|M vs Clannad: Round Two!|
Hey Vice, it’s me again, M and it appears this review acts as the second round against the famous king of tears, Clannad. This time it’s the much more critically loved and successful sequel, Clannad: After Story. After my somewhat negative experience with Clannad which you can read about HERE, I did mention the one thing Clannad pulled off for sure is attaching me to it and its characters despite its constant flaws. This being true I went into Clannad: after story optimistic, looking forward to a meaningful experience, so did it keep up?
After story starts off with the first about nine episodes being just giving a few side characters from Clannad original (who were about as relevant to the plot as a dead sparrow to a church) the Clannad treatment; the Clannad treatment being giving them a sad back-story and a strange mini adventure to solve it. These are identical to the first series, but now without the whole Theater club tying it together and dealing with characters we don’t care about, After Story’s first episodes make even less sense and work even less than in Clannad.
After episode about ten or so the actual story starts to pick up. Following the continuing life of Tomoya and Nagisa as they begin their relationship and as it grows with time. Primarily follows Tomoyas life from post high school into adult hood dealing with the nature of family, marriage, children, and the pain of losing everything. This all sets the stage for a much more focused tighter cast story that deals with a lot more mature and adult elements then most anime have ever really dealt with, probably being the source of Clannads fame.
Despite the first series of episodes being nothing but mediocre once the story settles on its presentation I really began to love it. After Story had everything Clannad didn’t, a tight narrative, a sense of subtlety, and true sense of real and relatable hardship. The simple willingness to touch of bigger subjects such as being a parent and hitting every man in their weakest spot, their daddy issues, impressed me and gave me the emotional experience completely absent to me in the original Clannad. This plus the actually funny sense of humor that Clannad season one had is a nice addition.
I feel the need to touch on the Cast this time around, being much tighter around this time. This was something Clannad had issues with, because even though every character was good, the sheer volume of them made it a bit obnoxious. I adore the Cast of After story, Tomoya is the best he has ever been in Clannad and gives an astounding performance. Nagisa’s parents remain the best pair that even in their age some of the strongest sense of romantic and loving chemistry I have ever seen in anime. Nagisa this time around varies from excellent to aggravating, but I feel that’s made better by the introduction of a new character by the name of Ushio. Ushio ends up being one of the most beloved characters I’ve ever seen. Without many lines or real opportunities to do much she performs her role better than anyone could have hoped. She is such a special little girl and to prove that so quickly and so subtly it was worth noteing.
Despite my praise for after story, it has four massive truck sized holes in it. Flaws so heavy each on its own would be enough to meaningfully diminish the quality of the series. First off was simply the first nine episodes are nothing, but shameless filler and have no distinct reason to be there as I previously mentioned. Second, and most noticeable off the bat, is that once Tomoya and Nagisa start dating they seem even more distant, due to having near no romantic chemistry together when they finally get together. Partially this is the fault of poor writing, the fact that the entire series goes by and they never kiss on screen even when married is piss poor. What makes this far more noticeable is the fact that the last two episodes of both series are “what if” episodes featuring Tomoya (different character by the same name) and Kyou, both who have such better chemistry with Tomoya that in one episode they manage to pull off a better pure “love” story then the fifty some odd episodes of Clannad could.
Third off is that while After Story is sad it gets predictably so, while I did cry a bit in After Story it was at the subtle constant feelings of grief and lose, the two “heavy moments” while they were sad I went through them cold and dried eyed due to me having seen it a mile away. Plus with the fact that all of it probably could have been avoided with prudent planning makes the bad notes more aggravating then depressing. After Story is emotional, but when it just tries so hard to make me cry it just gets stone faced again.
The Last and most damning thing about After Story is its ending. I understood why they would and somewhere in my heart even I prayed for a happy ending in spite of myself. However, how they pull it off is such jarring, befuddling, nonsense that comes out of nowhere during the series darkest point is so distinctly out of place I felt like I was in a car that flipped. It’s an unapologetic ass pull, but worse of it’s an unapologetic ass pull that doesn’t even make sense. To make it worse it wasn’t a time constraint because the next three episodes are all filler that has nothing to do with the story of After Story. I’ve re-watched the “Final episode” to try to understand what the hell happened to make that ending possible and I still had no idea what was going on. Even in the later episode where they recap the entire series they make it clear that the characters have no idea what happened. In the end of it, Clannad is still weird, and still doesn’t make any sense if you think about it.
All in all I feel about Clannad: After Story the same way as, if a bit more positively, as I do for Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s important that it exists, it allowed anime to push the envelope and make a lot more important stuff and it did prove the format as something other than senseless action and bad comedy, but it’s not every good on its own. I have a strong attachment to Clannad: After Story, but I mark it as one of my biggest disappointments. Clannad gets 3.5 glowing balls of McGuffen out of 5. Well that’s all Vice, I think I’m going to go play some mind rotting video games before I break into Clannad the movie, as well as actually edit the podcast so I can finally post episode 3. Later Vice.