's a fun series with action, a nicely-built mythology/world, and some cool fantasy mecha action.
The second full series that I watched, Noir is a dark modern drama about two female assassins who both seek answers to their pasts. It has two very well-rounded protagonists, and some very intriguing characters. The whole series is a character study which delves into human nature and the question of sin. Though the pacing throws some people off, I've found it to be one of the best shows of, well, my anime history. The music is spectacular, and the story is powerful.
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
I started this series well before seeing Clannad, though it continued to run and release after I finished Clannad. It's a very tightly plotted dark fantasy with lots and lots of action and snappy character work. I have yet to see the original Fullmetal, but the flow of storytelling had me hooked after the first few episodes. It was also full of dashes of epicness in a can.
Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
This was the final anime that I saw before seeing Clannad. Visually and narratively lavish, it's an adaptation which truly does the book justice, especially in spirit. It's a dark gothic take on the story, with a science fiction twist thrown alongside 19th Century aesthetics. The characters were very carefully made, and the plot was delightfully twisted.
A beautifully elaborate mashup of several different anime tropes (a student at a Japanese high school uses his magical power of mind control to overthrow a tyrannical regime with the help of an army of mecha), Code Geass stars an ensemble cast of characters on both sides of a massive rebellion. There's questions of morality, idealism, and whether power is always a corrupting force.
Those were the anime which formed my expectations of the medium. Incidentally, both Gankutsuou and Noir have made it onto my Top 5 Anime list, alongside Clannad. I'm also gonna throw in the anime which followed, to give you all an idea of how my taste has developed, to give you a picture of where I'm at now.
I wanted to finish this up, because I'd heard a lot about it, so I did. And, well...I thought it was a masterpiece. It's a beauty to watch the character work, the drifting ambiance, and to hear the fantastic music of the show. It's a space western film noir, and it works fantastically. Not to mention, it's an anime classic. (It was the first anime to appear on network television, I think...or at least the first one geared towards non-kids)
Trigun is amazingly fun, and at the same time heartbreaking. (It and Bebop take up the last two slots on my Top 5 list) It's a show which begins as a fun shounen romp, and then slides into a very serious drama about death, innocence, and...well...love and peace! (The genre gets very, very close to straight seinen anime near the end) Vash the Stampede also happens to be one of the few completely upright, noble, morally pure protagonists who I actually find to be likable.
This was an interesting fantasy anime that the college anime club exposed me to. A mysterious amnesiac wearing an oni mask (which also looks like Batman's mask...) wakes up in a tribal hut, tended to by a pretty girl with...fox ears. It does sorta make sense in the end, though the end itself is somewhat confusing.
At the moment, those are the only anime which I can recall viewing. You may be noticing trends, namely that I like anime which take on a lot of meaning. I prefer anime with strong thematic bents to them, where the point is woven into the story. I like plots which move along and bring us with them. I like characters who you can at least empathize with, people who wrestle with the world.
And that's my anime biography. The story continues, then, with just how I got to know Tomoyo...