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Jason Venter avatar 11:47 PM on 06.05.2013  (server time)
Is Clannad worth watching or what?

Recently, I posted elsewhere about Bunny Drop, an anime that I had enjoyed quite a bit. After checking out my article, a reader mentioned "Clannad" as another anime that I might enjoy, which was a helpful reminder because I'd been thinking about trying that one out for quite some time. I placed an order for the set, then and there, and now I'm back with the first of what I expect will be several posts letting you all know what I thought of it.

"Clannad" is a series about a high school lad named Tomoya. He's a rather generic protagonist, but I always identify most easily with those sorts because I'm a rather generic guy myself. There's a reason these sorts appear so often in anime, so I'm guessing I'm not alone in that.

Tomoya begins the series by meeting a cute little red-head named Nagisa, who is quite withdrawn and not especially healthy. She missed enough of the previous school year that she was held back, so now she's one of the oldest students still roaming around the school campus. With her friends gone, she spends most of her time alone until she and Tomoya strike up an unlikely friendship that to me seems destined to at some point become something more.

I guess I should mention now that I've only watched the first disc in the blu-ray set, which contains the first 9 of 24 total episodes. At first I was a little bit ticked off that they didn't just put 8 episodes on each of the three discs--because I'm silly and obsessive like that--but the 9 episodes that make up the first disc actually work nicely and the substory comes to a suitable head with the last of those included episodes.

Once Tomoya and Nagisa have grown comfortable around one another, they spend a lot of their time trying to revive the high school drama club. That's a difficult task because it is currently on hiatus, due to a lack of involvement from students.

As the two protagonists are coping with that particular challenge, Tomoya also meets another student who he quickly befriends, Fuko Ibuki. She is a strange girl who spends all her time in the school corridors, but gradually she opens up to her two new acquaintances and they learn her sad story. Throughout many of the first nine episodes, Fuko is as much a star of the show as her two new friends, despite being a secondary character. That's especially true in the last 4 or 5 of those episodes. She has an interesting story that takes a lot of effort to unravel. Probably because some comic relief is required to keep viewers engaged during some of the more dramatic scenes, Tomoya betrays a certain mean streak as he plays practical jokes on Fuko once she falls into a near-trance after receiving a hug.

It's difficult to offer much detail at this point without venturing into spoiler territory, but I will say at least that "Clannad" takes an unexpected supernatural turn. I wasn't sure what I thought about that as I saw the twists that the story was taking (they were rather obvious, once I accepted that maybe this is a series that would include some of that), but the evolution of that particular plot line was handled quite expertly. I already mentioned the comic relief as a point of interest for the less engaged audience, but the dramatic twists caught me off guard and I grew interested in the fate of the various characters in spite of myself.

People have warned me that at times the "Clannad" story can be a bit sad, so I probably should have been ready for that, but I found myself wiping the edges of my eyes by the time the ninth episode was reaching its conclusion. That was the point when I realized how great a job the writers were clearly doing, because I couldn't look back and point to a specific scene that won me over, but there I was on the verge of tears. Manly tears, naturally.

As far as voice work and such goes, I'm not the sort to insist on dubbed translations or subtitles. I'll take what I can get, as long as it doesn't get in the way of the story. In this case, I felt that the voice work was handled very nicely. The actors had the usual tones I would expect to hear from Japanese actresses and actors, but they were very English. Mostly the mouths synched up and all that, so either I'm nowhere near picky enough or Sentai Filmworks did a great job on this. Either way, I'm satisfied.

With one plot point basically resolved, I'm now looking forward to starting the second disc and seeing what new adventures await me. I'll likely update you on what I find on the second disc in a subsequent post. In the meantime, I'm happy to discuss the initial nine episodes right here in the comments if there's something you'd like to say...

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