Clannad Series 1 Part 2 (Episodes 13-24) (Cert 12)
3 Discs (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 295 minutes approx.
The second volume of this whimsical slice-of-life drama with a comedic supernatural infusion concludes the story arc of Kotomi Ichinose, the troubled young girl who, prior to hooking up with series protagonist Tomoya Okazaki, spent her time in isolation. We rejoin the tale as Tomoya finally remembers that he one knew Kotomi when they were children, with Tomoya being the only friend Kotomi had outside of her parents, whose deaths are central to Kotomi’s problems.
The mood lightens a bit when Tomoya returns to his original task of helping Nagisa Furukawa achieve her dream of restarting the school drama club, having recruited classmates Ryou Fujibayashi, her young sister Kyou, best friend Youhei Sunohara and tough cookie Tomoyo Sakagami to help out. The latter provides a distraction for Tomoya when her reputation as a dangerous, bone breaking machine creates a bad impression among other students, preventing any support Tomoyo may get in her quest to become Student Council President. Tomoya takes it upon himself to rebuild Tomoyo’s image, getting himself suspended in the process! While these episodes are rife with silly humour and frivolity, the backstory of Nagisa’s dream brings the tone back to more dramatic fare, with a family secret hidden by Nagisa’s quirky parents playing an integral part of this bleak story.
Anyone who found themselves reaching for their hankies due to the emotion overload of the first volume of Clannad had best be prepared to shed a few tears whilst watching this concluding set of episodes, which ends with a bonus OVA episode set in an alternate timeline where Tomoya and Tomoyo are a couple! Since the show is based on a visual novel, such abstract liberties are expected to be taken every once in a while just to give the viewer an example of the “what if?” possibilities a sprawling story like this is capable of spawning. But since it is a standalone episode, there is no need to panic about how it affects the main plotline.
Speaking of which, with a bevy of beauties surrounding him, Tomoya has surprisingly been unaffected by the typical harem conventions of having one or more of the girls express a romantic interest in him and vice versa. That is until much later in the run when one girl in particular – and you’ve probably already guessed who that is – starts to infiltrate Tomoya’s thoughts beyond his altruistic concerns as a friend. Before you groan at this development the handling of it is subtle and mature, thus not detrimental to the enjoyment or the integrity of the story at all, and despite its inevitability, it makes for a rather sweet and touching conclusion. This leads to the final “official” episode of the series, a masterclass in depicting the awkwardness of first love.
As suggested earlier there are a few tonal shifts in the twelve episodes in this set along with some story developments which questions how seriously the makers are taking this show. For instance, remember Fuko, the spirit girl with the starfish obsession from the first volume? She returns at random points when the main cast are in a spot of bother for an ineffectual cameo in which no-one seems to remember who she is! Thankfully these appearances are restricted to the lighter moments of the show so no heavily dramatic scenes are needlessly spoiled by such playfulness. Other moments of levity appear courtesy of Nagisa’s oddball father Akio and his attempts at playing the heavy protective father trying to bond with Tomoya.
When the show gets dark however, it gets dark. Some of you may have notice the “12” certificate this volume has been awarded as opposed to the “PG” rating of the first volume. Along with some frankly unnecessary four letter words for such a “moe” show, the subject of death is explored in Kotomi’s arc along with the after effects suffered by the young child, now a confused and pained orphaned reflecting on the last hasty words of immature hatred she spoke to her parents before their departure. Nagisa’s childhood is an equally gloomy and angst ridden tale of suffering and sacrifice while Tomoya himself finds his relationship with his own father being the only one of the series to be the one most in need of repair. Ironically, while Tomoya is the catalyst and main driving force in fulfilling the dreams and reaching the goal of happiness for others, any attempts to afford Tomoya the same assist fail spectacularly. Only Youhei is less fortunate in these stakes than our hard working protagonist.
The central theme of Clannad is the importance of family – be it one made up of blood relations or close friendships – and is explored with intelligence, humour and requisite drama, presented in a lush looking but overtly cutesy manner to tantalise anime fans of all genre persuasions. It is rare to have a large cast of familiar tropes of near identical appearance all be very likeable, with back stories that actually have the viewer rooting for them and not the adverse effect of feeling duty bound to support them in the de facto role of protagonist.
It might be a bit too schmaltzy and sweet for some tastes but Clannad possess an uncanny ability to suck you into its sakura filled world and let its magic wash over you like a warm sun on a mild day.
Ratings – **** /5
Man In Black